The black rat squatted in the closest corner of the cell, turning over some bit of scavenged offal in its paws but still watching what was happening to me with beady-eyed interest. I idly wondered how long it would take for the rat to chew through the leather straps binding me to the chair, if I could lure it closer, if it were hungry, if it were so motivated. At least the fantasy gave me an instant’s distraction from the man pacing in front of my outstretched bare feet.
“Bastinado,” purred the community manager of PLoS Blogs. “One of the more practical yet excruciating forms of torture embraced by the Spanish Inquisition.” He thudded the wolf’s head on his cane into his palm experimentally, testing the force. “Bludgeoning the soles of the feet inflicts unbearable pain without life-threatening injuries. And it leaves your precious, precious hands intact for typing.”
He looked me straight in the eye then. “You remember typing, don’t you? It was that activity you did with your fingers when you were actually blogging?”
“Seriously, Brian?” I sighed. “We’re doing this again? Okay, first, I’ve only been away for two weeks. In the Canadian Rockies, teaching at the Banff Science Communications program with broadcasting icon Jay Ingram and others. And second—hello, torture? Really? I still don’t even understand why the Public Library of Science lets you do this to the writers. It seems so… un-open access.”
He planted the cane on the cell’s dirt floor and leaned toward me. “Disciplined, regular posting is the cornerstone of successful blogging.”
“All I’m saying is, this sort of torture never happens at the Scientific American blogging network.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it, really?”