Saqib Razzaq - Living a creative life

The Blue Freezer

Cold. Cold on a damp floor I found myself. I woke up rattled, eyes widened, breath unsteady. Chains clattered on the smallest movements. Ears ringed with an eerie silence and nostrils burned with rotten stink. I could taste frozen blood as breaths struggled to pass through my parched throat. My hands couldn’t reach the aching jaw. They were firmly strangled by handcuffs above my head, attached to the damp wall behind. My fingers had gone numb and legs stretched away by chains of their own.

I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t lie down.
I couldn’t guess how long I was gone.
I couldn’t tell if the outside was black or brown.
I couldn’t explain how I got here.
I couldn’t ignore shivers down my spine in this place unknown.

The pile of questions rose with each heartbeat I felt. The answers I couldn’t have possibly known. I couldn’t even tell if I was alive or dead. It looked like a frozen hell. And hell I always knew was the only place I deserved.

I heard the keys jingling and all my senses became one. The door busted open flooding the room with light. My eyes struggled to process brightness, I squinted hard and scantly saw through the crack of my fingers, a tall woman standing at the door. I had never been more confused and scared to see the opposite gender. She slowly walked up to me, dressed in black leather, feet draped in long army shoes. She analyzed me for a moment, took an annoyed deep breath, and then jammed her foot in my face.

“_The fuck is wrong with you? You stupid angry bitch…” Words came out broken. She went outside, brought in a tiny table, and placed it between my parted legs. It barely reached my chest. She then placed a bowl of water on top and stood back. Still. Quiet. I looked into her impatient eyes with rage and confusion as streams of blood ran down my chin.

“Open my hands” I mumbled in a voice that struggled to travel out of dried mouth. She didn’t flinch and kept staring into my soul. “Heey.... woman... open my hands”

“Heeeeey…… HEEEEYYYYYY… Are you deaf? I’m talking to you bitch. Thirst is killing me. Open my goddamned hands.” I still struggled with words but louder this time.

She came closer, smelling of gasoline, kneeled and slammed her fist into my gut. Then grabbed my head and pushed it close to the bowl.

“I ain't got all day. Drink you skinny little entitled piece of maggot shit! Or spend another day begging for it.” Spit droplets fell into the bowl as she screamed with dragon's fury.

I was too proud to break down. Though not stupid enough to spend another day suffering from thirst. I started to drink. “Good dog" she said with a mocking voice. She stood back for another second, then kicked away the bowl on way out.

The next day I wasn’t left alone to ponder over my choices and curse the utter stupidity that my life had been. She stood in the hallway as others poured into the room and beat the shit out of me until I was choking on blood. Then they threw me on a forklift, blindfolded, hands tied on my back, foot chains swapped with shackles, and mouth stuffed with a petroleum-soaked rag. They followed. Wordless. Emotionless.

Machines whirled loudly and light burst through blindfolds. The all-familiar rotten stink became stronger with each moment. “Is this it?” I wondered. “Is this where it all ends? Blind and shackled? What about my family? I had grander plans. What about my projects? What about the exotic future visions?” Life began to flash.

We came to a halt. The forklift dumped me with a loud thud.

“Good God almighty. Show the man some respect. He is worth 10 of you” an unfamiliar voice grunted. He unlocked my handcuffs and helped me stand. “I humbly apologize on behalf of Gina and her team for their ..umm… treatment. They tend to be rather… umm… rough” he said chewing up the words and taking off my blindfolds.

I stood in a huge unsanitary facility with a tall spiderweb-cluttered ceiling. The ripped wall paint was marred by graffiti and bullet holes. Rats swam in blood puddles on the greasy wet floor. Three men in familiar white scrubs wiped the floor and whispered to each other. The smell was unbearable but these people seemed accustomed to it.

A bald grumpy old man towered over me. The ugliness of the place didn’t impact his corporate dress code. He had a long gray mustache falling over his grey beard. Eyes pinched backward underneath saggy eyelids, clouded by cigar smoke. The tall lady, Gina, stood beside him with a dozen henchmen behind.

“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, Dr. Moris. Welcome to your new home. Say hello to your brothers and sisters in arms. You’ll be staying here and contributing to something greater. You will be the fir..”

Then everything went blank.

I woke up on a tattered stretcher in a congested windowless cubicle. Alone. Silence all around. The sole ceiling light, halfway tilted, flickered and fought against the storm of darkness. I slowly pulled myself up with every pour aching. I noticed a silver notebook on the table. An endless list of names followed by random places. It didn’t make any sense. So I slipped it into my pocket.

The thin metal door made a creaky sound as I stepped out into the hall. Unwelcome footsteps approached. I panicked and checked the doors one after the other. I slid into an unlocked room and sat quietly behind the door as voices faded away.

Blue light filled the frozen room, freezers lined up on both sides. Frustration. Confusion. Exhaustion. I was starving. I limped to a freezer and blew it open. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I took a few steps back in disbelief and rushed to open the next one after a pause. Then the next one. The entire freezer was filled with kidneys grouped by blood type. Same as the last few. I fumbled to the next one. Livers. Then the next one. More organs. Until I reached the end of the line and saw something that froze my soul.

A long line of hangers with clothes sorted by age. None of the numbers bigger than 8. I gasped for air and fell to my knees. Frozen. My heart sank and I felt tears pouring out. How could it be? Was this a dream I thought? But this was worse than nightmares. Hundreds of innocent children slaughtered and torn into shreds. Shreds to be sold for profit. Little angles destroyed for pieces of paper.

I don’t know how long I sat there until the door behind me opened with a bang. The saggy-faced old man entered followed by Gina and her goons. They both had disapproving looks on their faces. I stood up with tears streaming down my face, my leg still struggling to bear weight. They knocked me down to my knees again and tied my hands behind.

“Aaah! Exploring your new home I see…” he grinned. “I’m a bit sad you had to do it alone. What do you think we had all gathered for?” he said adjusting his sleeves.

“You’re sad? You’re sad? I doubt you’ve ever felt any emotion for anything you sick bastard” I said with all the fire inside.

His demeanor changed. He took a few steps forward.

“I’m not accustomed to being spoken to like that” he said with nostrils shaking.

“Still, I understand Mr. Morris. It is your first day after all. This can be a lot to take in but you’ll get used to it. Just like your colleagues in scrubs”

“What’s going on here? What do you people want with me?”

“Ah come on. You’re a faster learner than that Mr. Morris. You know exactly what’s going on here.” an evil smile spread across his face as he spat those words.

“We have been watching you. We know how you go about your business behind closed curtains. In the end, we’re not so different.”

He came close, kneeled next to me, and put his hands on my shoulders.

“We’re building something magnificent here. Something far greater than you and I. A dream I had since I was 19. And You, dear sir, are our golden boy. You’ll help us accomplish more than we ever thought possible.”

“I ain’t helping with jack-shit. You and your sick dreams can go fuck yourselves” I roared and spat in his face.

Gina rushed forward ready to pounce. But he stopped her. She looked at him with confusion, paused, then handed him a tissue paper. He wiped away the spit, laughed like a madman, and grabbed my chin firmly.

“We’ll see about that Mr. Morris” he whispered as they dragged me away.

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t calm the voices. The voices of people I had hurt. They appeared in the damp cold room and stood silent. Vacant emotions. Inquiring eyes. I could sense them asking questions. I could feel them demanding answers. Answers for what I had done to them. I couldn’t rush into another room and pretend to be busy. I couldn’t ask them to return later. I couldn’t call security. I had to face them alone. All night long with nothing but hidden face and hallow sobs.

What followed was a disturbing choice of morning rituals. I can only guess it was morning because I never saw any windows in the place.

Gina showed up with a bag. She lit up a cigarette and put gloves on. I sat in the same position as on day one. Hands locked above head, feet chained and legs pushed apart. She sat next to my feet, legs crossed, and started putting cigarettes on my skin. One spot after the other without even flinching at my screams. When her cigarette went out, she lit another. And another until she got bored.

