44. Room 101
At each stage of his imprisonment he had known, or seemed to know, where abouts he was in the windowless building. The cells where the guards had beaten him were below ground level. The room where he had been interrogated by O'Brien was high up near the roof. This place was many metres underground, as deep down as it was possible to go. It was bigger than most of the cells he had been in. There were two small tables straight in front of him, each covered with green baize. One was only a metre or two from him, the other was further away, near the door. He was strapped upright in a chair, so tightly that he could move nothing, not even his head. A sort of pad gripped his head from behind, forcing him to look straight in front of him. For a moment he was alone, then the door opened and O'Brien came in.
"You asked me once," said O'Brien, "what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world."
The door opened again. A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or basket of some kind. He set it down on the further table. Because of the position in which O'Brien was standing, Winston could not see what the thing was.
"The worst thing in the world," said O'Brien, "varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by implement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal."
He had moved a little to one side, so that Winston had a better view of the thing on the table. It was an oblong wire cage with a handle on top for carrying it by. Fixed to the front of it was something that looked like a fencing mask, with the concave side outwards. Although it was three or four metres away from him, he could see that the cage was divided lengthways into two compartments, and that there was some kind of creature in each. They were rats.
"In your case," said O'Brien, "the worst thing in the world happens to be rats."
A sort of premonitory tremor, a fear of he was not certain what, had passed through Winston as soon as he caught his first glimpse of the cage. But at this moment the meaning of the mask-like attachment in front of it suddenly sank into him. His bowels seemed to turn to water.
"You can't do that!" he cried out in a high cracked voice. "You couldn't, you couldn't! It's impossible. O'Brien!" said Winston, making an effort to control his voice. "You know this is not necessary. What is it that you want me to do?"
O'Brien made no direct answer. When he spoke it was in the schoolmasterish manner he sometimes affected. He looked thoughtfully into the distance, as though he was addressing an audience somewhere behind Winston's back.
"By itself," he said, "pain is not always enough. There are occasions when a human being will stand out against pain, even to the point of death. But for everyone there is something unendurable - something that cannot be contemplated. Courage and cowardice are not involved. If you are falling from a height it is not cowardly to clutch at a rope. If you have come up from deep water it is not cowardly to fill your lungs with air. It is merely an instinct which cannot be destroyed. It is the same with the rats. For you, they are unendurable. They are a form of pressure that you cannot withstand, even if you wished to. You will do what is required of you."
"But what is it, what is it? How can I do it if I don't know what it is?"
O'Brien picked up the cage and brought it across to the nearer table. He set it down carefully on the baize cloth. Winston could hear the blood singing in his ears. He had the feeling of sitting in utter loneliness. All sounds came to him out of immense distances. Yet the cage with the rats was not two metres away from him. They were enormous rats. They were at the age when a rat's muzzle grows blunt and fierce and his fur brown instead of grey.
"The rat," said O'Brien, still addressing his invisible audience, "although a rodent, is carnivorous. You are aware of that. You will have heard of the things that happen in the poor quarters of this town. In some streets a woman dare not leave her baby alone in the house, even for five minutes. The rats are certain to attack it. Within quite a small time they will strip it to the bones. They also attack sick or dying people. They show astonishing intelligence in knowing when a human being is helpless."
There was an outburst of squeals from the cage. It seemed to reach Winston from far away. The rats were fighting; they were trying to get at each other through the partition. He heard also a deep groan of despair. That, too, seemed to come from outside himself. O'Brien picked up the cage, and, as he did so, pressed something in it. There was a sharp click. Winston made a frantic effort to tear himself loose from the chair. It was hopeless; every part of him, even his head, was held immovably. O'Brien moved the cage nearer. It was less than a metre from Winston's face.
"I have pressed the first lever," said O'Brien. "You understand the construction of this cage. The mask will fit over your head, leaving no exit. When I press the other lever, the door of the cage will slide up. These starving brutes will shoot out of it like bullets. Have you ever seen a rat leap through the air? They will leap on to your face and bore straight into it. Sometimes they attack the eyes first. Sometimes they burrow through the cheeks and devour the tongue."
