The room is always the same, it has always been the same, it always will be the same. White tiles on the floor and walls, white paint on the ceiling, only the chair to break the gleaming absence of colour. Polished metal and black leather, more couch than chair, something from a dentists perhaps for the mere sight of the chair inspires fear in you.
The guards drag you to the chair and lift you onto it, pushing your arms and legs into position then locking the steel rings into place. Your ankles, thighs, wrists, waist and neck. Each encircled by cold metal. Just as they lock you in each time you have been bought here, just as they come to your cell and drag you along the corridor each time. They are not cruel, not hurtful, or are they kind or considerate. They are indifferent, uncaring, as if you are nothing, unworthy of a glance or a word or even of their notice.
Always two guards, always in white, tall, strong, unspeaking, always the same guards in their faceless helmets of white. The visors mirrored silver, such that if you have the strength to life your head and look at them it is your own face you see looking back at you, as if it is yourself that is the guard looking down at the prisoner. Perhaps it is you, perhaps the visor is not mirrored, there is nothing else here to see your own face, just gleaming white tiles and paint, never a reflection except the faces of the guards.
They always drag you down the corridor, you try to count the steps but it is so hard, there are never any other doors, just the end of the corridor and the open room. Sometimes your count twenty, sometimes thirty or forty, sometimes you lose count but it is always the same corridor and the same room. Maybe the guards take shorter steps so that your count is wrong, that must be it, for your cell leads only to the corridor and the corridor leads only to the room, there is nowhere else to go.
“Hello Mr Smith.”
The voice comes from nowhere and everywhere, it surrounds you, rich velvet tones, clear and concise, like someone from a long ago broadcast on the television.
“Do you know what your crime is Mr Smith?”
They always call you that, Mr Smith, it isn’t your name, at least it doesn’t sound like your name, you speak it sometimes, in your cell. It sounds, wrong, foreign, not you. But you cannot be sure, just as you cannot be sure if it is day or night, nor what day of the week it is, nor for that matter even what month it is.
“Do you know Mr Smith?”
You do not speak, cannot speak, will not speak. In truth you are not sure what you did, or did not do, to warrant arrest and imprisonment within the Ministry of Truth. Such things are not known, they are but rumours, unproven fears, do this, do not do this, or they will come for you in the night.
The voice waits for an answer then continues.
“Your crime, Mr Smith, is to question, to cast doubt on the Ministry of Truth and its publications. Your crime was to speak out about the leaflet Mr Smith. That was your crime.”
“But it was a lie!” Your voice betrays you, speaking without order.
The voice laughs, gently mocking, as if an adult laughing at the foolishness of a child.
A flash of anger fills you, just for a second before the fear stills it, but that second was too long.
“It was a lie, they don’t exist, Sarah and Zac, they aren’t real.”
The laughter continues, the mockery clear as the voice surrounds you.
“Do you think the purpose of the Ministry of Truth is to tell the truth Mr Smith?”
You cannot answer the question, will not speak this time, for you had thought exactly that.
“It does not matter if Sarah and Zac are real, any more than it matters if they are not real. The Ministry of Truth does not concern itself with such petty matters as truth or lie, real or unreal. We exist to maintain a far stronger power than mere truth or lies.
Do you know what that is Mr Smith?”
Again you cannot answer, dare not answer, the fear is within you, controlling you, you do not know what to answer or even if you should answer or should not answer, will you be punished for speaking the truth or for a lie or even for saying nothing.
“The Ministry of Truth Mr Smith exists not for the truth, but to maintain our society, to maintain order. We do not concern ourselves with the truth. For it is not the truth that is important, instead it is your acceptance that it is truth that is important.
Your crime Mr Smith, was to question, to doubt. Sarah, Zac, they are not real and yet they are real if you believe them to be real. Unquestioned belief, faith in the party, loyalty to the party, these are real if you accept that they are real Mr Smith.
It does not matter that Sarah or Zac exist or do not exist because they serve a purpose, they give you something to believe in. The crime is not to question that they are real or not real, the crime is to question the party that told you they are real.
That is your crime Mr Smith, you doubt, you question. You do not believe in the party, you do not accept that the party is the truth and the truth is the party. You think you are somehow special Mr Smith, somehow better than those around you, that you have the right to question and to doubt and that you have the right to make others doubt and question.
Sarah and Zac are real because people believe them to be real, the party is real because people believe them to be real. Power is real only so long as people believe it to be real. To doubt, to question, these are the acts of a traitor Mr Smith. Because only a traitor doubts the party, only a traitor questions the state.
That is your crime Mr Smith. You think you are better than everyone else, you think you have the right to question. You think the truth matters to anyone.
It does not matter Mr Smith, because the truth becomes what people believe it to be and as long as people believe the party to be the truth than everything the party says becomes the truth. To question the truth, to doubt what the party says is the truth, that is to question and doubt the party itself Mr Smith.
That is the crime Mr Smith, that is your crime. You are a traitor, because you do not believe, because you dare to question and doubt. You doubt Sarah and Zac, you doubt the leaflet, you doubt the party, and you doubt our entire society.
Treason Mr Smith. That is your crime.”
Your voice betrays you again, speaking when you wish it to be silent.
“But you lied.”
“No Mr Smith, there is no such thing as Truth or Lies in the Ministry of Truth. Only belief, only unquestioning faith. But you do not believe Mr Smith, you have no faith, you question. That is where the Ministry of Truth has failed but the Ministry does not fail, cannot fail, for failure would invite question and challenge belief. The Ministry of Truth is always right Mr Smith so it must be you that is wrong, you are a traitor Mr Smith because you are wrong, the party is always right; to question the party is always wrong Mr Smith. Only a traitor questions the party.
And you Mr Smith, you dare to question the party. You proclaim your own guilt Mr Smith.
Which is why you are here Mr Smith, your punishment, a traitors punishment. But we will teach you the truth Mr Smith, we will show you how to believe in the Ministry and the Party, even if it takes the remainder of your life. You will believe in the party Mr Smith, because there is no other option.”