"What are you in for?"...
"I allowed the word 'God' to remain at the end of a line."

38. Police Cellars

There was bribery, favouritism, and racketeering of every kind,
there was homosexuality and prostitution,
there was even illicit alcohol distilled from potatoes.
The positions of trust were given only to the common criminals,
especially the gangsters and the murderers,
who formed a sort of aristocracy.

He did not know where he was. Presumably he was in the Ministry of Love; but there was no way of making certain. He was in a high-ceilinged windowless cell with walls of glittering white porcelain. Concealed lamps flooded it with cold light, and there was a low, steady humming sound which he supposed had something to do with the air supply. A bench, or shelf, just wide enough to sit on ran round the wall, broken only by the door and, at the end opposite the door, a lavatory pan with no wooden seat. There were four telescreens, one on each wall.

There was a dull aching in his belly. It had been there ever since they had bundled him into the closed van and driven him away. But he was also hungry, with a gnawing unwholesome kind of hunger. It might be twenty-four hours since he had eaten, it might be thirty-six. He still did not know, probably never would know, whether it had been morning or evening when they arrested him. Since he was arrested he had not been fed.

He sat as still as he could on the narrow bench, with his hands crossed on his knee. He had already learned to sit still. If you made unexpected movements they yelled at your from the telescreen. But the craving for food was growing upon him. What he longed for above all was a piece of bread. He had an idea that there were a few bread crumbs in the pocket of his overalls. It was even possible - he thought this because from time to time something seemed to tickle his leg - that there might be a sizable bit of crust there. In the end the temptation to find out overcame his fear; he slipped a hand into his pocket.

"Smith!" yelled a voice from the telescreen. "6079 Smith W.! Hands out of pockets in the cells!"

He sat still again, his hands crossed on his knee. Before being brought here he had been taken to another place which must have been an ordinary prison or a temporary lock-up used by the patrols. He did not know how long he had been there; some hours at any rate; with no clocks and no daylight it was hard to gauge the time. It was a noisy, evil-smelling place. They had put him into a cell similar to the one he was now in, but filthily dirty and at all times crowded by ten or fifteen people. The majority of them were common criminals, but there were a few political prisoners among them. He had sat silent against the wall, jostled by dirty bodies, too preoccupied by fear and pain in his belly to take much interest in his surroundings, but still noticing the astonishing difference in demeanour between the Party prisoners and the others. The Party prisoners were always silent and terrified, but the ordinary criminals seemed to care for nothing for anybody. They yelled insults at the guards, fought back fiercely when their belongings were impounded, wrote obscene words on the floor, ate smuggled food which they produced from mysterious hiding-places in their clothes, and even shouted down the telescreen when it tried to restore order. On the other hand some of them seemed to be on good terms with the guards, called them by nicknames, and tried to wheedle cigarettes through the spy hole in the door. The guards, too, treated the common criminals with a certain forbearance, even when they had to handle them roughly. There was much talk about the forced-labour camps to which most of the prisoners expected to be sent. It was "all right" in the camps, he gathered, so long as you had good contacts and knew the ropes. There was bribery, favouritism, and racketeering of every kind, there was homosexuality and prostitution, there was even illicit alcohol distilled from potatoes. The positions of trust were given only to the common criminals, especially the gangsters and the murderers, who formed a sort of aristocracy. All the dirty jobs were done by the politicals.

There was a constant come-and-go of prisoners of every description: drug-peddlars, thieves, bandits, black-marketers, drunks, prostitutes. Some of the drunks were so violent that the other prisoners had to combine to suppress them. An enormous wreck of a woman, aged about sixty, with great tumbling breasts and thick coils of white hair which had come down in her struggles, was carried in, kicking and shouting, by four guards, who had hold of her one at each corner. They wrenched off the boots with which she had been trying to kick them, and dumped her down across Winston's lap, almost breaking his thigh-bones. The woman hoisted herself upright and followed them out with a yell of "F-- bastards!" Then, noticing that she was sitting on something uneven, she slid off Winston's knees on to the bench.

"Beg pardon, dearie," she said. "I wouldn't 'a sat on you, only the buggers put me there. They dono' ow to treat a lady, do they?" She paused, patted her breast, and belched. "Pardon," she said. "I ain't meself, quite." She leaned forward and vomited copiously on the floor. "That's better," she said, leaning back with closed eyes. "Never keep it down, thass what I say. Get it up while it's fresh on your stomach, like."

