In his dream the boy stretched out on the dock, warmed by the late-summer sun. He debated whether to jump in the lake one more time. The water would feel cool and silky, and would wash away the beads of sweat which had formed on his forehead. On the other hand, his bathing suit was almost dry and had finally become comfortable. A breeze cooled him down enough that he could delay his decision. Somewhere, a crow barked out an unnatural metallic screech. The boy's forehead wrinkled, sending sweat rolling down into his ears. He fought to stay in the dream, but it had already started to fade. He wasn't lying on a dock; straps held him to a stainless steel table. 

The clank of an instrument on a metal tray pulled the boy completely from his dream. He smelled stale straw and felt itchy fabric against his cheek. The boy opened his eyes, but burlap covering his face filtered the bright light. He wanted to push the burlap away, but his hands were tied at his sides. He didn’t need to kick his feet to remember that those were bound as well.

“Awake at last,” said the man.

The boy didn’t respond. He held his breath and prayed that the man would go away.

“There’s nothing wrong,” the man said. “No need to be nervous.”

The man moved closer.

“It'll take a while, but you may forget all about this day. You wouldn’t believe how resilient children are. They can grow accustomed to almost anything. This incident could fade to just one small scene in the story of the man you’ll become. Trust me.”

By the end of the speech the man had moved within inches of the boy’s exposed neck. The boy felt the man’s warm breath.

“You know,” the man said, “you could wake up tomorrow and have no evidence that this day ever occurred: nothing to regret, no loss.”

The man inhaled and let his breath out slow, tickling the boy’s neck.

“Unfortunately for you, your tomorrow is about to change.”


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