Henry woke up in a dark room. His entire body was throbbing, and he felt like his head was the size of a balloon. He reached up and touched it, immediately pulling his hand away from the searing pain caused by his touch. It seemed to require effort just to breathe, let alone sit up, but he slowly pushed himself onto his elbows to inspect where he was.
It was too dark to see, but he was on a hard bed. He could faintly make out the outline of a door in front of the bed, but no windows. There was no breeze, but he was freezing despite the intense heat he felt all over his body.
He tried to remember what had happened. He remembered being at the train station waiting for Monica, and then he remembered seeing Alora. He chased her, trying to question her. And then he saw Alora run into the arms of two men. No, it was Monica. The face was fading from his mind; he couldn’t tell who it was. And then fists and feet; punches and kicks seeming to come from all direction. He couldn’t stand up, but he had to try. Why was he trying so hard? He looked up and saw…
“MONICA!” he screamed, remembering them carry her away from him. He tried to search his memory for what happened next but there was nothing; he just woke up here.
He stood and went to the door, but there was no handle, so he began searching the walls, his hands fumbling in the dark. The walls were some kind of large stone—unevenly cut—and so cold to the touch. He searched up and down, feeling his way to the corner, and then to the next corner. He kicked a tin bucket that was in the corner opposite of the bed, and went around it, continuing to search the walls. It didn’t take long for him to complete the entire perimeter of the room, so he went to the center, hoping to find a light or something hanging from the ceiling, but there was nothing. He was trapped in a room that was smaller than the one he had rented in New York.
He went back to the door—large and metal—and started slamming his fists against it.
“Let me out of here!” he demanded. “You can’t keep me here! You can’t do this!” No response, but he heard a voice on the other side of the door.
“He’s awake,” a female voice said faintly—he could barely hear through the thick door.
“Prep him and bring him down,” a male voice instructed.
He heard keys in the door and stepped back a few steps, unaware of who was there. The door swung open slowly and loudly. The woman who stepped in looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t tell from where. She had brown hair tied in a bun atop her head, and she wore all white; with the light behind her that’s all he could see.
“Who are you people?” Henry questioned, but received no response. “Answer me, dammit! Who are you and where am I? Where’s Monica?”
“Bag his head,” the male voice ordered behind her; Henry couldn’t see him at all. “He’s going to give us trouble.”
A large man came in behind the woman and put a black bag over his head. He could only see glimmers of light coming through the spaces of the threads, and it smelled like sweat. He was having trouble breathing through it because his heartrate immediately sped up.
He felt large hands entwine around his own upper arms, and he began thrashing about. They were dragging him forward, and he tried to stop himself but twisted his ankle. He managed to wrench one arm free and punched at whoever was holding his other arm. He made contact, but at almost the exact moment he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head and his knees gave out. It took a moment for him to regain his equilibrium, and when he did he began shouting again.
“Who are you?” he demanded once again. “Where’s Monica? Monica!” He continued to shout her name, hoping that she would respond from wherever she was, but he heard nothing. “What have you done with her, you bastards?!”
He entered a room; he could tell because suddenly it got very bright ahead of him. He was turned around and they tried to force him to sit down, but he fought them and attempted to run. He felt a sharp pain behind his knees and he fell to the floor.
“Is that really necessary?” a man’s voice asked behind him, but there was no response from his captors.
They lifted him off the ground by his forearms and dragged him backwards. He felt his butt slide over something and then his legs, and finally he was leaned back—rather forcefully—into a laying position on what was a tall bed or a table.
He continued to shout. “Where am I? Who are you? What are you doing to me?” Still, he received no answer.
“Strap him in,” the male voice behind him commanded; he had a surprisingly gentle voice, though it held a strong undertone of authority.
Henry felt a strap go across his chest, and then his thighs. Then he felt straps tie down his wrists and ankles, and finally there was a strap placed across his forehead; they still hadn’t removed the bag, though. He continued to thrash back and forth, despite the fact that he knew it was useless, and he continued to cry out. “MONICA!” Yet he continued to get no answer from her or anyone else.
His heart felt like it would pound out of his chest; he could feel it in his head, his neck, even his hands. He was dripping sweat, and it was rolling into his eyes. The straps were extraordinarily painful on his already-bruised skin, and his sweat was creating an odd mixture of hot and cold as he felt the breeze blow on him.