The cage was nearer; it was closing in. Winston heard a succession of shrill cries which appeared to be occurring in the air above his head. But he fought furiously against his panic. To think, to think, even with a split second left - to think was the only hope. Suddenly the foul musty odour of the brutes struck his nostrils. There was a violent convulsion of nausea inside him, and he almost lost consciousness. Everything had gone black. For an instant he was insane, a screaming animal. Yet he came out of the blackness clutching an idea. There was one and only one way to save himself. He must interpose another human being, the body of another human being, between himself and the rats. The circle of the mask was large enough now to shut out the vision of anything else. The wire door was a couple of hand-spans from his face. The rats knew what was coming now. One of them was leaping up and down, the other, an old scaly grandfather of the sewers, stood up, with his pink hands against the bars, and fiercely sniffed the air. Winston could see the whiskers and the yellow teeth. Again, the black panic took hold of him. He was blind, helpless, mindless.
"It was common punishment in Imperial China," said O'Brien as didactically as ever.
The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then - no, it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. Bue he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment - one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.
"Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!"
He was falling backwards, into enormous depths, away from the rats. He was still strapped in the chair, but he had fallen through the floor, through the walls of the building, through the earth, through the oceans, through the atmosphere, into outer space, into the gulfs between the stars - always away, away, away, from the rats. He was light years distant, but O'Brien was still standing at his side. There was still the cold touch of a wire against his cheek. But through the darkness that enveloped him he heard another metallic click, and knew that the cage door had clicked shut and not open.
Palin's parents are professional rat killers (protected human remains after 9/11). Chicago Tribune, Sep 27, 2008. Go to PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
Gov't urges Bihar's poor to eat rats (rodents eat over 50% of food grains) & India rat farms will commercialize rat meat (raise socio-economic status of rat-eaters) & Is it healthy to promote rat-eating in Bihar? (some rats weigh 3 kilos or 6.6 pounds). BBC/Money/BiharTimes, Aug 22-25, 2008. Go to SHRINE TO ORWELL (born in Bihar, India in 1903) & 31.Love Nest (of all horrors in the world - a rat!)
China building oil pipelines in Burma. Telegraph, Jan 16, 2008
...A 900-mile pipeline is to be built - possibly this year - to take gas from the coast of Burma to China after Beijing won contracts to explore three large offshore areas for gas...The waters covering this treasure have been closed to local fishermen and it is impossible to witness the work going on there....At the centre of this bonanza is the sleepy island of Rambree. Rambree was once the scene of bitter fighting between the British and Japanese in the Second World War...
THE BURMA FRONT (..."FDR supported a Burma theater with limited supplies, and by Sept. 1943 Stilwell was able to start his GALAHAD offensive with the help of the Kachin guerillas trained by DETACHMENT 101 of the OSS, aimed at taking the airfield at Myitkyina, the largest city in Kachin province. The British finally agreed to help and created the South East Asia Command Nov. 15, 1943, under Lord Mountbatten to protect India ("Save England's Asian Colonies") and to begin an offensive in Burma. Gen. Lewis Pick led construction battalions and the African American 858th Aviation Engineers to build the Ledo Road in Nov. and Dec. 1943 into Burma for Stilwell's X-Force that led the GALAHAD offensive...")
OBJECT 110 WAS ROOM 101
SLEEPING IN ROOM 101
ORWELL 2 + 2 = 1984
Traitors in family: Stalin's informers (new book about life in Russia) & Putin's youth groups defend Kremlin (just like Stalin's did). DailyMail/GlobeMail, Oct 17, 2007
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
Rats ravage Australian cars (city council won't lay bait in case innocent possums die). New.com.au, Jun 28, 2004. Go to 31.Love Nest & THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
Cambodians resorting to eating rats (afraid of Bird Flu from chicken). My Way, Feb 18,2004. Go to 31.Love Nest & TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD
ORIGINS OF ROOM 101 and THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
Contestant submerses head in box of rats (wins $50,000 on NBC's 'Fear Factor'). Roanoke.com, Mar 6, 2002
In latest reality TV show, the rats get to eat the contestants. National Post, May 24, 2001
Gerbils trained to rat on spies, pushers. National Post, May 9, 2001
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