by Michael C. Thompson
Chapter 5 : Black
A demon stares at me with purple eyes, violet halos spinning like galaxies around a black hole at the center of the universe, trapped in its gravity. Sucking me in.
“ERIK!” the creature screams.
Still grinning like a fascist.
Lips. I see lips. Rubber, pink, soft. Female.
Skin fades from red to pink. A vision, watercolor. Blurring around the edges. The violet eyes trailing.
I try to speak. No sound. Only vibration. Falling, once more, into the pit. Magnetic pull. My skin tingles, yanking from the viscera, splitting my atoms.
My hand yanked, warm fingers around it, I’m running. Footsteps. Wait. No. I’m staring at a wall. It’s moving. I can see the particles accelerating. I put my fingers to it, feel the cold energy entering me. It moves from the inside to my eye, like a spike piercing through. I gaze in wonder as the blue paint blood splats the wall.
I’m running again.
“NO!” the demon screams, the halos spinning faster.
She’s gone now. I’m on the street, lying on my back. A cloud passes overhead, a smiling face. People are jumping over me, shrieking. A voice, I hear it.
“ALLAH! HAVE MERCY!”
I sit up, look around. A man is cutting himself with a knife, blood flowing freely. He sees me, our eyes lock like magnets. He is rushing toward me, the knife held high.
The scene changes. Beside me is Pixel, an angel, her aura — or his — making me think of the fluorescent light in the room with the...
Something... can’t remember...
“What...” I tell her.
“LSD,” says Pixel, speaking with the voice of a man.
It is black now.
It is black forever.
Then a light. Dim, at first. Slowly, shapes begin to come into focus. A face, I recognize it, although I can’t say how. He stares at me with beautiful eyes, not like the halos of that female demon, but still sucking me into his vacuum. His hair stands on end, spiky, yellow.
“Silas,” he says.
“Who...” is all I say.
“Do you remember me?” he asks, speaking to me as though I’m a child.
“Who...” I repeat, drooling, unable to get a grip on reality.
“I’m Argus,” he says. “I can’t believe you did it.”
“I was told you planned on dying. I guess you failed at that half of your mission.”
His eyes drift apart, their colors changing, blurring together with the inky pupils. I say nothing, watching it all rearrange itself. A smile appears on his forehead, parallel to the one hanging in mid-air below his chin.
“I had to turn you in. Shouldn’t have left me behind.”
“Is this what you wanted?” he questions. “To be an idiot? You made a city full of them... I hope it was worth it.”
Can’t comprehend. Headache.
A face. My father. His teeth all missing, blood foaming from his mouth. One eye exploded in red.
“Run. Don’t ever look back.”
“Is this the terrorist?”
A woman standing over me. Black skin, black hair. Brown eyes. Large, unpleasant looking. “What are you planning to do with him?”
“Allah has special plans for this one.”
The voice. Do I recognize it?
My eyes open. I’m behind my face again. Strapped down.
I struggle, looking around. “HELLO?!” I shout. Vanity. There is no one in sight. My name...
“Silas,” says a voice from across the room, in shadows, hidden from my view.
“Where am I?!” I shout. “Who am I!?”
“Silas, you don’t want to know where you are. But you’re about to find out.”
I begin to vibrate. The sounds of crunching gears fills the room. Struggling uselessly, it comes to me that I’m strapped to some kind of table. A moving table, facing me upright.
“Do you prefer pain?” asks the man in the shadows. He steps out. He wears a lab coat, and in his hand carries a black poker. He looks Arabian, and middle-aged — a Muslim Inquisitor. He wears a pair of circular glasses with thin gold wire rims, and khaki pants beneath the lab coat. He can’t be any taller than five-nine, and weighs no more than one-hundred and fifty pounds.
“Your friends explained your philosophy to me,” he says. “It’s so... juvenile. It seems that you prefer to be evil for the sake of it. Like a spoiled little child who lacks discipline. Would you say that describes you?”
I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if I remember how to talk. I open my mouth, but it is so dry that only useless air escapes.
“Don’t bother trying to speak,” he says. “We both know you’re not a reasonable man. Or a rational one.” He takes a slight, ironic bow to me, grinning as he does so. “My name is Dr. Khalid. Do you have any guesses as to why I may be here?”
I shake my head in the negative.
“Well... it is not to interrogate you. You have no information of value to me. As far as the Empire is concerned, you’re nothing more than a common, run of the mill anarchist. Your delusions of grandeur may suit your ego, but Allah has brought you to justice. Just as he brings all infidels to justice.”
I say nothing. I plan on saying nothing.
“Do you know how many civilians we had to put down as the result of your little terrorist act in New Mecca?”
