The smell was unbearable to Joseph, the mix of blood and urine that once belonged to the crippled man cowering on the floor. Dealing another blow, he added a monotonous twenty-five to his mental list. Sighing in futility, he sat down and looked upon his captive.
"If you sign the confession, all your pain will end." In reply he got nothing but a series of burbled whimpers. Exasperated he rose from his seat, kicked the man for good measure and walked out the door.
In the next room Steven was attempting to sleep through the screams. After noticing the silence he began to settle until Joseph flung open the door, locked it and collapsed beside him. "Bloody Jews, they never sign the confession, you always have to beat it out of them."
Steven looked at his friend and as if reading from a card, replied. "You know as well as I do Joseph, he has nothing to confess, we have already done that for him." The monotony surprised even him.
"True, but it has to be official, and if I were threatened with that beating I'd sign anything. It's madness to do anything else."
Steven chuckled grimly and raised himself up with gnarled hands. Joseph was like so many others, disciplined, idealistic, but lacking in perception, a pure Nazi. "Madness? That's a strange way to put it. If the same man walked down the street chanting insults to Nazism, then I would call him mad. If the same man was arrested and then begged to be beaten to a state of near death, then I would without hesitation say he was mad. But in a situation where a man refuses to lie about a crime that he has not committed, even when threatened, then he cannot be mad. The situation however, is most definitely absurd."
"I don't understand you, if they are here then aren't they a threat to us?
"My boy, everybody is a threat these days."
"Then what do you mean?"
"People are a threat because we make them so, this is usually through our own petty vendettas, I myself went under this experience when I was a younger man, patrolling the last carnival here in 193…4. You should have seen it; it had been going as long as the town itself had. Every year the gypsies would arise from their homes and set up their wild circus on the fringes. I had been there every year of my life, it was so exciting to young senses and all the attractions exhibited a knowing insanity either in their mind or body. There were all kinds: hunchbacks, dancers, angels in blackface, devils in wedding gowns, and the cabaret of course where we went to satisfy ourselves. It was a wonderland, a pandemonium of the mind and a paradise of feeling.
The main attraction that year was a girl of eighteen who we called the circus girl; she was more beautiful than any German I'd ever seen. A dark beauty I'd call it, like she had gained it through smouldering in the fires of a factory. What you would do is that you'd enter the tent and be completely silenced by that metallic beauty. She never said a word that girl, she just…stood there in a white virgin's gown and let her beauty exhibit itself. We all thought that she was dumb, well being a gypsy we half expected it of her. Whenever I was on a break I would go into her tent and stare at her.
Anyway, it was on the last day of the carnival when a stranger arrived, I was on patrol at the time making sure none of the gypsies stole into the town. Straightaway he leaped into the throng of the vaudeville circus. That man, although he appeared Aryan, seemed madder than the whole carnival. In him I saw an inexhaustible thirst for life, he never stood still and never lingered. Inside every tent he performed a similar act where he would enter, march up to the exhibits, shake their hands and impersonate them. Never once did he seem bothered about cleanliness or decency. Later on he laid eyes on me and held his gaze. I saw in that eye an understanding of a very conscious madness. He then strolled my way and upon coming closer, I could see him taking me in, as if I was as much of an exhibit as those freaks were. An ecstatic grin came over him and he saluted me in such a rigid and officious manner that I was impelled to return it. Immediately after he sprinted off in a gross goosestep, leaving me so incredulous that I was not able to apprehend him. This was until he pranced into the tent of the circus girl. Naively I thought that he would be as equally impotent as I was, if not then her blank face would give him no satisfaction. Indeed, my expectations were almost met when he looked upon her. Like me he was left speechless, but as if he was shaking off a hangover he jumped onto the stage and took her hands. "My, you're the prettiest girl I've ever seen, but then again that's not saying much for you." At this insult, most decent girls of good breeding would have slapped his face, but she…laughed. A girl who never once looked at us respectable Germans once, laughed at the crude joke of a common tramp!"
Steven paused suddenly, realising that he had become overly emotional. Joseph who was at a state of ardent curiosity urged him on, "Steven, please don't stop on account of your emotions, although I am surprised that you found a gypsy girl attractive."
Steven shook his head knowingly, "she wasn't just attractive Joseph, she was beautiful. And to such an extent that she was just as much a freak as the miss-shapes whose miseries I remember revelling in when I was younger… anyway I'm losing my track. I was dismayed at the power that man had, his bravery and character was greater in an hour than I had gained in a lifetime. Envy overtook me; I approached the gleeful traveller, and forcefully took him by the arm. He went with such ease and never even struggled; the actor had been eradicated.
I threw him into the confession room and wasted no time; using my own fists I beat him to the ground in a way that I would not even treat the people who we process here now. I was possessed by such a tyrannical jealous fury that after a rain of blows I had to catch my breath and panted a painfully empty threat. "You'll wish you never came here, you tramp scum. I'm going to beat you until you learn what a lowlife you are." Amidst our slow gasps he spoke determinedly through his wounds. "No, you will stop beating me when you realise what lies on the ends of your fists."
His words sent me further into confusion and anger, so I beat him harder, perhaps in a vain attempt to understand. The irony though Joseph, is that I only understood him when I looked upon my fists."
Joseph stared at him, "well, what was on them?"
Steven smirked. "Human blood of course. I remember looking down and realising, like I'd been shot, that this was just blood, no different to any other race. And at that point everything seemed wrong with my world and everything appeared right with his. I helped him up and let him out. The circus girl was waiting for him; they embraced, kissed and then disappeared off on the road. I have no idea where they are now…dead I imagine. The next summer we evicted the gypsies on the grounds of public health, but in reality they were shot and buried in the woods. A community of half a century disposed of in half a day, but I didn't tell you that Joseph and if I did, you never heard it."
Steven settled back into his seat with contentment. Joseph leaned in. "But I don't understand, if you thought that his way of life were better than yours, why didn't you join him on the road?"
"Because I am weak where he was strong and I could never bring myself to be the blood on another man's fist. I've always thought it better to belong to those who make the rules and defend them, no matter how immoral they are, than to be the one who truly knows what is right and suffer for it. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I am able to sleep for a bit now, and you still have a prisoner to process."
Joseph uneasily rose from his seat and returned to the interrogation room where nothing could ever be revealed. On the pungent floor lay the body of the prisoner, and on the table rested his signed confession.