“Any change of heart?” she inquired.

I didn’t say anything. She looked at me for a few seconds, sighed, then packed her bag and left.

The process was repeated the next day and sixteen more to follow. How do I know? That’s how many times they had fed me since. These aren’t the kind of people to waste two meals a day on a walking corpse. Meals I mean the absolute minimum a human needs to survive.

She became more intense with each passing day. Cigarette burns. Hot rod tattoos. Shattered ribs. Broken bones. Ears and nostrils with cuts all over. Lost nails. Stolen tooth. Carved tongue. I prayed all night for mornings to send the ghosts away. Then I spent the mornings begging for the night. Quietly.

Until my prayers were answered. Or so I thought. She didn’t show up. And neither did my breakfast. I didn’t believe this possible after more than two weeks of regular tortures. Though each passing moment convinced me otherwise. The ghosts were gone and my torturer was absent. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to take a nap. I was barely slipping into it when I heard keys jingling.

One of the henchmen entered with a chair. He was followed by the old man in a white suit holding a tray with lavish food.

“Good God almighty. Look at what you’ve done to yourself”

“My apologies for not visiting sooner. Gina assured me that you were being treated… uhm…. appropriately.” he chewed his words while sitting down.

“We are reasonable people. We’re not savages with intentions to hurt” he whispered peeling off an apple.

“You are getting the opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t let your ego stand in the way”

I said nothing.

“I brought myself to your shithole for one reason. I believe you had some time to consider my offer. I still have my hand extended despite your foolish choice of words. Join us. End this pointless suffering and get back to doing what you do best.” he said calmly extending his hand to feed me a piece of apple.

Still silent, I kicked away the food tray.

“There are consequences for your words. As are for your silence.” he grunted and his skull reddened.

“I think I’m aware of the consequences. Do what you will you sick bastard.” I said fighting the agony that my carved tongue sent into veins.

“Son of bitch!” he threw the chair across the room.

“How am I the sick one? Huh? How dare you, of all people, pretend to ride the high horse on me?” he screamed with fury.

“How many suffered the agony in your hallway as you locked yourself in and partied with your insubordinate colleagues? How many women have you cut for a few extra bills even when the delivery could be normal? How many women, yeah, how many children are dead of internal bleeding because you were too drunk and stupid to stitch them up properly?”

“Yeah, I did some stupid shit that I’m not proud of that. I hurt people. And I can’t go back and fix any of that. I know there is no forgiveness but my intentions were never to seriously injure or kill them.” I yelled back.

“But you DID kill them you stupid pretentious piece of shit” he fumed with fury again.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I openly admitted the monster I had been. My anger was replaced with clouds of regret.

“I know what I’ve done. I know I haven’t been the man my father raised me to be. I haven’t been the man my daughters can look up to. I can’t change the past but I can make amends.” I said with a thousand-yard stare.

“I don’t expect to walk out of this place alive and I have made my peace with that. But I will not be a party to your murderous machine. I won’t hurt another human being let alone an innocent child. I will not tear apart little bodies so you can profit from selling their parts.” I said with determination as I looked right into his eyes.

“Suit yourself. Then you’ll join them in the blue room. Along with our latest batch of candidates. Enjoy your last day.” he said with disappointment and shut the door on his way out.

“What happened the morning after, I’m sure children can tell you all about. I’m running out of time. My punctured gut isn’t helping either. Please let my family know that I didn't die a child murderer. I hope my daughters can forgive me for being the yelling drunk father they never deserved. I hope my wife can understand how deeply sorry I am for pushing her away. I was never a great son or brother either. The only thing I was ever good at, I used it to squeeze money out of desperately sick. But I tried today. And I promise to keep trying if I get to see another sun. Ain't that what life is all about?”

These were his last words as he loosened grip on my hand, his eyes stopped shining and a tear flowed down his face. He lay there. Cold on an ambulance stretcher surrounded by 16 children he helped escape. I was broken up inside. I wish we could’ve made it to the hospital in time. I wish we could’ve saved a soul ready to make amends.


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