A PENNY WHISTLE ORCHESTRA

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Oppressors who find themselves incapable of mastering hypnosis generally further their nefarious ambitions by way of implementing the contrived premise, ‘supremacy by way of inflicting terror upon the general populous’. Insofar as the highly-prized prisoner was concerned, he served that purpose well. In essence, he was an example and a warning to one and all. Moreover, Stalin the great falsifier of history had ordered he be broken in body and spirit but kept alive, occasionally given public view as an objective living lesson any outspoken detractors of the regime would be well advised to take due note of.

It was within the humongous fortress prison in Kharkov, Ukraine an incorrectly perceived interloper was dragged bloodied and naked through the cold, stark corridors of the gaol to the rousing marching tune of a penny whistle Red Army orchestra. That for public consumption his crime was deemed a treacherous breach of faith by ‘one of their own’ had ensured his fate; validated his torture and subsequent demise. That that was a timely lie with a purpose, a given, for ‘he’ was in truth no more than a Cold War British spy abandoned by his own as collateral damage. Yet, at this juncture the great communist leader required that his true circumstances be kept under wraps. Little point in giving the Brits something to shout from the rooftops about when presently there were bigger fish to fry.

Upon arrival, the prisoner found his cell was of the type named a ‘Kishka’, arguably the worst of its kind ever contrived. In native tongue ‘Kishka’ meant ‘gut’ and like an intestine its dimensions were tall and narrow. Forsaken inside, he could only but stand in his upright coffin, nought else, no creature comforts. * In such an environment, with barely room to breathe, let alone afford the luxury of a slop bucket, the conditions for the inmate were patently hideous. Worse still, the inventively sadistic bigwig Major, a large, markedly plain-featured woman who had the ear of The Man of Steel himself had been charged with the task of tormentor-in-chief. She was most accomplished in that regard. The prisoner, a giant fellow, would be hauled out of the cell each day, hosed down and delivered up for what was named interrogation, yet in truth was skilful mutilation before a salivating audience of novice intimidators. Even in the times after he had been blinded, his vocal chords severed, his ear drums rend asunder, the daily visitations continued unabated.

 

To a gifted cloak and dagger freelancer sometimes an impossible, outrageous manoeuvre outshone the best thought through one. She had, more often than not found that an element of surprise contrived in an instant inevitably trumped planned design.  However, in this specific instance, when minded to rescue alive the gentle giant she had long since claimed as her one and only true love something more visionary was called for. An ‘on the hoof’ tactic would, for certain, minimize the chances of a successful outcome.

Upon the rickety balcony of the small hotel room situated in Old Kharkov, craning her neck just a little she could catch glimpses of the Drobitskiy Yar Botanical Gardens. It was spring, the sun-chasing morning blossom awe-inspiring. However, needs must when the Devil drives and her imagination was running rampant. Having arrived at this glorified boarding-house armed with a key facet of intelligence sourced, on a ‘no names, no pack drill’ basis from a malleable CIA agent licensed to dabble in Soviet affairs, a material scheme was developing agreeably.

A little later, over a breakfast of nicotine, strong black coffee, and the debatable local delicacy of mashed potato pancakes at an adequate, yet not sparkling street café just up from her hotel she considered in some depth the sequence of events required to achieve her aim. When the pair had teamed up in Leningrad a few weeks previous Uncle Sam’s under-cover man abroad had intimated by way of discreet chitter-chatter that the sadistic Major had an exclusive appetite for only those of own sex, indeed had a lover installed in her flat in the opulent – insofar as Kharkov did opulence –  and not just that. He had also provided both the address of the ‘couple’ and a print of a photograph of the pair in, how did he put it? “Something way beyond just intimate embrace”.  Better still, in said pornographic snap the camera had fortunately captured in startling focus not just their lustful antics but also their startled faces. Recognition of either would be unproblematic. Her eyes lingered longer than anticipated upon, not the disagreeable to the eye Major, but her admittedly alluring lover. She had that certain something about her. Perhaps a different time, a different place she might have been smitten with her for a day or two? A thought shelved almost as quickly as it arrived for she was nothing if not professional.

