Voice of a
What people say about the Silent Fugitive series:
My Fugitive and Voice of a Silent Fugitive are parallel accounts, told from opposite perspectives. The story moves slowly out of necessity, but it doesn’t feel slow: Dostoevsky could take a lesson from Stephanie. It moves slowly when it needs to, and picks up the pace when appropriate, much like anything by Tom Clancy. The internal monologue will be familiar to anyone who’s read the Jack Ryan series as essential to telling the story. It may only encompass a few days, but it’s an immersive experience; you don’t want to put the book down. For both books in the series, prepare to have your heart violently torn from your chest. Simply put, read the books.
- Scott Williams
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My captors almost killed me today.
The faded ceiling stares down at me, a blank, pale void that watches the world like a cloud that refuses to rain. I gaze into it in return, my eyes tracing its faint marks and shades while my mind barely registers the sight. The slow pounding in my head makes it hard to focus on anything outside my own body, and dragging my ragged breath through my throat demands a constant effort.
Yet despite the amount of pain I’m in, it isn’t as bad as they think. I let them believe they came closer to killing me than they truly did. Jaw slack, eyes half closed, breathing as weak and faint as possible, I feigned the full effects of my injuries... but not by much.
If I hadn’t started faking it when I did, I’d probably be dead.
I can still hear their comments, echoing in my ears from when they dragged me from the interrogation room to the makeshift infirmary. Guesses that I’d die en route, snide remarks on my faltering strength, declarations that I’m not so dangerous now.
Not so dangerous now. The fact that they even bring that up makes the strength of their memories clear. I gave them much to remember me by, before they finally captured me.
As with most things, I kept that thought to myself. Not that a man born mute has a choice.
Voices and footsteps brush the edge of my hearing, and I sit up as much as my shackles will allow, struggling to make myself concentrate despite my mental fog. I can’t distinguish words at this distance, but neither can I allow myself to stop trying to listen.
If I let myself start to tune out the world, it could be the first step toward losing myself.
The faraway voices rise in anger, and I think I know why. Every side in every battle has its shades of grey, and now those shades are disagreeing about their treatment of me. The enmity between their army and mine notwithstanding, I choose not to lose sight of the fact that my foes are as varied and human as the people I once fought alongside, and seldom do two of them think exactly alike. Especially on such a controversial topic as the torture of dying prisoners.
There’s a reason why I never cease trying to learn about my individual captors.
My breathing is coming easier now, and the ringing in my ears is slowly starting to fade. The arguing voices grow clearer, and I finally start to make out words amid the increasingly hostile tones.
Of course. It’s the same argument these two have had at least thrice in the past month alone. The harshest of my tormentors wants to continue his work, clinging mulishly to the belief that he can force me to reveal something of importance. The doctor disagrees with him; even if they could get me to communicate, they’ve had me here for weeks. Months. Long enough that everything I know about my allies’ plans and movements is probably too outdated to be of any use.
My breath falls from my lungs in a sigh, and my eyes slip closed as I let myself sink back onto the hard, bare bed. I already know how this is going to end. Despite his compassion, the doctor will back down, defeated by the same practicality that leads him to call their brutality into question. If I don’t know anything they can use, they have no reason to keep me alive. And despite his acceptance of the need to kill in battle, the medic is reluctant to condone the death of an unarmed prisoner.
I suppose it doesn’t help that I deliberately undermine him. Despite the pain the interrogations bring, in a way I almost welcome them, solely because they give me a chance to mislead my tormentor. A look of surprise when he makes a guess, as if his speculation was accurate... a subtle lowering of my eyes when I want him to think he’s defeated me by deducing my comrades’ plans...
My torturer thinks he’s reading me so well. In reality, all he sees is my way of fighting for my cause in the only way I still can.
The conversation has turned predictable, so I turn my senses in the opposite direction. To the world outside this grim building, where the muted sounds of everyday life barely filter through the walls.
Whatever my allies are planning, they’re not acting on it now. Taking a day of rest, perhaps; getting supplies, moving their camp, gathering information. Maybe even...
A wry smile pulls at my lips. Yes. Maybe they’re planning to rescue me, so long after my capture that they have no way of knowing whether I’m dead, alive, or within a hundred miles of my last known location.
What a pipe dream.
I suppose I shouldn’t think like that. A refusal to bemoan my fate need not be the same as accepting it. If they somehow find out where I am, there are a few among my comrades who will definitely argue in favour of saving me, and at least one who will brook no denial.
The chances of them finding me are not high, but I can’t discount them entirely.
And while I wait for such a day, I will seek my own method of escape. It’s unlikely that my body would be able to support such an effort, but if my mind is to survive, I cannot ask it to resign itself to the concept of dying here. I will not let myself begin to rot before my heart stops beating.
Footsteps echo in the halls, and I turn my eyes toward the door that leads to them. The gait is stiff, quick, sharp, familiar... the doctor has lost the argument, it seems, and his feet express what his voice is not allowed to. He’s angry, he’s in pain, and he might even be doubting the rightness of his cause. As I have so many other times, I find myself wryly reflecting on the notion that a person skilled in the art of speech – or at least capable of it – might have been able to persuade this person to switch sides.
That option is not open to me; if the cruelty he’s witnessed isn’t argument enough, I doubt that anything I attempt to communicate will suffice to sway his loyalties. He’ll patch me up as best he can, and the questioning will resume.
A new set of footfalls joins the first – a stern, heavy, lumbering approach that makes my chest tighten. My body’s learned to dread that sound, and my eyes return to the ceiling for a moment before quickly slipping closed, as if the darkness could somehow conceal me, or the thin shield of my eyelids keep a demon at bay.
Nothing in this room will help me now. I don’t have the strength left to stand up or escape, and the doctor will not speak to me while my foe watches. Their argument gave me enough information to gauge their mental state; I’ll learn nothing new from watching and listening now.
My eyes stay closed, and my mind slips away. Straying from the tasks at hand, as much as I’ll allow it to.
The doctor’s footsteps enter the room, but I feel no need to react. My thoughts and focus are already elsewhere, drifting away into the sky beyond that fog-toned ceiling.
The open heavens, the sailing clouds... a place of untamed beauty and freedom that even the most ruthless hands can never take away. A refuge and companion I would like to see again, sometime before I die.
Perhaps someday, that simple request will be granted. In the meantime, I will do what I can, continue to act on my comrades’ behalf, and hope they find a way to return the favour before it is too late.