A Different Flavor of Torture
a play in one scene by Thorin N. Tatge


EDUARDO: A professional torturer.  Confident, yet bad at his job.
FIRMINO: An assistant torturer.  Snappish, high-strung and naïve.
JOSEPH GRALY: A man plunged into unfortunate circumstances.

JOSEPH sits center stage, alone, strapped into a torture machine.

The setting is a dank Portuguese military encampment near the Spanish border.  The year is 1808.  In Spain, Ferdinand the Seventh reigns from a tenuous throne.  The brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, is preparing to attempt to take the throne for himself.  Certain groups of Spaniards called afranesados are welcoming his rule, believing that the French model of government is a superior one.  A group of militant Portuguese oppose this plan, favoring Spanish anarchy.  They prepare to interrogate a prisoner they believe to be an afranesado, a man who is also named Joseph…

FERMINO: Tell me again why we’re using Chinese water torture instead of good old Portuguese whipping-with-whips-made-from-tying-together-rabid-rats-by-their-tails torture?
EDUARDO: Because, Estevam, I read somewhere that slow torture methods are better for extracting information.
FERMINO: I’m not Estevam, boss, I’m Fermino!  Don’t you recognize me?
EDUARDO: Er… sorry.  I’m pretty bad at remembering people.  I was hired for my acumen with maniacal sadism.
FERMINO: But  wait—is information what we’re after?  I kind of thought we were just doing this torture thing for fun.
EDUARDO: No!  We want information on the location and status of the French-loving traitors this man is akin to!  That way we can more effectively incapacitate them!
JOSEPH: I think you should know—I’m not one of the people you’re looking for.  I don’t have any connection to the French or the Spanish.
EDUARDO: Then what were you doing in Madrid?
JOSEPH: Research.  I was doing first-hand research for a Chelsea play on Spanish anarchy.  This is the last time I do that, let me tell you.
EDUARDO: Aha!  Anarchy!  He’s full of ramshackle, tumultuous notions!  We shall have to torture him at once!  Mr. Graly, if that is your real name, are you familiar with Chinese water torture?
JOSEPH: Yes, but I’m sure that won’t stop you from—
EDUARDO: It is an age-old method of enforcing cooperation through the threat of insanity!  You are secured, unable to move, in a chair.  A single hole is cut in the tank above, which will allow one drop of water at a time to trickle through, landing on the same place on your head, over and over and over!  At first this will only give you a headache, but as the day wears on, it will dissolve your skin and begin draining into your skull!  In time it will infect your brain, causing you to thrash wildly on the verge of unadulterated mental chaos!  Wheeeee!!  Oh yeah, and somewhere in there you end up giving us information.
FERMINO: Gee, when you put it that way, I feel sorry for the prisoner.
PRISONER: Yes, I also feel sorry for the prisoner.
EDUARDO: Hey!  Don’t get droll with me!  Let the water torture commence!
FERMINO: Right, boss!
JOSEPH cringes, fearing the worst.  FERMINO throws the switch… but…
EDUARDO: Nothing’s happening.
FERMINO: Oh, right!  I forgot!  We’re out of water.
EDUARDO: What?  We’re out??  How can we be out of water?
FERMINO: Well, I’m assuming Alvarez forgot to pay the water bill last month.
EDUARDO: Damn that reckless Alvarez!  Now what are we going to do?  How long can we even continue our operations without water?
FERMINO: Well, that’s no problem.  I’ve been stockpiling in my quarters.
EDUARDO: Bottled water?
FERMINO: Kool-Aid.
EDUARDO: Kool-Aid?  We’re going to be drinking Kool-Aid for the next four weeks?
FERMINO: And they laughed when I refused to store it in packets!  They thought I was an idiot for mixing it all beforehand and lugging it in trips all the way from Salamanca to Portugal in my rucksack, twenty gallons at a time!  But who’s laughing now, I ask you?  Who’s laughing now?
EDUARDO: I don’t know.  Who is laughing now?
FERMINO: Me.  Me!!  I’m laughing now!
