The Punishment [a dream]

She stood along a railway, dressed in black. On the other side of the tracks was a group of men in uniforms, they could have been soldiers. She was young, small and thin, in a long dress. Hair like Louise Brooks, at chin length. She had a dreamy look on her white-skinned face.

I stood to her left, a few meters away. The men were talking to each other, agitated in a brutal way. They decided that someone had to be punished. One of them produced a thick long rope. It moved like a snake, slithering in the air on its own. Its purpose was to inflict pain. The men focused their attention on the girl. There was no apparent reason. They swung the rope from a distance, it moved towards her and started curling around her legs. It swayed slowly, taking its time. It almost touched me and I shrunk back, afraid it might hit me, afraid of electricity. They hit her legs, the knees trembled. She did not react, but a faint smile spread across her face. I thought to myself, she is enjoying this. The men hit harder and she let herself glide to the floor. She collapsed slowly, like someone moving under water. Her knees bent under her and she let both arms slide to her sides. The smile had intensified. She was enjoying the pain, let herself be carried by it. I felt a pang of envy. The strokes were like caresses while she lay there, a serene expression on her face. This was the opposite of what the men had intended to achieve. She was neither humiliated nor punished, she had received an exquisite gift.

Then the dream changed. The scene is over and she is standing again, turning around and slowly walking to the right. Her torso is naked. It seems to me that she has a strange body shape, without a waist or neck. Her breasts are where here shoulder blades should be. Suddenly, I’m aware that she might be disabled, or disfigured, but that I am the only one to perceive it.

Der Grundsatz, nach dem ich entscheide, ist: Die Schuld ist immer zweifellos

Franz Kafka, ‘In der Strafkolonie’