Savages Part Three

The needle punctured the vein with ease.

He winced as the contents of the syringe drained into his blood stream.

Sometimes he watched when the injection was administered. Wondering what the clear fluid was that was being pumped into his system.

Two injections a day.

One at eight in the morning, the second twelve hours later. You could set your watch by them.

Two hours after the first jab the food would arrive. A small meal, usually consisting of liquid nutrients. All selected for their calorific values and intended to give the maximum nourishment.

He had to be sustained in good health. Occasionally there would be something more substantial but there was never anything that required too much chewing and for that he was grateful.

Especially during the past week or so. His gums had become tender. More often than not, the mere effort of chewing caused them to bleed. What teeth he'd possessed had dropped out some time ago. Simply worked loose. He ran his tongue over the freshest gaps as if to remind himself of where they used to be.

The figures who administered the injections were different from those who brought the food.

They always came in twos to his small room.

Escape, he had decided some time ago, was impossible.

Besides, even if he did manage to get out, where would he go?

They would find him in time. Just as they had done before.

Before...

The memories were hazy. He had trouble focussing on what had gone before. It was as if they were filling him with a drug designed to induce premature Alzheimer's. His memories were confined to events that had taken place within the past few days. He had tried to think about his wife and daughters but their images had faded like those in an antique photograph.

Sometimes he cried when he tried to remember them.

His family. The chase. His capture.

Distant and irretrievable. Like lost words on a computer screen.

The room in which he was imprisoned was fifteen feet square. High ceilinged. Spotlessly clean. He could smell the antiseptic every time he inhaled. There were no windows. He had no need of them. His one remaining eye flickered back and forth in the socket, his gaze occasionally alighting on th meagre contents of the room. A table, a chair. Both constructed from compressed cardboard to prevent him fashioning any tools from them. A metal toilet firmly bolted to the ground and the bed upon which he now lay.

Upon which he lay for most of the day and night when he was conscious.

The restraining straps were loosened twice during every twenty-four hour period and he was allowed to move around the small room as best he could. It helped prevent bedsores.

Always under surveillance. From the two armed men in the room with him and forever by the two close circuit cameras perched high above in two corners of the room.

Something at the back of what remained of his mind told him that the other rooms within the complex were the same.

There were others like him in each of those rooms.

In similar conditions.

He had been responsible for some of them himself before..

Before...

It angered him when he couldn't remember details and now he strained against the straps that held him and tried to rise but it was impossible.

He knew he would not leave this room until they allowed him to.

That day was close, he was sure of it. Every time they came to administer new injections they would stand and gaze at him, sometimes nodding silently. Sometimes shaking their heads. He saw little expression in their eyes. Those who came in suits and those who came in the familiar white, antiseptic garb viewed him with the same interested detachment. The same conviction that told him the time was close.

He could feel it.

Just as he could feel the changes in his own body.

He was aware of them but unable to see them. Since he'd been brought to this small, white, sterile room, he'd been denied the luxury of a mirror. He didn't shave. Had had no need. The rest of his body was swathed in bandages. Barely an inch left uncovered. They only changed the bandages when he was heavily sedated.

Time had lost its meaning. He was unsure of how long he had been in the small room. Even more uncertain of how much more time he would spend inside it. Days and nights were as one to him. They only happened outside. Beyond the walls that contained him and those like him. All he knew was the perpetual glare of fluorescents.

He heard the door open and tried to glance in its direction.

He could hear footsteps but saw nothing until they stepped into his field of vision.

Two of them.

Always two.

Two in white laboratory coats.

Two more at the door dressed in dark uniforms and carrying weapons.

At one time, he would have been able to identify those weapons. Probably even the men who held them. He had worked with them before..

Before...

They freed him from the restraining straps and helped him to his feet.

He felt dizzy and his feet seemed reluctant to obey the messages the remnants of his brain were sending them. Telling them to talk.

They supported him as he stumbled from the room. One on each side of him and the armed men to the rear.

Just in case.

He was aware of his own breathing inside the bandages. It sounded deafening. His one good eye focussed on the corridor along which they led him. There were locked doors on either side.

From behind some he heard screams.

Shouts. Bellows.

Sounds he couldn't or didn't want to identify.

What lay behind those doors had served a purpose at another time. But that time was passed now.

The room they finally deposited him in was in darkness.

He felt strong hands pulling him upright, pushing him against something cold. Those same hands fastened more straps around his wrists and ankles. When that job was completed they began to remove the bandages. Working upwards from his feet they uncovered every square inch of flesh until they reached his neck.

There was a loud sputtering from above him and several bands of fluorescents burst into life. The glare blinded him and he closed his one good eye against it.

It seemed like an eternity before he found the will to open it again.

He wished he hadn't.

The walls of this room were not white. They were glass. Polished, gleaming mirrors.

At one end of it sat several men. Some dressed in suits. Some in just jeans and T-shirts. They all looked on impassively.

He blinked. Studied the watching group then caught a glimpse of his own body, reflected in the many mirrors around him.

The two men nearest him began to remove his facial bandages.

As the last was pulled free he tried to find the voice for a scream but the sound seemed locked deep within him. Perhaps he couldn't scream anymore. Perhaps that was what they wanted.

He looked at his reflection. At the glowing red eye. The furrowed, discoloured skin stretched so tightly across the bones it seemed it must tear. The lank hair hanging as far as his wasted shoulders, despite the fact that his scalp was little more than a shining dome, the bone almost visible through the translucent flesh. He opened his mouth to shriek his horror and revulsion but no sound came forth from within the thin-lipped maw. What remained of his tongue lolled limply from one side of his mouth.

He had seen this image before in various different incarnations. He had helped perfect it before..

Before...

In one fearfully radiant second the realization hit him. Memories flooded back whether they were wanted or not. He recognised one of the men sitting at the far end of the room.

The man was an artist.

A gifted, brilliant artist. His work was known worldwide.

Another man stood beside him and pointed at the figure held prisoner by the restraints.

"What do you think?" he asked. "That's what I want Eddie to look like on the next album cover."

The artist nodded and smiled.

He had always preferred to work, not from sketches, but from real life.

And now, just as in years gone by, he had his model.

© Shaun Hutson 2000