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Dark. Pitch black. Nothing.
Stars? No. Toes. Huh.
Feet. My feet?
The gentlest of breezes awakens me from my slumber. With a force any other man might utilise should he wish to flip his own car upside down I pry my eyelids apart. I feel them split in their corners from lack of hydration. Most of my body suffers from that now. Actually, I wouldn’t even have called that a slumber. More like naturally-occurring lapse of consciousness. I pretty much welcome it when it happens now.
Don’t ask me my name; that knowledge left me long ago. A lot of knowledge left me long ago. God, it aches to not even know one’s own name. I often ponder if that pain is worse than my current physical state. As you may know there is an overwhelming sense of comfort that accompanies maintenance of one’s identity. Sure, there are those in a constant struggle with theirs and often they’ll endure that struggle till the day they die, but at least they have something to go by, some aspects that were always there or constantly shifting. There is still something. Have you any idea how it is to be utterly devoid of even a hint of who you are?
My furthest memory is that of a small, icy blade piercing my hide all over, being pried open by equally cold talons and the inhuman insertion of the metallic tubes that even now sprout from my body. They now trail off like Beelzebub’s personal vipers to the rotting walls that surround me, leaving me dangling Christ-like, like a mere ventriloquist’s minion. Each pipe pulsates rhythmically, like gunmetal worms in a constant state of regurgitation, moving to spew their presumably putrid, simmering bile that even now flows through my veins in place of my natural crimson petroleum. From every finger on each hand do one of these hideous appendages writhe, plus several from my cranium, including one seeping its way into my right eye socket. Needless to say everything appears flat to me.
Since I’ve been here I’ve never been able to fathom the strength to even attempt wrenching myself free of my industrial constraints. I feel as though my captivating extensions have literally bonded with my flesh, skin and bone, meshing together and allowing their pulse to sync with my own. Lord, how the throbbing metal against my interior flesh aches me to the core! An abominable fucking torture able to extract the darkest secrets from the tightest lips of the most steel willed of men. Though I doubt that’s why I’m here.
The last remaining energy I had to keep my head suspended departs and it drops back down onto my chest. All I can do now is stare at the atrocity my body has become. I’m not sure if it’s the vile liquid that flows through me now or some other factor that has coloured my hide a dull lilac. Gone are any trace of body fat or muscle; I am now but a skeleton vacuum sealed in century old leather the colour of syringa, the only geometrical features being my extrinsic metallic limbs and the bulges they form at their entry points. Cracks and splits like that of the desert outside run the course of my outer hide, one of several side effects of malnutrition or dehydration or whatever.
The intercom in the corner of the room just let out a bleep. One of those twats on the other side is about to say something. The cheap, tinny tone emanating from the dilapidated boxes makes me cringe.
“Oi! You make another friend in there, Unit 2?”
Ah yes. In this place I am referred to as Unit 2. Well, I say referred to - I’ve only ever heard the voices of the two “gentlemen” on the other side of those speakers. The reason I refrained from introducing myself as such is that it’s clearly not my name. I’d rather go nameless than bear the denomination “Unit 2”, or anything these bastards see fit to christen my good self.
“Who ya talkin’ to in there?” Dickwad #1 says. “This one got a name this time?”
As you may have picked up, some of these phrases you’re reading that bounce around inside my head manage to slip through some crack of sorts and float into the space around me. And this room is bugged. No, that crack is not my voice; my jaw, tongue and lips are all muscles whose collective weights are currently not worth bearing. Besides, these thoughts of mine are clearly transmitting to you as well. Somehow. But I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth; any companionship is royalty in comparison to my two regulars on the other side of the wire.
“Oi Unit 2,” Dickwad #2 drawls, “my mate here’s got another one for ya! Okay, what’s green and smells like bacon?”
I’m not even going to bother.
“Kermit’s fingers! Gaaahahahahaha!”
The speaker crackles even fiercer with his cackling. These fucking two. I really don’t know what they’ve got me here for; we’ve clearly hit our evolutionary peak with these two alpha specimens.
“Aww mate, that’s prime, ay?” Dickwad #1 replies. “He’s GOTTA be fucked up if he don’t laugh at that one!”
