Isolated from the world, a man exists within boundaries of steel and concrete. He has been here for one year, two weeks, and five days, spending 23 hours a day in a space measuring 6 by 8 feet.
There are no personal effects. Inside his home is a thin mattress atop a concrete slab, a stainless-steel sink and toilet. He has no books, writing materials, or photos. Television and radio are not available.
In this chamber, he is exiled. He sees no one. There are no sounds from the outside. He is confined in silence, broken only by the occasional clang of metal doors or sometimes distant human cries.
His health erodes through life, reduced to its bleakest. The human need for light, space, and the company of others is denied.
No natural light. Sunlight, that symbol of the living world, is replaced by the sterile glare of fluorescent lights, 24/7, disrupting his natural sleep. The glare and flickering cause him eye strain, headaches, and visual disturbance. There is nothing to see anyway.
It is our hope that he will no longer recall the scent of fresh air, of sunlight, wind, and rain.
His air is to be stagnant and musty, bereft of the scent of grass, rain, or any hint of the world.
He tries to escape by seeking memories of ocean breezes and walks under leafy trees, but fails because the stale air seeps into his thoughts and he feels he is suffocating slowly.
In his solitude, time loses meaning. He is a man in the process of becoming a shadow. The line between waking and dreaming blurs into one prolonged nightmare.
Each day bleeds into the next, marked only by the monotonous routine of meals slid through a slot in the door, and the footsteps of those who bring it coming and going, bringing his meals on plastic trays at erratic hours.
Breakfast, which could be any hour, is cold gruel-like oatmeal, a slice of moldy bread, a pat of margarine, a dollop of jelly. The sour, watered-down milk is warm.
Lunch is a thin bologna sandwich on stale white bread, a small bag of stale chips, a few wilted lettuce leaves. The fruit is a syrupy canned cocktail without flavor.
A cold thin mush patty of some unknown meat or soy, or some semblance of a chicken leg is dinner. Cold canned vegetables. A scoop of instant mashed potatoes, cold, that clings to his plastic spoon, or a ladleful of canned corn, laden with sodium and preservatives, served cold.
He eats his meals alone, every meal, in his room, meals high in sugar, sodium, and bad fats and lacking fresh fruit – except the occasional moldy, grainy apple. No fresh vegetables. No lean protein, lacking most vitamins and minerals. He is unworthy of a nourishing meal and, as we planned it, his diet stimulates obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. With fatigue, joint pain, swollen gums, and premature loss of his teeth, a given.
His muscles soften and slacken from the lack of good food, exercise, and fresh air. He has no access to a yard. He has not seen the sun in a year. He paces the narrow floor, four steps to reach one wall, then four steps back in his six by eight-foot room.
We do not pretend to be sadists. He has one hour a day outside his room three or four times a week. There, he can make 12 steps each way.
Then back to his space for 23 hours.
We also let him out to shower twice a week.
And once a month, he can make brief phone calls, which we monitor and record.
Deprived of human contact, his mental faculties wane. Soon, he has no one to talk to on the phone.
We are removing him from the world, from life itself. His thoughts are becoming fragmented. His eyes are vacant now, almost lifeless, staring at nothing. His voice has decayed into a faint murmur. He is teetering on the edge of a breakdown.
We have almost succeeded.
We do not do this with indifference. To see him suffer does us good. To make him suffer does us more good.
For us, moral is what we feel good after doing. Immoral is what we feel bad after and judged by these standards, this place is very moral because we feel very fine with him here. We have a feeling of life and death over him, a sense of mortality and immortality.
After it is over, when someone like him leaves, we feel very sad. But if his health is shattered, his nerves ruined, if he is scared of sounds and people, and disoriented, the shadow of the man he once was, we still feel very fine.
Watching him suffer is like how we imagine we would feel when we go to heaven if God let us see the punishment of the damned to make our heavenly bliss more delightful.
While here, we do our best to make his stay as short as possible while ensuring he never gets out of this place and the world moves on without him.
And when he retires to a climate hotter than Tucson in summer, and we go to our final reward, we hope that the Good Lord grants us the blessing of seeing him, squirming and suffering, in a cycle of torment, severed from hope.
And may we see him suffering even half as much as we made him suffer on earth.
On earth, we made of him an empty shell, a hollow caricature of what was once a human being, unable to move forward, unable to go back.
We were doing the Lord’s work, preparing him so he could tell no difference from whence we kept him, indifferent to the cycles and seasons, and where the Great Lord will deign to place him in the stream of endless time, in endless dread and sorrow.
And we, in our celestial realm where golden light drenches in soft, ethereal glow, will revel in splendor, engrossed in our eternal feast of joy, each moment filled with bliss. And we will feel warmed by his inner coldness, as he is held captive to sorrow, forever knowing there is no exit.
Beyond the luminous and cosmic wonders, down below lies another realm — one of torment and despair where countless souls are consigned to eternal agony, and we thank our Heavenly Father that we helped to put at least one man there.