Blake woke to darkness and pain. So much pain. It radiated out from his center, that burning heat, so agonizing he felt as if he were on fire. But why didn’t he smell the roasting flesh? Why didn’t he hear the sizzling, taste the char?
“Awake, I see. Well, why don’t you say hello to your friends?” Light returned, agonizing and bright, and Blake realized he’d been blindfolded. Realized he was still gagged. Realized his hands and ankles were still bound.
He glared, squinting in the too-bright light, hoping his eyes didn’t water from the pain. But he was too angry now to really feel it. Because he was glaring up into the blinking eye of a cheap video camera, glaring up at the hooded face of someone utterly unfamiliar.
“Now now, don’t be like that. But it does seem like maybe that wasn’t enough. Maybe it’s not as potent as he said it’d be.” And Blake felt something sharp jab into his chest. And he realized he was shirtless. And he realized it was a needle.
And then he realized that the pain was still there. Because it got worse.
He wanted to scream, wanted it so so badly. He wanted to just shriek, to let the sound carry away some of the pain. Blake realized that was why people in pain always screamed: because by releasing the sound, they transferred some of the agony to someone else. Even if it was only a miniscule amount, it was worth it.
But he was proud, and he was stubborn, and he was no stranger to fire. No stranger to pain in his chest, to the burning throb that spread out from his heart like a plague. No stranger to the way his limbs shook now, the warning signs of an impending attack.
And he was gagged, anyhow.
After a moment, breathing became difficult as whatever toxin they’d poured into his body worked through his bloodstream. It felt like something was pressing down on his chest. His heart beat unevenly, his vision twitched, went dark, couldn’t focus properly.
He didn’t realize until after it was pulled away that the metal pressed momentarily to his forehead had been a thermometer. “103. What do you think? I bet your friends are watching right now, watching you scream and cry and beg. So why don’t we give them a little show?”
Blake did scream – he would have begged too, if he hadn’t been gagged – when he saw another needle. This time he didn’t feel it stab into him, but he felt the liquid as it was injected. It burned like acid, a poison filling his veins with death. He screamed into the gag, biting down on it as he threw his head back. Blake didn’t care that he was shirtless, that he was covered in sweat and crying. He didn’t care, would never care again, if only they’d make the pain stop.
This time, the man laughed. Blake was barely conscious enough to understand it, but somehow he did. When he tried to look, he saw a face peering back at him, but it was all wrong, the eyes in the wrong places and the features warped. The drugs, he knew, were playing through him, destroying one part of his body then another. It seemed they’d reached his mind.
Blake found that he didn’t care. If only they could deaden the pain-receptors first, he’d never care. But they didn’t. They just set every inch of him burning, as if a thousand red-hot knives had been stabbed into his flesh all at once. He screamed again.
“One… Five… Know… Lethal?”
Blake collapsed, sobbing, and barely felt as the gag was removed from between his teeth. They chattered without it, the fire replaced by ice, those daggers now shards of it. He curled into himself as soon as his hands were unbound, wrapping his arms around himself and shivering and shivering like he’d never stop.
The fit took him the, bursting through him on an explosion of much-craved warmth. Even this familiar pain was better than that new agony. Blake thrashed with it, unable to find the strength or the desire to control himself. It felt like an eternity between one breath and another, an eternity of burning pain in his lungs, and eternity of broken, stuttering heartbeats.
As soon as he stopped shaking the ice returned, stronger even then before, and the small, lucid part of Blake’s mind knew they must have injected him again. That part also knew that he was going to die, but it chose not to tell the rest of him.
When a hand touched his arm, it was so blessedly blessedly warm that Blake seized it, holding it to his bare chest with a force he hadn’t known he possessed. A chorus of laughter sounded above him, and he opened bleary eyes to try to find the crowd he knew must be there.
But his eyes were too blurry, his sight all but gone, and the harder he tried to see the stronger the pain became. So Blake stopped trying, and simply enjoyed the warmth of that hand as if brushed across his chest, as if trailed down his ribs, cupped against his cheek, ran through his hair. As it drifted down his shoulder, and his arm, and onto his stomach, slowly falling lower and lower and lower.
Blake closed his tired eyes and slept in the cold darkness, accompanied by the throbbing beats of his broken heart and the laughter of the unseen crowd.