She revived, turned to have another look at Winston, and seemed immediately to take a fancy to him. She put a vast arm round his shoulder and drew him towards her, breathing beer and vomit into his face.

"Wass your name, dearie?" she said.

"Smith," said Winston.

"Smith?" said the woman. "Thass funny. My name's Smith too. Why," she added sentimentally, "I might be your mother!"

She might, thought Winston, be his mother. She was about the right age and physique, and it was probable that people changed somewhat after twenty years in a forced-labour camp. No one else had spoken to him. To a surprising extent the ordinary criminals ignored the Party prisoners. "The polits,' they called them, with a sort of uninterested contempt. The Party prisoners seemed terrified of speaking to anybody, and above all of speaking to one another. Only once, when two Party members, both women, were pressed close together on the bench, he overheard amid the din of voices a few hurriedly-whispered words; and in particular a reference to something called "room one-oh-one", which he did not understand.

It might be two or three hours ago that they had brought him here. The dull pain in his belly never went away, but sometimes it grew better and sometimes worse, and his thoughts expanded or contracted accordingly. When it grew worse he thought only of the pain itself, and of his desire for food. There were moments when he foresaw the things that would happen to him with such actuality that his heart galloped and his breath stopped. He felt the smash of truncheons on his elbows and iron-shod boots on his shins; he saw himself groveling on the floor, screaming for mercy through broken teeth.

He hardly thought of Julia. He could not fix his mind on her. He loved her and would not betray her; but that was only a fact, known as he knew the rules of arithmetic. He felt no love for her, and he hardly even wondered what was happening to her. He thought oftener of O'Brien, with a flickering of hope. O'Brien must know that he had been arrested. The Brotherhood, he had said, never tried to save its members. But there was the razor-blade; they would send the razor-blade if they could. There would be perhaps five seconds before the guard could rush into the cell. The blade would bite into him with a sort of burning coldness, and even the fingers that held it would be cut to the bone. Everything came back to his sick body, which shrank trembling from the smallest pain. He was not even certain that he would use the razor-blade even if he got the chance. It was more natural to exist from moment to moment, accepting another ten minutes' life even with the certainty that there was torture at the end of it.

He wondered where he was, and what time of day it was. In this place, he knew instinctively, the lights would never be turned out. It was the place with no darkness: he saw now why O'Brien had seemed to recognize the illusion. In the Ministry of Love there were no windows. His cell might be at the heart of the building or against its outer wall; it might be ten floors below ground, or thirty above it. There was a sound of marching boots outside. The steel door opened with a clang. A young officer, a trim, black-uniformed figure who seemed to glitter all over with polished leather, and whose pale, straight-featured face was like a wax mask, stepped smartly through the doorway. He motioned to the guards outside to bring the prisoner they were leading. The poet Ampleforth shambled into the cell. The door clanged shut again.

Ampleforth made one or two uncertain movements from side to side, as though having some idea that there was another door to go out of, and then began to wander up and down the cell. He had not yet noticed Winston's presence...

Winston roused himself a little from his lethargy. He must speak to Ampleforth, and risk the yell from the telescreen. It was even conceivable that Ampleforth was the bearer of the razor blade.

"Ampleforth," he said. There was no yell from the telescreen. Ampleforth paused, mildly startled. His eyes focused themselves slowly on Winston.

"Ah, Smith!" he said. "You too!"

"What are you in for?"

"To tell you the truth--" He sat down awkwardly on the bench opposite Winston. "There is only one offence, is there not?" he said.

"And you have committed it?"

"Apparently I have." He put a hand to his forehead and pressed his temples for a moment, as though trying to remember something. "These things happen," he began vaguely. "I have been able to recall one instance - a possible instance. It was an indiscretion, undoubtedly. We were producing a definite edition of the poems of Kipling. I allowed the word "God" to remain at the end of a line. I could not help it!" he added almost indignantly, raising his face to look at Winston. "It was impossible to change the line. The rhyme was "rod". So you realize that there are only twelve rhymes to "rod" in the entire language? For days I had racked my brains. There was no other rhyme."

