Otto’s mind takes him back to finding his mother at the Serbsky Institute.
Inmates had jittered and made signs at him as he made his way through the corridors. “Please help me,” he heard from some and, “They have me here because of my political beliefs,” from others. They’d reached out to him as he passed, and his insides had quaked. With the stench of piss and shit everywhere, revulsion filled him. But he’d felt no compassion for these people. He hadn’t given a fuck about them. Only his mother mattered.
“This way,” the nurse had said. “She’s through here.”
He found her in a large open room. She sat on the only piece of furniture in it. The chair was pushed back against the wall and she rocked slightly, staring blankly into nothingness. Spittle leaked from her mouth and she was barely recognizable as the woman he loved. Her long, luxurious, oily-black hair had been shaven to the skin. Her teeth had somehow been removed and her formerly full face had caved in because of it. Like a corpse, she was yellowed and sunken. Only 47 years old and she looked twice that. He’d wished he hadn’t found her and cried bitterly – in front of those sadistic bastards that called themselves nurses.
More like prison guards. And in reality, that’s what they were. Soviet dissidents ended up in places like Serbsky, out of harm’s way. In mental hospitals where they could be abused and broken. Somewhere to extinguish credibility. He’d seen those inmates beaten, teeth punched or kicked from their faces. And if they still didn’t bow to the might of the people, enforced lobotomy wasn’t unheard of as a final step.
With desperation, he’d hoped his mother hadn’t suffered such cruelty.
And now, somehow, she’d made it through to 60. Why, oh why had she lasted this long? All those years, and still she rocked on that old wooden chair and stared at nothing. How could life be this cruel?
He remembered the first time he’d visited the asylum in full Spetsnaz uniform. After calling several of the nurses together, he said, “I know you all have military connections. On that basis, I won’t explain this uniform. Each of you has some sort of responsibility to my mother. The good news is you’re about to receive an extra income. The bad news: if you don’t look after my mother properly and see she gets the kind of care and nourishment she needs, I may have to call on my KGB colleagues. I hope we all understand what that could mean.”
Memories dissolved as he entered the large open room. On his instructions, her hair had been left to grow. But now it was too long and no one had shown it a comb. Still she rocked, gazing into nothingness with the expression of a lunatic on her face.
The burly warder turned to leave but Otto grabbed his arm. “We have an agreement. Next time I come here, I expect my mother to be presentable. Look at her, her hair hasn’t had attention for who knows how long. She needs a bath and a change of clothes. She looks like she’s just puked down them.”
“I err…,” the nurse spluttered with a voice too high for his size.
“Fuck you and your errs. Why do I pay you people so much? I’ll say this once. If I’m not satisfied with the way she looks next time I come, I’ll personally see to it that you have teeth to match hers. And each time after that, I’ll take you a step further down that road. Clear enough?”
“Yes, Captain. I’ll see to it myself.”
The nurse left and Otto looked at his mother. His heart brimmed. The only woman he’d ever loved – could ever love. He got down on his honkers, and took her hand. No sign of recognition, but at least she didn’t pull away.
“Hello, Mother, how are you today?”
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Genre – Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating – R
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