There was a window; he could hear birds outside, though he couldn’t see any light coming from it, so he tried to scream for help. They lifted the bag slightly over his nose and he breathed in deeply, feeling like he hadn’t tasted fresh air in years. Immediately he felt something forced into his mouth, too big and tied too tightly for him to spit out. He tried to scream around it but only muffles came out; that didn’t stop him from continuing to try, though.
He stopped his attempts to scream when he heard a strange sound. It wasn’t loud, but it was piercing, and it seemed to come from everywhere at once. He tried to look around to see where it was coming from, but the bag—now doubled over his eyes—was too thick for him to make anything out.
“What’s that?” he tried to say, though it was unintelligible even to his own ears. He started screaming as loudly as he could, thrashing about more wildly than ever.
And then he felt something cold and wet on his face. No, it was on his head, but the bag was absorbing a lot of the liquid and spreading it over his face. He couldn’t smell anything coming off of it, so he assumed it was water.
And then searing pain spread all through his body. His eyes clenched shut and he felt all of his muscles tense. It felt like there were needles in his very bones and they were trying to shoot out of all his extremities. His muscles were all clenched so tight that it felt like they were being ripped apart from the inside out, and an involuntary scream escaped his lips. He would’ve stopped if he could, but his chest was clenching and forcing the sound out, along with all of the air in his lungs.
The pain stopped and he felt his body relax. Everything was bright, and his head was throbbing. His whole body felt like jelly, and yet at the same time felt burnt to a cinder. He was gasping for breath, and each inhale was the most bittersweet sensation that he’d ever felt.
Then the pain started again, and he felt his body tense. He couldn’t see anything except an intense white light tinged with red. He couldn’t feel anything except the excruciating pain that was unlike anything he’d ever felt. He couldn’t hear anything except a loud ringing noise that seemed to come from everywhere, from the very inside of his head. He couldn’t have thought even if he wanted to; those sensations consumed his entire world.
And then it stopped again. He gasped for air as if it was the sweetest nectar on the planet. He wasn’t sure that he could move even if he wanted to, and his eyes refused to open.
“Again,” he heard the man behind him command.
Henry tried to scream out to tell him to stop but the pain was too quick, and once it started there was no coherent thought to scream, not even “stop.”
It felt like years or seconds had passed, but finally they began to unstrap him. He tried to move but it was as if his mind and body were two separate entities; he couldn’t even force himself to blink. Everything was still far too bright, and he was glad for the bag. He wasn’t sure what had just happened, and he wasn’t sure why.
He felt himself being lifted, but he couldn’t even feel the hands lifting him. He was sat down, and he could feel the wind against him; they were moving. Moving where; he did not know. Why? He didn’t know. But they were moving.
Thought was difficult and came slowly. His body was completely numb and tingling, and he thought he was drooling, though he couldn’t be sure. He heard voices coming from all directions, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. His head slid forward and he tried to lift it but couldn’t.
The numbness was subsiding, which he knew was a good thing—though he didn’t know why—but it was only to be replaced by a dull pain that seemed to come from inside his very bones. He thought he was supposed to be doing something, but he couldn’t remember what. He knew that it was good that he thought that, though; he almost felt excited about that, though the concept meant nothing to him at the moment.
He was pushed into a dark room—he was in a wheelchair; he just realized that—and sat in the center of the room. It was small and cold and something smelled weird.
“Leave him in there for a couple hours and then put him with the others,” he heard a voice instruct from far behind him. Or maybe it wasn’t that far; he couldn’t tell.
He heard a loud bang behind him as the room went black. He couldn’t figure out what they meant by “others,” and try as he might he just couldn’t force himself to care. He knew that he should be doing something, but he didn’t know what, and he was so very tired.
“You’re a survivor; never forget that,” he remembered someone saying. He didn’t know who, and he didn’t know what they meant. He heard their voice in his head repeating it over and over again. At first, he thought it was his own thoughts, but then he realized that he was remembering something that someone else had said. He could hear their voice, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out who, or when, or why it even mattered.
He couldn’t lift his head, which was lolling on his chest. Now that the numbness was fading he could feel the string of drool falling from his lips onto his chin. He thought about wiping it off, but couldn’t force his hands to move, nor could he figure out why he should even if he could.
He could see the dim shape of a bucket to the side of him tipped over, and on the other side of him he could see the slightly more visible shape of a bed. And in front of him, he saw a corner. He felt his eyes drooping as this dark place grew darker and darker.