Friday, January 1, 2010

Hopeless 2 Outtake

This snippet is an "outtake" of Hopeless Part 2. It's a bit of story that I wanted to work into the main narrative, but I just couldn't find a place for it. I think it illustrates a little more the kind of man Dr. Cresh is (as if he needed any more illustration), showing how in his mind, other men exist only as clay that he can reshape at his whim. Sometimes he even convinces himself that what he does is for his victim's own good. I couldn't find a way to fit this scene into the story, so here it is as a standalone. You probably want to read Hopeless 2 before reading this.

Hopeless is standing in a room he has never been in before, a large, two-story space. The bottom half is taken up by a fishtank, the kind you would find at an aquarium with a thick glass wall on one side and steps leading up to the top, where there is a platform at the upper edge of the pool. He is being dragged along on a tour of Dr. Cresh's compound with the doctor, Pete, and three clients.

The tank was large, though it was hard to see exactly how large from where we were standing. The view through the glass wall was dim and showed a view of mostly water with rocks and plants and such sprinkled around on the floor. Refraction distorted the image, making the rocks seem like boulders, the plants like trees. Bright orange and black and white fish swam in lazy circles. It seemed like a lot of space to devote to a fish tank.

Then, off in the distance, I saw a much larger fish flash through the gloom. The thing must have been the size of a shark, its pale skin shining in the dark water. I only caught the one glimpse before it vanished again, but that one glimpse was enough to call up in my mind all sorts of primal fears about large, toothy creatures lurking in inky black water. I wondered why the smaller fish didn't seem more scared of the thing, then figured maybe they were. For all I knew, they were acting terrified: what did I know how fish showed fear? The shark-thing never came close enough to the window for us to get a good look at it.

I still wasn't sure why I was being brought along on this tour, but now I had an awful thought: perhaps I was bait. An image flashed through my mind of Pete pushing me into the tank, leaving me to flounder in the water, splashing my arm-stumps around, trying to keep my head above water while the crowd of observers placed bets on how long I would last and whether the creature would get me before or after I drowned.

I resolutely pushed the thought out of my head and kept my eyes down.

Dr. Cresh led us up a set of stairs next and we came out on a landing that overlooked the tank. The tank was even larger than I had supposed, curving around the central platform that we were standing on. From our perspective, we had a view down into the whole thing. I immediately started looking for the shark-thing, keeping my head down but darting my eyes all over in search of it.

It turns out I needn't have bothered. Pete put his hand down into the pool and clanged some kind of bell. A few moments later, the pale shape came swimming up from the bottom and broke through the surface.

It was a man.

"Come on out, Finn", Pete said. "Let the gentlemen get a look at you."

Finn looked us over from down in the water, his eyes flitting from one to the next. I have no idea what he might of thought of the scene: Dr. Cresh in his suit, Pete and three other men dressed in unremarkable clothing, and me, naked, armless and dickless, with a chain wrapped around my neck connecting me to Pete's hand. It couldn't have been that unusual a sight for him, because he showed no sign of surprise. He just lifted his body - naked like mine - out of the water onto the platform. He didn't stand up, though, and it was easy to see why.

His legs had been fused together.

He held them out where we could see them. The doctor started talking, but I didn't pay much attention to the words at first. I was too distracted by the sight of a single leg where there should have been a pair of them.

His double-size single leg extended down from his pelvis, bending at his paired knee, flexing at the conjoined ankle, and ending in a fan of toes that looked halfway like a flipper. His toes had been stretched out to the sides, it seemed, and the webbing of skin between them had been enhanced. He had remarkable control over them, showing the tour group how he could flex and twist the skin of his flipper into all kinds of shapes. I noticed he still had a perfectly normal looking dick, but his balls, if they were there, must have been tucked away inside.

"... three titanium rods in his bones," he was saying when I tuned in again. "They connect his legs together at the knees, the ankles, and the tarsals, just under the base of his big toes. The skin was opened at the junction line and brought together all along the seam. Some additional tissue had to be encouraged to grow to fill in the spaces, muscle and fat and such. It took a number of surgeries and a long healing time, but the results are exactly what we had hoped for. Finn is truly a mer-man."

Repellent as the result was, I had to admit the work was top quality. There was only the thinnest of scars along the seam where Finn's legs used to come apart. The muscle and tissue underneath looked solid and healthy. When he flexed and bent his leg, it was with smooth, fluid motions, as if nature had intended him to be built the way he was.

"Tell me, Finn, how do you like what Dr. Cresh did for you?" one of the onlookers asked, probing at the seam along Finn's upper thigh with his finger.

"It's fine," Finn replied, but his voice was flat. "This is what I wanted."

Pete took over. "You might remember Finn from the Olympics about twelve years back, though he went by a different name then. He was the star of the show, took home six medals, four golds and two silvers. For a couple of weeks, the media couldn't get enough of him. He got all kind of endorsements, and the money started rolling in, and Finn upgraded his lifestyle to match."

Finn just stared into the water of the pool.

"Then, like always happens, they dropped him for the next hot story. The money train petered out and Finn found himself stretched a little thin."

"I think we can spare our guests the sad details," Dr. Cresh gently chided. "Suffice to say that after a bit of soul-searching, Finn realized that all he really wanted to do was swim. How did you say it in that CNN interview, Finn?"

Finn never raised his eyes from the water. "I feel more at home in the water than out of it," he said in that dead-sounding voice.

"Precisely. All I did was help him to achieve his potential to the fullest."

The guests finished examining Dr. Cresh's surgical work. "How about a demonstration, Finn. Let's show them a speed run around the pool."

Finn slipped noiselessly into the water, sank down to the bottom, then back up again. He took a deep breath and waited, poised, just below the surface. Pete reached in and clanged the bell and Finn took off like a rocket. I couldn't believe how fast he could go. He kept his right side a hair's width away from the wall as he shot around the outer edge of the pool. In less than half a minute, he had returned to his starting point.

"Just over twenty-four and a half seconds," Pete said.

"Not bad, Finn," Dr. Cresh said. "Not record time, certainly, but still an impressive performance."

They took Finn through a series of tricks, as if he were a trained dolphin at Sea World. I wondered, watching him, exactly how voluntary his presence here was. He didn't seem to be like me or the others back in the cell, captured and held completely against our will, and yet being compelled to perform on command was clearly not something he enjoyed. I finally decided, while we watched him hold his breath for five long minutes, that the most likely explanation was that he truly did love his watery life. Most of the time he probably got to swim alone with his thoughts, just the way he liked it. Occasional interruptions like this were just something he had to put up with.

When Finn finally popped his head up again, his lungs heaving, it was to a sprinkling of applause.

"Tell me, doctor," one of the clients asked, "is he available for... other services?"

"Indeed," the doctor replied. "Although Finn is not like the rest of the animals in the stable. They have been thoroughly broken and tamed, and pose no threat to a client's safety." He said this without even looking at me, as if I weren't there.

"Finn, on the other hand, is still a creature of the wild who can only be taken on his own terms, in his own environment. There have been several guests who have ventured into the pool to sport with him, right Finn?"

Finn nodded, arms and leg working slowly and smoothly while he treaded water.

"Two of them thought they could master him even with the advantages he held. Their aim, I believe, was to force Finn to submit to anal intercourse. Neither of them succeeded. One never even laid hands on him and finally gave up. The other did manage to catch him and the two of them wrestled for a while before Finn's superior lung capacity gave him the victory. It was a near thing for the client - fortunately for him, Pete and Aaron were able to drag him out of the pool, get the water out of his lungs, and restart his breathing before it was too late. Of course, he knew the risks going in.

"Finn can be more amenable to other forms of play, but only if he's in the right mood. For instance, though he self-identifies as straight, he does occasionally allow himself to be orally serviced. He cannot be forced, though, only coaxed. More often he enjoys taking visitors for a swim around his pool, sharing his world with them, but again, what he is willing to do depends on the mood he is in."

There was a short silence then, disturbed only by the sound of the water lapping against the platform.

"Thank you, Finn, you may go," Dr. Cresh said.

Finn ducked his head down with barely a ripple and disappeared off to one side.

"There are air hoses located in several places at the bottom" the doctor said. "They allow him to stay under for as long as he likes. After being put on display like this, he usually likes to stay out of sight for a while. He's a very shy creature who likes his solitude."

We traipsed back down the stairs to continue our tour.

Hopeless 2

Disclaimer... The following story is a purely fictional account. Any relationship to any real person living or dead is coincidental. The narrative contains non-consensual gay sex, torture, and death. It is intended for mature readers who wish to view such material, and for whom it is legal to do so. The author in no way condones or promotes such acts in real life.

Copyright (c) 2010 by POW. For spam prevention, an animal name has been added to the author's e-mail address. Remove the animal name to get the actual address: POWauthor zebra at yahoo dot com. This story may be freely copied and distributed so long as it is copied in its entirety, unchanged, including the author credit information and disclaimer. Other POW stories are available at The author welcomes feedback.

Hopeless, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part story. If you haven't read part 1, you can find it at

Chapter 13

A long time passed then, when I had no idea what was going on around me. I think what happened is that after so much trauma to my body, my mind just decided to shut itself off. I had been put into an impossible situation, captured by a horrific sadist, forced to endure agonizing torture and, worse, forced to take part in that torture, cutting parts of my own body away. It was too much to cope with, so my mind just... went someplace else.

I can't describe what I felt during that time because I have no clear memories of it. I was aware, to a certain extent, of what was going on. I could feel hunger, for instance, or cold, or the need to roll over. I think I even spoke with the people around me. But none of it registered on my consciousness. I was drifting off somewhere, far away from the horror of my mutilated body. I know time must have passed, days or weeks or maybe even months, but I can't remember any details since that awful day when Dr. Cresh cut off my dick. The last thing I clearly remember is him causing me some unspeakable kind of pain in my cock, but I can't recall exactly how he was hurting me.

I guess the best way to describe what I went through is that it was like taking a long road trip at night on an empty highway. You're driving along, listening to your music, watching the lines on the road roll past you in the gleam of your headlights. Suddenly, you're at your exit, and you realize that you have no memory of the last fifty miles. You know you must have driven them, but you can't remember doing it. That's what it felt like.

I don't know what made me finally snap out of it. My first memory of "waking up" is of sitting on the floor in a mid-sized room. Everything was greyish-white, from the painted concrete floor and walls to the drop-tile ceiling studded with glaring fluorescent bulbs. It was almost totally bare - just floor, walls, and ceiling. There were a few pads and blankets strewn around, and off at the far end there were three holes in the floor with some plumbing fixtures near them. There was a single doorway, blocked by steel bars. It was all very clinical-looking but spartan, like a cross between hospital and a prison cell. There were other people in the room, but I didn't focus on them at first.

I was leaning against one of the walls, slumped down, my jaw slack, my eyes staring unfocused in front of me. I realized that there was a thin trail of drool running down from my lower lip. I went to wipe it away and was thrown off balance when my arm didn't swing with the same weight I was expecting it to. It took me a second to realize why: my arm wasn't there.

I looked at the stump and saw what was left of my right arm: nothing from a point about a third of the way down from my shoulder to where my elbow used to be. Suddenly, the full terror of what I had gone through came rushing back all at once. I went to cry out, but some instinct caused me to stifle the sound. I held myself in check while I explored the damage to the rest of my body. I had no left arm; it had been cut off at the same point as its mate. My teeth were gone. I explored the space left behind with my tongue and found only gums, which had been molded to form a round-ish hole at the front of my mouth, large enough that I could stick my tongue out even with my jaws clenched shut.

I looked down. There were marks across my chest, scars left behind by a branding iron. From my perspective, the letters they formed were upside-down, but I knew what they spelled - "HOPELESS". My new name, as bestowed on my by the doctor. I remembered there were matching letters across my back.

Worst of all, my dick was completely gone. All that was left of it was a tiny stump. Seeing it, I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

It was like living the horror all over again. As my memories came flooding back, I remembered each of the incidents where I had lost each of the missing parts of me, each of the surgeries I had been forced to endure. In a panic, I took a quick inventory, to see if Dr. Cresh had made any other "modifications" to me while I was out of it. There didn't seem to be anything else missing. I still had my eyes and my ears and my tongue and my feet. Small mercies.

I struggled to get to my feet while I looked around the room. Standing up is hard to do when you have no arms, and yet my body seemed to know how to do it. That was my first clue that a lot of time had passed. The second was the reaction of the figures that were in the room with me.

"Hey, look. It moves!" drawled a smug-sounding voice. Actually, the "v" in "moves" came out more like a "wh" sound, and the "z" sound was totally missing, but I was able to understand with no trouble. I recognized the voice, but couldn't put a name to it. Faces began to turn my way. I finished standing up and said, utterly stupidly, I know, but all of this was taking me by surprise, "where am I?"

"Shit! You fuckwit, don't say that!" Hit, you huckwit, don't hay that. They all began to rise and come toward me. There were six of them, and like me, none of them had arms. Or clothes. It was freakish to see this parade of naked deformities coming towards me, and my heart sank as I realized I looked just the same as them. As they came closer, I could see that their mouths, like mine, had been de-toothed and reshaped, and they all had their names branded across their chests. Too late, that reminded me of the list of forbidden words, one of which I had just spoken.

"Hey, calm down, guys, look, he didn't know what he was saying." This from another voice, calmer. It came from someone whose real name I would never know, but who was now called "USELESS".

