Fading in and out of the darkness. At times there are faces. Strange men with white masks on covering the faces. What do you call them? You cannot remember. Bright lights, blurring your vision. Distorted sounds. Voices maybe? You cannot tell. Sometimes there is pain. You wish for death. Other times you feel as if you will scream yourself hoarse if the darkness does not end.
What day is it? How long has this been going on? Has anyone missed you? Is there anyone to miss you? Who are you? Do you have a name? Everything is so foggy. You long for the peace of the darkness. The half-awake, half-dead state hurts too much. The pain is not physical anymore. You cannot remember when that stopped. Was it yesterday? When was yesterday?
“Why can’t you just let me die?” You think to yourself as a voice whispers, “Hey, wake up buddy.”
You groan and try to sink back into the comfort of the black death. There, you don’t have to think these confusing thoughts.
“Psssst. Buddy. You have to wake up. They won’t feed you if you don’t.”
Food? What is food? Have you had food before? Seems like you have, but when eludes you. You try to sit up, opening your eyes as you do so. The walls melt into the floor. You feel yourself cascading back into the open arms of oblivion again. Just before you reach the edge, the voice pulls you rudely back to reality.
“Whoa there. Take it slow. Don’t try to open your eyes before you sit up or you’ll pass out.”
With a tired snort, you heed his advice and start to sit up, slowly this time. You get up onto one elbow when the world starts to spin. Breathing slowly, in through your nose and out of your mouth, you wait for the merry-go-round that is your head to stop before proceeding. Resting your noggin onto the palms of your hands, you manage to remain in a sitting position. Your eyes are still firmly closed.
The man’s voice interrupts your muddled thoughts once more, “They are coming with dinner. Better open your eyes.”
You remain as you are, trying desperately to ignore this unwanted solicitor.
“Come on man. You have to hurry. They are almost here.” The man pleads with you.
Begrudgingly, you open your eyes carefully. The walls stay where they are supposed to be this time. You cannot make out your surroundings clearly yet. You don’t really care where you are as you notice a scent that makes your mouth flood with saliva. Your stomach roars to life. Hunger. Food makes that go away. A glimmer of happiness blooms in your mind. You start to smile.
“Don’t do that.” The man hisses conspiratorially.
Hearing his unwelcome voice crushes the flowering happiness in your mind, removing your smile.
“Eat maggot.” A gruff voice barks at the man who is causing you grief.
You almost smile again. Fortunately, you don’t, as a tray of food is shoved into your lap. Every thought, except one, drains from your consciousness. You cannot recall the names of the foods you are eating. They taste exquisite. Their names do not matter. The only thing that matters is getting every speck, every smear, every crumb, every morsel into your mouth. Your stomach cramps as you begin to shove substance into it. You pause until it passes, determined to make it take more. Your hands begin to shake as the need to consume more fills you. Ignoring the pains in your disgruntled tummy, you scarf down everything.
Just as you are licking the plate clean, it is snatched from your now steady hands. During your feasting, your vision has cleared. You can now make out the face of the man before you. It is an average face, attached to a normal body. The man snarls at you before grabbing the plate from the voice who awoke you from your slumber.
You look at your cell mate as the guard walks away and begin to speak. The nervous man quickly shakes his head in negation, fear in his eyes. You are perplexed by this development as he was so chatty a moment ago. A loud noise distracts you from your thoughts. The sound of metal sliding against itself repeats over and over. The doors to your cage fly open.
“On your feet! Don’t make me come down this isle and drag you piss ants out of your cages!” A guard barks.
Uncertain of what is happening, you crawl out of your cage. You see other men doing the same. Some are able to stand without assistance. A few are still lying in their cages. Each man is dressed identically to you, a faded no color coverall with black work boots. You notice that this is not entirely true. One of the inmates is missing his left leg from the knee down. As you look from man to man, you realize that several are missing appendages. Your open curiosity has garnished unwanted attention from one of the guards.
The man is of below average height but built like a mountain. He bulldogs his way to you and punches you squarely in the stomach. Your food threatens to make a second appearance. The walking bundle of muscles leans in and whispers, almost as if you were his lover, “If you let so much of a single drop of vomit out of that worthless mouth of yours, I am going to wrap my hands around your throat and squeeze until I see the light die in your eyes.”
You look into his eyes as he smiles warmly at you. There is death in that smile but there is also a strange sense of comfort. You would die for this man. Why this would be so, is beyond you. All you know for certain is that to displease him would cause you great pain and not physically, so you swallow the bulge in your throat and stand up as straight as you can. Your eyes do not roam the room any longer. You stand and await orders. This is comforting to you. Orders mean happiness. Happiness is pleasant so yes, give me my orders.
Today’s assignment is chopping wood into kindling for the wood burning stoves and the smoke houses. A sense of pride fills you. You cannot remember what a smoke house is used for but hearing the words makes you beam. The group is split into pairs. You are stuck with the man who awoke you. You hate him. There is no clear reason for you to, but you do anyway. He regards you wearily as you grip the ax in your hand tighter and tighter. You imagine how it would feel to bury its head into this asshole’s stomach, feeling his warm blood coating your fingertips.
