Needle in a Haystack
As soon as Eli heard the familiar gravelly voice calling out to him from behind he felt his stomach start to churn and for a horrible second or so he was afraid that he was going to soil himself. He recognized the voice immediately (it haunted his nightmares every single night) and knew that it belonged to the person whose sole purpose in life seemed to be tormenting him at any and every opportunity. For a couple of seconds he considered ignoring him and just making a run for it. He wasn’t that far from home and he was a lot faster than Steven, so chances were good that he would be able to get to his house and lock the door before he got the living shit beaten out of him. Right before he went for it the memory of what had eventually happened to him the last time he’d successfully gotten away ran through his mind and he decided against it. Sure, he’d managed to outrun Steven that time and thought that he was safe but the next day he’d been beaten up twice as much as punishment for trying to escape.
“Hey dicktard, are you deaf or just fucking stupid?” Steven yelled. “I know you aren’t ignoring me, so it has to be one or the other!”
Eli heard a chorus of laughter behind him and was overcome with a feeling a dread when he realized that Steven wasn’t alone. He was always an asshole in general but he was twice as bad when he had an audience to show off in front of. Eli took a deep breath and mouthed a silent prayer that Dallas and Rex weren’t the ones with Steven (as both of them were almost as bad as he was) before he turned around slowly, just wanting to get the inevitable ass kicking he was most likely about to receive over with so he could get on with his day. God seemed to ignore his prayer as when he turned around he saw Dallas and Rex standing with Steven with huge smirks on their faces.
Steven picked on pretty much everybody, but for some reason he enjoyed tormenting Eli the most. He started picking on him when they were in the second grade and it had continued for five long years. During that time Steven had beaten him up more times than Eli could remember, had stolen countless amounts of money from him, demolished several of his personal items, tripped him in the hallway, and forced him to eat part of a urinal cake while everyone else in the restroom that day watched and made fun of him. Needless to say Steven had made Eli’s life a living Hell and there was not a damn thing he could do about it to make him stop torturing him on a daily basis.
“Hey cock knocker, whatcha doing?” Steven asked in a friendly tone that made Eli shiver.
“Nothing.” He answered quietly, wishing that it would be at that exact moment that another country dropped a nuclear bomb on them or aliens from outer space fired a death beam at the planet that destroyed everything on Earth.
“Glad you’re here, you can help us settle an argument we’re having.”
“What kind of argument?” Eli asked nervously.
“I said that it wouldn’t be hard to find a needle in a haystack and Rex and Dallas here disagreed with me. What do you think?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“I…I don’t know!” Rex said in a mocking tone, making Dallas burst into a fit of loud, obnoxious laughter.
“Well, I do know. As a matter of fact I bet these two dumbasses twenty bucks that it isn’t that hard,” Steven explained, “you’re going to help me prove them wrong.”
“How am I going to help?” Eli croaked, barely recognizing his own voice he was so scared that at any given second Steven was going to start using him as his personal punching bag.
“See that haystack over there? Rex threw a needle in it just a little while ago and you’re going to get your scrawny little ass in there and find it.”
“I don’t know, I have to-“
“I’m not asking you, jerkoff, I’m TELLING you. Now get in there and find it before I break my foot off in your ass!” Steven snapped, making Rex and Dallas howl with laughter.
“You’ve got three minutes to find it starting right now.” Dallas announced, consulting the watch on his wrist that he’d stolen from another student days earlier.
“There’s no way I’m going to be able to find it in there!” Eli whined.
“You better hurry up and get in there; you’ve just wasted ten seconds. The clock’s ticking!” Rex snorted.
“Go, or it’s your ass!” Steven threatened.
Eli rushed over to where the pile of hay was waiting for him and started digging through it as quickly as he could. It smelled putrid as a cow or pig had recently taken a shit in it (or Steven may have himself just to add to the fun) and the stench made him gag. He tried to ignore the smell and focus on finding the needle so his ordeal would be over. He started digging faster and faster and began to panic when he still hadn’t come across it a couple of minutes later.
“Two minutes!” Dallas chirped. “You better get the lead out, asshole!”
“He will if he knows what’s good for him.” Steven said, staring daggers in Eli’s direction.
Eli felt his heart pounding in his ear as he continued to search with no success. In his rush he started frantically throwing handfuls of hay over his shoulder and then worried that maybe the needle had been hiding in one of the large clumps that he’d thrown behind him.
“One minute!” Dallas reported.
“Hurry up, you little bitch. It’ll be a real shame if you don’t find it.” Steven shouted.
