The madman's wandering blue eyes found me. He said, "I was a psychiatrist."
"I didn't ask." In fact, I'd already learned more of Hell than I really wanted to know. I only wanted out. -Don't tell me any more!- I closed my eyes.
"They trusted me," the mad voice said happily. "They thought we knew what we were doing. For fifty bucks an hour I listened to their life stories. Wouldn't you?"
He subsided. The woman said, "He's crazy."
"Thanks. I really wondered about that," I told her without opening my eyes...
The mad psychiatrist noticed me again. "We were just playing," he said dreamily. "Tinkering with something we didn't understand. I knew. Oh, I knew. Let me tell you..."
"Don't tell me." They kept hurting at me, all of them!
"He was a catatonic. He was like a rubber doll. You could put him in any position, and he'd stay there for hours. We tried all sorts of things in those days. Shock therapy, inslin shock, lobotomy. Punish the patient for not noticing the outside world."
"Or for not noticing you."
I meant it to hurt, but he nodded happily. "So we put him in a hotbox and started raising the temperature. We watched him through a window. First he just sweated. Then he started to move around. At a hundred and thirty he said his first words in sixteen years. 'Get me the fuck out of here!'"
The mad eyes found me, and his face seemed to cave in. The cherubic smile vanished. Urgently he said, "Get me the fuck out of here!"
"I can't. I'll be lucky to get out myself." I tried moving again. There was pain, but not enough to keep me in that place. I stood gingerly and started up the slope.
The girl cried, "You can't do that! Come back here! Come back!"
I kept going.
--Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, "Inferno"