“I bet it feels like warm silk.” You whisper hoarsely.
Fear and confusion flickers across your cell mate’s eyes. It is only there for a second before it quickly is replaced with cheer.
“You cut and I will place the logs, my friend.” He says with a bright titter in his voice.
The murderous images flee from your mind so fast that you instantly forget that they were ever there.
For hours you chop away at the dwindling pile of logs. The work is satisfying and consistent. Peace fills you. Neither you or your partner talk. Every once in a while, a breeze lifts your sweaty hair out of your face, cooling your hot skin. You take a deep breath, relishing the smell of wood dust and sweat. It is sweet and that feeling of pride fills you once more.
One of the guards has another inmate add to your wood pile. You stop mid chop to watch wheel barrel after wheel barrel of new logs being dumped beside you. Your partner nods at the guard who nods back. This exchange is strange to you but only for a moment. There is work to be done so you have no time for thinking. Besides, you must work hard. It is your duty. Your privilege. Your honor is at stake. Work. Nothing else matters.
Another hour passes with only the steady thud of ax heads breaking through the early afternoon silence. A scream tears through the comforting bliss that is men at work. You and your partner, whom you have started to refer to as “Bob”, look towards the source of the continued screams of agony. One of the men has cut his partners leg off. He stands their looking stupidly at the bloody ax in his hands as if he has no idea where it came from or how he came into possession of it.
Four guards are scrambling to get the injured man on a gurney. One of them scoops up the severed leg and wraps it delicately in white paper before running off with it. The other three manage to drag the screaming man onto the stretcher. A bright spray of blood shoots out of his leg that ends at his knee. This disgusts you but at the same time, please you very much.
You become aware that your groin is throbbing. You look down to find that you have an erection. Since the scene did not arouse you, you find this curious. Bob is intrigued as well. His eyebrows shoot up in a questioning look as he looks down at the sizeable standing ovation you are giving the day. You tug yourself a few times, then once more rather hard, before shrugging and nodding to his. To this he just smiles and tips you a knowing wink before placing the next log to fall beneath your ax.
The sun starts to set behind the trees when your group is finally hanging up your axes for the day. You feel positively radiant. A long day of hard work has done wonders for your body. You feel like a new man. You are led to the showers where each man scrubs down with care. The room is circular and this feels fine as well. Clean, neat and orderly. The smell of soap fills your nostrils. You find it invigorating. Meticulously, you lather, scrub and rinse, taking extra care to clean your hands. After all, a man’s hands say everything about him.
For the next hour, you are allowed to mingle in a common room. The men mostly sit in quiet contemplation. Bob comes to your corner and sits beside you. Neither of you speak. It is a comfortable silence but powerful. The guards come in with the night’s dinner. All of the men are served except you and Bob. A quick flash of anger dancing across your mind. A man works hard, he eats well. That is the way of the world.
Before fury can control you, the same guard who had shared a knowing nod with Bob enters the common room. He is pushing a metal serving cart with two gleaming serving trays on it. He stops before your table and lifts the lids, revealing the feast within.
“For your admirable work today, the Butcher decided to grant you a reward. Let this be a lesson to the rest of you. Work hard and you will be rewarded. Fail to do so and you will be punished.” He scans the room with his eyes. None of the other men can meet his glare. They return to their food and shove it in without tasting it. Each looks ashamed of his day’s work.
Bob nods to the guard who places the two platters of food before you two with care. The smell is intoxicating. From under the skirt of the serving cart, the guard pulls out the main entrée, a leg of lamb, freshly seared with a slight char covering the surface. Your mouth waters in desire. You feel your pants grow tighter once again as your groin tightens. This time you are aroused and you throb with want.
The guard starts to cut slices of meat off and places it on your plates. He smiles as he works, turning the leg with each cut. You start to eat and watch him work. The meat is exquisite, making you moan in pleasure with each bite. Bob is enjoying his meal in the same manner. The guard only smiles brighter and continues to serve up chunk after mouthwatering chunk until nothing is left but bone. Feeling as if you were going to burst if you ate another bite, he clears away the dishes while the other guards force the other inmates into their cages.
Only you and Bob remain in the common room. For a while, you are content to sit in quiet. It has been a glorious day. The name, “The Butcher” floats in and out of your mind. Who is this man? Is he a man? Whomever he is, he has given you much satisfaction this day. The thought of him causes your heart to swell with pride. You yearn to know more about him. Turning to Bob, you ask,” Who is The Butcher?”
Just as you think he will not answer, he says, “He is a great and terrible man. To understand him, you must become him. To become him, means to lose yourself. Are you sure you wish to know?”
Without a second of doubt, you answer, “Absolutely.”
To this, Bob smiles wide. “I had a feeling about you. Get comfortable for this is going to be a long tale.”
Who is The Butcher? Find out more in the next chilling tale……The Butcher: Guardian of Children