Title: The evil that men do
Rating PG for violence and misery
Word Count 684
Disclaimer I did not invent them
I must offer some apology here. This is the darkest and ugliest thing I have written, maybe ever. I was doing research on the historic treatment of Prisoners of War. Not conducive to easy sleep at night. But we know, as Archie does not, that love, and dignity, and Horatio, will be returned to him.
Archie at 14, had been a puppy.
The Navy had not been his first choice, but still he had come to it in hope. He had been full of bright eyed curiosity. He had been so ready to be every man's friend. Three days later, Jack Simpson had commenced his lessons. Archie had bled, and he had wept hot tears, he had begged for mercy, and there had been none. Then he had fought, desperately. None of it had made a difference. Simpson had taken what he wished. Four years of darkness followed.
Archie had been 18 when Horatio arrived. He had considered himself an educated man.
He had been so wrong.
February now, in the freezing inner courtyard of the Bitche. He knelt with the others, on the paving stones. He could hear the others breathing. He could smell them, even above the cold wind. He was shivering, of course. He could not help that. He kept his eyes down. The guards did not like to be looked at. Archie had had the good sense this time to spread his knees, and sit back on his bare heels. He could maintain this position even after his knees went numb. His feet were already numb. He wished he were permitted to look at the sky.
When they had first arrived, their captors had been dozy county men. Archie had been chained, after all, he was a dangerous man. But he had at least been allowed to cower in the chill courtyard, on his own two bare feet, when they changed his straw. He had been allowed to watch, with his eyes, like a man, while they cleaned out his bedding with pitchforks.
That was before the arrival of Basher and Splasher.
There: Someone shifted. That was all it took. The Basher was on him. The man was five away from Archie, as they knelt in ranks. The beating sounded like a bad one. Basher was screaming French invective. Don'tFallDon'tFall... Archie thought at the other man. But it was hard to maintain the proper kneeling position, and the man fell. That was bad.
Archie heard rather than saw this, of course. He was not so foolish as to lift his eyes. Not so wicked as to move his head. Splasher might be watching. Basher and Splasher worked together.
Of the two, Archie dreaded Splasher more. The glee that Basher brought to his work was ugly. But Archie had been beaten by men more expert in the art.
Splasher's cold eyes crawled down a mans neck bones. He claimed to be a doctor. 'Disinfecting' was his word for what he did to them. An English word, it sat strange on Splasher's lips. Perhaps in hell, they had such doctors.
There, the fallen man had regained his kneeling position. Basher strode away. Archie could see the pointless shine of his boots.
The men came by with new straw. There was never enough.
The stones were digging into Archie's knees. His shivering had gone to shudders now. His chin was numb. His teeth were chattering. The worst of the ordeal was coming now. Splasher was coming among them. He was trailed by the men with the buckets.
Archie was third in line. He could smell the vinegar, the gasp as the first man was drenched. It was cold, it was so cold. He clenched but he could never be ready. Archie gasped as the freezing liquid soaked him. Eyes down. Don't move. Basher was watching. They worked together.
His shirt stuck to his spine. Everything was shaking now. But he had had sense enough to start with his knees apart. He would endure.