The Consultant: Chapter 11

Sgt. Park and the young guard grabbed Barry by the arms.

“Wait! Where are you taking me?”

He turned and saw Jung-Ho disappear through the doorway to the prison facility. Although he despised the younger man with the glasses, Barry was acutely aware that Jung-Ho was the only human being here whom he could communicate with. Without Jung-Ho, he was both deaf and speechless in this horrible place.

There were shouts from Sgt. Park and the young guard. Hard shoves. Barry allowed himself to be shoved back into the doorway of the prison facility. 

They pushed him roughly along. His hands were still bound, and he nearly tripped. He felt like a pinball, tossed between the two men. 

He heard another shot from the courtyard. Another life snuffed out.

“Where are we going?” Barry said. He stopped abruptly, planting his feet on the concrete floor. 

There was no answer; and there could not have been. Neither Sgt. Park nor the young guard spoke English. How could he have forgotten so quickly?

Sgt. Park paused and laid a hand on his truncheon. Another beating was only seconds away.

“All right, all right!” Barry said. “I’ll go!”

They rounded a corner. Then there was another short hallway, another turn. Barry was shoved into a big room. He noticed drains on the floor.

The young guard shoved him into the center of the room. He produced a little utility knife, and cut the plastic tie that bound Barry’s hands. 

Then the guard walked back to the wide, open doorway of the room. He pantomimed disrobing. The instructions were obvious: Barry was to undress. 

Barry started to protest. Sgt. Park reached for the truncheon on his belt again. 

“Okay!” Barry shouted. He began to undress. As he did, he became aware once again of his body odor. It wasn’t just the usual stench of going without a shower for an extended period. Nor was it merely the smell of the rancid mud that he had picked up from the courtyard.

It was also the smell of fear. In his forty-seven years, Barry had experienced mild bouts of anxiety and low-grade depression, like almost everyone. Before his business took off, he had worried over finances. 

But never before had he had to fear for his life. What he was experiencing right now was mortal fear; and it was coming out of his pores. 

Once again, he loathed himself. He had been in North Korea for only a matter of hours, and already they had turned him into a Pavlovian response machine. All they had to do was threaten him with physical violence, and he did whatever they wanted.

We wonder why people living in tyrannical regimes don’t rebel, he thought. Now I know why. 

Barry stood there, naked. They wanted him to bathe in here, obviously. Barry looked around for shower nozzles. He couldn’t see any.

Outside the room, the young guard stepped out of view. Barry heard something clattering around. Sgt. Park watched him, the big man’s stern expression never wavering. 

Barry saw the young Korean guard reappear with a firehose in hand.

Barry had seen the old newsreel footage of policemen in Alabama using firehoses against civil rights protesters during the 1950s and 1960s. It was said that water from a high-pressure hose could knock a grown man to his feet, could peel the skin off an adult’s body. 

“No!” Barry said, having realized what was coming.

The guard pointed the nozzle of the hose at Barry, and reached for the nozzle’s little metal release value.

There was a rumbling in the hose. Then a fast whooshing and gurgling sound. 

Suddenly he was aware of nothing but water, as the blast of liquid filled his eyes, his mouth, his nostrils. The water was ice-cold, and it carried the force of an NFL linebacker.

Barry fell to the floor, his feet taken out from under him. He had no control over the water. The young guard was aiming it at him. Barry alternatively tried to cover his eyes and genitals—his most vulnerable parts. It was no use. The force of the water pushed him into one corner of the room.

The young guard had stepped into the room now. With Barry balled-up in the corner, he continued to direct the freezing water from the high-pressure hose. Barry was aware that he was screaming. The water was both cold, and delivered at a pressure that was never intended to be used on the human body.

Barry caught a glimpse of the young guard’s face.

He was smiling. This was a rare diversion in his otherwise monotonous day.

Finally it was done. The guard shut off the release value, and walked out with the hose. 

Barry lay on his back, shivering. He was technically clean now, but his skin was bright red, and stinging all over.

He heard Sgt. Park shout something. Barry looked up: Park had drawn his truncheon. He was using it to gesture for Barry to get up.

Barry saw his clothes in the opposite corner of the room. His clothes had been top-tier business attire only hours ago. Now his garments were wet and muddy, a ruined mess.

“What am I supposed to do for clothing?” Barry said. 

The answer came a few seconds later, when the young guard returned with an armful of clothing, including what looked like a pair of shoes. 

The guard dropped the clothes near the entrance to the little room. 

He and Sgt. Park both shouted at Barry. They wanted him to hurry up and get dressed.

As was now the established pattern, Barry had no practical option but to obey. And besides, he felt vulnerable in his nakedness. 

With a supreme effort, he stood. Then he walked over, and picked up the items they had brought for him.

They had given him a pair of underwear that was stiff and oddly made—but at least it appeared to be clean. The socks were similarly clean but shoddily manufactured. They had correctly guessed his shoe size (men’s 12, more or less). He was able to get his feet into both shoes. The shoes were far from comfortable, though. 

The uniform was a bit like the tunic and trousers that Jung-Ho was wearing—only not nearly as nice. 

As he was buttoning up the front of his blue-grey tunic, he thought: I look like one of them now.

Chapter 12

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