EDUARDO: You’re not laughing, you’re gloating.
FERMINO (concerned): My God, you’re right.  Well then, I’ll start laughing!  Heee hee heee, ho ho hooo!  (Laughs a bit more.)
EDUARDO: Okay, you’re laughing.  But you weren’t laughing when you asked “Who’s laughing now.”
FERMINO: Well… okay, hold on.  (Takes deep breath, and then says very quickly): Who’s laughing now?  (Laughs quickly and loudly.)
EDUARDO: Closer, but you still weren’t laughing when you asked the question.  I think it’s not possible to do both at once, in fact.
FERMINO: Ridiculous!  Okay, you ask the question.  (Starts laughing, and continues during EDUARDO’s next line.)
EDUARDO: Very well.  Who’s laughing now?
FERMINO (stops laughing): Me!!  I was laughing!
EDUARDO: Yes, well.  That’s all good for you, but I have to drink your impure bastard Kool-Aid formula!  I’m not looking forward to it.  And what about the prisoner?
FERMINO: Yes, what about the prisoner?
JOSEPH: Yes, what about the prisoner?
EDUARDO: (To JOSEPH): You are the prisoner!  I think.  Yes.  (To FERMINO): Well, if we have no water, we’ll just have to use some of your Kool-Aid.
FERMINO: We can’t!  It’s not Chinese Kool-Aid Torture, it’s Chinese Water Torture!
EDUARDO: One makes do with what one has, Fermino.  The torture must go on!  Fetch it!
JOSEPH: Oh rats.  So now I’m going to have Kool-Aid on the brain!
FERMINO exits.
EDUARDO: I’m afraid so.  Terribly sorry about this.
JOSEPH: I’ll probably start singing annoying jingles after a while… it won’t be pretty.
EDUARDO: I intend to leave that part of the torture to my assistant.
JOSEPH: Did they even have Kool-Aid in 1808?
EDUARDO: Kool-Aid, my friend, is immortal.  The potential for Kool-Aid has existed in every society, in every place and time.  The elements are always there… they just need a brilliant mind to harness them.  To give them flavor and strength.  To shape—wait, why am I telling you this BS?  I don’t even like Kool-Aid.
JOSEPH: I mean, if you’re not going to use water, couldn’t you at least use something a little more dignified?  Like, for example, Tabasco sauce?
EDUARDO: Heck no.  We’re not letting you have superhuman powers.  Fermino!  Where’s that Kool-Aid?
FERMINO returns, carrying a gallon container of Kool-Aid.
FERMINO: Right here, boss.
JOSEPH: It looks awful.
EDUARDO: You don’t know the half of it.  Prepare to be driven out of your mind, prisoner!
JOPSEPH (looking at FERMINO): Yes, prepare to be driven out of your mind, prisoner!
FERMINO: What?  I’m not the prisoner!  You’re the prisoner!
JOSEPH: No, I’m Firmino.  Gee, I guess it must already be working.  He’s gone insane!
FERMINO: I have not!  I’m perfectly sane.  We haven’t even started the torture yet.
JOSEPH: I should point out, boss, that that is one of the first things the literature tells us.  The victim eventually stops realizing that he’s even being tortured.  It’s a pity we’ve let it come that far with our friend here—it means we probably won’t get any information out of him.
EDUARDO: Well, that’s a shame.  (Turning to FERMINO) It’s all your fault, you realize that!  You and your superpotent Kool-Aid!
FERMINO (cringing): Yes… yessir.  Sorry sir.
JOSEPH: But let’s not forget Alvarez.
EDUARDO: Ah, yes, Alvarez.  If it weren’t for him and the blasted water bill, none of this would have even happened.  I’ll have to go teach him a lesson.
JOSEPH: Good idea.  I’ll be right behind you, if you let me out of this machine.  It seems I slipped into it by mistake.
FERMINO: Don’t let him fool you, boss!  I’m the guy who works for you!  Not him!
EDUARDO: It is sad, the ravages and delusions of torture.  (Unhooks JOSEPH from the machine.)  Come, Firmino.  We have business to conduct.
FIRMINO: No, wait!
JOSEPH: Right behind you, boss.
EDUARDO and JOSEPH leave stage.  FIRMINO is left holding a big container of Kool-Aid.
FIRMINO: I tell you!  There’s no job security around this place.  And job security was my number one reason for joining the underground military in the first place.  Shucks.
FIRMINO walks off, drinking Kool-Aid.  The End.