“We executed over one million people because of you. Your poison was not allowed to spread.”
“Kill me now,” I say hoarsely, surprising myself at the involuntary command.
“We have quite some time to spend before you die,” he says. “First I’ve been ordered to make you suffer... hideously.”
I only grin. Unexpectedly, he grins back. Then we begin to play.
My fingernails are ripped off first. With each flash of pain, more of my identity returns, more of the LSD’s slippery grasp on my perception fades. A part of it, on some level, effecting me increasingly less.
With each succession of torturous undertaking, the spell of the liquid chaos peaks and crescendos until snapping me slowly back into sobriety and sanity. Gasping, I speak to Dr. Khalid as he selects an instrument of pain from a table across the room.
“You’re just as pathetic as I am,” I tell him. He turns, eyeing me through the blood on his face — my blood.
“Am I?” he asks, amused.
“Maybe worse,” I tell him. “So stupid you have to believe in a God that doesn’t exist, that you can’t possibly comprehend life in a universe where you aren’t special or chosen or forgiven for all of the evil things that you do.”
“A terrorist like you is reprimanding me? Is this truly happening?” he questions sarcastically.
“No matter what you do to me — no matter how many pounds of flesh you carve, how many of my followers you kill, there will always be more. Do you know why? Because your order is a lie. And it is plainly obvious. And no matter how hard you try to hide it, how strongly you manage to repress it, it’s right out in the open. Your power isn’t real. That’s why you crave it so badly.”
He smiles, turns and picks up a scalpel. “An old-fashioned but extremely useful tool,” he says, nearing me. He leans down, staring into my eyes with his own, almost as black as his pupils.
“This power?” he asks, drawing the knife against my cheek, cutting through. Blood flows out freely, I flinch, but then smile.
“Meaningless,” I tell him.
“What does this mean?” he asks, slashing my other cheek. I react in much the same way, spitting up blood into his face. He steps back, wiping it off in disgust.
“Why did you kill them?” I ask him.
“Why do you care?”
“Because although you vastly overestimated the long-term effects of your poison, there were many negative side-effects which contributed to the undermining of Allah’s plan. You have been overdosed for well over two weeks now. You got a more potent dose than anyone in New Mecca.
“Although the citizens were driven insane, the most serious effects of the attack only persisted for around 72 hours for most victims. At least the most serious of the initial, noticeable effects. In the long-term, they were poisoned with strange, blasphemous thoughts.”
“How do you know I overestimated anything?”
“Morgan talked, Elronde talked. Pixel didn’t talk. Didn’t say a word, even when I killed it.”
“Pixel is dead?”
“Oh, they’re all dead,” says Dr. Khalid. “Shiloh, Argus — yes, even him, although he betrayed you and came to us.”
“Then kill me,” I tell him.
He jams the scalpel into my thigh, cold steel shoved between my atoms. It’s quite unpleasant. I exhale, hissing in pain. He slowly pulls the knife out, savoring the exquisite discomfort on my face.
“That’s Allah’s finger nail scraping your skin,” he says. “We’re not even through carving the first pound of flesh...”
“Pain doesn’t bother me...” I reply.
“I wish I could say you’re lying, but sadly, I think you’re telling the truth.” He drops the bloody scalpel, and it clinks to the concrete floor beside him.
“I tried to imagine what would cause you to suffer the most. I couldn’t really picture it... I wasn’t thinking like you. You see, I learned a lot about you from your comrades, and from others I’ve taken in during our continental sting over the last two weeks.
“You like to believe all existence is reprehensible, that all men and women are egos that need to be squashed. You hate reality. But I have been studying the effects of this ‘LSD’ that your newly-defunct terrorist cell has synthesized. And reality overload seems to be the most common side effect.
“You crave death... obviously. Maybe the most poetic end for you would be to never let you have it, at least insofar as I am capable, while at the same time overdosing you with your own poison for the rest of your existence.”
I remember the LSD in my brain, reality slipping, unable to hold onto anything. My heart races again. The end, stolen from me, for so long I’ve expected it. Hoped for it. Needed it. Without death, I am...
“A failure,” Dr. Khalid says. “That’s what people like you have always been. Unruly children smashing sand castles. Truly, you should all be put down.”
And with that, he steps behind the table, out of my view. When he returns, there is an IV, a needle attached to the end. The rainbow liquid inside I recognize immediately. My heart dreads it, my soul cries back in disgust. No more. No more, I want to be done with it, I want to be back to normal.
He plunges the needle into my arm, as I am unable to do more than tense it up beneath the restraints.
Hallucinations inject into my veins.
Quickly the room lights.
Khalid smiles, with black eyes.
Copyright © 2011 by Michael C. Thompson
Proceed to The Critics’ Corner...