"You think the boys gonna care why he said it? Or they just gonna come in here and start zappin'?" The owner of the drawling voice shoved his way to the front, the word "SHITHEAD" scarred into his skin. He pushed his way right up to my face and snarled at me.

"One more time, and you'll get your sorry ass pounded so bad you'll wish they had gotten to you first, you unnerstand?"

Rage and fear boiled in my blood, but "Shithead" stood three inches taller than me and outweighed me easily. He had huge muscles bulging out all over his body. Fear won out over rage, so instead of taking him on, I just nodded. He made a move as if to slam his knee into my crotch. I flinched, but he pulled it at the last second. He gave me one long, last look, then turned around and walked away, moving carefully, as if he was favoring an old injury. One of the others turned and left, too, but the rest stayed there, all looking at me. It made me self-conscious.

"What are you looking at?" I snarled at them. These guys were all either the same size or smaller than me, so I didn't feel quite as intimidated. Since they had all just seen me humiliated, it seemed like a good time to start showing them I wasn't a total pussy.

"You're back, aren't you?" the one marked "Useless" asked. "Don't answer for now, just nod. You want to get into the habit of avoiding the forbidden words before you start saying much."

I swallowed my anger and tried to calm down. There were four of these... creatures standing around me. Their heads were shaved, which, combined with their deformities, made them all look almost identical. The only one that stood out was the one marked "TOILET" - he had black skin. The others could have been clones.

"You know you've been out of it for weeks?" Useless said. "Months maybe. It's hard to be sure. They don't give us clocks in here."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You've been just sitting there, staring. Whenever the boys would come in, you'd cooperate with them, but it was obvious you weren't really there. You were like someone's dad's uncle when he was in the nursing home. Alzheimer's. You could carry on a conversation with him, but two minutes later, you could have the same conversation all over again. He didn't remember a thing, just like you. Looks like you're back now, though."

"Yeah, why'd you wake up?" a nasal voice asked. It was the one marked "HELPLESS", a name remarkably similar to my own. I wondered if he was a relatively recent arrival - perhaps Dr. Cresh was running through a theme with his naming ideas?

I didn't know how to answer that question, so I didn't. "Who are you guys?"

"Captives," said Useless. "Same as you. Someone guesses you met the doctor, answered some questions for him, then found yourself trapped when he learned that he could remove you from your former life without causing too much of a fuss."

I thought back to how the doctor had made the world think I had killed my sister and her husband, then blown myself up in their house. That seemed like a lot of fuss to me, but I guess the world outside wasn't missing me enough to ask questions. "Yeah, that's pretty much what happened."

"No doubt."

"So what happens now?" I asked.

"What do you mean?" Helpless chirped. His voice was really annoying, high-pitched and whiny-sounding. "This is what happens. We sit here, bored out of our skulls, 'til the boys come to take us out to get fucked."

"The boys? You mean Dr. Cresh's helpers?"

"Yeah," Toilet said. "You know... big guys, nasty tempers?"

I remembered them, all right.

Useless said "We're what Dr. Cresh calls his 'stable'. He rents us out to his paying customers. The rest of the time, we sit here and wait until we get called again. The boys feed us twice a day, bathe us every week or so, more if we need it, and that's about it. If you're looking for intellectual stimulation, you won't find much here."

I looked over at the only one who hadn't spoken yet, the one labeled "WORTHLESS". He was rocking back and forth on his feet, not really looking at anything and making a soft humming noise through his nose.

"So what do these customers do?" I asked.

That caused a flurry of remarks. Helpless let out a hoot of laughter, loud enough to attract Worthless's attention for a few seconds before he drifted off back into his haze. Shithead glared at us over the shoulder of his buddy "DOGFUCKER" but didn't come over.

"Short answer? Whatever they want," said Useless when the noise had died down. "Long answer... don't know that we want to get into that. We don't usually talk about what happens on a date."

A date? "Have..." I caught myself. "Has this one been on any... dates?" Images of sick perverts running their filthy hands over my body while I was too zoned out to do anything about it danced through my brain and brought bile to my throat.

"Not yet," said Helpless. "We think he's been waiting for you to wake up."

At that bit of news, I found myself longing to find a way to escape back into my head again, but I couldn't think of a way to make it happen. How do you induce your own coma? My eyes wandered over to where Shithead was standing with Dogfucker. I didn't want him to notice me looking at him - he'd probably erupt again, but I wanted to get an idea of what I might be up against some time. Shithead's muscles were truly massive, but there was something odd about the way he held himself, standing carefully, not making any sudden moves.

"What's he so grumpy about?" I asked, nodding in Shithead's direction.

Useless answered. "That's just the way he is. The main thing you want to remember is not to use the forbidden words. Dr. Cresh has cameras and microphones in here..." - he gestured to the ceiling - "... and he or one of the boys could be listening at any time. If they catch you using one of the words, they won't just punish you, they'll punish you along with one or more of the rest of us, maybe even all of us. Shithead doesn't want to play 'taser blowjob' for your screwup."

I got it. "See?" he went on. "It's the doctor's way of making us enforce his rules for him."

I barely heard him - my attention had been drawn to something else. Shithead had turned his back toward me, and I got a look at what I hadn't noticed before, the reason why he held himself so carefully. The ball sac that was hanging down between his legs was as massive as his muscles. It reached almost to his knees, and the nuts inside must each have been the size of a softball. I didn't know how I could have missed noticing it before, it was that conspicuous.

"Nice nads, huh?" Helpless whispered in my ear. "That's the doctor's work. Kinda the opposite of these, y'know?" He gestured with one of his stumps down to his crotch. Not only had his dick been removed, his balls were gone, too. I felt bile rise in my throat and turned away.

"We'll talk about it later," added Useless.

The rest of the "day", if I can call it that, passed in idle conversation, pacing, and occasional outbursts of temper. Useless appointed himself my teacher. I learned the use for the holes at the end of the room when he needed to piss. He had to squat down to do it, or else it would have just sprayed out of his dickless hole. Later, when I felt the urge myself, I had to do the same, squatting down like a girl on a camping trip. I wondered how I was going to wipe myself after a dump. Back in my old cell, right after the amputations, one of the aides had always cleaned me up, but I had a feeling they weren't going to be real happy about doing that job over and over for seven handicapped guys. Fortunately, Useless showed me how it worked by squatting down over the odd piece of plumbing next to the toilet holes. He stepped on a foot pedal and a stream of water washed his ass and balls, draining away down the holes afterward.

I also learned how to drink water from a tank strapped high on the wall, sticking my mouth on a metal pipe like a gerbil would and drinking down the flat, tasteless fluid whenever I felt thirsty. I had the odd sense that everything was new and yet strangely familiar at the same time. Clearly I had been doing these things for a while, so my muscles knew what to do, but it was all brand new to my brain.

At some point, two of the "boys" came in to feed us. They set bowls down on the floor, filled with some gloppy, liquidy mush. It smelled all right, and my body knew it was hungry, so I dove in just like the others. We lay there on the floor, using our stumps to prop ourselves up so we could get our mouths into the bowls. Our faces were covered in mush when we were finished; the boys lined us up and had us lick each other clean.

Apparently I had been doing this all along, but now that I was aware again, it was disgusting to have Toilet running his tongue over my face, licking the last flecks of mush off my cheeks and jaw. Then, when it was my turn to clean Dogfucker, I couldn't bring myself to do it. One of the boys gave me a long, hard look. I realized he could tell by the way I was acting that I was back again. I closed my eyes and started licking, trying to ignore the taste and wondering what new horror Dr. Cresh would send me now that I was once again there to experience it.

Not long after feeding time, all but two of the lights went out. The guys began settling down onto the mats sprinkled around the room and wrapping blankets over themselves. Worthless curled up on a bare patch of floor, and I noticed that there was no mat for me. Shithead and Dogfucker, though, had two mats and two blankets each, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how that had happened. Now that I noticed it, those two also had the best places - the ones farthest away from the toilet holes. They were snuggled up together, Shithead spooning his massive body up against Dogfucker's back. Useless, Helpless, and Toilet took spots near the center, leaving the ones nearest to the stink for Worthless and me.

I decided to save that fight for another day. Shithead kept an eye on me while I settled myself down and laid my head on the bare floor, seeing whether I was going to put up any resistance until he was satisfied that I knew my place.

The lights went out completely and we were left in total darkness. There were a few muttered comments, but not many.

Sleep was a long time coming.

Chapter 14

"Morning" came with a blast as the overhead lights turned on. I had already been awake for a while, though. It's hard to get a good night's sleep when you're lying on a bare floor without even any arms to pillow your head on.

Nobody seemed to have any expectations for the day. They sat, or stood, or wandered around. Shithead seemed particularly on edge, pacing like a lion in a cage. I tried to stay out of his way.

Some time later, breakfast arrived. More mush, more face-licking afterward. This time Shithead cleaned me and I cleaned Helpless - there didn't seem to be any pattern to it.

After we were done, one of the boys led Shithead out the door, off to I don't know where. The other said "Hopeless, you're coming with me."

I knew better than to argue, so I followed him out the door. On the other side was the large torture chamber, the place where so much of the abuse I had suffered since my arrival had taken place. The guard led me through it, up some stairs, and brought me into Dr. Cresh's office.

He was there, sitting at a desk. At the sight of him, I nearly lost control of my bladder. He had trained me so well that I felt an instant rush of overwhelming fear just being in the same room as him. I couldn't believe how scared he had made me without even doing anything. I wanted so badly to run away and hide. The burly aide behind me made sure that couldn't happen.

"Ah, Hopeless. I heard you've returned to us. Have a seat."

I sat.

"You saddened me a bit, you know, going all catatonic like that. I do have a few customers who will pay for a session with a vegetable, but there just isn't much demand for that. The real market is for minds that are active and aware, minds that belong to men who know what they used to be and what they have been reduced to. The return on investment comes much more quickly, and so I have held you out of the general pool, hoping a time would come when you would be able to participate fully in whatever my clients require. Tell me, Hopeless, are you truly awake again?"

I thought about not answering, of pretending to be a zombie, but I knew it would never work. He would see right through me. And I did not want to do anything that might give him a reason to hurt me. The idea of resisting him was too frightening to think about. "Yes, Hopeless is awake."

"Excellent!" He clapped his hands. "I will spread the word!"

Next he bent down to check and see how my arm implants were doing. I had not been able to see them on myself, but I got a good look at the ones on the other prisoners. Their arms all ended just below the shoulder. In the center of the stump was a metal socket that went a few inches up into the bone of the arm. The skin came right up to the edge and stopped at the rim. The interior of the socket was threaded so that things could be screwed into it. It was creepy, like some kind of cyborg thing. I could only assume my arms looked the same as theirs.

"These are healing nicely," said Dr. Cresh. "I wouldn't trust them to support your weight yet, but in another two or three months, they should be ready." He gave me a set of injections in each stump, some kind of hormone to spur bone growth. He poked the needle in all the way to the bone at least half a dozen times on each side, and it hurt bad each time, but I tried not to flinch or show the pain.

"All right, Pete, you may bring him back to the pen," he said when he was done.

I followed Pete back down to the cell. On the way through the large room, I saw Shithead going through some kind of exercise routine. Hooks had been screwed into his implants, and we was using them to lift massive iron weights and put them down again. He had clearly been working hard - sweat was dripping off his body, and his face was grimacing with the strain. That explained where all those muscles came from. Then we were at the cell door and I was thrust back in with the others again.

The day passed slowly - Helpless hadn't been kidding when he said they spent their time being bored out of their skulls. They all wanted to pump me for information - what was the date when I was taken? What news of the rest of the world? What kind of life did I have before? They were so desperately bored that anything new, even my pathetic life story, was interesting. They told me some of their histories, too, but I didn't really care enough to pay attention. Finally I asked Useless what the story was with Shithead.

"This is just a guess, because they never tell us anything. But it seems like Dr. Cresh is experimenting with steroids on him. He spends a long time working out each day, and gets a lot of injections, too. Seems like Dr. Cresh wants to see how much muscle he can make Shithead pack on."

"What about his balls, though?"

"That's harder to explain. We know they're real, not some kind of implant. That much is obvious by the way he protects them. As for how they got that big... who can say? Someone's guess is that the doctor has used some kind of medical technique on them. Maybe growth hormone, or something derived from stem cells, or even a kind of controlled cancer? Whatever it is, they're still growing. We don't know what's going to happen when they get too big for him to stand or walk. We're not to sorry about it, though. As you've noticed, the steroids leave him kind of short-tempered. Those massive nuts are the only thing that keep him from rampaging around the room sometimes."

I could see that, certainly.

"Would Dogfucker know? He seems pretty tight with him." Useless just shrugged. Dogfucker was lying on the mats he and Shithead shared, staring blankly at the ceiling. I had assumed at first that he had earned his extra mat and blanket by being a hardass like Shithead, but as the day wore on, he didn't show any sign of it. In fact, he seemed to be downright passive.

A long while later, Shithead came back into the room. He had showered - or more likely, been hosed off - and was looking satisfied with his workout. He actually seemed to be in a good mood, even. I steered clear of him all the same.

