February 27th, 2006

Erstwhile Concept Art

Get away

Get away get away get away get away get away get away get away get away...

I'm strapped down pretty good here. Ankles, wrists, waist, neck, forehead, all locked in. Restraints made of metal, of course. Can't turn my head, but I can look to my left and see the tools on the table, or to the right where the guy with the hat is standing. Goddamn cowboy. I have no idea what his face must look like. Then I hear the door swing open, the tap running, and I can look left and see the face I will remember for the rest of my life.

The easiest thing to remember is the line. It's a scar, worn down by time to be no more than a crease, running over and around his left eye before curving under his nose, then sliding over his mouth, almost forming a question mark. But I've seen him so many times, I know every other detail by heart. The foggy grey eyes, the bulbous nose, the pale hairless lips curling back into a disgusting sneer. His features seem to shout words he once needed to say to me: You are an animal. Your life is worth far less than mine. He doesn't need to say it any more. It's wired into my brain.

He wears a grey hairpiece that I used to make fun of. "They ran out of normal colours?" I asked. "You wanted something to match your eyes?" I can't say that any more, not since he trained it out of me. Other than that, his wardrobe is utilitarian: lab coat, surgical gloves, facemask. I never understand the facemask. Is he worried he'll contaminate me? No, it's probably the other way around. He doesn't want to breathe the same air until it's been filtered by that piece of cloth.

He picks up a scalpel. A question comes to my mind, one I've never bothered asking before. "Can I have a gag?" His hand pauses, fiddling with the raised blade, the other hand against my chest where he was planning to make the first incision.

Finally he answers with another question. "You'd feel better if you were silenced?"

"Not really, not unless you soaked it with ether. But think of your ears. I scream loud enough, you might end up needing a hearing aid." What the hell am I playing at? Of all the things that I could possibly say, knowing full well what comes next, I start going on about hearing loss? Yet somehow, it works; he puts the scalpel back down and tells me a story.

"When I was younger, perhaps your age, I played at a rather juvenile sport. My friends and I drove out to the airport and parked at the far end of the runway, waiting for the 747 red-eye to London to take off. It's the loudest thing I've ever heard in my life." He glances down my body. "You can probably tell there's some equipment hooked up to you." True; there's wires connected to me, monitoring pulse, blood pressure, all the medical information. "My hearing is already mostly gone, but I'm a proud man. Too proud to start up with miracle ears. So I like to have other ways of being sure my patients are still alive. Thank you for taking an interest, though."

And that's it. He returns to the task at hand. The blade slips through my skin.

Brett woke up, gasping for air, clutching at his chest. Staring wildly, the images burnt into his mind from a thousand nights. Four years it'd been. Something caught his eye: the sillouette of a man sitting in a chair, watching him sleep. The man spoke, his voice deep and unconcerned. "Had that bad dream again, didn't you."

Brett had to latch onto a word, had to get it together. "Nightmare." A few gasps of air, then he spoke again. "It's a nightmare when it's bad enough to wake you up."

The man stood up and walked over to the bed, eyeing the faded sheet with distaste. "Last time I saw you, it was the same dream every night. Still scares you awake every time? Hell of an alarm clock."

"It's not the same every time." Sitting up, Brett reached for the lamp, turned it on. The man was just who he'd expected it to be. "You already know what it's like, Gunman. A minute change. The surgeon gets a little older, or he talks about something different, or..." Or I beg him not to let me scream.

"You've got nothing to worry about," Gunman said. "I'm finding him."

"You're finding him." Brett shook his head, put his feet on the floor, brushed back some hair. Then he grabbed Gunman by the shoulder, hurling him headfirst into the wall. "You are not finding him if you're here! I told you never to come back unless you found him!" Gunman tried to say Brett's name, tried to speak against his anger, but failed to communicate because Brett had him pinned up against the wall and was laying into him like a personal punching bag. "Four years!" Brett was yelling, shoving Gunman's head forward. "Four goddamn years I've never been able to leave here, because of that goddamn surgeon and his cowboy vigilante buddy! Four fucking years!"

He hit Gunman a few times more before he felt his exhaustion return. He slumped back into the bed as Gunman dropped to the floor, not showing the pain, stoic in defeat as in victory. "Get out of here," Brett said, closing his eyes. "Maybe tomorrow you'll get a new lead."

Pushing off his knee, Gunman stood up again, walking back to the chair, ignoring the voice in the back of his head telling him he'd just been bulldozed by a heavyweight champion. "I got something for you." He went to his briefcase and pulled out a brand new sheet, light red, fine fabric, like a flag. A simple sigil for such a desperate fugitive. He spoke to Brett as he took the old sheet away and threw the new one over the already sleeping figure's body. "Something is happening. Don't know if it has to do with you, but the gun's been coming back more and more. I heard one of our maniacs went to the Prime Minister's house and..." He trailed off, knowing Brett was too exhausted to really hear. Oh well. Maybe it would change the course of his terror dreams for once. Gunman slipped quietly through the door, turning to his tormented friend as he stepped away. "Sleep well."