I am leaning forward over my desk, tangled hair over one shoulder and all my brushes in front of me. "Well, they've seen you thrown people around. Tie them up and expose them in public. Threaten to rape them—with the implication that you'd follow through if necessary—you've shown you're good with a whip for a reason we'll see in a while. You've sedated people, blinded and gagged them, had them thrown into rooms for solitary confinement, cut them... and throughout all that, people responded uneasily, wondering what keeps you from abusing your power. Now that I've revealed it, some of them think you've been tortured and the sympathy shifts."
"What?" I say, looking over my shoulder.
"It's very aunerai, forgive me," he says. "Perhaps you should have used a different metaphor."
"Tell them it's like a chef having to sample his entire menu before serving it."
I stare at him. "You think this is funny."
"It was a transcendent experience," Shame says quietly. "And I was in good hands. What should I fear from what people think they know?"
"Some people would argue torture can't be transcendent."
"Then you should not explain at all the Ai-Naidari definition of torture," Shame says. "Besides, even humans know better. The book you just read, yes? "In some rare cases, this shift in consciousness [toward spiritual enlightenment] happens dramatically and radically, once and for all. When it does, it usually comes about through total surrender in the midst of intense suffering." "
I eye him. "You're reading Oprah Book Club picks."
"No, you are," he says, laughing. "I'm just reading over your shoulder."
"It really doesn't bother you?" I ask.
"No," he says. "And it shouldn't bother you."
"Right," I say, and drag myself off to start the day.