Eli felt his heart jump up into his throat and had to restrain himself from crying (though he didn’t know why he even bothered as Steven had seen him cry many times before). He grabbed as many handfuls of hay as possible and sifted through them desperately but still the needle refused to make a cameo appearance.
“Thirty seconds!” Dallas stated.
“If you don’t find it Eli I swear to God I’m going to kill you and bury you in that fucking haystack!” Steven growled.
“I’m trying!” Eli replied, grabbing another handful of hay and realizing to his disgust that he’d unearthed a large turd that without a doubt was human in nature.
“You should probably try harder!” Rex laughed before he put coughed up a loogie and spat it in Eli’s direction.
“Ten seconds!” Dallas said with a grin, happy that he was mere moments away from seeing Steven kick the holy living shit out of Eli.
Rex and Dallas counted down backward from ten in unison as if they were watching a space ship launch into orbit, but Eli didn’t really hear them. He kneeled down in the haystack tossing as much hay as possible to the side and praying to anyone that was listening that he would find the needle so he wouldn’t have to suffer Steven’s wraith.
“Time!” Dallas yelled before erupting into a fit of laughter.
“Alright you piece of shit, did you find it or not?” Steven asked, taking a menacing step in Eli’s direction with his hands balled into fists.
“No.” Eli whimpered in a barely audible voice. “Are you sure it’s in there?”
“Of course it’s in there you stupid bastard! You calling us liars? Rex roared, also taking a step forward as if he was going to pounce on Eli as well.
“No, of course not, I’m not saying that,” Eli stuttered, “It’s just that-“
“Just what, cocksucker” Steven demanded, cutting him off.
“I just couldn’t find it!”
“I just couldn’t find it because I’m fucking retarded!” Rex said, once again in a mocking tone.
“I think he’s going to cry! What a pussy!” Dallas said with a laugh.
“You just cost me twenty dollars you son-of-a-bitch!” Steven snarled, his face turning blood red with anger.
“I’m sorry!” Eli said as he took a step back, knowing in the back of his mind that it wasn’t going to do him any good and that he was on the verge of having his ass thoroughly kicked.
“I’m not!” Steven replied happily before he reached over and punched him in the face as hard as he could.
Eli fell back on the ground seeing stars, and before he knew what was happening Steven kicked him hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He followed it up with an even stronger kick to the side of his head that nearly rendered him unconscious. As he lay there wishing that he’d been lucky enough to have been knocked out cold he braced for the next volley of blows and kicks while Rex and Dallas laughed and urged Steven on.
“You let me down you little bitch, so you can’t say you don’t deserve this!” Steven spat as he straddled him, pinning him down so he couldn’t escape.
He closed his eyes and tried to prepare himself for what was about to happen. Steven pummeled him with a series of punches to the face, each one a little harder than the one before it. It was around the seventh or eighth blow that he felt his nose shatter and after the tenth one that one of his front teeth broke in half and he tasted blood.
He’s going to kill me this time and there’s nothing I can do about it. He’s really going to beat me to death and no one is going to stop him. Eli thought to himself.
The brutal beating continued and right before he was lucky enough to black out Eli heard Dallas shouting for Steven to stop. He didn’t know if he actually felt bad about the whole thing or if he was worried that he would be convicted as an accessory to murder if Eli died but he did his best to make Steven stop verbally before he actually grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to pull him away.
Steven responded by elbowing him hard in the face, knocking him backward to the ground. He hit the back of his head hard on the sidewalk and joined Eli in unconsciousness. Rex just stood there looking on in terror, scared to death to say or do anything because he didn’t want to become the target of Steven’s rage. After backing away slowly he turned to run away and was struck right between the eyes with a tire iron by the skinny man that had snuck up behind him, knocking him out cold as well.
Steven got off of Eli and spat on him. He was so engulfed with rage that he didn’t notice the man was standing behind him. He blasted Steven in the back of the head with the tire iron and made him fall forward, landing on top of Eli’s prone body. He was merely dazed and attempted to get back up so the man struck him several more times until he collapsed in a heap and stopped moving.
Even though the man was a scrawny, skinny guy with very little muscle definition he was surprisingly strong so he didn’t have much difficulty dragging Steven’s limp body to his Dodge Omni. He wasn’t too concerned about someone seeing him pulling an unconscious middle school student down the sidewalk toward his car in broad daylight since it was a pretty dead section of town with hardly any traffic or pedestrians on it. Still, he moved as quickly as possible just to be on the safe side. You never knew when a jogger or someone walking his or her dog might pop up at the worst possible time, and the last thing he wanted to do was to kill an innocent person who didn’t’ deserve it. Steven, on the other hand, wasn’t innocent and deserved everything that was going to happen to him.
