by Levi Keidel
I am Beaten, Bound
Soldier-guards fled from the prison. They cried out, "He killed a man!" I bounded through the open door, as a lion from its cage. I threw myself into a screaming mob. I fought with all my strength to make a path through it, but failed. I was thrown to the ground. Dust choked and blinded me. They beat me; women; other prisoners; soldiers. They beat me with sticks, fists and feet. When you have killed a soldier, who will have mercy?
"Cut off his head!" cried the sergeant. The people answered with a roar. Blows like hammers hit me everywhere.
"Don't kill him! Make room! The person killing him will be judged in his place. Tie him up." It was the voice of the Belgian Chief of Police.
The beating stopped. Soldiers rolled me onto my stomach. They tied my wrists behind me. Then they wrapped a rope around my upper arms, pulling it tight until my elbows touched together and my arm bones felt pulled out of my shoulders. I was made to stand on my feet. I was pushed inside the prison to a heavy door. There I was thrown to the ground. They tied my ankles, then pulled them up behind me to my wrists and tied them. I was bent backwards into a round tight bundle. They opened the heavy door, another door inside it, pushed me into darkness, and closed them. After a short time the doors opened; I was soaked with two buckets of water; the doors closed again. Then all was silent.
My face was swelling from the beating, but my eyes could see. My cell was small, about three by six feet, with walls about twelve feet high. Its floor was concrete; it had no ceiling. Its only light came through a narrow space between the roof and the top of the outside wall. Its air was stale. It was bare.
My body was sore. Tied thus, whenever I moved, I suffered. Light over the edge of the wall faded; I knew night had come. With it came the beginning of suffering I did not know existed upon earth. My soaked rope bonds began to shrink. Slowly they pulled themselves into my flesh. Then came thirst.
I was as a captured lion. Once I was lord of everyone; I had flattered or terrorized people, as it pleased me. Now that I was locked in a box, my rage boiled. It boiled most fiercely toward those who were causing my suffering. Perhaps this was good. Because my mind was working with rage, it was not broken with pain.
A long time passed. Light began to appear over the wall. Then the outside door opened. On the inside door was a square hole through which things could be passed. An arm holding a tin can reached through the hole toward me. With great pain I rolled onto my stomach. I stretched my head to reach it. My thirst made the cup as big as my head. With all my strength, I got my lips about two inches from the cup, but no closer. It seemed the arm was tormenting me; I cursed my pain, my helplessness, the owner of that arm. Then it stretched itself toward me. The cup touched my lips, and tipped. The water was foul-tasting. It could be poisoned. But it was cool. It answered the cry of thirst. I drank it.
Light and darkness over the wall showed me the passing of three days. Each day brought with it greater suffering. I ate no food. I drank bad-tasting water from the tin can. Because of the way my body was tied, it could not relieve itself. Meat cut by the bonds on my arms and ankles was rotting; its foul odor filled the cell and restrained my breathing. The darkness of no-moon night wrapped itself tightly around my thinking.
Then something happened which should have turned me around. Once, while lying quietly in the darkness of my box, I saw a pure-white person looking down at me. A brightness circled his neck like a collar, and lightened his face. After looking upon me for a time, he disappeared. In a short time he returned a second time, then a third time. Then he disappeared and did not return. I was so filled with the darkness of my evil that the vision meant nothing to me; it left only a small footprint on my memory.
On the fourth day my cell door opened. My ankle bonds were cut and I was lifted to my feet. I went out and looked at myself. Flesh along my ankle wounds was putrefied, and my feet were exceedingly swollen. By moving my fingers behind me, I knew that my hands and wrist wounds were the same.
The Chief of Police prepared travel papers. Soldiers brought an iron collar. It was made of a heavy rod, and hinged at the back, its ends bent to make two eyes to receive a padlock at its front. They passed one eye through the end link of a heavy chain about nine-feet long. They closed the collar around my neck and locked it. Four soldiers with guns walked me to the train station. The chain dragged itself behind me, making its noise, people looking at me. My guards put me into a boxcar, laid me on its floor, and retied my ankles, the bonds falling again into their place. They closed the door, and sat down around me. The train jerked. It was night. I began a journey of ten hours from Kolwezi to the city of Likasi for judgment.
At that time my mind had no place for pondering my dilemma. Since that time my mind has often explained it to me by a fable.
The chief of the forest had two daughters. One of them was courted by an elephant; the other was courted by a frog. The frog was greatly humiliated by his small size. He devised wisdom by which he might have honor which exceeded that of the elephant.
One day he said to his girlfriend, "You may think that because I am small, I am worthless. But don't be deceived by my size. In fact, I am more important than that elephant."
"Truly?" marvelled the girl. "But how can we know it unless you show us?"
"I have never told you," answered the frog, "but I customarily use the elephant as my horse. The day is coming when you will see it with your own eyes."
The next day the elephant came. The girls told him the words of the frog. The elephant was furious. He went to the home of the frog.
"Who do you think you are, telling the girls such words?" he asked.
"What did the girls tell you I said?"
"You told them that you are more important than I."
"Honorable elephant, how could I, a tiny frog, say that about one as great as you? Don't you perceive what the girls are trying to do? They are trying to destroy our friendship by making us jealous of each other. Let us not be tricked by their cleverness."
"It is true that we have been friends for a long time. But how can I determine who is telling the truth?"
"Let the girls' friendship be broken, but let ours remain," said the frog. "Let us go together to see them, and settle the matter."
The elephant accepted with joy.
The journey was long. The frog hopped slowly to make it longer. The elephant became impatient and cross.
"Can't you travel any faster? Night will catch us."
"Hopping without resting makes me very weary," the frog replied. "The speed of your journey is one with your greatness. I have no weight. If you want to arrive quickly and we are friends, why don't you let me hop onto your back?"
The elephant agreed. He now walked rapidly. Only forest flies buzzing around his head distracted him. From time to time he stopped to shake his head and to chase them with his trunk.
"Honorable elephant, why should flies impede your journey? I can help you. Just break a twig off the tree and give it to me; I'll chase them away."
This the elephant did.
Thus when the girls saw the frog riding the elephant with a switch in his hand, they agreed that he used the elephant for his horse.
Two frogs had mounted themselves upon my back: pride and anger. Without my understanding it, they had driven me to drunkenness, fornication, and now to murder. Once I thought they were my friends.
I had been tricked. They were my masters.
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