The doctor looked up at his guest, groaning. He rubbed his back, caught his breath and smiled: “Well played, Burke, I’ll give you that, well played. I am, however, not quite sure what you are trying to achieve here.”
The young man looked down at his host, rod in one hand, and glass in the other. He took a large gulp from his drink. He felt a sharp sting on his cracked lip, but kept the strong liquor in his mouth, gargled, then swallowed it with relish. He felt the heat drippling down his oesophagus, radiating through the whole of his body. He took another sip and spit it into the doctor’s face. “I am a visual learner, Norton, I need a practical example to understand what I am working towards.” He took a swing and hit the old man across the face. “Is this what pleasure feels like, Norton? Is it really?” He beat him again. And again. And then again.
The old man was down on the floor, arms raised to protect himself from another blow. “My friend, I am more than happy to be the practical and living example of achieved forgetting,” his face flinched as he got up from his knees. He felt the gaping cut on his cheek, licked the blood from the back of his hand, constantly keeping eye contact with the young man, “but I would ask you to take a pause in order for me to analyse the situation.”
“Tell me how you feel, Norton. How is your face? Describe it to me.”
He leered at him. “You truly know how to play the game, my friend. You keep surprising me. You want to know how it feels? Well I assume you know exactly how it feels, as you have the same gashing wound in your pretty face as I do. I do not see the purpose of getting into it.”
“I am sure your experience of being beaten is very different from mine. I would kindly ask you to describe to me, in detail, how you feel.”
“Alright then, if you insist. My cheek is hot, slightly wet as there seems to be blood running down my face, and I experience a slight throbbing in the head.”
“It seems as if our experience does not differ that much so far. But tell me, Norton, how did it feel when the iron hit your face? Did it hurt?”
“I wouldn’t know, Burke, because that feeling is gone and I cannot remember. All I feel right now is a state of increasing relaxation. I find myself at the peak of a mountain unable to remember how I ever even got there, looking down and knowing that the descend will be peaceful and relaxing, and a well-deserved hot meal is waiting for me at the bottom. I feel anticipation, like a child packing his bags to go on a summer holiday.”
“Anticipation. Would it increase your anticipation if I hit you again?” He was holding the rod in both hands now.
“Once the pain ceases completely, we’ve reached the climax. But the climax,” he coughed, “– if we’re speaking of the basest kind of them all – always remains the same, my friend, even if you have five women at the same time. It might prolong the process, but to the result it makes no difference.”
“But what if they tease you endlessly, never letting you climax? Wouldn’t that at some stage turn into pure torment?”
“Teasing and tormenting go hand in hand. But in that state of exhilaration, would you ever believe the possibility of not climaxing? Would you not enjoy every moment you are being played and tossed around?”
“But if it goes on for too long, would you not start questioning the process? Would you not lose sight of the ending towards which you are working?”
“Working? But Norton, a young man of your age and you are speaking of work in this context? Why would you ever compare such a delightful moment to work?” he laughed. “But the answer you are looking for, dear friend, is called disassociation. It is a form of detachment from your surroundings, a detachment from your present state. Calculatedly applied, it opens you doors to unknown universes. Being overcome by it, it shuts you out. It’s a thin line, admittedly. But I believe we can learn to handle it. The fact we can get burned hasn’t kept humanity from using fire either now, has it? The essence is: You focus on what is to come and ignore what is causing you the trauma.”
“As simple as that?”
“As simple as that.”
“I’m still not sure I am entirely convinced, Norton.” He raised the rod above his head and beat the old man, and beat him, and beat him, and beat him, and beat him again and again until the doctor collapsed onto the floor, spitting blood, laughing frantically.
“How can you still be so quiet? How can you still be so calm? What else do I need to do to make you scream?” he yelled in disbelief.
“Hahaha, Burke you are such a tease! Do you still not believe me? Do you still think I am faking this? Come on, strike again then!”
He struck again. And again. “How, Norton, how? Teach me how to walk through walls!” He handed the rod over to the doctor, who took the iron and smacked his guest across the ribs. There was an audible crack, and the young man broke down next to his host. The two men were lying on the floor, groaning and gasping for air.
“Why does it still hurt?” he cried in desperation, “why can I not forget?”
“Because it takes a while to internalize a habit, my friend. Have some patience, and focus!” He leaned over to the young man, took out his knife and stabbed it into his right palm.