Sincerity / Will Conway

A woman sits screaming silently in a bath of acid while a seventies ex-prime minister turns his back to prepare instruments in the sink. Behind a tatty veil another victim’s contorted pink face stares blindly at the ceiling as a sweat-beaded, ogre-shaped figure winds a wheel that keeps chains taught, elongating his limbs on a wooden rack. Like the celebrities upstairs these figures are behind barriers, the rope from which is shiny from sweaty hands and one of the stainless steel posts is leaning jauntily in a dusty alcove. Across the hallway, lit by flickering faux candles, an inexplicably blond Hitler scowls not quite in their direction, dressed in his 1938 Nuremberg rally uniform. Following the dimly illuminated passage around a brown plaster pillar, another hulking wax body in a medieval sack and cowl stands gloatingly by the disembodied heads of Starsky and Hutch, which are impaled on spikes, their melted red gloop dripping down the poles like blood.[1]

The clicks and ringing from the vintage mechanical arcade games in the next room just before the exit had faded an hour before and the last visitors had left. The lights extinguished with a click and the torture chamber was bathed in the dim greenish glow of auxiliary lighting and fire exit signs.

The one-eyed freak tied to a stake and full of arrows spoke first.

‘The only certainty in life is pain. The only thing joy knows is that pain will follow.’

‘You think you can speak for all of us. There is no universal truth. All human experience is unique,’ replied the medieval torturer.

‘We are all like snowflakes in a storm, beautiful and distinct, rare and perfect and doomed,’ a familiar but un-soothing Austrian voice added.

‘Oh be quiet, Adolf.’

‘There’s no need to be rude. I didn’t choose to be moulded into this form. Doesn’t everyone deserve a chance at redemption?’ blond Hitler asked. ‘Starsky and Hutch are proof of second chances.’

‘Hardly,’ one of them replied.

‘I don’t believe in rehabilitation. The punishment must befit the crime and some sins are inexcusable. Justice is surely as much about making criminals suffer for their crimes as equally as they have made others suffer.’ grumbled the ogre.

‘Retaliation makes us no better than those who we punish. The most important thing is to isolate and contain a dangerous element,’ said the muffled voice from the skewered body wearing the Iron Maiden.

‘Punishment is simply the state exercising its control over our bodies.’ said the woman in the acid bath.

A silence fell over the wax works as they considered this.

[1] These were moved in a half-finished attempt to modernise the museum that saw them replaced by Michael Knight and JR Ewing in 1987.

Will Conway lives and writes in London. He makes these funny little booklets or zines or whatever you call them. His short story collection ‘Tastes of Ink’ was published by Lazy Gramophone Press a while back and his graphic novel ‘Steak’ is on its way.

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