Waking, McIntosh opened his eye and tried to move. But he found that he was strapped to the chair in which he was sat. As his sight adjusted he saw the wall in front of him, just far enough that his leg rods didn’t quite touch it. As he struggled he saw that he was sat on a chair that had had the seat of it removed. Under the chair a bucket rested. There was no sound, only the basement wall and chair. Then he tried to turn his head and found that a headband with ties on attached to the back of the chair prevented him from turning his head from side to side, or upward. He could only look down or forward.
He didn’t try and struggle anymore, he just sat there expecting a beating or to be cut up some more, or even to be set on fire. But as the day wore on nothing happened. He just sat alone, undisturbed, for the whole day. When eventually he had to relieve himself he used the bucket, but of course the odour lingered then through the night and was worse still come morning when he woke again, this time with a severe crick in his neck. The smell hit him first, then the pain in his neck. It wasn’t anything compared to the pain he had become used to but it jolted him. And again he sat a full day alone facing the wall.
On the third day, rushing in and out, Fay force fed him a paste that tasted like porridge with some kind of meat in it and made him gulp down a large mug of water, then left him in front of the wall. Again two more days and nights passed and again Fay returned with the same paste and water. And on that second visit he replaced the bucket with a fresh one. But not before pouring some of the acrid smelling mixture into the new bucket.
McIntosh remained like this for as long as he could remember. He felt the chill of winter come and go and with no mental stimulation, he began to construct a fantasy world all his own. One in which he could reason that existence was something more than a blank wall. He named the individual bricks in the wall and gave them all backstories. Some were nice and some were evil. Some warred against the floor and some fell madly in love with others. But in his heart of hearts he knew that it was all a lie. Until one day. Atrophied and destroyed almost beyond recognition as a human being, McIntosh woke in his box.
Paralysed from the lack of used of his limbs, he lay flat on his back and enjoyed not being seated for the first time in over a year. His whole body was cramped and burned from the resumption of blood flow. It was a sharp and bitter sensation that reeled inside every inch his body, but there was a sweetness to it too. The ceiling of his box was a welcomed change of view too and although he missed the familiarity of the wall, his mind slowly came to recognise that the tales about the bricks were nonsense. He was sad that his imagined friends were gone, but it was better that he was happier that he could return to what sanity he had left.
McIntosh wanted to call out, but he knew better. He had learned through Fay’s display of power over the last year that there was no point in trying to think for himself. Fay would come and tell him what to do whenever it suited Fay. There was no need to worry though, he was free from all responsibility. It better then than before because of that. All he had to do was wait and Fay would show him what he wanted him to do. He almost felt happy about it. Unsure of what happy was, he thought he was happy. He wasn’t angry or scared or sad, so he reasoned that must have been happy. Yes, he was indeed happy at the thought of Fay telling him what to do. Fay could be trusted. Fay took care of Eli. Fay fed and protected Eli. Eli like Fay.
“Joe! Oh, Joe! Hi, Joe.”
“You look mighty pleased with yourself.”
“I’m just glad to see you, Joe.”
“What are we going to do today, Joe? Can we go outside? Please? Please?”
“Okay, Joe! Thanks, Joe!”
“First I need to do something and you’re not going to like it.”
“That’s alright, Joe. If you have to do it then you have to. I don’t mind, Joe.”
“That’s okay, Joe.”
“Really. I don’t mind, Joe. Please, let’s start now. Don’t feel bad.”
“Are you sure, Eli?”
“Of course, Joe.”
“Like I said, it’ll be very painful.”
“Please do it, Joe. Whatever it is. Please!”
After a briefest, curious glance at his guest Joseph Fay dragged him upstairs and outside to where he had roasted his leg rods the previous year. The ground showed no signs of fire. Nature had grown over it and healed the soil. But again, that small patch of earth bore witness to a deed that even Fay winced from.
“Lie down flat and put your arms by your side, Eli.”
“Like this, Joe? Am I being a good boy, Joe?”
“Oh, thank you, Joe! I like that you like me!”
“Be quiet now.”
Marking a common length on McIntosh’s leg rods at about the point where his guests feet had been and a similar line on the arm rods where the hands had been, Fay began. The first few strokes light, but as he laboured the strokes became faster and harder. The hacksaw rattled the bones in McIntosh’s legs and it did hurt, a lot, but he bore the pain, for Fay.
“It’s o-okay, Joe. I-it’s not s-so bad. It t-tickles. Yeah, t-that’s all. Don’t stop!”
The sawing continued. Until there was an even pair of metal stumps at about where McIntosh’s feet had been. Then the arm rods were cut to matching lengths too.
“Right, Eli. This is where it’s nasty.”
“I can take it, Joe. Whatever it is I’ll take it. don’t worry, Joe.”
“I doubt that. But it’s for your own good. So hang in there.”
“No, really, Joe, don’t stop. I… I like it.”
“I’m n-not going anywhere, ha HAA haa HAH!”
Fay retuned with bottle of single malt and gave McIntosh a slug then walked away and left his guest lay on the ground for a half hour or so. The sky wasn’t as beautiful as it had been when he first lay there. It was clouded and the murky silt of white and grey wasn’t pleasing to the eye, but McIntosh was happy to lie there and do what Fay wanted him to do and he was pleased look at something new even if it wasn’t as nice as before.
“Right so. Here we go, Eli.”
“Oh! Oh! Okay, Joe! Ready, Joe!”
“I will, Joe. Watch me! Watch me, Joe! Watch!”
In one hand Joseph Fay took the iron tongs from the fire he had lit that morning and clasped in it was a rod of iron that was molten hot. In his other hand Fay held a carved wooden paw, a basic hand shape that he an iron peg hammered into it. Then, starting with Fay’s left wrist stump, Fay fixed the paw to the stump and let it cool. The heat travelled all the way up McIntosh’s only remaining arm and though he squirmed, he never screamed. He didn’t want to disappoint Fay.
“And be quiet.”
Fay Splashed some whiskey on the joint to cool it and though it didn’t dissipate the heat fully it relieved some of the pain.
“Right. That’s the worst of it. the rest won’t be as bad so just keep quiet and let’s get this over with.”
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey