BLACK BOX by Robert Cole
After a long silence heavily laden with smoke,
he continued at a heart-stammering rate, his asthma tripping
him. Abolfazl Makmalbaf lullabying over his architectural blueprints
fished in his Armani pockets for the key. Seismic photons fusing
across his Raybans from the black box. The steady fragrance of
kiff obscured this sleight-of-hand, he pulled out worrybeads
like a deft pickpocket. You say she is virgo intacta. Of course.
Not stitched like a camelskin bag. You had certain obligations
to fulfil. The walls will be hung with kilim. Naturally. My luminaries
said you were the best in the business Mr Da Silva. They must
have been off their faces. The hi-tech equipment restricts the
imagination among other things. These irons crush the radial
nerve. Your black box may have its uses.
I feel an enormous injustice has been perpetrated against you
Mr Da Silva. The ptomaine poisoning was by the way. I'm no hard-line
despot. The nightclub assignation was a mistake. Counter espionage
is adventitious only to those who pick up the tab. Lucrative
for the traders. I'd like a tree of life, a dowry carpet. You
have a marriageable daughter don't you Mr Da Silva? Oh, in crimson
and royal blue, no acidgreen. Makes you bilious doesn't it Mr
A thousandth of a microtonal wavelength disturbs the bowels;
these kilocycles play havoc with the ganglion. But I don't have
to tell you how you own baby works, do I. The human body like
a split watermelon. Open to temptation. Sprinkled with cinnamon,
cauterised with red-hot needles. Crude devices compared with
this little shocker. His fingers strayed tantalisingly over the
black box. Irritating isn't it Mr Da Silva. Knowing the patent
is yours and, you the first recipient of its treatment. You told
me the girls had no reputations. They weren't on the usual sex-shuttle.
Azadi Merjui tut-tutted behind Da Silva.
No twinges of self-reproach? I'm very discriminating in whom
I use, consequently I have more than civilised commerce. But
you Da Silva, you chose to flout my trust. You chose to forgo
the devotion I had nurtured in you. Those mangled bodies could
have been you and me. If I had opted to visit a down market whorehouse
in Jerusalem it might have been expected. No lime green for the
tassels. Mr Da Silva my patience is endless for my fellow beings.
You however have ceased to be. I have taken all of your preferences
into consideration and given them a little spin. Your death will
not be unrelated from your life. Certain parallels will be only
Your eyes will be popped like sugared amphetamines. Let's not
gild the lily. Your arms will be held by the hardware. But it's
the software that is the business, isn't it Mr Da Silva. And
you should know all the potentials of that. Your baleful submissions
are somewhat uncalled for. I always respected your penetration.
But your predilection to wander has become wearisome. That little
camouflage you affected did not work. The anti-aircraft parts
were welcome, but was it worth the political backlash. You abused
your family, Mr Da Silva. You allowed your own daughter to perjure
herself. Brace yourself Mr Da Silva. The girl you supplied was
Jacqueline, you own daughter. Yes she was virgo intacta. Here
is the video. I will playback her deflowering in slow motion
while the device is attached. Everybody deserves a pleasant death.
We are somewhat conservative in our choices. Yes she was manhandled.
The descendants of slaves have a saying, but it wouldn't apply
to you, a patrician, would it. She was very beautiful. The climax
hasn't come. That rasping cough could be quite unhealthy. I chose
the marble bathhouse for its aesthetic possibilities. Those hardriding
boys begged to be excused. You are bound to feel nauseous Mr
Da Silva. Take no notice of the jack-knifing. I suspended them,
a trick I learn from the piscine geometry of Anaximander. I will
not further elaborate. The rest is self-evident. This mainframe
device will cut down on blunders. Your mouth a mere cicatrise.
I find the kicking of feet crude, don't you Mr Da Silva. He seems
to have flatlined on us. Wake him. I want to program for him
the longest death possible. Now where were we Mr Da Silva? It
was when you jumbo-jetted your way home to Lahore. You had many
opportunities. The x-raying didn't show. Your body and your bags
were clean. So how come you managed to pass yourself as a desert
tourist? You were scheduled to arrive at my palace, such an interminable
I thought the tigerlilies a good touch, don't you Mr Da Silva?
We almost lost you a moment ago. However you tilt your face away
the vision of your daughter's savage death comes on again and
again. You search for your tongue, a phenomenon common to war-amputees.
The electrodes can be applied to the power of a cattle prod and
still not numb the reaction, I believe that was your pitch. The
sensation of underpinning the prostate, the disorientation associated
with a bad trip, these were selling points, Mr Da Silva, the
supersentisitizing of the nerves as if you had been flayed. Vis-avis
I had to invest in this. The black box creating vibrations of
innumerable atoms, causing epileptic spasm, the inhibiting of
beta blockers. Resign yourself to a designer-death Mr Da Silva
that you made possible. This software torture-chamber will have
democratic uses. The insensitivity of those users to the pain
of the subjected. We owners of your most effective equipment
cannot expose ourselves to any psychological or physical danger.
Your refusal to destroy all blueprints of this and the new vehicle
left me with no other option. Your good behaviour advertised
in advance. So I purchased from you. The fact that none of our
dealings is recorded anywhere is a mercy.
The treason against your own country is a small matter. This
kind of traffic has to continue. You were merely a player in
a vast game. Lunching in that restaurant with my aide was not
advisable. I realised that you panicked. But your motivation
left much to be desired. I demand unfeigned loyalty. Your death
will be a new addition to my museum of oddities. I could have
let you go a helpless amnesiac at the stopover, but your insistence
to proceed confirmed by belief in your treachery.
Your provocative statements to my aide and your defiance to accomplish
this abysmal thumbscrew left me with no other option. However
stylish, effective and cruel. Come now Mr Da Silva, your faking
it, I think. Why the blubbering? Since this is a banquet and
you the chief guest and meal, let's proceed without regret, inexorably.
Tell me didn't you test this on any living creature a priori
to selling it to me? Oh so the monkey sample proved unforthcoming.
Their shaved heads and applied electrodes a thing of the past.
You only had to point this in their direction didn't you. It's
like health food rammed through a hole where you can only spit
and shit. The corners of your mouth have turned down. Isn't this
adequate accommodation? Didn't it occur to you that your black
box holds out possibilities of correction? Purists would argue
that the ultimate punishment must be self-realisation of a crime.
Doesn't this smack of poetic justice, Mr Da Silva. You were quite
voluble about all its applications on our first meeting.
I think you must have missed something in the trials. Pet monkeys
are one thing. A timeless space to feel only pain, another. This
is nothing like the charge of when they put cigarettes out on
your torso. The severing of your limbs an unnecessary procedure.
Oh I forgot about your asthma. Have you ever felt that feeling
of discouragement, pointless now, as it is to ask, when a friend
throws acid in your face? You might be nearsighted but you can
see your daughter clearly being raped and murdered? I only demanded
the use of razor and shampoo as an aesthetic gesture. Bewitching
Unconsciously holding the evidence in her hand the while. The
key to the footlocker. Your stash. I hope this doesn't disturb
you. Your mistress can't realise on your felony. Your fraudulence
is such to invite only disgust.
The cigar clippings merged with the pubic hairs are evidence
in the Black Museum. If we hadn't bounced your molecules then
Scotland Yard would have. Still could. It depends if your infringement
of my contract with you pended allegations of arms smuggling.
Who's advantage were those psychoactive drugs you slipped on
my aide. The fact that he now has the retention of a squirrel's
skull is nothing to do with why you are here Mr Da Silva. When
the rogue cell starts to multiply the worst of deaths pales into
insignificance. If you mere jerked on a hook and contemplated
your own body from the coign of a severed head you could not
conceive of a more grisly death, Mr Da Silva. However extraordinarily
entertaining that may be as a concept your reality doesn't bear
thinking about does it. I can picture you suffering for as long
as my surgeons can maintain the possibility. You cut a pitiful
Zipped in a correction-suit, thrown in a centrifuge, jucuzzied
at boiling point, you couldn't feel more pain, or could you?
It is bliss to see you trussed so by your own machine. I must
commend your admirable style. The snuffing of your daughter will
be as nothing to your disassembled parts thrown at you one by
one. You can fetch up. You realise you've crossed the frontiers
of orthodoxy with this thing of yours. When your oesophagus is
used as a snorkel for a shark and your spleen has been occupied
by gastropods you'll wish you'd not got tangled up in our affairs.
It might be unreasonable to ask, but one little problem has been
teasing my mind. Were you estranged from your wife before you
contacted MI6 about her involvement in the deal?
Her licence plates are recorded here. She seems to have spent
long hours at the Turkish embassy. Two emergencies blurred our
immediate discovery of your infraction. Ridiculous as it now
seems you were the perfect team-leader. Do try and do something
about that slurping sound it grates on my nerves. There there
it's as infectious as laughter. A chancre on the eyeball couldn't
be more harrowing. She died at this point. The insertion of a
phallic device. But you know all about that. I'll play over her
condemnation of you and your sexual advances to her as a child.
Reads well as an affidavit. The ten-digit number you quoted in
your blackmail message will be the calibration of your next spasm.
An infinitesimal jolt at first as we hunt for fresh nerve clusters.
The scald is nothing. I felt particularly perplexed at your reaction
to my offer of friendship, Mr Da Silva.
Your credit card company confirmed your whereabouts on the days
in dispute, their tyrannical regulations somewhat cooked your
goose. To say every card was stolen by an unknown assailant leaving
you with amnesia, unable to trace you comings and goings, seems
now like the diseased imaginings of a desperate man. The following
morning you were heard to speak your name over and over as if
in a fever. How does this figure with amnesia? We have a voiceprint.
Would a sane man claim to be the thief of his own cards and belongings?
In a Muslim country that would not be advisable.
Your coverstory was a delightful concoction. It's no good pirouetting
like a hung goose dripping blood. Nothing has happened yet. If
we fix you up with the excesses of a heroin habit and deny you
methadone say, or with the most desirable woman in the world
and suddenly you discover you're a eunuch, could that be worse
than you have afflicted on the world? A moot point, wouldn't
you agree? I just want an apology before I schlock you for good.
All these morbid possibilities unleashed at a touch of a button.
I shall keep you in a suspension of unthinkable pain next to
Torquemada's corset in my museum, Mr Da Silva. Think about it,
we could become friends, eventually.
copyright: Robert Cole 2001
Robert Cole has published two collections of poems,
the latest CAFARD, is published by Community of Poets
Press, Hatfield Cottage, Chilham, Kent, CT4 8DP, England, UK.
Price £3.20. ISBN 1-902529-06-5. A5. 44pp.