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Melting Away

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Inside factory 01

The light was bright. So bright that even through his eyelids, he felt it tear at his eyes, which had adjusted to the darkness of his cell in the last months.

The floor felt icy cold beneath his bare feet, sending shivers up his legs with every step. The cuffs on his hands, which had never been taken off him for the whole time he had been imprisoned, had left his wrists, now skinny and frail from the imprisonment, dented and bruised to the point he could barely feel his hands.

The guard's grip on his arms wasn't painful anymore: with his nerves compressed, his whole arm up to the elbow was completely numb.

He shortly glanced down at his own body: under the skimpy apron, the last piece of clothing he would ever wear, he looked like a freshly butchered animal. Pale, wrinkly skin covering what once were muscles, and were now inert masses of meat covering his frail bones. Like a puppet, bones and tendons were showing under the skin with each movement.

The moment he had been sentenced for his crime, he knew what awaited him. For months -at least he thought it was months-, he was kept in one of the dank, featureless solitary confinement cells. Four stone walls, a light bulb, and the almost invisible slit through which he was fed.

He had had nothing to keep track of the time. The light never turned off. He couldn't tell if they were feeding him twice a day or only once: the food was far from anything he would have considered edible in the days he was a free man, but he knew for sure it was the only thing keeping him alive, his only source of nourishment. It was the only sign that someone, outside of those four walls, still made sure that he wouldn't die.

As he slumped through the corridor, he gazed at several spots of his body. Each of them was a memento of the few things he could remember of the few events that had happened since he was thrown into that oppressing cell.

His bruised shoulder, from the time when he desired freedom so much that he threw himself at the slit in the wall several times, trying to break whatever door was behind it. No one had reacted to his futile attempt. No one had heard his screams. And no one had cared about his dislodged joints, which had left him completely numb with pain for several days, as he could see from the half-rotten meals starting to pile up under the slit.

His broken nails, from when he tried to scratch something in the wall to have something to look at. The hard, unforgiving stone had left his fingers little more than a bloody mess as he helplessly passed them all over the wall, leaving wide, dripping red trails on it; that bloody fresco, with its disgusting yet enticing scent of copper and irregular shapes, had become the only thing he could consider beautiful.

The long trail of blood running down his chest, from the time he tried to end everything. The light bulb, the only thing that gave his room light, briefly became, in his mind, the mean of his escape. After he had broken it, darkness fell permanently on his world. He had frantically searched for the glass shards, and tried to slash his own throat. They were too small, and he was too weak to sever any major artery: all he managed to inflict upon himself were a few scratches, before he gave up, and tossed the glass shards into the darkness, never to be found again.

He regretted that action immediately. His food, himself, the blood-spattered wall... without any light, he wasn't able to see those things any more. There was no light coming from the feeding slit, ever. Primal fear started taking him over: without his sight, his other senses had progressively sharpened.

With no sounds coming from any direction at all, his own heart's beat was almost deafening. Even his meals, which he considered bland at first, revealed unique and powerful scents and tastes. He didn't know if they were real, or his brain was simply making up for the complete lack of stimuli, but he would welcome any distraction from his oppressing oblivion.

His self-awareness in particular had become heightened. Standing still, with his back to the wall, he felt every single part of his body at once: his lungs pitifully breathing in and out the stale air, pressing against his ribs; tendons moving his hands like a marionette's, and the dull pain of his scabs, which renewed themselves each time he slept on the cold, hard floor.

Eventually, the darkness started penetrating his very being.

The darkness, so thick that closing his eyes or keeping them opened made no difference at all. The solid, hard walls had started to comfort him, give him the feeling that as long as he was inside, he would have been safe, alive. The cell was not his cage anymore, but rather his fortress, his safe haven, surrounding him in the blissful peace of a motherly womb.

To make up for his blindness, his mind had started to project... things in his field of view. Writhing worms made of many colors. Soap bubbles that burst in puffs of smoke. Clouds made of stars colliding, swirling, and forming yet more shapeless masses. He was as close to serenity as he could be: in a timeless limbo devoid of any emotion or pain, a day could fly like a second or drag on like a century.

The moment that door had opened, he was afraid his heart would burst. All of a sudden, he was torn apart from his blissful, black ocean, and dragged through a white, aseptic corridor.

He didn't try to speak to the guard: even if he wanted to, his mind had forgotten the meaning of many words, and his lips the ability to spell them out. But some words did form in his mind: words he remembered hearing in a time that didn't even seem to belong to his life anymore. A large room full of people. All of them looking at him. Everyone takes turns talking. He feels their anger, he knows they're deciding his ultimate fate. One word finally floats up from the deepest recesses of his mind.