There were a lot of fights and near-fights as time wore on, which surprised me at first. Didn't we all have a common enemy? Why would we fight each other? Then I thought about it. Guys penned up like that with nothing to do all day are bound to get itchy, and there was no one to take the aggression out on except each other. Toilet and Helpless seemed to have a particular hatred for each other, but even Useless, who seemed to be the most in control of all of us, had his share of temper flare-ups. For me the most irritating thing was Helpless's whiny voice. I supposed he couldn't help it, having had his nuts chopped off, but still, every time he talked it was like fingernails going down a blackboard, and whenever he laughed I wanted to choke him. But I held my temper.

I tried to get an idea of who Dogfucker was and why he would be the only other guy besides Shithead to get an extra mat and blanket. He didn't talk much, though, so I didn't learn a lot. It was clear he was tight with Shithead, so maybe that was it. He certainly didn't have the physique to bully his way to get what he wanted.

Despite the tension in the room, things only got physical once, after Shithead shouted at Worthless for the fifth time to stop making that constant humming noise. I had to agree, it was annoying. Each time, Worthless would stop for a short while, but it would always start up again, softly at first but growing steadily louder. I don't think he even realized he was doing it - there was something not right in the head with that guy. Anyway, after the fifth time, Shithead exploded. It was over fast - he knocked Worthless's legs out from under him, then gave him a couple of solid kicks in the ribs while he was down. After that, Worthless just lay there on the ground. Useless jumped in then, trying to calm Shithead down and then moving Worthless to his own sleeping mat, sitting against the wall and staring blankly into space like always. I wondered if that's what I had been like.

I made sure to pay attention to Shithead's fighting technique. You never know when knowledge like that will come in handy.

Eventually, the boys brought in supper, which we ate as usual, snuffling through the mush like animals. I wondered if I could end this misery by not eating and starving myself to death, but then I thought of three different ways Dr. Cresh could force me to eat and was sure he could think of at least a dozen more, each one more unpleasant than the last.

Afterward, though, instead of leaving us alone, the boys called for Dogfucker and Toilet to follow them. "Date night," Useless told me.

They were gone a long time. The lights were out by the time Dogfucker came back, and I must have been asleep when Toilet returned because I didn't hear a thing. Neither one of them spoke about it the next day, and though part of me was dying to ask what to expect when my turn came as it inevitably would, another part of me was happier not knowing.

Chapter 15

The next four days passed the same way: meals, toilet trips, and nothing else to do.

There was one little variation. Two of the boys came in some time that might have been afternoon - Aaron and Brogan, their names were. "You two," Brogan said, pointing at Useless and Shithead. "Over here." I watched as Useless and Shithead were required to provide blow jobs to our guards. This was all done very matter-of-factly, as if it were a perfectly normal occurrence. Which, as it turned out, it was. It took about ten minutes for the boys to get their rocks off, and then they zipped themselves up and left. It left Shithead in a foul mood the rest of the day.

His mood didn't improve when he got called for a date that night, and when he came back to the cell, he made sure all of us knew he was in a foul temper. The lights were out, and it was terrifying listening to him slam around a space that suddenly felt much too small, raging and shouting in the total darkness, stomping and kicking anything that got in his way. I pulled myself up against the wall as far as I could and was able to avoid him. Helpless wasn't so lucky. I felt bad that I didn't feel bad, if you know what I mean, that it was him who was taking the beating.

The next night Useless and Toilet had dates, and then the next two nights there were none. I knew my turn would be coming, and sure enough, the night after that, after yet another day of endless tedium, it did.

"Helpless, Dogfucker, and Hopeless. Over here," the aide I learned was named Kerchek said. He and Phillip led us through the big room and up two sets of stairs. Helpless got dropped off at the first doorway, Dogfucker next, and I was brought into the third room. Dr. Cresh was waiting there, and just like before, fear surged through me at the mere sight of him.

"Hello, Hopeless. You are here because I have had a client request you this evening. I want to make sure you understand the rules you are to follow."

He walked in leisurely steps back and forth in front of me, holding his fingers behind his back. "I say rules, but really, there is only one. The man you will meet shortly will be your master for this evening. You will obey him in all things in the same way you would obey me. You do recall your lessons in obedience, I presume? If he gives you an instruction, you are to carry it out, no matter what it might be, no matter how much pain or damage it may cause you. If you do not, I will compel you to accomplish the instruction, but I will do it in such a way as to cause you immensely more suffering."

"Now, I have told my client that your training is complete. Even though this is your first time servicing a client, he will expect of you the same level of excellence that any other member of my stable would provide. Therefore, any dereliction on your part would reflect badly on me, causing me great embarrassment. I'm sure you don't need to be told who would bear the brunt of my displeasure if that were to happen. I suggest, therefore, that you be on your best behavior. Unless you would rather I place you in a remedial training program?"

I shook my head, not trusting my voice to speak.

"Very well, then."

With that, Kerchek and the doctor left and I was alone in the room.

It was a dark, dimly-lit place. The walls were painted black, with a dungeon-like theme of stone walls and torchlight. It wasn't real, though - just paint and electric candles. Still, the equipment I could see all over the room was real enough, and I dreaded the thought of having some of those things used on me.

The door opened, and I turned toward it. A man walked in. He was about my height, with grey-to-black hair and a pinched-looking face. His eyes were small and set too close together, and he was overweight. He looked at me while I stood there looking back at him. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to bow or kneel or something, but figured if no one had told me what to do, I couldn't be punished for not doing it.

Yeah, right.

"So you are Hopeless," he said. His voice had an accent, maybe German or Dutch or something like that.

I didn't answer. My name is not Hopeless, it's Ed, but I was not about to say that.

"On your knees," he commanded, in an offhand way, as if I were just a piece of furniture that happened to be capable of following orders. I dropped to my knees.

He took me through some experimental commands, I guess to see whether I would obey. I did everything he asked, without hesitation, even when he stuck one of his fingers inside my ass, rubbed it around, then withdrew it and held it in front of my mouth. "Lick it clean," he told me. I did. Oh, it was disgusting, but I knew if I didn't do it, he'd make me do something worse.

He then had me open my mouth and drink his piss. That was harder, but I managed to do it without totally losing it - choking or gagging or anything like that. His dick fit perfectly into the hole between my gums, and as the hot stream flooded into my mouth, I swallowed it down as quickly as I could so it wouldn't spill out. He pulled out anyway before he had finished, spraying the last of his bladder's contents over my head like a fire hose. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to will myself to be somewhere else.

"Answer me this," he said when he had finished. "In your former life, were you straight?"

"Yes," I said, urine dripping down my face.

"And the idea of taking a man's dick in your mouth? How does it make you feel?"

I wasn't sure how to answer. Did he want the truth? What answer should I give him that would make him hurt me least? I decided to ask.



"It's disgusting."

At that, a small smile turned up the corners of his pig-like mouth. "Well, then, Hopeless, I want to you suck my dick."

I did. It rapidly stiffened up in my mouth. It was short but thick and it smelled like he hadn't washed in a few days. Not that I had either, but I didn't notice my own smell. Between the stench of urine and the musky smell of his pubic hair pressing against my nose, I had to force myself not to gag.

He face-fucked me for a while, his cock slamming into the back of my throat. There was nothing I could do to make it easier on myself - I couldn't bite down, couldn't shove the invading dick away with my tongue, couldn't hold myself off with my hands. All I could do was take it. My knees began to hurt from being on the hard floor for so long.

He began to breathe heavily. "Use your tongue," he commanded. I tried to lap at the dick as it pushed in and out. Whatever I did must have worked for him, because he soon shot a wad of spunk into the back of my mouth. I could feel the hot fluid trickling down my throat and coating the inside of my mouth as his dick continued to piston in and out.

"Mmm... ohhhhh... mmmmmm..." he grunted as he made a last few strokes. Then he pulled out and I was left with a mouthful of his jizz.

"Swallow it," he ordered, then had me lick the last drops off his softening dick and swallow that, too. It was totally, completely disgusting, but after all I had been through, I was able to do it without hesitating.

My master-for-the-evening sat down in a heavy chair and looked at me.

"I find I am vaguely disappointed. Dr. Cresh told me this was your first time servicing one of his clients, and you claim to have been straight. Yet you suck cock like a whore, and swallow the result with no hesitation. How can this be? I paid a premium price to have a virgin, you know. Explain. Is this really your first time?"

I was nervous replying, feeling like I was walking through a minefield. What answer would satisfy him and what answer would make him want to hurt me more? I had no way of knowing. "Yes. Dr. Cresh's training program is very effective."

"And was that the first time you sucked a man off?"

"No, that was part of the training program."

"I knew it!"

"But you are the first client Hopeless has been with," I hurried to add. "This one has only sucked the dicks of the doctor's aides before."

"Ah. I see the distinction. You are a virgin, but only when it comes to clients. You have had plenty of practice on the in-house staff. I assume this applies to your ass, as well? You have been fucked before?"

"Y... yes."

"I have been taken in by a technicality, it seems. I was under the impression that I was getting a true virgin. I expected more resistance, perhaps some screaming. Perhaps I should have read the fine print more carefully."

I didn't know how to respond to that, so I said nothing.

"Well, I suppose all I can do is get my money's worth. Stand up."

I did, grateful to get up off my aching knees. He brought a heavy steel object over. It turned out to be a ball weight, a shiny cylinder that could be split in half. He tied my balls off with a rope, then stretched them out so he could wrap the two halves of the cylinder around the sac. He screwed them together, thoughtfully making sure no skin was pinched between the two halves, then untied the rope. My balls were stretched downward by the heavy weight.

Next came a few other pieces that he attached to the sides of the ball collar. I couldn't tell what they were for until he had finished assembling them, and then it became clear - it was a crusher. There was a flat bar that ran underneath my trapped nuts, attached to the collar by rods on either side. By turning wing nuts on the rods, he brought the bar closer and closer to the collar with my balls trapped in between. He watched my face to see how tightly he should turn the screws. I felt the cold metal hit my balls, then press against them, then continue to press. The pain wasn't too bad at first, then all of a sudden, it was. At one point, I gasped, and that's when he stopped turning.

The pain was incredible. I looked down to see my poor balls, squashed and deformed and sticking out the sides. Strangely, the pain felt like it was not only coming from there, but from my kidneys too, as if someone was in the middle of slamming an iron bar against my back and time had somehow frozen at the moment of impact.

He led me over to a post sticking up from the floor and used a single metal buckle to attach the ball collar to the post. Now I had to stand there, enduring the phenomenal ache in my balls, unable to sit or cradle them or do anything at all to ease the pain.

"Now, what else can I give you that will keep you occupied but will not cause any permanent harm? I have already paid enough for this night, I don't need a 'damaged merchandise' fee added on. Hmm..."

Damaged merchandise fee? It made sense. Dr. Cresh wouldn't want his clients doing permanent injury to his stable of animals. After putting so much effort into shaping us for his purpose, it would be foolish to let the first customer who came along ruin the product for future use. It was reassuring at first to know that no matter what this guy did to me, it wouldn't be anything I couldn't recover from.

Then the next implication sank in. If permanent damage had a price, some day someone would be willing to pay it.

My tormentor returned with another metal contraption. This one went into my mouth, where two wedges pressed against where my molars used to be. Straps behind my head held it in place. He turned some screws on it and the two wedges began to separate, forcing my mouth to open wider and wider and wider. He spread my jaws until I thought they would rip apart.

"One last thing," he said, then reached into my mouth and placed a clamp, like a clothespin only much stronger, on my tongue. I couldn't help but let out a moan as the pressure tightened on the soft tissue. It was too big to pull into my mouth and heavy enough to tug my tongue out unless I made an effort to draw it back in.

"Now that's what I want to hear!" he said. He reached down and tightened the screws on the ball crusher another quarter turn and I saw stars. "Now you stay there. I'm going to have a quick nap."

And with that, he lay down on a medieval rack, his head pillowed on his rolled-up jacket, and went to sleep.

I stood there. What else could I do? I couldn't move away - my balls were locked to the post. Or rather, they were attached with nothing more than a simple buckle, something you could get at a hardware store for 79 cents, something that any five-year-old could open, except that it was enough to render me totally helpless because I had no hands. With my balls fixed in place at waist level, I couldn't sit down, couldn't bend over, couldn't do much of anything to find a more comfortable position. I just had to suck it up and take it.

The time passed. My balls ached from the pressure they were under, and nothing I did eased the pain in any way. I had wondered a bit why Dr. Cresh had left them whole when he had had me mutilated in so many other ways, though I never thought about it too hard, fearing on some level that the moment I noticed them too closely, the doctor would too, and he'd return with his knife to finish the job. Now I began to understand. He wouldn't cut them off; that would be too merciful. He wanted to be able to use them to hurt me over and over.

Or perhaps he would sell the rights to them to the highest bidder. I wondered if that's what had happened to Helpless.

My mouth, too, was in incredible agony. The jaw-spreader thing was stretching me so wide that I couldn't get the slightest bit of relief from it. It was pressing right against my gums, squeezing them hard between the metal and the bone. And the clamp on my tongue was not only painful, it held my tongue stretched out from my mouth. I constantly felt like I had to swallow, but I couldn't do it with my mouth spread so wide and my tongue yanked out. Drool trickled down from my mouth, running down my chest and body while I stood, helpless to do anything but endure.

