He awoke alone in the dark again. At least he assumed he was alone. Divorced from time, he had no sense of how long he had been tied to the chair. Frantic to establish what was happening, he tried to piece together recent events. All he could remember was waking in the dark, hearing the man come in, seeing the lights come on, and then what? He had flashes of imagery in his head, but at the same time he was certain that he had always been hooded. 

The boy didn’t even think about life before this place. Some distant, idealized house played at the edge of memory, but seemed unimportant. The voice, the man — that was important.

“Awake again?” a voice startled the boy from directly behind his left ear. “You probably don’t remember much, do you? It’s a side-effect of the drug.”

The boy realized he could feel the man’s breath on his shoulder. That helped him remember when the man had cut off his clothes. But what had happened after that? He couldn’t remember. He took a deep breath. His lungs felt full of water — like he had been swimming at the lake all day.

The lights came on and the boy could see — the burlap bag had been removed. He blinked frantically to clear his vision. He didn’t know when he had last used his eyes, but they felt brand new to him. At that moment he would have given anything to be able to rub his eyes — they were sticky and uncomfortable.

The room came into focus all at once — at first the cinder blocks looked impossibly close and then his eyes adjusted and his perspective was restored. He didn’t recognize his clothes. Seconds later he realized he wasn’t wearing clothes.

When he wiggled his toes, the illusion was shattered. Every part of his body that he could see was painted. Tendons and bones adorned his feet. Muscles were painted up his legs. A clear tube protruded from his penis, dotted with a caterpillar of yellow liquid inside. His abdomen displayed pictures of what he guessed were internal organs. On his arms the illustrated muscles were drawn back to show the bones down to his hands. Another clear tube entered the vein in his right arm and travelled to a bag with clear liquid.

The boy took inventory of his restraints — wrists, waist, and ankles were strapped to the chair. All of these observations took place in the course of two shallow breaths and a gasp. As he slowly exhaled, the movement of his stomach brought a new reality. Some of the internal organs were indeed painted, but some were his actual insides, visible through the missing skin and muscle of his gut.


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