They talked desultorily for some minutes, then a yell from the telescreen bade them be silent. Winston sat quietly, his hands crossed. Time passed. Twenty minutes, an hour - it was difficult to judge. Once more there was a sound of boots outside. Winston's entrails contracted. Soon, very soon, perhaps in five minutes, perhaps now, the tramp of boots would mean that his own turn had come.The door opened. The cold-faced young officer stepped into the cell. With a brief movement of the hand he indicated Ampleforth.

"Room 101," he said. Ampleforth marched clumsily out between the guards, his face vaguely perturbed, but uncomprehending.

What seemed like along time passed. The pain in Winston's belly had revived. His mind sagged round and round on the same track, like a ball falling again and again into the same series of slots. He had only six thoughts. The pain in his belly; a piece of bread; the blood and the screaming; O'Brien; Julia; the razor-blade. There was another spasm in his entrails; the heavy boots were approaching. As the door opened, the wave of air that it created brought in a powerful smell of cold sweat. Parsons walked into the cell. He was wearing khaki shorts and a sports-shirt. This time Winston was startled into self-forgetfulness.

"You here!" he said. "What are you in for?" said Winston.

"Thoughtcrime!" said Parsons, almost blubbering.

The tone of his voice implied at once a complete admission of his guilt and a sort of incredulous horror that such a word could be applied to himself.

"You don't think they'll shoot me, do you, old chap? They don't shoot you if you haven't actually done anything - only thoughts, which you can't help. I know they give you a fair hearing. O, I trust them for that! They'll know my record, won't they? Not brainy, of course, but keen. I tried to do my best for the Party,didn't I? I'll get off with five years, don't you think? Or even ten years? A chap like me could make himself pretty useful in a labour-camp. They couldn't shoot me for going off the rails just once?"

"Are you guilty?" said Winston.

"Of course I'm guilty!" cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen. You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?" His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. "Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man," he said sententiously. "It's insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit - never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?" He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity. "Down with BIG BROTHER!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? 'Thank you,' I'm going to say, 'thank you for saving me before it was too late.'"

"Who denounced you?" said Winston.

"It was my little daughter," said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride. "She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don't bear her any grudge for it. In fact I'm proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway."

Parsons was removed. More prisoners came and went, mysteriously. One, a woman, was consigned to "Room 101", and Winston noticed, seemed to shrivel and turn a different colour when she heard the words. A long time passed. Winston was alone, and had been alone for hours. The pain of sitting on the narrow bench was such that often he got up and walked about, unreproved by the telescreen. Whenever his physical sensations were a little under control the terror returned. Sometimes with a fading hope he thought of O'Brien and the razor-blade. It was thinkable that the razor-blade might arrive concealed in his food, if he were ever fed. More dimly he thought of Julia. Somewhere or other she was suffering perhaps far worse than he. She might be screaming in pain at this moment. The boots were approaching again. The door opened.

Chess legend Fischer may become Icelander (most of 9-member Parliament Committee in favour of granting citizenship). Scotsman, Jan 28, 2005 & Bobby Fischer seeks Icelandic citizenship (Jap gov't illegally imprisoning him on "false & ludicrous grounds" & health worsening since arrest). NewYorkTimes, Jan 28, 2005. Go to BOBBY FISCHER IN R00M 202

Finding Bobby Fischer (took on Soviet empire pawn by pawn). Bennington Banner, Jul 19, 2004. Go to 34.Ministry of Love (Torture) & 22.Doublethink & UNCLE SAM FINDS BOBBY FISCHER

Russia uses torture & death squads (which target innocent civilians). Independent, Jun 25, 2004. Go to 39.Interrogation/Torture

'Burning Bush' joke earns prison (bartender overheard & told police). CNN.com, Dec 10, 2002. Go to 20.Thought Police

Police drop 'God' from oath (firefighters could be next). ABCnews.com, Sep 25, 2002

Millions behind bars in USA (but not murderers & rapists). Yahoo! AP, Aug 26, 2002

Rally against more cops ($70-M s/b for "Books Not Bars"). SanFran Chronicle, Aug 4, 2002. Go to IN THE GHETTO by Elvis

USA A PRISON NATION (Spank your kids? Go to jail.) ConspiracyPenPal, Jun 2, 2002

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com