In the quiet, I began to become aware of the noises coming from the room next door, muffled by the walls but still audible. There was the barking of at least two dogs, maybe more. They sounded big, like German shepherds or Rottweilers. And there were also screams - human screams. I remembered that Dogfucker had been brought to the room next to this one, and it dawned on me what must be happening in there right now. As bad as this pain was, I found myself actually glad that I was in this room and not that one. The sounds went on for a very long time.

Eventually, though, I stopped noticing them. I stopped noticing anything except the burning flames in my balls and jaw and tongue. They took turns dominating my attention, one surging into the lead in the race to see who could hurt the most, then another swelling up to displace it. There came a time when I knew that if I didn't get the damn things off of me that instant I would go absolutely insane. And yet I didn't, couldn't leave myself and get back to that place I had been for so long, where nothing that happened to my body could bother me. I had to stand there, feeling every ache.

After a long, long while, I became aware of a keening, droning noise. I had no idea what it was until I saw my torturer standing in front of me saying "Now THAT is what I like to hear!" The sound was coming from my own parched mouth.

"And those eyes!" he went on. "That is the look of one lost in pain. It seems I have found a way to reach you, then. Tell me, would you like me to take these devices off?"

I nodded my head frantically, not caring how the motion sent fresh waves of pain through my flopping tongue. He reached forward, put his hand on the tongue clamp, and made as if to remove it... but didn't. I was desperate, having relief dangled before me but then remaining just out of reach. He held his hand there as the seconds ticked by, teasing me and keeping me on the edge until I realized he had no intention of taking it off yet - he just wanted to build up my hopes so he could crush them.

"No, I think I will leave these devices in place while I fuck you. Perhaps the additional stimulation they provide will help produce the reaction I desire."

I sobbed, demoralized at having the prospect of painlessness brought so temptingly close and then yanked away. He undid the buckle that held my balls to the post - how simple to do, when you have fingers! - and led me over to the rack where he had been napping. He bent me over the edge and pressed my head against the flat surface, leaving my ass open and exposed. He lubed up his cock, lined it up, and shoved it in.

Oh, it hurt. That hole was designed for things to go out of, not into. It had been a long time since my last fucking by one of the aides, and I had forgotten how bad it could be. He met resistance when he first tried to push his way in, but he didn't let that stop him. He just shoved hard, not caring that he was splitting me apart in the process. Now, on top of all the other agonies I was in, my ass was being ripped in half, and I couldn't help letting out a howl.

"Yes, that's what I want to hear, you miserable wretch! Sing for me!"

I did, bucking and screaming as he thrust his cock in and out of my ass. I tried to squirm away from him, to protect myself from the attack, but it was useless. I couldn't get myself up from the rack with him pushing me down, and I couldn't twist away far enough to expel his invading dick. It was humiliating - I wasn't even tied down, and here this squat little troll, who I could easily have taken in a fight in the old days, had me completely under his control. I tried, though. I tried hard, even though every movement rattled my squashed balls and pounded my aching jaws against the wood. I fought and fought, screaming wordlessly through my splayed mouth all the while, my spit forming a pool for my face to be periodically smashed into.

He reveled in my agony, in my pitiful attempts to escape from him. "That's right! Sing for me, little bird!" he shouted.

Finally I had no more fight left in me. The pain was too much, and the fucking was lasting a long, long time. I lay there bent over the edge while his dick rubbed my tender ass raw, trying to endure. I learned he didn't like that when he reached down and gave my nuts an additional squeeze with his fingers. A bolt of lightning shot up my spine and I began writhing again. After that, every time I slowed in my struggles, he would find a new way to start me up again.

I don't know how long it lasted. I didn't even notice when he came, which I assume he did. The only thing that got my attention was when he pulled his dick out of my ass and my pain level actually went down for the first time since I had entered this room. Then I could feel him pulling away from me. I turned my head and watched as he cleaned himself up at a sink along the wall, then got dressed.

"I am pleased, Hopeless. You were expensive, but worth the cost. Perhaps I'll request you again on another visit."

With that, he opened the door and left, closing it behind him. I rose up off the rack and tried to shout out after him, but he ignored me, leaving me to wait more long, agonizing minutes until Kerchek came back in. Only then was I released from the devilish devices on my balls and jaw. Relief, when it finally came, was like a drug - it felt so good to not have my balls squashed flat, to not have my jaws stretched to their limit. It was euphoric. I actually cried in my gratitude to the aide. Wordlessly, though - my tongue had gone numb from its long time in the clamp and felt like a block of wood in my mouth.

He led me back down the stairs to the cell. It was late - the lights were already out and the others were asleep. I couldn't tell if Dogfucker and Toilet were back yet. The aide locked the door behind me. I fumbled my way to one of the toilet holes and crapped out some stuff I was glad I couldn't see. Then I cleaned myself up on the washing stand and felt my way to an open spot on the floor, where I curled up on my side and tried to sleep.

Chapter 16

It seems I slept in a bit the next morning, despite my uncomfortable spot on the bare floor. I guess the ordeal of the night before had left me exhausted. What woke me was the sound of grunting and shouting. I peeled my eyes open to see Dogfucker with his head in Shithead's lap. He had his mouth clamped over the stump of Shithead's cock and was clearly sucking on it for all he was worth. The shouting and grunting was coming from Shithead, working himself toward a climax that I would have thought was impossible for a man with no dick.

A missing dick was clearly no obstacle for him, though. He fucked that face with the stump he had left, and it seemed to be working for him. I couldn't help but watch, though I tried not to be too obvious about it. Dogfucker sucked him hard, working his tongue over the stubby shaft, while Shithead urged him on and tensed his bulging muscles. I had no idea how long it had been going on before I woke up, but it lasted at least another fifteen minutes. Fifteen long, uncomfortable minutes while the rest of the guys in the room pretended to be someplace else.

Eventually, Shithead's grunts came closer together and he let loose a long, low growl. Dogfucker sucked a short bit longer, then lifted his mouth up off Shithead's lap. Shithead lay there, his eyes closed, apparently savoring his afterglow, while Dogfucker stood up and made his way to the toilet holes. He spat a thick white wad down one of them, then went to the water bottle on the wall, rinsed his mouth out, and spat that down as well. Then he walked back to his mat and sat down with his eyes closed, leaning back against the wall.

That little performance went a long way to explaining Dogfucker's sleeping arrangements.

I got up and stretched, feeling like shit. My mouth was stiff, my jaw like a rusty hinge. I could only move it slowly, with great care. My tongue was better, but still tender. It took me a long time to eat my "breakfast" when it came.

My ass was sore as well. I was not looking forward to the next time I had to take a dump, when the pressure would rip open all the healing wounds down there. I resolved to try to hold it in for a couple of days if I could, to give myself a chance to heal first. My balls, surprisingly, didn't feel too bad.

The day passed uneventfully, just like the one before. Shithead was taken out to do his exercises. The rest of us banged around the cell, shooting the breeze and generally bored out of our minds. Fights broke out between Dogfucker and Toilet, between Toilet and Helpless, and between Helpless and me. I couldn't help it - he was sniggering about something in that irritating nasal whine of his, and I was still pissed off at getting used as a faggot's fuck-toy the night before. I told him to shut up, he didn't like that, and we went at it.

He had more experience, I think, in fighting with no hands, but I'm bigger and stronger, and I think I've had more fighting experience in general. It was over pretty quickly. We poked at each other for a minute or so. He tried to get his knee into my balls, but I dodged. Then he tried to kick his leg behind mine to trip me up, but I got my leg up and rammed my knee into his belly, which winded him, and then I did the same trick on him that he tried on me, hooking my ankle behind his knee and pulling. He went tumbling down. I got my foot on his neck and told him to shut his mouth for a while. Which he did.

I should have let it go at that, but I didn't. Feeling cocky, I went over and told Dogfucker that I'd be taking my mat and blanket back. He didn't say anything, just shrugged and watched while I used my feet to kick one of the sleep sets over to where I had slept the night before. I figured I'd have to deal with Shithead about it when he got back, but I was feeling pretty confidant.

I shouldn't have been. He came back in from his workout later in the day, tired but all juiced up and grinning. He went to lie down and saw the missing mat, and his eyes shot straight to me. I felt adrenaline course into my blood and I stood up. He sauntered over casually, not intimidated at all by anything I could do, but I didn't back down.

"Takin' the mat," he said. "Get your sorry ass off it."

"Nope," I said. "Take someone else's. This one stays here."

He didn't even stop to think, he just lifted his massive leg and rammed it straight into my nuts. I saw it coming and tried to get out of the way, but not fast enough. My balls got squashed into my pelvis, and I went down with a thin scream. By the time I could see again, my mat and blanket were back in Shithead's corner and my face was burning with humiliation.

Fine, then, if Shithead and Dogfucker were going to get four sets, that left three for the rest of us. Three mats, five guys. Worthless didn't seem to care if he got one, but I was not going to be on the floor another night. I got up and stumbled over to Helpless, who stood up and looked at me with fear in his eyes. Damn, it felt good to see that. I may be no match for Shithead, but this pussy was no match for me.

"No way," he said, a little quiver in his voice. "You're not taking these."

"Hopeless has slept on the floor enough. Time for someone else to take a turn. You don't like it, go find another mat."

"No... no." But he didn't try to stop me as I kicked his mat over to "my" spot along the wall, ignoring the dull ache in my balls as I went. On the way, I passed Useless, who was shaking his head.

"What's the problem?" I said.

"You guys never will get it," he answered. "You're doing exactly what Dr. Cresh wants you to do, you realize that? If we were smart, we'd all band together and try to make our lives here a little bit less miserable, a little bit more civilized. Instead, we spend our time fighting against each other. And over what? A mat and a blanket? Scraps! All we're doing is adding to our own misery, doing the doctor's work for him. He's probably watching all this right now, delighting in how you're helping him make our hell a little more hellish."

"Well what do you suggest, then? No one's exactly been looking out for..." - I almost said "me", but caught myself and used his euphemism of choice instead - "... someone, have they? Let the new guy sleep on the floor! Well, no more. No one else is gonna do it, so the new guy's gonna take care of himself."

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," Useless muttered. Sounded like he was quoting something, but I had no idea what. Didn't care, either. I dragged my new mat and blanket into place and sat protectively on top of them. I kept my eye on Helpless, but he didn't try to get them back.

Dinner came, then night. The mat was not a whole lot more comfortable than the floor, and the blanket was thin and worn, but to me, it was like a feather bed and a down quilt.

Chapter 17

The next day I discovered another of Dr. Cresh's insidious little torments. I woke up with a hard-on, or what would have been a hard-on if the rest of my dick were still there. The part that was left was rock-solid, though, and for the first time in a long while, I actually felt horny. I wanted so badly to come then, but I had no way of getting off. I actually considered seeing if one of the guys would be willing to suck me the way Dogfucker took care of Shithead, but I couldn't bring myself to ask any of them, and I wasn't sure if it would have worked anyway. I couldn't see how Shithead could get enough stimulation with so much missing. So I just waited for it to go down on its own, but even after it did, I was still horny. I spent the whole day frustrated that I had been left with fully-functioning balls and a fully-functioning sex drive, but no way to do anything with them.

The day passed the same as the one before. Mush for breakfast, bored out of my skull all day except when a fight broke out. No one tried to take my bed set. Helpless tried to get Toilet or Useless to share with him, but the mats were barely big enough for one.

That evening, after dinner, Useless and Toilet got brought out for "dates". They were still gone when the lights went out. I woke up when Useless came back in. He found Helpless sleeping on his mat and went ballistic. It woke up everyone else, and Shithead had another thing to be grouchy about. It was scary again, sitting there in the pitch dark, knowing he was on a rampage but not able to see anything. The sounds were bad enough. Someone got pounded, then I got dragged into it and things were just chaos in the darkness until finally some kind of accommodation was reached. After a long time, I was able to get back to sleep.

I never heard Toilet come in, but he must have, because when the lights went on the next "morning", he was there. In the light, I saw that Useless was covered in horrible-looking welts, all scabbed and crusted with dried blood. Apparently whoever had rented him last night had a taste for whips.

That day there was a bit of novelty. I had noticed everyone's hair was starting to show, a slight fuzz on their scalps. Mine probably was too, though of course I couldn't see it or feel it. Some of the guys were even sporting shadowy beards. After breakfast, three of the doctor's boys lined us up in order by height. That put Shithead on one end and me next to him, with Toilet on my other side. They screwed eye bolts into each of our arm sockets, then linked them together with buckles. We had to walk, very carefully, out into the main room where they lined us up in the center over a drain.

Then they went to work with razors, shaving off the fuzz on our scalps and faces. After that, they hosed us off with cold water, lathered us up, then hosed us off again. Then another awkward, stumbling march back to the cell, where they removed the hardware and we were left alone again to kill time. Shithead was in a foul mood, and took it out mostly on me and Helpless. I didn't enjoy getting my ass kicked, but there wasn't much I could do about it. It put me into a sulk all day, too.

That night, four of the guys had dates: Shithead, Dogfucker, Helpless, and even poor, clueless Worthless. I couldn't help but wonder what the doctor's price list looked like. Was there a premium charge for a bull like Shithead, and maybe a deep discount for a retard like Worthless? And where did I fall on the list?

Useless, Toilet, and I fell in to talking about our circumstances.

"You've only been out once," Useless said to me, "but even so, you must have started thinking about your strategy."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Like, how to you react to what the guy does to you. Do you try to suck it up and take it like a man, or do you start faking screams early, hoping that'll make him go easier on you?"

