McIntosh woke in his box. The ends of the metal rods implanted in his stumps leaned against the walls and stopped him from being able to roll onto his stomach or stand. Instead, McIntosh sat up. The light in the upper corner of his box was dim but just strong enough that he could inspect his new appendages. Where the metal entered his body the skin had worn raw and was torn in places. It was sore and when he accidently knocked the rods against the wall the pain became severe. The wounds began to bleed and his just minutes after waking, McIntosh found himself sitting in a pool of blood, unable to move himself to the other side of his box.
Sat there, trapped in his own body, McIntosh thought back to first fight in prison. He had been jumped by two other inmates and stabbed in the stomach before he knew what had happened. When it was over he found himself sat on the floor of the library looking down at the wound in his stomach as the pool of blood around him grew. He had already resigned himself to death at that point. Watching the life drain him in red pulses then he thought of the night that he killed little Lina.
Thinking back to that night sat on the floor in prison, McIntosh looked at his new appendages and felt the weight of them. Part of him thought that if he swung his metal arms at Fay he could injure him, maybe even stab him with the tip of one of them. But another part of him, a larger part of him, knew that such efforts were hopeless. That he was never going to make a decision for himself again. He was Joseph Fay’s in body and in soul. He was more than a prisoner. He was a slave.
When Fay slid open the side of McIntosh’s box his guest didn’t look up. He just sat there staring between his legs at his mattress.
“Yes… Joe… ”
“I have something for you Eli.”
“Yes… Joe… ”
“Well don’t be too enthusiastic, Eli. I only went way out of my way to set it up for you.”
“Sorry, Joe. Thanks you, Joe.”
“That’s better… ”
“Please can I see it now, Joe?”
“Not yet. First we have to clean you up.”
Taking hold of the rods protruding from McIntosh’s leg stumps, Joseph Fay dragged him from his box. McIntosh offered no resistance and stayed limp as Fay turned him around lifted him by putting his hands under McIntosh’s arms and then dragging him backwards up the basement stairs to the kitchen. Dropping him unceremoniously on the tiled kitchen floor, Fay grabbed McIntosh’s collar and dragged him outside through the hall door. Even as McIntosh’s head bounced on the floor and then the ground he didn’t resist. He just let himself be dragged, flopping and clattering along the way.
When Fay finally stopped McIntosh lay in the dirt looking up at the sky. His face was void of all emotion, resigned to his fate. He had somehow climbed inside himself to a safer place where nothing was real. But when his host spoke to him and he didn’t respond Joseph Fay exploded with a fury of contempt that shattered any illusions of caring.
“Okay! Okay, Eli! Okay! You want to play it this way!? Okay! Watch now and see where that gets you! Watch!”
But McIntosh continued to stare at the sky. He didn’t even flinch when Fay stomped back into the house and stomped back out again a moment later. He didn’t avert his gaze when Fay hunkered down next to him and rummaged around his legs. He didn’t look at Fay when he heard a match being struck and he didn’t look when soon thereafter when he felt heat on his skin. Nor did he look away from the sky when the heat of the flames travelled through the metal sticking out of his legs and made its way into his bones. This was a slow pain. It built up from inside but didn’t sear his mind like the clattering of metal on metal had back in the forest. It grew under his skin and moved through his muscles. It became stronger once it had reached as far up his stumps as it could and in minutes the throbbing of each heartbeat brought with it a new and strange pain.
It was as if his stumps had seized up, clasping onto the hot metal imbedded in them as if in fear that they might fall out somehow. And still McIntosh stared at the sky, his mutilated face grimaced and his one eye poured tears down into his ear as lay on his back. Fay poured more whiskey on the fire and stood over McIntosh screeching in his own delirium of hate. He could barely see his guest through his anger. He had only gained absolute domination over him the previous day night and now he was ignoring his host. It was unacceptable. Ola wouldn’t have it. Lina deserved better. He would break him again and again if he had to. It was just all wrong.
Then Fay fell silence as a twinge crept across McIntosh’s face. He hadn’t meant for his cheek to twitch, it had been involuntary. But to Fay it was a sign of his guest’s suffering and it gave him the hope that he hadn’t lost control of the situation.
“Now. There you go, Eli! You enjoy that. That’s from Lina.”
But McIntosh didn’t hear him. He could feel the sensation of heat in his bones. It seemed as though he was cooking from the inside out. It made him sick to his empty stomach and he wretched as he lay there. Which only encouraged Fay to continue his tirade of abuse, despite it falling on deaf ears. Soon enough McIntosh passed out and started to choke. Fay had to concede to necessity and rolled his guest onto his side and slapped his back until the colour returned to his face and he started breathing again. He hated it every time he saved McIntosh’s life, even though he knew it was a means to an end he wanted to kill him every minute of every day. But in that moment, as the danger to his guest’s life balanced in his hands once more, Joseph Fay had an idea.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey