Updated: May 5
When the man on the table opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was an energy saver light bulb dangling from a greasy length of wire about 30 inches above his exposed abdomen. He couldn’t move his arms or legs and had to roll his eyes downward to the point of discomfort to see past his first of several chins. On the table, he began to writhe, attempting to unsuccessfully break free of his bondage. He was naked above the waist, his protruding gut exposed and undulating. He perspired profusely. He could taste the onions from his veal stew in the rivulets of sweat that began to pool and drip down his lips and into his fat, privileged mouth. His panicked eyes impotently scanned the room for a sense of familiarity to relay to his quickly dissolving psyche. Other than the lightbulb, he could see a large set of metal shelves in the northwest corner of his narrow field of vision. On the shelves, rested vague shapes of horror drenched in the colors of mildew, rust, and evil. On the other side of his half- circle of vision he could see only the contours of darkness, merely suggesting the presence of clutter in this dank and unknown place.
This looks like one of the places Carmine Mulhaney used to bring young politicians when they went too far off the script during a speech, he thought to himself, his nerves vibrating with increasing intensity as he tried to recall what he may have done to bring about the wrath of Carmine. Carmine is the Irish- Italian CEO of Sea Salt Realty, LLC. Sea Salt Realty, LLC is the shell corporation that launders all the money Carmine and his army of bureaucrats and uniformed thugs, known to the taxpaying public as cops, collect up and down the Dogwood Coast.
As the sense of familiarity arrived, it provided no comfort the man on the table’s confused, terrified mind. Carmine has no reason to bring me here. I’m no politician! I’m a god damned businessman! The only script I follow is the tax code and I’ve given that fat bastard every penny he thinks he
deserves and then some. His state of advanced fear had given the voice of his thoughts a dialect of primal rage.
Unbeknownst to the man restrained on the table, his raging thoughts pleased the man in the mask standing out of view, behind a panel of two-way glass. The man in the mask was a telepath, and not one of the man-made sorts that had to take pills and intravenous particle transfusions to sustain the ability. He was the real deal; an honest-to-your-God mind reader from birth. Primarily for this reason, he preferred to work alone. The man in the mask was never good at taking orders and only followed enough of his own rules to keep himself alive and out of prison.
It was almost time for the man in the mask to begin his work. His work was always appalling and vicious, but he enjoyed the brutality of his attention to detail. Yes, his work was brutal, but the games he played when his work was finished were enough to make the devil weep with pity for the poor soul strapped to the game board.
The poor soul currently strapped to the game board heard a large-sounding metal door slide open across a concrete floor. His anxious trembling instantly switched to absolute paralysis. The only part of him that moved was his eyes. They had frozen themselves to the dangling light bulb, now blinding the man with incandescent hypnosis. A breeze from the open door had turned the lightbulb into a nerve-racking pendulum, forecasting a nightmarish near future for the fat, rich man with a full calendar of business lunches, campaign fundraisers and rendezvous with underage prostitutes lined up for tomorrow. It was election season, after all.
The man on the table heard the man in the mask’s slow, equidistant footsteps approaching from behind his expensive toupee. The scratching of the masked man’s feet was in direct syncopation with the pendulum sway of the dangling light bulb, giving full sensory arousal to the man on the table’s life-threatening state of pure terror.
The man in the mask did not sync his footsteps with the light bulb intentionally. However, as the man on the table became mentally aware of the phenomenon, so did the man in
the mask. Though unplanned, he took delight in the happy coincidence and chalked it up to the dramatic irony of the cosmos.
The man in the mask’s scraping footsteps finally ceased after what seemed like a thousand years to the man on the table. The important businessman had not been counting footsteps, but the man in the mask who could read minds had, for he had made this short trek numerous times, always with patience. 27 steps. His lucky number.
The man on the table felt the presence of a figure he could not see. A few moments of quaking silence had passed since the last scrape of a footstep when the man on the table heard the low, resonant exhalation of the man in the mask behind him. The man on the table’s panic-induced paralysis ceased and once again his body shifted to violent trembling. “W-w-wh...” He couldn’t finish the first syllable before a hand too big to be human appeared from invisible shadows and placed itself on his mouth, pinning all noise under its weight.
The man in the mask could hear his thoughts, however, and answered the question the man on the table had not been able to ask out loud. “I’m going to make you a better person and give you a chance at redemption in the next life because that is something you have lost the ability to attain in your current life. If you’re waiting for an angel to rescue you, wait no longer, for I am he. It is with great love that I perform my spiritual work upon your flesh today because I cannot provide assistance to those for whom I feel hate. Yes, I hate your flesh, because your flesh propagates the evil lie of the Neo-Man, the “God” man.” The man in the mask’s voice transformed from the cold, rational tone of a computer to the phlegmy warble of a drunken blues singer, “You are no God! You’re nothing but a bureaucratic warlord! You pillage with ballpoint pens and empty gestures!”
“Mrrrrrph!” A familiar noise of carnal exasperation rumbled and seeped through the giant hand on the now-sobbing businessman’s mouth. In a singular, superhuman motion, the man in the mask plunged his thumb and index finger into the other man’s mouth and back out again. Pressed between his frighteningly long but well-maintained fingernails was a small
piece of the other man’s tongue, about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The man on the table began to choke on his own blood.
The loud clanging of a metal latch being released screamed with furious reverb against the dank metal walls of the masked man’s nest of torture. Suddenly, the man on the table and the table itself were standing upright and perfectly straight.
“Tell me, do you taste the evil in your blood?” asked the man in the mask. “The sour poison of a life spent taking everything you can from those you deem weak and undeserving, all the while deluding yourself into a grand sense of nobility and purpose? Your scum-flesh must be potent enough to burn your taste buds to oblivion. Or, perhaps you’ve developed a craving for scum over the years, the way a cannibal is said to become addicted to the taste of human meat. More likely, the taste pleases you, like the shanks of veal from your stew. You are aroused by the consumption of frailty, of exerting your presumed power over the helpless.” Beneath his mask, the man’s face squirmed with disgust and he felt the urge to spit, but could not, so instead, he grunted, “Scum-flesh!”
The man in the mask wrapped both of his enormous hands around the man on the table’s face, pressed his guised visage against it. “You are weakness wrapped in fat and stolen money. You have stepped on the heads of good men, reached your sweaty lips to the suckling teat of the criminal pig of the day. You have lofted your ego to the mantle, extinguished your dignity, forgotten your empathy. Today, you will beg for what you have forgotten.”
That night, the garbled and blood-soaked screams of the important man on the table could be heard neither in the heavens nor anywhere on Earth. However, when the news broke of his death, no one mourned, but all along the Dogwood Coast, crocodiles began to shed their tears at the foot of the money tree.