I had thought about that, of course, and still wasn't sure which approach I'd take the next time I was called. "And which do you pick?"

"At first someone tried taking it, trying to make himself less interesting for the doctor's clients by not reacting. You start to notice patterns, right? Like how Worthless almost never gets picked any more. Someone figured if he was boring enough, clients would stop requesting him. So someone tried to react as slowly and unresponsively as possible."

"But it didn't work," I guessed.

"No. Or maybe it would have, but someone wasn't strong enough to see it through. Someone suspects that if he could keep it up long enough, it would eventually have the desired effect. But getting to that point is really, really hard, maybe hard enough that the only way to do it is to truly become like Worthless instead of trying to fake it. The clients seem to take it as a challenge to try to break the guy who won't break. Someone finally gave up after a particularly brutal session left him nearly comatose. Now he starts shrieking fairly early. Not too early, of course, or the clients will sniff out the fake. Someone seems to get picked more often, but the level of abuse has gone down. On average."

Toilet said "Aren't you afraid of saying this? If the doc hears you telling your secrets, aren't you worried he'll, you know, use them against you?"

Useless shrugged. "Not really. You think there's anything Useless knows that Doctor Cresh doesn't? Someone is sure he knows exactly what someone is doing, and either doesn't care, or is already developing some way to use the information to make someone's life even more painful."

"What about you?" I asked Toilet. "What do you do when it's your turn?"

He just shook his head, like he was trying to find the words but they wouldn't come.

"Never mind. Let it go," said Useless after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence. "Besides, nothing is certain. Worthless got chosen tonight, after all."

The conversation turned toward our fellow inmates, the ones who weren't there. I learned that Worthless wasn't always the way he is now.

"He is the only one who has been here longer than someone," Useless said. "There were three of them here when someone arrived to become the fourth. Worthless was the best of all of us, a genuinely nice guy in the middle of this hellhole. He tried to make this dump less miserable. Couldn't do much, of course, but in little ways, he tried. Like he would always have some joke to make about the boys, or he'd notice when one of us was nearing a breakdown and give the guy a shoulder to lean on and get everyone else to look away to give him some privacy. Little things, but they helped.

"When Shithead came along all pumped full of steroids and started going into these berserk rages, Worthless was the one who could calm him down. Someone doesn't know how he did it. He not only managed to hold onto his sanity in this place, he genuinely wanted to help make things better for the rest of us, too."

"So what happened to him?"

"He went out on a date one night, and the next morning, he was obviously damaged. He had this horrible red welt around his neck. We think he was hanged. Noosing's not uncommon, but the guy Worthless was with let him go too long, to the point where it damaged his brain. He was pretty much a vegetable for the next day, but gradually got better until he could walk around and feed himself again. Then he stopped improving, and he's been like what you see ever since. It's a damn shame. They took away everything that Worthless ever was and left just a shell, and yet even in that shell you can see the happy, easy-going person that he used to be.

"Since then, life in here has been steadily getting worse. No one can stop Shithead's rampages any more. Worthless walks around making that noise all the time, which puts us all on edge. And you new guys" - here he looked straight at me - "seem to think that 'every man for himself' is the best way to survive. Someone wishes you could have known Worthless when he was still himself. Maybe he could have convinced you to try to get along a little better."

The lights went dim then, and we headed toward our mats. A few minutes later, they went completely dark and we were alone in the total blackness.

"The thing that makes someone really angry," came Useless's voice. I wasn't sure if he was talking to us or to himself. "...well, it would if someone allowed himself to feel anything - is knowing that somewhere out there is the guy who completely destroyed Worthless. Hung him up and watched him slowly choke until his mind was gone, just so he could get his rocks off. That guy's still out there, and all that probably happened to him was that Dr. Cresh charged him a little extra cash.

"You'd think someone would save his outrage for the big things, like all that Dr. Cresh has done to someone. But somehow, all someone feels about that is resignation. Worthless, though... whoever did that to him didn't just destroy his body, they destroyed his mind. And he was a good man. A good man."

There was a long silence after that.

"By the way, Hopeless" he finally continued. "Shithead is always majorly pissed off the morning after a date. He's going to be looking for trouble. Maybe you could try to be a little less defensive? You know, make life easier for all of us?"

Once again, sleep was a long time coming that night.

Chapter 18

The following morning, Shithead was indeed a bear. He had marks on his body from last night's torture and dried cum all over his face. Worse, they didn't take him out to the exercise room, but left him in with us instead. I tried to take Useless's advice and stay out of his way, but he kept getting in my face. Finally we had it out, and I got thoroughly thrashed as I expected, but even pounding on me didn't seem to make him feel any better. He tried to get his jollies from Dogfucker after that, but as time dragged on with no results in sight, he became more and more frustrated.

Finally he shoved Dogfucker out of the way and went tearing around the room looking like he wanted to smash something. I had had enough from the first beating, but he came after me again, and soon I was getting myself thrashed a second time. As his foot was slamming into my ribs, I heard Useless shouting "Quit it! Leave him alone!" Maybe it worked. Shithead backed away not too long after that, but I was very sore the rest of the day.

That night, it was my turn again, along with Toilet and Dogfucker. Up the stairs, down the hall. Both Toilet and Dogfucker went into the third door, where I had been last time, but I was brought down to door number five, which turned out to be empty except for a wrestling mat. The aide left me in the room and closed the door.

I didn't have to wait long. The guy who came in was in good shape, with firm muscles and a solid build. I could maybe have taken him in my old life, but now, I was no match. Besides, I was still sore from Shithead's temper tantrum.

"We're going to wrestle," he announced. "You're going to try, and try your hardest, yeah?"

"Yes, Hopeless understands," I said, all meek like a good animal should be. I sure didn't feel like wrestling after getting my ass kicked twice earlier in the day, but what choice did I have?

"Good." He began stripping off his clothes until he was as naked as I was. I could see his cock was not quite hard, but definitely not soft, either. I had a feeling I knew what would happen to me when I lost the wrestling match, as I inevitably would.

I did try, though, and to my surprise, it actually felt good to do it. I was beginning to learn how to fight no-armed, having gotten a first-hand look at some of Shithead's techniques. I even had the guy on the defensive once when I caught him by surprise with a kick to the knee that dropped him to the mat. I tried to press the advantage and get on top of him, but he was able to roll us both over until he was the one on top of me. He had his hands on my shoulders while I waved my stumps futilely up at his face, hanging over me just out of reach. He licked my right arm and I dropped it down, and he laughed and let me go.

We went another round, then another. I tried fighting dirty, going for his nuts, but I never made contact with them. He was always just enough faster than me to dance out of my reach. And of course, he had arms, which meant that he could get behind me and grab me, and all I could do was struggle, rubbing my sweaty body against his, which I could tell he loved - his dick had stiffened up completely.

I tried to ignore the sex part and concentrate on the wrestling, and found I was actually enjoying myself. I loved the feeling of physical activity after so much time with nothing to do. I lost every round, of course, but it didn't matter. I felt great. Moving around and having something else to concentrate on kept my mind off my bruises. I even toyed with the idea of asking the boys if I could work out like Shithead did, then laughed at myself, ha ha, for thinking that they might actually give me something I wanted. Far more likely that they would do something like lock me in a coffin twenty-three hours a day just because it was the opposite of what I asked for.

My opponent threw me to the ground one more time, and I landed heavily on my side. This time, though, instead of letting me get up and start again, he began manhandling my body over to the side of the mat. I saw a hole in the floor there. It was about six inches across, lying between two metal plates so that each plate had a semi-circle cut out of it.

He swung one of the plates up on its hinges and moved me over so I was above the hole. He pushed my head down until my neck was pressed up against the remaining semi-circle with my head in a box-shaped cavity in the floor. He closed the lid and latched it in place, and I was trapped in the dark. I tried to lift my head out of the hole, but the plates were locked securely and my head was too big to fit through. My shoulders and knees were resting on the floor and my ass was sticking high up in the air, just waiting for what I knew was coming. I felt him move behind me and braced myself.

Sure enough, a greased-up cock started probing at my back door. He teased me with it, pushing gently and then increasingly harder. Unlike the last guy, though, he was actually gentle about it. I kept waiting for the brutal thrust that would overwhelm my defenses, but it never came. He pushed for a few minutes while I kept my ass clenched tight, dreading the moment when he would force his way in and rip me in half like the last time.

Before that happened, though, he pulled away. I heard his voice, muffled a bit by the metal plates. "Hey, buddy, relax. You know it goes a lot easier when you loosen up? Make like you're taking a dump, and it'll go in a lot smoother, you know?"

Really? I hated the idea of cooperating with a guy who was about to fuck my ass, but if it would make the process hurt less, it was worth a shot. I concentrated on relaxing my ass muscles, even though it was hard to do when he started pushing his dick at my hole. But I did it, and when he finally slipped into me, sure enough, it hurt much less than any other time I'd been fucked. I'd have to remember that for next time.

What was the deal with this guy? Did he actually do something nice for me? Or was he just setting me up for something worse later?

The fucking didn't last very long. He was probably all worked up from the wrestling. He shot his load pretty quickly, then unlocked the metal plates and let me get my head out of the hole in the floor.

I found him lying on the mat, his head propped up against a foam block. He was peeling off a condom. I could only assume it was out of concern that he might catch something from me, not the other way around. He beckoned me over to him. "C'mon, lie down here with me." More kindness? What was with this guy? He had me cuddle up next to him and spent the next ten or fifteen minutes tracing my skin with his fingers, rubbing my chest and belly and cheek, but paying particular attention, it seemed, to the stumps of my arms and my dick.

Finally I dared to ask the questions that were bubbling in my head. "Sir? May Hopeless ask? Why..." I wasn't sure how to continue.

"What is it, kid?"

"Hopeless has noticed that you seem... gentler than the other clients he has been with." Clients, I said, as if there had been more than one already.

"Oh, yeah? The other guys don't treat you so good, that it?

Yeah, that was it, all right. To put it mildly. "Yeah."

"I don't know about them, but I can tell you why I keep coming back here. These." He rubbed his hands across my stumps. "It's abnormal, I know, but I can't tell you how hot I find you amputees. The way your arms look, that stump of a dick... it's just incredible. You are such a gorgeous man. The only thing hotter would be if you had your legs done, too, only then you wouldn't be much good at wrestling, eh?"

Holy crap, this man actually found my mutilations erotic. Every time I thought I found the rock bottom of depravity, there was always some place lower to go. He kept droning on about how sexy guys like me looked.

"What's it feel like?" he suddenly asked. "You know, where your arms used to be? Do you still feel like they're there sometimes? Phantom limb pain?"

"Uh... they hurt sometimes. Mostly it's not noticeable any more."

"Aw, man, if I had that done, I'd be constantly thinking about it, you know? One of these days, I might go through with it. I've been thinking about it for years, ever since I was a kid. Thing is, I'm not into pain. It probably hurt when you had your arms done, yeah?"

I bit my tongue.

"Pain, that doesn't do it for me, but I love the result. There's nothing sexier than a guy with no arms or legs or dick or balls... can I tell you something? You know why I put your head in that hole? 'Cause it makes you look like your body ends at the neck. Now there's a body mod you can't do in real life, eh? Hey, you ever met Matt? He's here somewhere, I don't know where Dr. Cresh keeps him. Now that's the real deal. Guy's got no limbs at all, even his nose and ears are gone. Sometimes I ask for him, but he can't do anything, you know? He just lies there, and it's great and all, but sometimes you want to move around, you know?"

I lay there, speechless, listening him talk. Sick as his tastes were, I had to admit he was a whole lot better than the last guy. Everything this one wanted from me had already been done, and I didn't need to suffer anything more to make him happy.

"... I want you to do something for me," he said.

"What is it?"

"Can you get it up? You know, your dick? What's left of it? Does it get hard?"

Oh, fuck.

"Probably. Hopeless will try."

"Oh, yeah," he said. He shifted his body down until I was lying on the foam block and he had his mouth over my crotch. He began playing lightly with his fingers, running them over my balls and the base where my dick used to be. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend my dick was still whole and that it was Allison's lips touching it, not that she ever did that, but it was a better image than thinking about this faggot amputation freak doing it.

It worked. I felt myself stiffening up like it had the other morning. The guy lowered his mouth down onto me and sucked it in. Damn, it actually felt good! He started licking and sucking me, kneading my balls at the same time. Maybe it was a mark of how far I had fallen that I started getting into it, but after so much pain and misery, getting my stump of a dick blown by a faggot was a giant step up. He sucked and stroked for a long while, but eventually it became clear that what he was doing wasn't going to be enough to put me over the edge. Not that I had really expected him to, but still, it was frustrating to get so close and not be able to go all the way.

"Dude, don't sweat it," he said, finally giving up. "Give it time. Your body'll figure out how to make it work. Just let it happen."

With that, he started squeezing his own cock, still groping what was left of mine with his other hand. He told me to move my arms around, to stroke my nipples with the ends, lick them, rub them against my face. Soon enough, his second load of the night was squirting out of his whole, intact cock and onto the ruin of mine, spattering me with his sperm.

He got dressed then, and made to leave. All in all, not a bad evening. It certainly could have gone much worse.

