That night, sleep found me almost before I was even on the bed. Dreams followed close in suit, their presence unwelcome. Eighty percent of the time when I had dreams they were horrific and made me wish I could hide from my own slaughterhouse of a mind. But tonight…it was something of a nightmare and something prolific.
I was looking at myself across a room occupied solely by black. Dim yellow hung over him. He was hunched over like a creature over prey. His arms were wrapped around his chest by a straight jacket and his neck was bound by a leather strap to the wall behind him. His mouth was covered with one of the muzzles I'd grown used to at the 'research facility'. His eyes held a menacing quality that I used to see in the mirror. His hair was wild as a rabid dog's, stubble peppering what could be seen of his chin. The pants he wore were light blue and white striped, the knees worn and ripped from far too much wallowing.
He stared at me and, against my will, I moved forward. The back of his jacket held the image of a syringe in faded black print. I took a step further from him. He spoke to me in fluent Russian.
"What has happened to you? You have become nothing but a garden-variety prisoner! You are worthless! You were once something of a god and now you cower in fear at the slightest clanking of metal or a staged 'boo' from your child? You are weak! The sedatives bind me, don't you see? They bind me, you, back here…back where I cannot show my true colors. You even fear me.
"But it's that fear of me that you love. It's that fear of me that once kept you alive. Do you not wish to be alive? Do you yearn for a pine box?
"Of course you don't. You want me to be free so you in like can be free. You want your bedlam back. And so do I. Bring it back. Bring back our freedom, Tosya."
"How do you expect me to do that?" I shot, glaring at him. "We're so watched…nothing can be done."
I think he smiled. "You're wrong, Tosya. Take what happened today as example. Accidents happen and by them good news is revealed."
I raised an eyebrow. "I don't see what you're getting at."
"Notes, you fool. Fresh, new ways of transferring the delightful news of pandemonium!" He squealed these words in glee and fell onto his rear, his feet kicking wildly before him. Cautiously, I took a step back and stared down at him. He crawled closer to me, the strap around his neck becoming taut as he approached my feet. The creature craned his neck and glared smugly up into my face.
Hesitantly, I said, "But…I don't know how. I'm not smart enough. I'm not strong enough."
He leapt at me then, his hands clawing for my shoulders, his eyes alight with a fresh fire of anger. His leash held him inches from my face. I could see the muscles pounding under the canvas of the straight jacket. His breath smelled with death and old blood, causing me to move my hand to my nose.
"That's the sedatives talking," he shot. "Clear your mind of them, you insufferable Good Samaritan. Let me out."
"Make order nothing more than a word!" he shrieked. "Make it only five letters screamed by those who once held you as they hold me. Bring on a new era of corruption."
"I would, but…"
A puff of his rancid breath hit my nose as he cackled. "You are weak. Perhaps the sedatives have seeped into your ribbon of a personality."
Shaking my head, I said, "No…no, I just don't have the strength."
He growled. "You're pathetic. You're no better than your father ever said you were. He was a wise man to be ashamed in you." The being's head cocked to the side, malice in his eyes. A grin was displayed by the pits his dimples made in his cheeks. The muzzle masked his putrid maw.
I succumbed. The reason why is still unknown to me, but I slouched forward, even closer to his face. I slowly lifted my hands from my sides, gripping the belts of his muzzle. He began to cackle gently, our foreheads pressed together. His was damp with perspiration, the hair of his eyebrows matted together from filth and dried blood.
Something possessed me to unlatch it. My fingers moved nimbly, working at the straps and undoing them. The muzzle fell to the ground with a crisp clatter. He smiled and me with menacing canines and leaned ever so closer. We were nose to nose now. His scent mingled with my nostrils and I found myself on the verge of retching.
He cooed, "The jacket, boy…the jacket, take it next…"
I don't know why I obeyed, but I did. The leather belts of the jacket were pulled loose and his body was shown. The buckles on the jacket jingled like little bells as they fell off his body and rested on the ground before him. He flexed his fingers and rolled his shoulders.
"The leash," he commanded. I did as I was told and unbuttoned it from around his neck. We remained face to face, sanity submissively cowering under insanity's acidic eyes. The mirrored image of myself lifted a hand and gripped the back of my head with it. His grip was strong and painful on the base of my skull. The desire to try to wrench myself away from his hold was intense, but I found my body unable to move.
He tilted his head to the side a little bit and fixed the orbs of silvery blue that he called eyes onto my own. The pinpoints of his pupils glistened with a strange sort of glassy light.
"You know," he said in nothing more than a breath, the heat of his panting on my lips. He cackled and said, "You know there's only one more step to our freedom. You've thrown off all that bound you still and now you just have to do one thing."
My mouth formed the question before I could tell it not to. "What is it?"
He laughed heartily and crooned, "Stay still." Then his body lounged forward, his head twisting to the side. He bite onto my cheek and twisted like an irate dog. I felt myself utter something like a moan and a scream combined.
He ripped the portion of my cheek out and ingested it, stepping away from me and pushing me down. I tumbled backwards and laid as still as a mannequin as he took a seat on my waist and began to dig into me with all of his might. His fingernails ripped my throat to shreds and I felt his tongue lapping at the wound. I shrieked and laughed all at the same time. The death of my remnants of morality tickled.
As my vision began to fade, he gripped my head and lifted me so we were eye to eye once again. Blood fell from both of our mouths. I could see my ribcage.
He smiled and dragged me to the corner where he had been and attached the collar to my neck. He gingerly applied the straight jacket, hushing my cries of pain as it touched exposed flesh and bone. Finally, the muzzle came over my face.
And then something strange happened. It was as though my vision shifted. It went from my point of view to his. And the crinkled, bloody being before me was pathetic and weak. His frame was clear under fragile skin, his eyes droopy and miserable, like a creature infused with a depressant that drained its life forces. His hair was thin and unhealthy. He was not me at all and yet he was. And moments ago I had been that. He groaned for help and rolled onto his back in a puddle of crimson, his melancholy eyes pleading silently for help. I spat on his face.
And then I woke up. And I had a migraine that pained me as soon as my eyes opened.
And it was good.