The Inquisitor

The Inquisitor

A Story by alanwgraham
"

The inquisitor asks some difficult questions!

"

The Inquisitor

 

In that anonymous place, the months and the years passed uncounted. Each moment of each day passed as every other moment.

 

It was invariably late evening when I was taken to the inquisitor. It was always the same, the light would have faded from the tiny, high set window and then there would be a rap on the door. I went to the door without a word or a struggle - a lamb to the slaughter. Perhaps not a lamb, for I was not sinless. I was led along the dark corridors to the room where my inquisitor was waiting. Each time, I felt sick to the depths of my stomach. The time was well chosen, the hours of darkness when all manner of unsavoury creatures skulked in the shadows. To call his nightly session with me a conversation is not a fair use of the term, for a conversation is normally used to describe a two way exchange of information.

 

In this nocturnal exchange the inquisitor always held all of the questions and also appeared to know most of my answers. The nightly routine was the same; the darkened room, the hard chair, the dazzling light in my face which seemed to expose everything. The inquisitor’s questions, my answers - always the same. I would evade and prevaricate but there was no escape, for we both knew the answers. Eventually I would be released from my ordeal to return to my bed where I would sleep fitfully, dreaming anxiously of the next night’s questions.

 

The inquisitor always started with the questions that made my heart feel like it would burst and make me break out in a clammy sweat - questions about my father and mother. Don’t these questions about who we are always start there?

‘We’ll start talking about your mother. First, tell me about your life before your mother left.’

‘I was happy. I don’t remember much before I went to school but mum always spent time with us, taking us out, and playing games at home. I played in the woods and at the park with my friends and brothers and sister. The best thing was at bedtime, mum always read me a story.’

When I recalled that private time with my mum I always had to pause and gather myself. Often a tear would escape and roll down my cheek.

‘And your father?’

‘All I ever heard him doing was lecturing us about what we should be doing to better ourselves. I think what he meant was that bettering ourselves meant listening to him. Mum bore the brunt of it - he went on for hours about how she was ruining us.’

‘Tell me how you felt when your mother left your father.’

The question took me straight back to that afternoon all these years ago and as always I started to weep. I managed to pull myself together and started to answer the inquisitor.

 

‘I was ten years old. My dad was shouting at mum in that nasty sarcastic way, telling her how useless and stupid she was. She had put up with the verbal abuse for years for her children’s sake. My elder brother Alfred was fourteen and had just gone off to work on a farm, then there was me and the twins, Ellen and George, aged eight. Mum told him not to shout in front of the children and not for the first time he slapped her hard across the face. Mum never fought back because that would have made matters worse but this time when I looked at her I could see a steely look on her face. Dad went through to the front room to calm down with his pipe and mum went upstairs. After a short time she came down with two suitcases. She told the twins that they were going with her to stay with grandma.’

 

‘What about you?’ The inquisitor asked.

I couldn’t help being transported back to that awful moment and I started sobbing. 

‘Mum looked at me and I could see on her face she had something terrible to tell me. She said that she would have to leave me with dad as there would be only be space for the twins at grandmas.  I remember just looking at her and thinking it must be a joke. But then she cuddled me, said that I would join them when she found their own rooms and left with the twins.

‘What happened then?’

I stood there in the room crying and shaking until dad came back through. He said, ‘What’s going on? Where are your mother and the twins?’

‘What did you tell him?’

‘I couldn’t say anything. That’s when the beatings began.’

 

‘When did your mum come back for you?’ 

Why did he have to ask me that? The inquisitor knew the damned answer.

‘Damn you.’ I replied. ‘You know she never came back.’

‘And you know why, don’t you?’

‘She never liked me. I soon realised she was only pretending. The twins were always her favourites.’

‘This was a learning experience for you wasn’t it?’  I’d had a lifetime to think about this although it was only quite recently that I realised how it had affected me.

‘I can see now how it has made me so angry. I learned that the only person I could rely on was myself. Everyone else would betray me eventually.

 

‘What happened when you left school?’

‘My dad wouldn’t let me do my national service in the army so I had to go down the mine. That was an education. I had to learn how to look after myself. If someone tried to take the micky I went in hard with my fists and after a few times they knew better.’

