The Word Gulag

            They've opened a new gulag. The word gulag.
            I go there every week, taking with me a shopping bag containing some
fresh fruit, a bar of soap and a couple of tins of condensed milk. I call to a prisoner at random, then wait in the visitors' room with the gesturing crowd. The words file one by one out of a little door and stand in front of us on the other side of the wire. Pale. Trembling. Haggard. Shattered.
            Talk! barks the guard as he patrols the corridor that divides us, banging the grill with his keys.
            No one responds. Not the words because their jaws are visibly broken. Nor the visitors because, as they suddenly realise - they really should have got this earlier - the gulag has taken away their best words.
           Visit's over, the guard shouts, drawing a curtain we hadn't noticed before.
           Some barely audible words burst out, from which side of the grill no one could tell. Probably words of goodbye.