"Hundreds of tiny fangs were tearing through his eyes little by little, bent on burrowing their way to his brain. "
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Swallow. Swallow. Swallow.
Gerard shifted around the mush of bread and sandwich bits that resided in his mouth, his tongue trying to force them to the back of his throat.
He sucked in, straining his neck muscles to perform an action it had done subconsciously from birth. Yet as it had been in the past two hours since lunch had been delivered, his attempts were in vain.
He can't remember forgetting to swallow.
Eventually his resolve diminished, becoming as still and unwilling as his useless throat. He spit out the mush to join a pile of its brethren beside him, from the last hour’s attempt.
He still had a small quarter of sandwich left, and he put it on the corner of the bed, intending to make sure it stayed hidden from the watchful eye of the blackbird.
Gerard did not have to wait much longer after that for a couple to come swooping in.
One of the blackbirds had a naked spray bottle in his hand. It was sky blue at the bottom, and dark blue at it’s nozzle. Gerard thought it might be Lysol.
They approached. Gerard tensed. Once the blackbirds were at his bedside -- one on one side and the other on the opposite -- the one with the bottle lifted it like a trophy that he was proudly displaying.
“Do you know what this is?” the blackbird chirped in a scruff voice.
How the fuck could I know what it is?, Gerard thought bitterly to himself, It’s in an unmarked spray bottle. Of course, Gerard knew that such an answer would be unwise, and so he merely shook his head.
“This bottle is filled with liquefied Bhut Jolokia chili peppers. It is more commonly known as the ghost pepper.” The blackbird explained very matter-of-factly. “It is also the hottest pepper in the entire world, approximately 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.”
”Planning to do some cooking?” was what Gerard caught himself on the verge of saying, in what undoubtedly would have been a snarky tone.
The blackbird who had spoken leaned forward, and Gerard suddenly felt a hand snaking around the back of his head. He lifted his skull and tightened his grip as though to secure it in place. Gerard saw him lifting the bottle, the nozzle being directly aimed at his face.
“Have a taste.” The blackbird said finally before pressing his finger down on it’s trigger and unleashing the liquid inside in the form of tiny droplets.
The smart thing to do at this point would have been to close his eyes, but Gerard comprehended this fact much too slow. The droplets hit his cornea, and the burning sensation was both instant and powerful.
Gerard screamed and blinked furiously at the same time. It felt as though acid had just consumed his eyeballs hole and was burning through them until he had nothing more than empty sockets in their place.
His vision was then blurred, so he could only hear the next spray. The sound caused his heart to give a horrible jolt, and at last he had the right mind to squeeze his eyelids shut.
It was then the second blackbird made his own purpose there clear – he leaned in and used two fingers to pull Gerard’s eyelids back open forcefully. Even though the full blast of the spray had dissipated, the ghostly mist that still lingered was enough to cause a fresh wave of burning.
Desperate to combat the fact that his eyes were on fire, Gerard felt heavy amounts of water begin to pour from the rims of his eyes. He was not sure if they were caused by the body’s natural reaction to spicy things, or if they were tears from the pain and undeniable fear that he was trapped by. Either way, they did not do much to help except to further wet his face.
Hiss. Another spray that sounded like the battle cry of an angry snake. Gerard screamed again, unable to stop himself. Hundreds of tiny fangs were tearing through his eyes little by little, bent on burrowing their way to his brain.
There was that sound again. Gerard felt himself flail on the mattress, his body hopelessly wishing to run. Yet he was held down by two mere, stubby fingers that forced him awake.
They were almost to his brain. They must be at least halfway through his eyeballs. After yet another spray, Gerard could feel as though they were beginning to come in through his nose. The walls of his septum were sparkling with pure agony.
The flowing snot in addition to the tears and spray had turned his face into a lake in which contained one lone, dying fish. A lake of fire and torment.
Gerard did not even notice when they stopped. It did not matter. The pain was glued to his eyes like the sugary glaze on a Krispy Kreme donut. He blinked fervently in order to at least restore his vision, but the blur and darkness was as adamant as the pain. The congestion in his nose made it clear that it was not going anywhere as well.
Gerard moaned helplessly, lost in the depths of his lake of fire.
The pain in his eyes did not wear off as fast as he would have liked. For a while, he thought it may never wear off at all. His eyes boiled for what must have been hours. At the very least, his breathing began to clear, but the walls of his nose still stung.
The click of the door lock was heard after some time. Gerard tensed, knowing it was likely that it was only the healer – the routine from feeder, tormenters, to healer always seemed on an endless loop, never breaking. Still, conditioning had set in. Gerard was nothing more than a dog in one of Pavlov’s experiments, and the sound of the door was the bell.
His vision had not gotten better in the slightest. He stared at his visitor walking through the door like he would through soaked water goggles. It just looked like another one of them, a figure draped in black.
The figure came closer, and Gerard saw them pull out something from what looked to be their shirt pocket. A pen, or some sort of stick like object was held in front of him. They pressed something, and a small light emanated from its bottom tip. The light then found his eyes, and it danced like an interested firefly zooming around his face for a moment. The light died.
The black form bent down and pulled something else out of a bag that Gerard only now noticed. It was of medium size and rectangular, it looked to also be rather thick.
Gerard’s fingers went cold as he felt the object drop into his hands. He groped it like he was not sure that it was real. The cover was made from leather, he knew its sensation well. His fingers caressed a binding that had little protrusions, like discs in a spine. He realized what it was, but none the less was extremely surprised. While it was not something that he had dwelled upon much, Gerard never did think he would ever hold one again.
It was a book.
Questions came bursting forth in his mind, but he was too afraid to ask them. The figure in his room had already begun to turn away, and as he heard the door open once more, the faintest whisper was caught by his ear...
“Happy birthday.”, it said.
The lock clicked.
Gerard looked down at the book, his sight unable to make out more than a dark rectangular shape.
An episode of the Twilight Zone came to mind, where a man found himself the only survivor of an apocalyptic scenario. He had found himself in a library, and being a book lover, relished with joy at all the books he would now have time to read. When he picked one up however, his glasses broke and he could read no more. A classic tale of cruel irony.
Its my birthday.
Gerard processed the thought in his mind, and then ran his hands over the book again. At least they had been decent enough to give him a present.
At that, Gerard laughed. He laughed the laugh of a person gone mad, and then jumped at the sound he could not even begin to identify as his own.
Next chapter: “Can I get something for my lovesick stomach ache?”