“Yeah but look at the sorry bastard! He’s got no nads! Hell, I’d be miserable too if I could make any purple babies and shit!”
That sends them into an even harder fit of maniacal hilarity. Yes, this is indeed the daily routine. Believe it or not, this is actually my favourite – or really, most bearable – part of the day. You don’t even want to know what happens during “Doctor Time”. Well, since you’re here with me you’re welcome to hang around; not much to do really apart from what you just witnessed. Hey, maybe you could get this itch I’ve had on my back the past few hours?
Okay, fine. Don’t then.
In the control room, with a floor of scuffed linoleum and tacky fluorescent lighting, two maintenance men sit in office chairs. Before them hang multiple monitors, all live-streaming footage of the lavender man in the chamber. Gaz, one of the men, leans forward on his elbows while scrolling through his smartphone. He’s reached the end of his list of jokes. Every swipe makes a clack as his fingernail catches on the crack in his screen. Jacob, the bearded dwarf and second of the two, leans back in his chair, excavating the gap under his fingernails with the splintery skewer that complemented his second-rate kebab. The lint accumulates nicely on the tip of the skewer, which he promptly launches into the waste bin with the help of a rubber band.
“That’s the last of ‘em,” Gaz exasperates. With a flick he conceals his phone in its protective sleeve and pockets the device. He hesitates then quickly fumbles it back out and taps the wi-fi switch off. “He’s probably sick of them all by now anyway.”
Jacob gestures to the monitors with a straightened arm which, had it belonged to any other man, would have slapped the monitor clean of its mound. “Sick? Course he’s not, look how much we cheered him up! Mhehehehe!”
Gaz wheels himself forward to lean against the desk before him. “Yeah but, like, try and put yourself in his shoes. He’s fuckin’ purple, he looks like the Nightmare Before Christmas guy, he’s getting pumped full of God kno-”
“He’s got no shoes.”
Gaz pauses. “What?”
“You said ‘put yourself in his shoes’. He’s naked. He’s not got any shoes.”
Gaz looks at Jacob as if he had just discovered that all aliens resemble old Vietnamese women. Jacob returns with a stare of pure cheek. He chortles once more.
“I’m fuckin’ serious, you knob. Imagine what it’s like, being held up by a bunch of pipey-looking things, all day every day. Like… well, I mean someone’s gotta be missing him, right? Somewhere?”
Jacob replies with an effortless shrug. “Well we’re not really getting paid to feel sorry for the bugger, are we?”
“Doesn’t mean we can’t…” Gaz mutters.
Unbeknownst to either Jacob or Gaz, a small mass of grey pixels in the corner of one of the monitors squeezes its way out of the bottom of the wall in the chamber.
Hey, there’s a mouse there. Just squeezed his way through a crack in the wall. Looks rather tasty...
Nah, just foolin’. Look at him, he’s so round. How does he squeeze himself through such a small crack? With a rapid, bouncing pace he makes his way over in my direction. God, I wish I could move my legs. Maybe then I could catch him with my toes. I can still fell the sand beneath my feet; it’s been that long that I can actually count every grain inbetween my toes. I just choose not to.
My little rodent mate is only a few centimetres from my left toe on my left foot. He darts his little face around, observing his surroundings like a tiny grey crackhead. He ventures forward and scurries across my foot.
Pain. Searing, burning, corrosive pain. But such a sense of otherworldly euphoria! I can barely make out the ceiling as I rear back in simultaneous Hell and pure ecstasy. It’s been, so, so fucking long… With an energy I haven’t known in a lifetime I flail my limbs around like the useless appendages they are. I can feel my viperous restraints slither and slide about beneath my flesh. Only after a moment of cooldown do I notice a blaring electronic wail. Some sort of alarm. Great…
Two men burst through a door I never knew was there. One is half the size of the other and taking the lead, nightstick at the ready. His partner rushes closely behind.
“Oi! The fuck you think you’re doing!?” The little one bellows.
“Jacob, hold on!” The regular sized one shouts. “We’re meant to keep him calm, not bash his skull in!”
“What’s the difference!?” Little Jacob calls back without turning. He continues waddling in my direction.