 

‘Tell me about your girlfriends.’

I laughed as I thought back. ‘I was never without a girl. There was something about me that made them easy game - like plucking juicy plums from the branch. Trouble was when I’d sucked the juice from one I had to try the next, and then the next. They were all the same - they all wanted to get me to settle down. I used to get angry when they tried their tricks - I would see red and give them a few slaps. What they deserve -eh?  Some of them came back for more - I think they were too scared to leave.’

 

‘What about your wife?’

‘That was different - I did love Brenda. When she got pregnant I could see a new life opening up where I could put it all behind me and settle down.’

‘Did it work out?’

‘I did my best and for a while I felt like a normal family man. We had two lovely daughters and I wanted to give them what I’d never had.’

‘What happened?’

‘You enjoy hearing this night after night don’t you? The trouble started when we went to bed and she always said she was too tired for anything. After a while I lost my temper and hit her. I knew I’d done wrong. She forgave me but I went back to my old ways with the ladies. I’d get dressed in my suit on a Saturday night and go out to the club. Brenda knew better than to ask. There were always plenty of single girls there looking for fun. I gave them a good time - I was good at the chat up and all it took was some champagne.

Brenda stuck it for years. We did love each other but I couldn’t help myself.  I’m surprised it took so long but once we were on holiday in Spain and she caught me with a local girl in a bar. By this time the girls were just ready to go to college and when we got home Brenda packed her bags and went to her mothers.

 

‘What happened then?’ 

‘I was upset. I went to see my mother but she just told me she could see it coming. I got angry and told her who was she to talk. I told her a few home truths about leaving me behind and she got upset. She said, ‘you’ve ended up like your father’.  At that I saw red and lifted my hand. I nearly struck her - god help me.

 From then on I did what I wanted. I worked hard, made money and spent it. Nice clothes, wining and dining to impress the ladies. I would take them to fancy hotels and I’d drive them to Spain or France. It’s funny - it never lasted long. When I got a bit older the English girls seemed to lose interest but women from Eastern Europe or the Far East were desperate for a western husband. Don’t get me wrong " I know what they were after. A quick marriage, a few years with a rich sugar daddy and once I’d popped my clogs she’d be rich. It suited me though - they are brought up to look after their men. I still had trouble with my temper though and none of them stayed for too long.

Then came the inevitable question from the inquisitor I could never answer.

‘Tell me about the Nigerian woman.’

‘She had put up a notice looking for a room to rent. I had a spare room and we hit it off at first. It didn’t take long to get her into my bed but she wasn’t like the others. She stood up to me when I had to knock her around. I told her women had to know their place and then things got out of hand.’

‘What happened then?’ I had to gather myself before answering.

‘She left. I never saw her again.’ I know it didn’t sound convincing.

 

 

When I got a bit older I started to have trouble with my breathing. I thought it was asthma but when I got tested they found it was pneumoconiosis from my time in the pit. I’ve really been struggling for a few years now and have got very little energy. The doctor has told me that I haven’t got too long to go. That really makes you think.

 

‘I have a question I haven’t asked before. At your fathers funeral the handful of mourners had gone and you were left alone. You stood long, looking into the open grave. What were you thinking?’

I was shocked by this question for I often think about those timeless moments standing at the open grave.

‘How do you know - there was no-one else there?’


His answer shocked me to my core.

‘You are right - there was no-one else there.’

It was only then that I knew who my inquisitor had been. We are one!


                  

 


© 2017 alanwgraham



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Featured Review

This story has a lot of good elements...and I may be dense, but I didn't get the last line. Did I miss something? Up to that point, I was in it, then I was...not. What is the revelation? I don't usually not "get" stuff. A believable story and the Inquisitor puts a mysterious element in this story, and I love a good twist...and I hate not understanding.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Months Ago

Thanks Carol. Sorry about the ending. Following another crit I've just cut the last sentence which g.. read more