Where the less creative would perhaps consider good old-fashioned blackmail the route to take toward her desired end, she had something far more extravagant on her mind. She would kidnap the lover, a pretty little coffee complexion creature with a mass of jet black hair, difficult to put an age on, likely in her late teens or early twenties, certainly far younger than the burly Major, hold her hostage, trade her in exchange for her busted giant.

Late that same morning back in her hotel room the time had arrived to disguise her natural aura of unconditional whiteness from any prying eyes and ready herself for the task at hand.  A blend-in, rather than stand out camouflage was deemed appropriate. Having applied a dark-hued make-up befitting of the geography of the event to unfold, she took great care in separating and pinning her snow-white hair tight to her skull as a pre-requisite to fitting her tame dull brown wig of human hair.  Her violet eyes, eyes that marked her as albino, as ever, posed a problem. Her preferred fashionable sunglasses seemed inappropriate. Fortunately, she had had the foresight to carry with her a pair of uninspiring clear lens spectacles, beseeming the drabbest librarian. The heavy black frames would mask and take the focus away from her tell-tale iris’s. Once in character she checked herself out in the timeworn bathroom mirror in dire need of re-silvering. Satisfied with what she saw in her reflection she slipped into a non-event assortment of stereotypical dull togs that would blend in with the surrounding dullness of the city and its ever weary occupants. The phrase ‘brown and blue will never do’ came to mind. For a girl so impassioned by style, the complete lack of that certain élan ensured her banal outfit was perfection itself; would proclaim to any and all that she was merely part of the humdrum native flock.

It was via the self-same blossom bejewelled botanical gardens she had made note of earlier in the day, she would saunter to the depot and take a tram ride cross-city to be delivered up in close proximity to the block of flats where the Major’s presumably lesbian lover would be in-situ. Covert surveillance plus a little tactful probing of locals over several days had satisfied her that her target never left the building; was always behind closed doors.

Before finally departing the hotel, she took a reflective backward glance in the mirror, saw a version of self that might well have been kindred to that of her incarcerated lover. In that moment, she perceived herself as him, fumbling and defenceless, only pride intact, knowing full well that when caged, one must abandon all insecurities and memories of both tainted and pure love affairs. It was the way of things when survival was the quest.

* The Long Walk by Sławomir Rawicz 1956

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37 thoughts on “A PENNY WHISTLE ORCHESTRA

    1. Cheers, Ms S. I have both discovered, and possibly sipped far too much of a Romanian (the land of Svetlana) red purchased in France the other day, ce soir. It is thus I trust and hope, ‘cheers’ will do!

      1. I’ll tell you what. That Pinot Noir from the land of Svetlana was sublime. I spotted some French buying it (always a good sign) when we were over there the other day and thought, ‘I’ll give it a try’. I had my doubts as in UK money it only cost £2 a bottle. Would it be vinegar? It turned out to be an absolute cracker.

  1. This is amazing and even the gruesome details of the torture do not cause one to flinch as they are written in a very poetic manner. Really enjoyed it!

    1. My thanks, Geetha. The place Stalin rather liked to have certain poor souls tortured was a real place, the rest, of course, a fiction. How any human could treat others thus, baffles me.

      1. I totally get his point of view. You seldom find senseless cruelty in animals. They usually kill for hunger and refrain from senseless torture

  2. The lushness of the detail, the pacing, the…relaxed intensity, like a hunter waiting quietly in the shadows for the prey, when all one can do is sit, and watch…wonderfully done. (Yesterday was a really, REALLY crappy day, so to wake up to your writing has made all the difference, Friend.) xxxxxxxx

    1. What a truly kind thing to say, Ms Lee. Coming from a gal as gifted as she is kind you will understand your words mean one hell of a lot. In truth this is another extract of the thing that is, for all intents and purposes, as good as complete.

    1. I’ll admit, the research often takes longer than the write. Still, its an interesting period of history, and with Paris and me about to become reacquainted hopefully inspiration and creativity will be on my side. I’m not back until July, by the way. Best wishes, The Old Fool (my name within the family).

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