My head is bowed down to my chest. I’m hyperventilating and I can feel my torso, limbs and head all convulsing and pulsating at an alarming rate. Like some sentient mass attempting to squirm out of its host. But I also feel something else, something new…
Jacob comes to a halt before me, the nightstick the length of his outstretched arm raised above his head. He brings it across with all the might in his tiny little body. I feel the weapon impacting my face, but no trace of pain. My head doesn’t even reel from the blow. I can’t see anything with my left eye. Jacob stares at me and my head, the sweet, sweet look of bewilderment embracing his face like a parasite. Shaking a little, he brings the baton from my face and studies it with a numbness akin to that of a shell-shocked soldier. The stick is bent at the centre. He continues to glare at the stick, frozen-like.
I’ve figured out what’s changed: I can feel my surroundings now. Something to do with that mouse. I can feel the ground beneath me, bearing the burden of three pairs of feet. I can feel the walls with a small pattering of feet scampering along the surface. And I can feel ten long, articulated appendages sprouting from my body. I detach one tube each from their ports in the ceiling. I let them flail around for a moment, flexing them like a muscle relaxed. Jacob doesn’t seem to have noticed them, still intrigued by the bent stick in his hand. The nightstick, I mean. The other guy has definitely noticed them though, but his reaction to them is similar to that of the little man’s to his stick.
Like a pair of snakes, I send the pipes to wrap themselves around Jacob’s miniscule ankles, flip him upside down and hoist him into the air. His ruined nightstick drops to the floor. Look at him dangle there. It amuses me so. I let him howl in a panic for his mate “Gaz” to help him. He does no such thing. In one fell swoop with the force of an industrial jackhammer I bring Jacob to the ground, head first, with a delightfully sickening crack. I feel every inch of his malformed little skull split, oh God, how it satisfies. I let his body drop to the floor.
I turn my attention towards Gaz, who hasn’t moved an inch. I meet his gaze and he meets mine. Is that… do I detect some sort of sympathy in his eyes? Yes… perhaps I was wrong about these two. Is it wrong that I condemn him for what is clearly him only doing his job? I can feel him, he never wanted this. He was just in a bad place in a bad time. Just following orders. He was only doing what he thought was best for science, perhaps even best for the human race. In any case:
Without moving a muscle, I raise the bent nightstick from the floor, rotate it in the air and send it towards Gaz’s stupid face. It lodges itself down his throat and I feel several of his teeth shatter. He gags for a bit, then too drops to the ground. Right, time to get out of here.
I disconnect the eight remaining pipes from their ports in the ceiling and I immediately drop to the ground. They pile up around me, almost protectively. I still can’t quite move any muscles yet, so I mentally drag myself towards the door. Great, it’s an automated steel one. Hang on… with my new brain powers and an assertion of will the door bangs and dents until it crumples into a ball. I move the ball to one side. I get the same satisfaction a child gets when they crumple up a sheet of aluminium paper. Like a corpse being dragged on a fishing wire I slide along the sand in the direction of freedom. The closer to the door I drag myself, the more feeling is restored in my limbs. By the time I’m in the doorframe I’m stumbling along on two feet like an intoxicated Texan.
Propping a good portion of my weight against the doorframe I will my lifelong metallic oppressors from my flesh. They slide out oh-so satisfyingly and crumple to the floor. A viscous ooze not unlike the colour of my own skin now begins seeping from each of my fingertips. I watch the gaping wounds rapidly seal themselves until fully healed, cutting off the interior slime. I’m beyond figuring out everything at the moment, I just can’t wait to get out.
With each great, lumbering swing of the legs I come closer to the exit. Oh, nice, there’s a foyer. Excuse me while I splinter the second door into sawdust, which blows away in the gentle breeze. A nice metaphor for my newfound freedom, if I do say so myself. The sunlight bathes me and my face. The sun doesn’t hurt as much as I was expecting. I stand at the edge of the final doorway.
Before me lays a desert landscape. I slowly take it all in. The air out here is clear. The sun breathes a new life into me I had longed after for however long I have. I thank you, my friend, for being with me during my exodus. Words cannot express how much your company means to me right now. I look forward to our next step together in this great conundrum we call life.
Right, you can fuck off now.