"Hey, dude, tell Useless Kenny says hi. And Shithead, too. Damn, he's a monster, eh? I almost picked him to wrestle with tonight, but saw a new name on the list and figured I'd give you a try instead. Glad I did. You take care, buddy."

With that, he left. A while later, one of the boys brought me back to the cell, and another day was over.

Chapter 19

The days and weeks that followed were much the same. Days passed in tedium, broken only by occasional fights, shavings, showers, and blow jobs and sometimes fuckings for the boys. Remembering how good it felt to move around, I tried to get some exercise in, but there's only so much you can do in a single room with no arms - I ended up pacing a lot. Evenings sometimes brought "dates", other times not. A pattern began to emerge as time went by. There would be days when nobody got called out for a date, and other nights when four or even five of us went. Our guess was that out in the real world where time still had meaning, the popular days were the weekends and the days when we all sat around the cell were the Mondays and Tuesdays.

I had a spate of them right in a row, probably because, like Kenny, some guy saw a new name on whatever list Dr. Cresh offered and picked me for the novelty. They were almost all cruel, sadistic men who only wanted to make me suffer. And yet, after the first few, I couldn't help but realize that however vicious these men thought they were, they were amateurs compared to Dr. Cresh. Not one of them could instill in me the fear that I felt whenever I caught sight of the doctor. Not one of them came even close to matching his capacity for inflicting pain both mental and physical.

It got to the point where I could almost tune out their tortures. It still hurt, yeah, but on some level, I knew that in a few hours I'd be back in the cell like always, and whatever damage they caused would heal up just like all the rest. And Kenny's advice for how to take a butt-fucking was a big help. Of course I never got to the point where I liked it, but his tip about relaxing the muscles made it much easier to take, even though I still screamed and shouted like it was my first time. The customers definitely went easier on me if they thought I was really suffering.

I mentioned Kenny's greeting to Useless and to Shithead. Shithead just shook his head and said "fuckin' pansy". Useless agreed with me that, however bizarre his amputee fetish was, it sure worked out well for us. Kenny was by far the easiest date any of us ever got. I told him about Kenny's reference to a guy named Matt and asked him if he knew anything about it He got a dark look on his face.

"First of all," he said, "it's Mat with one T, not two."

"What difference does that make?"

"You know, like the joke," Helpless chirped, coming over to snoop on our conversation. "What do you call a quadruple amputee on your doorstep? Mat!" He looked at me like he couldn't understand why I wasn't howling with laughter.

"Someone doesn't know for sure what the whole story is," Useless continued, "but the rumor is this: Mat used to be one of the boys. His conscience began to bother him, knowing what was going on in this building. He tried to go to the cops, get them to shut Dr. Cresh down. Except that the cops are all on the doctor's payroll, so when one of his aides came in blabbing about this secret stable of mutilated sex slaves, they brought him into an isolated room, told him they'd take his statement, then turned him over to the doctor. What happened next wasn't pretty."

"What do you call a quadruple amputee in a swimming pool? Bob!"

"Helpless, would you please shut the fuck up and let Useless finish?" I thought I showed remarkable restraint. Helpless flounced off in a snit.

"So much of Mat's body was removed that what's left is barely recognizable as human. He has no arms, not even the stumps that we were left with. His came off right at the shoulder. Legs, too, all the way to the hip. Dick and balls, gone. Nipples, gone. They took his eyes, his nose, teeth, tongue, lips, ears, everything. They destroyed his eardrums, too. What's left of him spends its time locked away somewhere, unable to move or see or hear or speak. But they don't let him die. They feed him through a tube and clean up his wastes, and he just... endures."

I had to turn away and get control of my rising gorge. Was there no bottom to Dr. Cresh's ocean of horror?

After a few weeks I got called less and less often, until I was going out about the same as everyone else. Except for Worthless, of course, who only rarely got called. He just flitted around the cell in his happy daze, untroubled by anything that happened to him.

A day came when I was taken to have X-rays made of my arms. I guessed that the doctor wanted to check on the healing of my implants. Sure enough, a few hours later, I was brought out to see him. He was waiting in the main room outside the cell. I felt the usual wave of abject terror at the sight.

"Hopeless, I have heard good things from my clients about your performance. I'm pleased that you've fit in to your new life so well. I just have a quick little test for you now, to make sure your lessons have stuck. Step on one of those."

He pointed to a pair of sharp metal spikes that had been bolted to the floor, like shish-kebob skewers. I didn't hesitate. I lifted my foot, centered it over one of the spikes, and pushed. It sank into my foot, hurting like hell, but I kept pushing.

"That's it. All the way," said Dr. Cresh as the spike started tenting the skin on the top of my foot. I pressed a little harder and it broke through with a soft popping noise, and I lowered my foot until it was flat on the floor.

"Excellent, excellent. Now the other one."

I planted the other foot on the other spike the same way, pressing down, trying not to scream, until I felt my foot reach the floor. I looked down at my feet. Two skewers emerged from the top sides, bright fresh blood coating the shiny metal. I swallowed hard.

"Perfect. You are indeed an obedient slave. Now, I want to test out your arm implants. According to your X-rays, they have healed up well enough to bear some weight. Of course, the images can be deceiving, so it's best to do an actual field test. Aaron, would you do the arms. Phillip, you can secure his feet."

The boys went to work. Phillip started screwing bolts into my arm sockets, just like happened on shave-and-shower day. They ended in round eyes, which he attached to two chains hanging down from above. The chains joined together a few feet up, and a single chain continued upward to a winch fastened to a support beam.

Meanwhile, Phillip attached a horizontal crossbar to the two skewers piercing my feet. He lowered it down until it was resting on the tops of my feet, then secured it in place with some clamps. More metal went around my ankles, further tightening my attachment to the floor.

It was pretty clear what was going to happen next. I braced myself, not that it would help.

Aaron went to some kind of control box and pressed a button. The winch started turning, slack started disappearing from the chain, and the stumps of my arms began to be lifted upward. They rose until they were pointing straight up at the ceiling and I began to feel my weight being taken up by my arms. The chains would have lifted me up into the air... except that my feet were pinned to the floor, and they weren't going anywhere. So instead, I got stretched out between the chains and the spikes, as if I were hung up on a vertical rack.

"Good... good..." the doctor muttered. "What are we at, Aaron?"

"One eighty, doctor. That's one hundred percent of body weight."

"Good. Keep going, please."

The stretch increased. I could feel the tension all the way through my body, especially in my feet. I could see why they had added the ankle cuffs - otherwise I'm sure the thin spikes would have torn right through, ripping gashes all the way to my toes. With my ankles fixed in place, though, most of the tension was focused there, leaving only a little pressure on the spikes. Not that that little wasn't bad enough. I began to groan from the pain.

"Two hundred thirty pounds," Aaron said.

"Hopeless, I'm testing your implants to 250% of your body weight. They need to hold up under at least that much strain. You weigh 180 pounds, so that means I'll need to test you up to 450."

I heard the words, but my attention was focused entirely on my pain. I could tell by the way my arms felt that those implants were solid. They weren't going anywhere. I was stuck here all the way to the end. I hung there, getting stretched tighter and tighter as Aaron ratcheted up the pressure.

"Three hundred."

Oh, I was suffering. I could feel the strain in every joint from my shoulders to my ankles. My feet were on fire, both because of the spikes and the metal cuffs digging into my ankles. My knees seemed to be getting the worst of it, though. I was afraid they would pop apart and leave me crippled. It didn't happen. Aaron just kept reading off bigger and bigger numbers while I hung there.

"Three sixty."

Twice my body weight. It was as if I was hanging by my arms from a tree branch with another guy my weight dangling from my ankles. I slammed my head back and forth, gritting my jaws and hissing air through the hole between my gums.

"Four hundred."

Oh, shit, I felt like I was going to be torn apart. My body couldn't take this strain, something had to give. It wasn't going to be those implants, though. They showed no signs of weakness. In fact, they felt like the strongest part of the whole chain. My shoulders might pop loose, my knees or hips or ankles give way, my spine might unfold like an accordion, but Dr. Cresh's implants were going to hold fast till doomsday.

"Four hundred forty."

Coming close. I endured.

"Four fifty."

"Good. Hold him there, please."

The doctor came over to examine my arm stumps. I was quivering with the strain of trying to hold my body together while he took his leisurely time exploring the junction between bone and metal, making sure that his handiwork was not going to be the system's failure point.

Finally he was satisfied. "Phillip, undo his feet."

I heard the words, but the implication didn't register until Phillip had undone the bar across the tops of my feet and was about to pull a quick-release tab that would unlink my ankles from the floor. It dawned on me as soon as he pulled it, and I had just enough time to anticipate what was about to happen when my feet, freed from their confinement, came lifting up off the floor under the pull of the chains on my arms. They slid upward along the spikes, lubricated by my blood, until they were free and I was hanging about a foot above the ground, actually relieved to be supporting "only" my own body weight, not two and a half times that amount.

Aaron lowered me down to the ground and I carefully avoided the spikes as I came down. Blood oozed out of the holes in my feet, forming a pool where I stood.

"Perfect, Hopeless," the doctor said. "I give you a clean bill of health, and I will let the clients know they can begin making use of your implants. Phillip, you can clean him up." He turned to leave.

Phillip dressed the wounds with an antiseptic cream and some bandages. I tried not to walk much for the next few days back in the cell. I missed the exercise, but I wanted those wounds to have every chance I could give them to heal up before I got called out for my next date.

Chapter 20

More time passed. As promised, the clients took advantage of the implants. They used them to secure me in place to the floor or wall or ceiling, or just to cause me pain. One of them "crucified" me, stretching my stumps out to the sides and tying my feet to the upright beam. That was hard - my legs were tied in a way that I couldn't lock my knees. I had to either use my thigh muscles to hold myself up or take my weight on my stretched-out arms. After a while, my legs tired out and I was forced to hang there, choosing with each passing moment whether I wanted to take the pain more in my legs or my chest, but unable to do anything to reduce it.

That wasn't the worst, though. Another time, I had the same guy I had on my first "date", the German who had crammed my jaw open and crushed my balls. I never learned his name, but of all of Dr. Cresh's clients, he was the one who came closest to having the doctor's talent for inventive cruelty. This time, he forced my stumps together behind my back and clipped a buckle on to hold them there. It compressed my ribs horribly, making it hard to breathe because I couldn't expand my chest. Then he hooked the buckle to a chain and winched that up to the ceiling. I hung there for I don't know how long, but it felt like months, my shoulders about ready to pop out of their sockets, my legs kicking feebly at the air beneath me.

To ice the cake, he put the ball crusher on me again and cranked it good and tight, then hooked a heavy weight to it and let it hang. It must have been twenty pounds. Then he added sharp-toothed tit clamps, also weighted. My balls were screaming, my tits were screaming, and I would have been screaming too if I could have found breath to do it. He reduced me to tears, that guy, and kept me hanging there for so long I thought I would die from the stress. But I didn't. Instead, he eventually lowered me down to a point where he could reach my ass with his dick. This meant that I could touch the floor with my feet, and I was pathetically grateful for the small relief that brought.

It didn't last. He bent my legs at the knee and tied each ankle to its thigh. Now I was fully suspended again, within reach of the ground but unable to straighten my legs to touch it. That's how he fucked me, my body swinging in helpless torment while he invaded my innards with his cock. The weights that dangled from my crushed nuts and my clamped tits seesawed around with his thrusts, and my arms went numb from the strain of supporting my weight in such an awkward position.

I didn't have to pretend to be suffering that time. I shouted and screamed the whole time he raped me, which was just what he wanted me to do - I knew what would happen if I stopped struggling. But there came a time when I reached my limit of pain and exhaustion and I could not force myself to keep fighting any longer. Like before, he found a new way to start me squirming again, holding a candle beneath my stump of dick so that I would be inspired to try to squirm away from the heat.

Also like the last time, when he was through, he left me hanging there with all the equipment still in place. I had to wait there, endless minutes ticking by, until Kerchek finally came in to let me down, take everything off, and bring me back to the cell. It took days for the aches left by that session to fade.

That was the exception, though. Most of the clients turned out to be less into pain and more into humiliation, which was a lot easier to take. If I had had any pride left, it would have been really hard to be required to beg for the privilege of sticking my tongue up another guy's sweaty asshole, and I certainly pretended I was mortified at the things they made me say and do. But deep down inside, I was actually thrilled to be let off the hook so easily.

Back in the cell, Shithead and I finally came to a new arrangement. I got sick and tired of him strutting around like he owned the place, with all the other guys too scared of him to do anything about it. Finally one day he went off on another one of his temper tantrums and I wasn't going to take it any more. I told him to sit down and shut up. Naturally, he came at me like a bull and we went at it.

By then, I had gotten used to the way my body moved. I knew how to balance myself and how to compensate for the missing parts. More importantly, I had been studying him and I knew all his favorite fighting techniques. I wasn't easy, and the fight went on for a long time. We even attracted the attention of Aaron and Kerchek, the boys on duty outside the cell, who watched us through the barred door.

He outweighed me and had those massive muscles, but I had speed and agility on my side. He was hampered by having to protect those massive softballs hanging between his legs. He kept trying to get me where he could use his strength against me, but I kept dancing out of his reach, giving him a kick or a jab as I slipped out of his grasp. It enraged him. At last all the little flea bites I had been giving him sent him charging at me in a blind fury, and I was able to trip him up and send him crashing to the floor.

