Adam winced as another rat crawled across his leg. Like the others, the feet were cold and clammy, sharp nails digging into his skin. It paused on his shin for a few moments before scuttling off again. The skittering footsteps receded into nothing before long, and there was quiet once more. Only Adam’s shallow breaths broke the silence, slow and raspy. His legs were stretched out before him on the hard floor, knees still throbbing with old pain. He leaned back and allowed his arms to sprawl out. Muscles in his arms and legs screamed for air, for space, starved of movement.
A door slammed open, footsteps following soon after. Adam jerked upwards, and immediately cursed his stupidity. The steps were heavy and loud, louder than they had to be. They came closer, closer, before finally settling.
“No more.” Adam said weakly. His throat was dry, the skin inside feeling like it could crack at any moment.
“We have more questions.” The voice was low and gruff.
“I have told you everything!” Adam pleaded. “There is no more, I promise you.”
“Then you will come with us.” With that, the steps started up again, right at his sides. Fabric brushed by his face as the others passed him. To his left, a soft scraping started, followed by a clink of metal. The chain at his ankle fell away, Adam wincing as the raw skin was once more exposed. Thick limbs hooked under each shoulder and hoisted him to his feet. Adam immediately screamed and buckled under their grip. His knees burst into pain instantly, a terrible wracking pain. The bones had not healed, shards digging into his skin and tendons. It had been a few days ago, but it was hard to tell. He could not see the bruising and swelling that followed, but left alone, he could feel blood congealing and oozing from the cracked and shattered skin.
The two men at his sides ignored his yelps and screams, and dragged him unceremoniously along the floor. Adam bowed his head, biting his tongue and swallowing another yell. The gruff voiced man walked ahead, his steps were heavier and quicker than the other two.
“You best not be lying.” He said. “You know what happens to liars.” Adam nodded dumbly, still fighting his pain. It was just a few more steps before they reached the stairs. The movements became rough, jarring his shattered knees once more. This time Adam could not fight the scream, it burst out of his lungs in an agonized wail. The door was opened once more, and light touched Adam’s skin. He could feel it from the warmth, warmth that had been lacking in his prison. His eyes began to itch. It was almost as if they felt the light, and craved to see it once more. But sight was nothing but a memory now, a memory near forgotten after wallowing in the dark and cold.
Adam was steered to the right. He tried to remember the layout of the compound, but the memory was hazy and distant. The pain in his knees had settled somewhat. They still throbbed, but he had become used to the movement. His carriers suddenly hoisted him higher into the air, before throwing him roughly. He landed with a gasp onto a cold, metallic surface. He winced and shuffled, trying to take weight off his legs, when he was kicked in the stomach. Again, and again, until he was rolled onto his back, panting. His eyes tingled. Maybe what little was left of the tear ducts were trying to work, fruitless as it was. This room smelled of sweat and petrol, a sickening combination. Still, it was nothing compared to the musty, moldy smell he had been forced to endure only a few minutes ago. A hum started up on the floor, growing louder and louder, before the floor suddenly moved. Adam’s head jerked up.
“Where… where are you…” Before he could finish his sentence, he broke out in a harsh coughing fit.
“You thirsty?” Adam knew this voice, a slow drawl coming from a mouth of long broken teeth. “You get water. Not now. Later.” A sharp bark of laughter rang out in the truck. Adam forced himself to smile, uneasy as it was. There was quiet for a few minutes, apart from the low drone of the engine.
Adam’s face began to itch again. He scratched with both hands. His skin felt waxy and sticky. It had been at least two weeks, maybe three, since he had washed last. Time was a strange blur with nothing to gauge passage of days. He would be given water and food every so often, but had been a while since that had happened last. The hunger he had grown used to, but thirst was harder to ignore. He brushed the skin around his eyes while scratching and flinched. It was a sharp contrast to the soft and sticky skin of most of his face. It was hard, dry, flaky, and stung at the touch. Adam dropped his hands and sighed. The men with him were muttering to each other, too quiet to pick up above the background whirring of the engine.
A sharp turn sent him sprawling on the ground once more. The truck slowed, stopped. Once more, he was hoisted by the shoulders like a ragdoll. Even without sight, Adam could feel the huge presence of his captors. There were only dim memories of their faces, but their sheer strength was hard to forget. They spun him around and stepped off the back of the truck. Immediately, the smell of brine filled Adam’s nostrils. A lead ball settled firmly in his stomach.
“No.” He thought. “No, no, no, this isn’t happening. This can’t be happening.” But still, he swayed with each step the men took, the floor creaking under their feet.
“He is finished?” This voice Adam had known for a long time. It was soft and reedy, barely audible above the soft breeze.
“He will tell no more.” A voice behind him grunted. “We have done everything.”
“I can see.” The old voice was disdainful. “Well, get it over with. Come back when you’re done.”
“Yes sir.” The sickening feeling in Adam’s gut grew worse. He began to struggle vainly, writhing against the iron grip he was held in. The men holding him gave no indication that they cared about, or even noticed his fight. Instead, he was lowered to the ground, feet now resting on a boardwalk. The wood was moist under his bare feet, but he barely felt it, distracted by the throbbing of his knees. A rope was drawn around his right ankle, then wound tight. A second rope came across his left ankle, once more bound tightly to his leg. The rope was rough, chafing his soft skin.
“Three. Two. One.” At one, two grunts came from either side of Adam. A moment later, two splashes, only a second apart. The bindings on his legs drew taut, threatening to pull him under.
“No, no, nonononono! You’re dreaming, dreaming, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!” Adam was hoisted high again. He sucked in air through his shattered teeth. He braced himself, muscles tightening.
“A dream, a dream, a dream, a dream!” But then the icy waters met his skin, and swallowed him whole.
The sudden shock forced a gasp from him, bubbles of precious air escaping from his lips. Instinctively he craned his head upwards, but there was still nothing but darkness. The last thing he had seen was a bright light, coming close, but now there was nothing but dark. And now the darkness had him.
His arms churned the water, uselessly fighting against the weight of his legs. Adam gasped again, more air floating away from him. The cold water surged into his open mouth, filling his throat with the taste of salt and death. Before long, the chill had deadened his nerves, and his still flailing arms felt like nothing but dead weight. His chest was tightening. Most of the air had escaped from his mouth, and there was nothing but cold brine around him.
Despite the cold, his lungs burned. Instinctively he tried to suck in air, but coughed and spluttered at the new pulse of water.
“The ropes! Untie them, you can still make it!” He reached down, fingers tracing the length of his legs. A surge of pain came through when he touched his knees, but it felt like nothing compared to his lungs. Finally he found the ropes, fumbling blindly with the knot. His fingers were long since numb, and could barely bend, let alone hold a rope. Dread settled in his stomach. But still, desperately, wildly, he tore at the rope. It was thick and woven tightly, and held taut against his frenzied movements. His lungs felt like they were about to burst now, every muscle in his body beginning to scream in pain.
“I can… still make it…”
The thrashing in the water slowed, and then stopped. Bubbles rose lazily to the surface, to burst in the cool night air. The wind gently caressed the water with light sighs. Waves slowly rolled over the bay, dark and glassy in the moonless sky. So dark that one would never see the shadow under the surface, that waved slowly in the cold water.