Politics was hard work, he stressed. We were lazy, he sighed and tossed
back his drink. The young man disagreed but was too timid to say so.
He later realized he should have countered that surely Eco agreed
that society operated on a system of interlocking conspiracies gradually
but systematically evolved by the wealthy for their own benefit and that
Eco was himself joining a conspiracy of silence maintained by all who
profited by the status quo.
He is surprised at how rapidly his body recovers from the first round of
torture. He expects there will be more physical pain ahead. When, one
day (or night), the door opens and a guard he doesn’t recognize saunters
in, he immediately looks to see what is in his hands, which are empty.
The guard is wearing the standard blue uniform, but he lacks Slenderman’s dead eyes.
Bonjour, the guard says.
So it’s morning, the prisoner of freedom, as he styles himself, thinks.
Should he reply? Or would breaking his silence endanger the protective
sheath he’s knit from silence itself? For silence is a substance, a material
thing. Left to settle, it can be molded into a nearly impermeable armor.
Not, by any means, as a defense against the world. On the contrary, silence is a renewable resource capable of helping people stay human. In
the heart of silence he’s discovered an indescribable freedom. He fears
that if he speaks he’ll hurt himself. The zone in which he currently
dwells is free of conflict and negativity. In it he can imagine himself
Pegasus soaring over the sun, or a transparent sea creature slithering in
the darkness at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The intensity of his
resistance to breaking his silence surprises him—yet risk it he must if he
is to proceed to the next stage of his experiment. Because that is how he
regards his predicament: he is running an experiment on life itself.
He is starting to sound like a drama queen.
Good morning, he says. The first words actually cause him physical
pain, a kind of explosive pressure in the chest, the way he imagines a
heart attack might feel. He tries to keep from grimacing. But he’s done
it, broken through the wall of silence—though he realizes he didn’t actually hear the sound of his own voice, and for a moment he fears no sound
emerged. Now, what next?
For a moment the guard looks startled. À la cour, he finally blurts.