Reviews

This is a very imaginative way to show the life of a broken man. The first paragraph is chilling & almost seemed to suggest a long time in prison, especially with the title in my head. Then it turns out the inquisitor seems to be a therapist of some kind perhaps. The Q&A format works well for spilling this story, bit by bit. Your descriptions are intense & true-to-life, but understated without undue drama -- which makes it all the more chilling, to hear about these various damaged lives. One ends up feeling somewhat sympathetic to the guy, even tho he's been an abuser. I like it when abuse is shown in a balanced way becuz it's usually not a clear-cut case of a monster & a victim. As always, excellent storytelling conjuring echoes of many different lives . . . (((HUGS)))

Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Months Ago

In fact, now I want to write a poem like that! Thanks for the inspiration!
alanwgraham

2 Months Ago

I forgot to say that the inquisitors is actually his own conscience working away night after night. .. read more
barleygirl

2 Months Ago

Thanks for pointing that out . . . I missed that nuance at the end, but now that I re-read, it works.. read more
This story pushed more than one of my painful memory buttons. Fighting parents, rejection, partiality, violence, and then the horror of seeing it carried on one's self. Yep, it hit home. This idea of judging ourselves and becoming our own inquisitor is something I've thought about and experienced, also. Do we mainly do it after we're older? After we have much to reflect on? I don't recall feeling the need to put a harsh spotlight on myself so much when young. Really excellent writing. One small thing--"I know didn’t sound convincing."-- it seems a word is missing.


Posted 3 Months Ago


alanwgraham

3 Months Ago

Thanks Samuel for reading this. It was a bit difficult to write as it was based on my recently decea.. read more
This story has a lot of good elements...and I may be dense, but I didn't get the last line. Did I miss something? Up to that point, I was in it, then I was...not. What is the revelation? I don't usually not "get" stuff. A believable story and the Inquisitor puts a mysterious element in this story, and I love a good twist...and I hate not understanding.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Months Ago

Thanks Carol. Sorry about the ending. Following another crit I've just cut the last sentence which g.. read more
I connected with the first part of the story--having lived a similar unending nightmare .. and then the plot turned and became something totally different in the middle ... then turned again at the end to be something else altogether. The 'The sins of the father' angle should have been more central to all three incarnations of the story and the ending should have been more fleshed out, you should have put more into your lead up to the revelation.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Months Ago

Thanks for reading this. your comments are very useful and I'll have a good think about them. I was .. read more
Wallace Beery

3 Months Ago

I've got to get myself one of those trees. You never know when you'll need a good hat, and a tree th.. read more
very nice so much things to learn in this story gonna read this thrice after reviewing

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Months Ago

Thanks for your kind comments.
Regards,
Alan
Suggest rereading this with the last line deleted. Trust your audience. That's a powerful ending but the last line reveal edges into being heavy handed.

The first part has a Kafkaesque feel, and that's great if you want that effect. But I think the slightly surrealistic interrogations are signposts that undermine the very good ending. When its really successful, its done subtly, consider Fight Club or Sixth Sense. The story has such a subjective point of view that even an ordinary session between a psychiatrist and the main character in a psych institution can take on menacing overtones (and you've hit those marks).

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Months Ago

Thanks once again for your constructive comments. To be honest I agree that the first section doesn.. read more
The Last Dragoon

3 Months Ago

You've got the ultimate unreliable narrator (he's nearing a psychotic break, so maybe all you need a.. read more
The first paragraph was too vague to me - even with the way this piece ended. As a story I "turned-the-page" until the end.

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

4 Months Ago

I think your comment is fair and I'm aware myself that the piece isn't properly balanced. It started.. read more
So many avenues are explored in this story that the reader is constantly lost in a maze of conclusions.
The denouement, then changed my concept to the basis of the sad tortured world of dementia..
A great lesson in story writing of "showing, not telling".
Loved the subtle implication of the last line.
Norman



Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

5 Months Ago

Thanks Norman. Sad to say the story is based on real life which can lack the direction of a fictiona.. read more

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Added on May 2, 2017
Last Updated on July 26, 2017

Author

alanwgraham
alanwgraham

Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom



About
Married with three grown up kids, I retired early from teaching physics but have always enjoyed a second life enjoying the outdoors, particularly the mountains. In my mid forties I experienced a manic.. more..

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