I slowly opened my eyes. My head was swimming and a dull pain surrounded my throat. I was thirsty. That was the first thing I noticed. I licked my dry lips as my surroundings faded into focus. My body ached and I realized it was because I was tightly bound to a metal chair in the middle of an empty room. The barren concrete walls were stained and dirty, the floor beneath my bare feet was cold and slightly wet.
A single bulb lit the room, dangling from the ceiling by a string. It cast moving shadows and I blinked back darkness. An open door stood before me, but I couldn’t see anything but the wall of a hallway.
I tried to clear my head, tried to remember how I got here. I squeezed my eyes shut and forced myself not to panic. I slowed my breathing and focused my thoughts, desperately trying to summon some recollection of why I was here.
I couldn’t remember anything.
I opened my eyes and exhaled, my parched throat throbbing. I could hear sound echoing off the hallway walls outside the door. Screaming, clanging, howling, all very distant but that did nothing to help calm my nerves.
“Hello?!” I cried, the word tearing at my vocal cords. I felt my chest hitch in pain but I cleared my throat and yelled again.
“Is anyone there!? Hello!?”
The dark hallway remained silent except for the constant echoes. I shut my mouth and tried to wriggle free of my bindings, but the rope was knotted impossibly tight. I fought back against my imagination as it flooded my mind with horrific scenarios of what awaited me. If I could only remember!
Suddenly, footsteps erupted from outside the door, a rapid patter of small feet. My hopes rose and I trained my attention on the door, praying it was help.
A young boy ran into the room, dressed in a red onezie, complete with padded feet. Stretched over his face was a plastic Devil mask. The eye holes revealed massive blue eyes that greeted me curiously. Taken back, I opened my mouth to speak but that’s when I noticed something was off. His eyes were huge, impossibly round and bulging from their sockets. It sent a shiver of unease down my spine, but I shook it off. This child might be able to free me.
“Hey!” I hissed, urgently, “Hey kid, can you get me out of here?!”
The boy took a step closer, cocking his head, but remaining silent.
I rattled my bound arms against the chair, “Cut me free, please, I shouldn’t be here, this is some kind of mistake!”
The boy eyed me behind his strange mask and stopped directly in front of me. He leaned in close and whispered, his voice like wet silk, “You did a bad thing…”
Confused, I shook my head, “No! No this is a mistake! I didn’t do anything!”
The boy’s enormous blue eyes suddenly filled with sadness, “Oh, you did a really, really bad thing…”
I shook my head again, violently, “No! I’m sorry! I don’t remember, just please get me out of this chair!”
Suddenly, before either of us could speak again, a man came charging into the room. He was overweight and dressed in overalls, his grizzled face twisted in seething anger. He was holding a sawed off shotgun in his arms.
“I didn’t do anything!” I cried as he advanced on us, my voice cracking, “I’m not supposed to be here!”
The big man ignored me and instead grabbed the kid and shoved him hard against the wall. The boy grunted as his back struck the concrete and his eyes rose to meet the grizzled man’s.
Wordlessly, the man raised his shotgun, placed it against the boy’s forehead, and blew his head off. Chunks of gore splattered the wall as shock slugged me in the stomach like an iron fist. My ears rang and time seemed to slow as I watched in horror as the headless body crumpled to the ground.
My breath rushed back into my lungs and time seemed to readjust.