After cramming Steven in the backseat he looked over at Eli and considered calling an ambulance for him since he looked like he was in pretty bad shape. He thought it over for a bit and decided against it, telling himself that they could trace the call back to his cell phone and he didn’t want to take the slightest chance that he could be possibly be connected to what was about to happen to Steven. He did a quick check to make sure that Eli was at least breathing before he hopped behind the wheel of his Omni and sped away, telling himself that someone would find him sooner or later and would take him to the hospital.
Steven woke up some time later with a splitting headache. He didn’t know where he was since the room he was in was pitch dark and instantly he started to feel scared (he’d been afraid of the dark ever since he was a little kid and never grew out of it). He tried to get up out of the chair that he was sitting in and discovered to his horror that someone had strapped him to it with several thick leather restraints. As he felt the panic wash over him he started screaming for help a few seconds before the lights flicked on, momentarily blinding him with their brightness.
“You’re wasting your time. Trust me, no one can hear you.” The man standing across the room from him said in a matter-of-fact-tone.
“What is all this? Where am I?” Steven asked, trying his best to hide the fact that he was terrified.
“I saw what you did to the other young man. It wasn’t right. I don’t like bullies.”
“I wasn’t bullying him, I was just messing with him! He likes it!”
“I don’t think that he would agree with you. It didn’t look like he was having fun or enjoying it to me.”
“Who gives a rat’s ass? What’s it to you anyway? Who are you and why do you give a shit about what I do to Eli?”
“It’s not important who I am or why I care. What is important is that what you were doing to him was wrong and I’m here to make sure that you are properly punished for you actions.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? What punishment? You gonna spank me? I bet you’d like that wouldn’t you? You’d probably get a boner while you were doing it wouldn’t you, you fucking perv?”
“It’s easier if I just show you.” The man sighed, ignoring Steven’s insults as he walked across the room toward a curtained area.
He’s not that big, I could take him. Steven thought as he looked on. He’s just a scrawny nerd with Coke bottle glasses and a pizza face. I’ve kicked the shit out of guys like him my entire life.
The man pulled the curtain back and made his way back toward Steven’s direction. The chair that he was strapped to had wheels on it and the man got behind him and started pushing him toward the curtain.
“What are you doing?” Steven demanded, trying to sound tough and failing miserably.
“You behaved inappropriately toward the other young man. You left him beaten and battered in a pool of his own blood. I’m going to make sure that you get what you deserve for your actions.”
“You’re crazy, man. Fucking batshit, out of your mind crazy!”
“Perhaps. I’ve been told that many times before, sometimes even from medical professionals. I should be inclined to believe it but I don’t. I like to think of myself as being enlightened, not insane.”
The man pushed him up to the curtain and stopped. He motioned for Steven to look down and when he did he wished that he hadn’t.
There was a drop off in front of him, and he could see that several feet down at the bottom of it was a huge pile of needles. There were thousands of them and when he saw them he whimpered because along with being afraid of the dark he also had an ungodly phobia of needles. Just looking at them made him sweat and the very thought of them penetrating his skin made him want to cry like a little baby.
“What…what are those for, man?” he stammered in a shaky voice, fighting the urge to throw up everywhere.
“They’re for you my friend! All of them are just for you!”
“What? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s simple. I saw you force the other boy to try and find a needle in a haystack, so you get to do something similar.”
“What do I get to do?”
“I’ve hidden a piece of hay in the stack of needles down there and you have to find it. You find it and I’ll let you go free. You don’t find it and well, let’s just hope that you find it.”
“No! You can’t do this! It isn’t fair!” Steven yelled.
“Sure it is. It’s pretty much the same thing you made your victim do, only a tad bit different. It’s completely fair.” The man replied, undoing the straps on the chair that held Steven in place.
“You can’t do this to me! Please! Just stop! I’ll do anything!”
“You have three minutes to find it. I believe that was the time limit you allocated for the other young man, correct?”
“I’ll leave him alone! I won’t ever go near him again! Just don’t make me do this! Please! I’m begging you!”
“Now you know how he feels every time you torment him, don’t you? That’s good, but it doesn’t take back all of the pain and suffering he’s had to endure because of you.”
“It’s too late to be sorry now.” The man scowled. “Your time starts as soon as you make contact with the pile down there.”
With that the man undid the last strap and tilted the chair forward. Steven screamed all the way down as he fell and as a result his tongue and the inside of his mouth were punctured by countless needles as he landed in the stack headfirst with this mouth wide open.
“Two minutes and fifty seconds to go, you better get a move on!” the man said, but Steven didn’t hear him over the sound of his own screams as he dug through the pile, feeling the tip of each and every needle as it stuck into his flesh.