THE ONE-WAY RAIN: Lore

 
 
She was a different person when the trial ended. Weaker, more frightened, a hundred times more abased, yet simultaneously closer, as if separated only by a membrane, to that pinpoint of steel which was most palpable to her when she was most without hope. It was merely a point; it had no dimensions, nothing she could clutch to herself, it did not speak of God. But it existed, and that made two of them.

Her crimes were traveling on an expired pass and violating an ESC, or emergency safety cordon. During the trial, she grew in knowledge. She learned that the ID readers carried by police were also capable of making telephone calls, playing audio recordings and transmitting written messages. She learned that white people ate constantly, crinkling brightly colored wrappers or plucking nuts from secret pockets, and that they drank coffee all day out of plastic mugs. This taught her that occupiers are a nervous race, craving stability, whose sense of themselves must be continually fortified. She learned too that everything she had seen outside these walls was the intentional result of a vast legal structure—a machinery of suffering which it took a whole nation to operate and which she knew, but could not believe, was constructed entirely to generate profit.

They shaved her head, took her clothes, gave her baggy gray underwear and olive scrubs and a pair of rubber shoes without socks. They weighed and measured her and stuck an adhesive bar code on the back of her hand and scanned it. They did not seem human to her at all. They took her from the court building through an underground passage—she had not smelled fresh air in weeks—into a chamber made of cement, lit with fluorescents, in which she was again weighed and measured, again interrogated (name, age, crime, qualification status) and scanned. She was in plastic handcuffs; she had not been out of them, except to pee, since Eddie had her locked up in the truck. Her wrists were skinned, on fire. They put her in a cell with one fluorescent bulb overhead and a metal door with a small wired window just above her eye level. They cut off the handcuffs streaked with her brown blood. She had a mattress on an iron frame, a toilet and a flat metal shelf above it. The ceiling was cement, the walls were cement, the floor was cement and the whole thing was painted dark gray. They shut the door. She was sentenced to five months solitary. She could not breathe.