Written to the Three-Word Wednesday Prompt: Docile, Inflict, Whimper.
Includes unkind acts being done to someone apparently willing.
He was docile when they put the device on him: he stood still in the harness they’d built for him and did not complain nor struggle.
It looked like the unholy cousin of a neck brace, a muzzle, and a slave collar, and it was built to inflict pain and to silence him. It encased his neck down to his shoulders and his face up to his eyes, and it was not removable without three keys. It looked supremely uncomfortable; it was even less pleasant than that to wear.
And yet he allowed it without fighting. He could have killed them all before they got the first chain on him; he could have stopped them long before they locked the contraption around him, but he stood still, passive. Docile.
It struck in Padma’s craw, watching him. Watching them. Part of her, the animal part, was screaming Trap, trap. Run away! The tiger allowed you that close only because he was getting ready to pounce.
The human part of her was cringing at the cruelty. They could have built the device to be kind, and they had not. They could have attempted surgical means of silencing. Those had not even been brought up as options. They could have – perhaps – asked him to not speak. Padma was uncertain anyone but her had even thought of that.
When the last technician fastened the last lock, only then did their prisoner whimper. It was a tiny sound – small enough that it would not have been audible in Padma’s observation chamber if it hadn’t been for the high-sensitivity mics situated around the subject.
But it was enough to send the technicians running, and, more importantly, it was enough to set off the devices fail-safes. Their prisoner fell to his knees, sweat beading on his forehead.
She should have them turn down the feedback. But Padma pushed the intercom button. “That’s good,” she told the technicians. They had done what they were told. They had risked the prisoner’s killing voice. “Leave him be, now.”
It wasn’t what you’d call living, the existence he’d succumbed to. Why had he done it?
Perhaps, Padma thought, in time she’d be brave enough to ask. For now, she turned off the lights in the observation chamber and walked away.
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