I quickly got down behind him and placed my knee on his ball sac. I started pressing down. He bellowed and tried to throw me off, but I held tight and kept pressing. It took a long time, but eventually he gave in.

"Listen up, Shithead," I told him. "We're all sick and tired of your attitude. You think you're the big gun in here, but truth is you're a loser sack of shit just like the rest of us. You need to keep better control of yourself, understand? You need to quit stomping around and pounding on whoever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. You feel like you need to beat on something, use the wall." I punctuated each sentence with a squeeze to his nuts. "Understand me?"

He grunted his assent.

"And Helpless and Worthless get their mats back," put in Useless. Fine by me. I didn't much care either way.

He was begging me to get off, swearing he'd behave, promising anything. I didn't believe him - no one did. But I couldn't hold him there forever, so I let him up. I turned my back on him and, sure enough, he came flying at me again, silent so he thought I wouldn't know he was coming. I spun around quick and planted my foot right up against those meatballs and he dropped like a rock, keening this thin, high-pitched wail.

For the next several nights, Helpless and maybe Worthless too slept much better. I didn't, though, convinced that Shithead would be coming for me in the darkness. But he didn't. He tried once, and I lay there pretending to be asleep but ready for anything. He just stood there, near me but not too close, and I wondered what was going through that head of his. Eventually, I heard him go back to his place and settle in.

After that, things improved a little. Shithead still flew into random rages, but more often than not he pounded on the walls instead of his fellow inmates. Every once in a while I had to give him a little reminder that I knew how to take him down, and that helped with his self-control. The rest of us tried a little better to control our own tempers, too. Still, we were seven bored, frustrated guys, six of us loaded up with testosterone that we couldn't do anything with, and there were still plenty of arguments and fights.

Worthless seemed to be getting worse. There were whole days when he wouldn't even move, just sitting against the wall staring into space. Useless said it was different with him than it had been with me. When I was in my trance, I at least responded when spoken to. Worthless sometimes seemed like he couldn't even hear or see. At least he wasn't making that humming noise as much.

One day, we were roused by the sound of a struggle going on in the main room outside our cell. The outer door was closed, so only muffled sounds came through. Toilet, Helpless, and I crowded up against the bars, trying to squeeze our heads through so we could press our ears up against the outer door to hear what was going on. The others didn't seem interested.

There was a lot of screaming, a lot of begging and pleading, a lot of "No! No! Don't, oh, please, take it off!" I thought back to the day Dr. Cresh started me on my way to becoming what I am now. I remembered how he had sliced off my finger after I had refused to do it myself, and yanked out one of my teeth. Then he had thrown me to the boys for my welcoming rape. It was pretty clear that right now, right outside this door, some other poor sucker was taking his first steps down that same road.

I backed away from the door, a little queasy about listening in on his struggles. Part of me wished I could talk to him, tell him that the best thing he could do was accept his fate, that trying to fight it would only make it harder on him. But hearing his screams brought back my memories of myself at that time all too clearly, memories that I usually kept tucked deeply away because thinking about them only reminded me of all that I had lost. Would I have listened to some toothless, armless, dickless freak if he had told me to accept that the same would be done to me? Hell, no, I wouldn't. This new guy was going to have to learn the hard way, just like the rest of us.

I dropped down to sit next to Useless. "Someone saw this coming," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Didn't you notice how the boys haven't been having us service them lately? Dr. Cresh always requires them to be celibate for a while before a new arrival comes. He wants them to be fully charged for... this." The screams had stopped, but loud cheering sounds had taken their place. We couldn't help but listen for a while to the sounds coming through the door, of the boys encouraging Phillip while he reamed his bloody way through his suffering victim's ass.

"So I guess in a few weeks there'll be eight of us in here," I said eventually.

Useless looked at me, then glanced over at Worthless, slumped as usual against the wall, eyes glazed, mouth slack. "We'll see," he said.

A particularly loud shriek worked its way through the door, accompanied by more cheers. I wondered what was going on, then resolutely forced my thoughts elsewhere. The sounds went on a long time before they finally stopped.

More days passed. Toilet lost a nut on one of his dates. He was taken out early in the afternoon and didn't return until the following morning. When he came back, he stank so badly of sewage that the rest of us - except Shithead, the lazy turd - had to clean him off as best we could with water from the wash stand just to make the stench in the room bearable. While we were working, Toilet suddenly puked, and it was obvious from what came out that they had been making him live up to his name. Good thing we had him over by the crap holes when it happened. He was a wreck, just moaning deliriously.

It was while we were cleaning him that we noticed the odd shape of his sac. A little investigation revealed that he still had both nuts in there, but one of them had been pulverized to mush. Useless, Dogfucker, and I speculated how much Dr. Cresh might have charged for that, but there was no point wondering too much. If the time ever came for one of us to be unmanned, it wasn't like there'd be anything we could do about it.

And so the weeks, maybe months, went by.

Chapter 21

One night, something different happened.

I went upstairs for a date with a client, a nondescript guy dressed all in black leather. It was pretty routine stuff - a little smacky-face, a little verbal abuse, then he strung me up by my stumps and was whaling on my back with a flogger while I shouted and moaned. It hurt, sure, but on a scale of one to what-I'd-been-through, it rated maybe a four, so I was kind of being more verbal than I strictly felt I had to be. Useless's survival scheme was definitely what worked best for me - break early, but not so early that the client caught on. Trying to man it out and not react just provoked more abuse, and I had no self-esteem left to make me feel ashamed for crying out.

He was just getting into the pounding when suddenly he stopped. I tensed, waiting for the next blow to land, but it didn't. Instead, the guy came around to stand in front of me.

"Say something," he ordered.

I looked at him. "What should Hopeless say?"

"Anything. Just talk."

"If there is something Sir wants to hear, Hopeless will be happy to say it."

"I know you. I know that voice."

That got my attention. I looked at him again, harder, but there wasn't anything familiar about him. He studied me at the same time. I wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he found it.

"You're Eddie Kearns, aren't you?"

Oh, god, that was indeed my name. From... before.

I didn't trust myself to speak, so I didn't say anything. I still didn't recognize anything about him.

"Answer me, you used to be Eddie Kearns, didn't you?"

This was dangerous ground to be walking on. He had ordered me to answer, so I had to say something, but what? Was Dr. Cresh messing with my head with this? Trying to trick me into saying my old name or one of the forbidden words? Or was this really someone who used to know me?

"Yes," I said. Leave it at that.

"I knew it. I knew you. You don't recognize me, do you?"

I shook my head.

"Oh, man, I can't believe this. Of all the people to meet here, it turns out to be you."

"Hopeless is sorry, but he does not remember Sir's name."

"Morton Friedmann. You would have known me as Mortie. We went to school together. Seventh grade. Glen Burns Intermediate School, right?"

Yes, I went there.

"We were in a couple classes together. US history and gym. You don't remember any of this?"

I shook my head. "No, sorry, Hopeless still doesn't recognize you."

A slow grin spread across his face. He certainly looked like he could have been about my age, twenty-five or so... although I wasn't even sure what my own age was now.

"Well, how's that for irony? All the times I thought about what it would be like to run into you again, I never once imagined it would be like this. And I never imagined you would have no idea who I was. That's certainly a humbling thought."

He went over to the rack - we were in the dungeon-themed room - and sat down on it, his leatherman getup creaking as he moved.

"Let's see if I can refresh your memory a bit, OK? You remember seventh grade, right? Bunch of kids fresh out of grade school, all thrown together into a much bigger environment right at the time their hormones are starting to surge? There were kids like you, a big jock type who played football and basketball. And there were kids like me, a scrawny Jewish runt who wore thick-rimmed glasses and who, oh yeah, was not attracted to the girls in their little training bras, but to the other boys. Thinking back to what you remember about your seventh-grade self, how do you think you would have treated me?"

The answer to that was clear but surprisingly hard to say. "Um, not very good," I finally settled on.

"'Not very good'. Yeah, that's one way to put it. You made my life miserable. Your desk was diagonally behind mine in history class. You used to shoot spitballs or little wads of tinfoil at me. You'd time it so they'd hit me just as Mr. Phelps was turning around from the blackboard, so he'd see me spastically slapping at my neck while you sat there like a little angel. You remember that?"

I didn't remember details. It sounded like the sort of thing I would have done at that age, but I didn't remember doing it to him specifically.

"How about in the hall, when you'd come up behind me and tip my books out of my arm so my papers would go pouring across the floor? You remember that?

Again, familiar in general, but not in the specifics.

"Then there was gym class. I think about it now and realize you were only thirteen, and you'd probably look like a little kid if I were see you now, but at the time, you looked like a muscle-bound god to me." He shook his head. "I think about that time... I had such a crush on you, even though you treated me like dirt. You had this gorgeous physique, and you loved to show it off. I knew I wasn't supposed to look, but how could I help myself?

"There was this one time, in the spring toward the end of the year, when we were all milling around the gym waiting for class to start, and you had come out of the locker room carrying your little 'Glen Burns Phys Ed' T-shirt instead of wearing it, waiting until the last moment to put it on so all the rest of us could get a look at that amazing body. You climbed up to the basketball hoop and started doing chin-ups, and I knew I shouldn't stare at you, but I couldn't tear my eyes away, and you caught me watching you and dropped down and shouted at me 'What are you looking at, you little faggot?'

"And of course I had no idea what a 'faggot' was at that age, or what being gay was all about, but you came over and threatened to beat me up and I cowered like a rat and you went away, laughing with your buddies."

That I remembered, though it was strange to hear it from the other perspective. The kid I remembered was a total squid, definitely a "scrawny Jewish runt". How could he have grown up to be this guy, who dressed like a biker and handled a whip like a pro? And come to think of it, how could someone in his twenties have enough money to afford Dr. Cresh's prices?

"Tell me, do you remember that?"

"Yeah." My arms were getting stiff from being held up by the chains, but I didn't dare show it.

"After that, you had it in for me. The last six weeks of school, you picked on me every chance you got. I lived in total fear of running into you. It was bad enough in school, but worse on the way home. You remember the trip home? You and your pal Andy used to walk, and I rode my bike."

This was familiar. Andy and I still went out drinking together... or we did, before. I had an idea I knew what was coming next.

"I used to be in the band. Saxophone. Not an easy instrument to carry. I would strap it to the back of my bike every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and try to wobble home with it. Part of the trip was on streets and sidewalks, which was fairly safe. But then there was that stretch that went through Williams Creek Park. The path ran right next to the stream, over a couple of bridges, with grass all around. There was nowhere to ride except on the path, and that was always where you and Andy seemed to be walking on your own way home and where I always seemed to meet up with you. Not on the street where I could have gone around, or after the park where there was a choice of roads I could take. No, it seemed like whenever I got to the park, that's where you were, too.

"If I was lucky, you'd just spit on my backpack and call me a faggot. If not, I never knew what you'd do. Once you knocked my bike over, and the backpack and the saxophone and I all got ground into the grass while you laughed and kept on walking. Another time you faked like you were going to do it again, only you pulled back, but by then, I had veered off to avoid you and wound up rolling downhill into the stream. I was able to keep the bike upright, but I had to put my foot down in the water and got my shoe and my pants soaked."

I didn't say a thing, just stood there with my eyes cast down. He stood up and walked over to me.

"Look at me." I did.

"I want you to tell me: do you remember any of this?"

"Some. Not all the details, but the things you describe are the sort of things that the person Hopeless used to be would have done."

"And do you remember me at all? Mortie Friedmann?"

"Bits and pieces. Not all of it. The part in the gym, yes, and the park, and the instrument case. Hopeless... the person Hopeless was never knew it was a saxophone."

"Then, mercifully, the school year ended and I had the whole summer free from you. It's amazing... now that I look at it as an adult, the stuff you did to me really wasn't all that bad. But to a twelve-year-old kid, it sure loomed large in my mind. I guess it wasn't so much what you did as what you might have done. You had all the power, and I had none, and so the threat you posed was constantly hanging over my head.

"When August came around, I developed such a huge anxiety problem about going back to school that my parents eventually decided to send me to Catholic school instead. That was a trip - the only Jewish kid in with all those Catholics. But at least I didn't have to go back to good ol' Glen Burns and face another year of being your whipping boy."

He chuckled. "Whipping boy," he said, hefting the flogger in his hand. "My, how the tables have turned, huh?"

There was no possible way this was going to end well. Sure, I tormented losers like Mortie when I was a kid, but I wasn't the only one who did. Everybody picked on somebody. Besides, that was years ago, and I was - more than most people can say - a different person back then. I had a feeling, though, that Mortie wasn't going to see it that way.

"You have no idea how many nights I lay awake when I was a teenager fantasizing about what I would do to you if it were ever in my power. And now, just when I'd pretty much forgotten about you, you pop up again, and the circumstances could not be more perfect. Eddie - Hopeless - I want you to do some chin-ups for me. Just like you did in gym class all those years ago. Work that body of yours that I used to admire so much."

Chin-ups are hard to do with no arms. The modified version is to have your implants hooked to chains, as mine were, and to lift yourself off the ground by pushing your arms down. It's a lot harder than the conventional way, and I was not in the same shape I was back then. But it was an order from a client, which must be treated as if it came from Dr. Cresh himself, so I gave it my all.