"Execution."

Someone wanted him to die. But death wouldn't have been enough for him; they insisted for him to be stripped of all of his dignity, get butchered like an animal, be subjected to unspeakable tortures that would make him wish, each moment that he had left to live, that it would be his last.

The end of everything. His life, his suffering, his struggle. Lost in his thoughts, he barely noticed the guard shoving him into a room. In the middle of the room was a square hole, about five feet deep and a yard wide. The guard gave him another shove in its direction. He weakly crawled inside the hole and stood up in the middle of it.

Two more people came through the door. His blurry vision couldn't make out their features, but he was sure they were two men. One of them spoke, every single word pounding at his ear drums.

"Six months ago, the condemned, charged with abduction, torture and murder, was given the life sentence in solitary confinement. As per recent review of mentioned sentence, the victim's relatives have pleaded for a new trial, where it was commuted to death penalty."

"Death." Just hearing that word gave him solace. At last, he would be free. He would leave his battered, suffering body behind, and slide into non-existence forever. He would go back to his beloved darkness.

"Said sentence will be carried out here and now. The method of execution, as demanded by the prosecution, will be by molten lead."

He almost didn't hear those words. He was too caught up in his anticipation. He would be free again.

A sharp pain in his foot jolted him back to full consciousness. He tried to lift it up, but something was sucking it down, like quicksand.

It took him less than a second to realize what was going on. From holes near the bottom of the hole, liquid metal with a silvery sheen was pouring down. Part of it was solidifying into puddles, but eventually, they had reached him.

Instinctively, he backed up in the middle of the hole. That part was still uncovered and relatively cool, though the puddles were closing in ever more and more.

He frantically looked around. Thoughts were skipping through his mind: lucid, rational thoughts, which he hadn't had for as long as he could remember. Lead melts at three hundred twenty degrees. Prolonged contact with scorching hot materials causes second- and third- degree burns. The human body has its own way of regulating temperature, but succumbs to a heat stroke after prolonged exposure. Which was going to kill him first? Was it going to be painless? Or agonizing? Did anyone, except for the three people staring down at him, even know that a man was about to melt away in that forsaken room?

The lead reached his feet again. A thin layer of semi-molten metal was covering the bottom of the pit. The pain made him white out momentarily. Adrenaline flowed through his malnourished body.

He leaped at the edge of the pit. Anger, pain, and hope filled his very soul. He wouldn't face a slow, agonizing and undignified death like that. His chances were slim, but with the force of sheer desperation he could make it. Overpower the guard, get his gun. Kill those snarling motherfuckers. Run away from this damn place. Keep going on his scorched feet until he either found freedom, or was shot down by the other guards. The kiss of a bullet, tearing through his heart, erasing his existence in mere seconds...

...with one great effort, he pulled himself over the edge. Panting, smiling with victory, he rolled over on his back, ready for his next move...

...the guard was right above him. He was too slow. Maybe he never had a chance. What from his point of view was the furious struggle of a man who faced death must have been the last death throe of a man who was already dead.

He was kicked back inside. His lungs ached as he felt his ribs compressing them. He tried to grab onto the edge one last time, but fell down on his back.

The layer of metal was already several inches thin. As he splashed in it, a flash of pure pain lasted for a moment, and then subsided. The smell of charred flesh filled the air. He found himself screaming, his eyes watering, his blood boiling out of his skin.

The molten lead solidified around his body, turning into a shell that prevented every movement. With no hope left, nothing but pain in his world, all he could do was scream. A croaking, beastly scream that echoed within the chamber, mocking his suffering. The metal took its time rising up. He felt it eating away at his nerves, making them permanently numb to everything. His whole body was melting into nothingness, but at the same time was filling him with the pain of the living, as his organs started rupturing from within from the rising temperature.

He couldn't take it any more. He would end it there.

It was not desperation or hope that made him move his body, but the mere desire of his own death. He managed to roll over, feeling chunks of flesh and skin getting torn, caught in the metal shell. He got up on what was left of his arms. All he saw was grey and red. He finally sank his face in the molten lead.

It bore through his ears, his nose, his eye sockets, burning nerves. He wasn't dead yet, but all of his senses were finally gone. He had no eyes to see his pathetic condition. No ears to hear the mocking echo of his scream. And no mouth to voice his sorrow.

Soon his heart would stop beating, and in that moment, he would be dead.

His last wish was to live that moment forever.

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