I lifted myself up six times before my arms began to tire. I tried to do another, but my muscles failed me and I couldn't get all the way up.

"Aw, come on, Eddie, what's the matter? You used to be so proud of that body, showing it off, strutting your stuff. You did at least a dozen chin-ups that day, and you would have done more if you hadn't decided to go pick on the little faggot instead. So I want a dozen from you now. Starting from one - those six you already did were just a warm-up."

I gave it my best shot, but the strength just wasn't there. I got up twice more, then simply couldn't make my arms do it again. Morton started using the flogger on me, goading me to try harder.

"Come on, Hopeless! You pathetic worm, that's the best you can do? You're going to keep trying until you finish!" The whip landed all over my body, even on my balls and the stump of my dick, but you can't squeeze blood from a stone. I just didn't have the power to lift myself up without a long wait between tries, and he made sure the wait was filled with the pain of being beaten. That flogger landed on me constantly whenever I wasn't trying to lift myself, only stopping when I had my feet off the ground. It must have taken an hour before I finally was able to lift myself up for the twelfth time, and finally the rain of blows stopped and he unclipped the chains from my arm stumps.

My body was covered in welts and bruises. My arms were useless, totally exhausted. I was panting and gasping, sweaty and sore.

"That was pathetic," Morton said. "Absolutely pathetic. I can't believe I used to think you were so sexy. You are a worm! No, you're lower than a worm, you are the shit that a worm excretes. Say that. Say 'I am the shit that a worm excretes.'"

"Hopeless is the shit that a worm excretes."

"No, that's not what I told you. Say 'I am the shit that a worm excretes.'"

Damn. But I had to do it. "I am the shit that a worm excretes."

"Better. Why did you change it?"

"Dr. Cresh does not allow us to say certain words. If we do, we are punished."

His eyes widened. "Really? I'd noticed that you guys talked a bit oddly, but I never paid much attention to why. Let me see... it's words like 'I' and 'me' that you're not allowed to say?"

"That's right."

"And you never spoke your old name, only saying things like 'the person Hopeless used to be', so that must be another one on the list."

I nodded.

"But he's not here, and yet you still worry that you'll be punished. Are you afraid I'll tell him? No, because I didn't know... so he's monitoring us. That makes sense. And I put you into a no-win situation just now, ordering you to say one of the words you'll be punished for using. You either get punished for obeying me, or punished for disobeying."

I nodded gloomily again, still aching all over my body.

"Oh, this is absolutely rich. Tell me, what sort of punishment do you expect, now that you've spoken one of the words you're not allowed to say?"

"It's hard to say. It's not the same every time, and the last time Hopeless used one of the words was a long time ago. Sometimes the punishment is having to drink something nasty, or getting electric shocks on the tongue."

"He's got an insidious imagination, that doctor. But appropriate... if the tongue causes the problem, the tongue is what gets punished. All right, boy, let's do it one more time. Say it again. 'I am...'" he gestured encouragingly.

"I am the shit that a worm excretes."

"Damn right. You are a pathetic, sniveling wretch, and you don't deserve the honor that I am about to bestow on you, but I am going to give you the opportunity to grovel for it anyway. I want you to beg me to feed you my cock, so that you, a creature so vile that the dirt between the cracks in the floor has more worth, can get a glimpse, a tiny, vague, fuzzy glimpse of what a real man is. I want you to plead for me to shoot my seed into your puling mouth so that you can roll it around on your little wormshit tongue and swallow it down your little wormshit throat and hope that its presence in your body can somehow lift you some infinitesimal fraction from the state of craven uselessness that you currently occupy. Got all that? Make it good. Go."

"Sir, Hopeless begs you..."

"On your knees."

I dropped to my knees. "Please, Sir, this useless creature..."

"Put your nose on the floor."

I hunched down and lowered my face until it was touching the ground. "Sir, this useless creature knows that it is not worthy to ask this..."

"Tell me how unworthy you are."

"Hopeless is so unworthy that it must ask the floor because it doesn't dare to face you directly."

"Go on."

And so it went. I could never have come up with all the flowery language he wanted me to say, but that was OK with him, because it gave him a chance to choose the exact phrases for me to humiliate myself with. I barely knew what half the words meant. It ended with me pleading with him to stick his dick in my mouth, which, after a long negotiating session, he generously agreed to do. I sucked him off, and for all the SAT-level vocabulary, what it boiled down to was just another blow job. The only difference was that afterward I had to pretend that the thick glop in my mouth was something called "ambrosia" and savor it before I swallowed it down, then provide a glowing description of its heavenly qualities.

After that, he left, and I thought the session was over, but to my surprise, he came back in with the aide Kerchek a short time later.

"I decided I wanted to see what Dr. Cresh would come up with to punish you for your use of forbidden words," he said. I hadn't forgotten that was still to come, but I wasn't expecting him to want to stick around for it.

Kerchek didn't bother to explain what he was going to do. He had me lie down on the rack and stretched me out, not too tight, just enough to hold me in place. Then he ordered me to open my mouth. He grabbed my tongue with a pair of pliers and yanked it hard. Then I saw a glint of shiny steel, and the next thing I knew he had driven a spike through my tongue. It was about six inches long, rectangular in cross-section, somewhat thinner than a pencil. He had pushed it through a bit to the right of center, and then he took a second one and did the same on the left side. Then he took the pliers off.

"Two violations, two spikes," he said.

I couldn't pull my tongue back into my mouth because the spikes bumped up against my lips, stretching from above my nose to below my chin. Kerchek then fiddled with the spikes, adding small clamps just above and below my tongue so they couldn't slide out.

"We'll take them out in the morning," Kerchek said to Morton. "That ought to be long enough that the lesson will sink in." He let me up from the rack and brought me back downstairs.

It was a long, sleepless night.

Chapter 22

Like all my other injuries, my tongue and my bruised body healed. Morton called me back only a few days later. I still had yellowish-black bruises all over me, but fortunately he didn't create any new ones. Instead, he focused on the humiliation part.

I had to beg him to please put an enormous plug in my butt, groveling all the while about how unworthy my "faggot ass" was to receive such treatment from him. Then more groveling while I pleaded with him to allow me the rare privilege of licking the sock fuzz from between his toes.

It's hard to read the clients sometimes, trying to figure out what it is that gets them off and give it to them as soon as possible. Some are easier than others - that German guy I had my first time, for instance, was very clear in his expectations, though it didn't really matter with him: I was going to get hurt no matter what I did. Most of the clients were easier; they wanted to cause some pain or to have someone to boss around who couldn't tell them "no", and then there was Kenny who just liked some mutilations to admire. I would figure out it was what they wanted from me, then make a show of withholding it from them until they "broke" me and I gave it to them.

Morton, on the other hand, was a lot tougher to read. It seemed a no-brainer that he wanted to make up for the times I had tormented him when we were kids, but as this evening went on, something clearly just wasn't working for him. His dick stayed soft all through my various humiliations, and while I had more sense than to comment on it, he knew that I was aware of his trouble and he didn't like it. Even when he finally granted me permission to engulf it with my lips, it took him a long while to stiffen up. He kept heaping abuse and humiliation on me all the while, but even that didn't seem to be what he was looking for. I wasn't sure what it would take to satisfy him.

Finally, after much frenzied effort on my part, he got his dick up. I sucked him off - Mortie wasn't into anal action, it seemed - and then we were done, after much less time than I was expecting. The lights were still on when I got back to the cell.

More time passed. We went on our various "dates" with the clients and endured the relentless boredom in between. I kept wondering when the new arrival would be finished with the alterations to his mind and body and be dumped in here with the rest of us, but it didn't happen. It got me to thinking whether Dr. Cresh's technique worked every time, or whether there were guys who just couldn't work up the willpower to damage their own bodies. What happened to the failures? Useless didn't know. He knew that there were guys who must not have made it through the training program, but he didn't know what their fate was.

Dogfucker got a particularly vicious additional modification done to him. One morning, Aaron and Brogan brought him out, then returned him a few hours later. He was clearly in pain, but we couldn't see anything wrong with him.

"It's the nuts," he told us. "The doc put something on 'em."

It turned out that Dr. Cresh had opened up his scrotum and yanked his balls out one at a time. He had put a sterilized steel clamp on each one, tightening it to apply pressure, then inserted it back into its nest and sewed up the incision. Dogfucker was now equipped with a set of balls that were constantly being squeezed from within his own body.

A few hours later, when Brogan came in again, we learned that there was a screw that could be turned to vary the amount of pressure. He kneaded Dogfucker's nuts, feeling for the right place. When he found it, he worked through the skin of the sac so as to give each screw a couple of additional turns, cranking up the pressure on poor Dogfucker who kept grunting his distress all the rest of that day.

That night, when the lights were out, Useless tried to use his lips to turn the screw the other way to give him some relief, but it was no good. You had to have fingers to work the mechanism. Lips and toes weren't dexterous enough. Dogfucker had to spend the whole night with his nuts in the vise until Phillip loosened it the next morning. Even so, the screw could only turn so far. When it was untwisted as far as it could go, Dogfucker's nuts were still getting squeezed, just not as badly as before. I had a feeling that this was going to be a new way of life for him, that for him the sensation of uncompressed balls was going to become only a memory.

I got a new modification of my own a few days later at the hands of an indecisive but inventive sadist. It happened one night when I was brought to the medical-themed date room. I had been there a couple of times before, and at first it had scared me more than the dungeon room. After all, the worst horrors I had endured here had been in just this sort of setting. But it turned out to be no big deal because the clients were all rank amateurs compared to the master of medical horror who ran this whole show, so I wasn't expecting anything more than some old fairy playing "doctor" on me.

The guy that came in didn't look like an old fairy, though. He wasn't anyone I had seen before, but he looked like he meant business. I stood in the center of the room while he looked me up and down and felt my body with his hands. He paid special attention to my balls and my nipples.

"Lie down on the table," he directed. I did. He fastened me down with straps until I was unable to move. He buckled my arm stumps together with a strap that ran under the table, so even those useless appendages were immobilized.

He began working on my tits then, and he took his time about it. He would stroke them until they stiffened up, poking like little mountains into the cold air of the room. Then he would tweak them or pinch them or bite them or mash them against my chest until they had flattened out again. Then we would start all over.

When he tired of this, he broke out some heavier toys - clips and clamps, some with teeth, some with electric wires attached, which he attached in various positions and combinations. My nipples were getting very sore and tender by this time, and every time he added or removed or repositioned a clamp, they sang with their discomfort. The juice flowing through the wires made me jump in my straps every time a spark crackled against my skin. I noticed he was careful to keep the wires on one side or the either, never running the current across my heart. How thoughtful, though I knew it wasn't for my benefit - he just didn't want to have to pay the fee for a dead body.

When my tit meat was thoroughly tenderized, he brought out some sandpaper which he rubbed with gentle strokes all across the surface of each nipple. Each individual rub wasn't bad, but they built up on one another until the pain was intense. When I lifted my head, I could see little flecks of red starting to seep out of the skin. It got to the point where I would grimace at the mere sight of him lowering the sandpaper toward my chest - he didn't even have to touch me with it.

So far, he hadn't said anything, and neither had I. We didn't need to speak - we each knew what we were there for: he to cause suffering, and I to endure it. Finally, though, he stopped rubbing the gritty surface across my tender skin and broke the silence.

"I still can't decide what I'm going to do," he said. I looked up at him questioningly. He set the sandpaper down.

"I paid Dr. Cresh for the rights to your nipples tonight," he explained, "but I don't know if I want to go through with it." A lump formed in my throat. My thoughts quickly flashed ahead - I knew exactly what he meant about "the rights to my nipples". I didn't particularly want to lose them, but as body parts went, they weren't really essential. Given the choice between losing them or, say, my nuts or my feet or eyes or pretty much anything else, I'd say take the tits. But he said he hadn't decided what to do, which meant that there was a chance I wouldn't be losing anything tonight.

I had to proceed carefully if I wanted to have any influence over this guy. Sometimes talking with the client was useful - it made us seem more human in their eyes and they would hold back on dishing out the torture. In fact, some of the clients knew that our talking would have that effect on them and so they gagged us or hooded us to make us seem less like people and more like meat. Then they could torture us without feeling guilty about it. Other times, though, speaking backfired and had the opposite effect - it made us more human, but a human was what the client wanted to torture. The German guy, for instance, fit into that category. It became something of a gamble if the client was unfamiliar - which would lead to less pain, speaking or remaining silent?

Given the casualness of his manner, I chose to say something, carefully choosing my words. "Perhaps if Hopeless knew what Sir might be planning to do with this useless one's nipples, he could help Sir reach a decision?" I asked.

"What?" he asked. Sometimes it's hard for clients to understand our speech. I said it again, trying to enunciate more clearly.

"Well, I don't want to cut them off and save them or anything like that, like a trophy some tribesman would wear on a cord around his neck. I just thought it would be fun to be able to play with a nice set of man-tits and not have to worry about doing permanent damage to them. You know, not have to hold myself back."

So why wasn't he doing it? Careful, careful...

"And is Sir having trouble deciding how best to destroy these useless nipples?"

"No, that's not it. I know what I want to do. I just don't know if I want to do it. See, here you are, you're obviously in pain, and that pain is coming from these." He reached down and gave my tits a squeeze with his fingers. I gasped and strained against the straps.

"See? Now I could go ahead and destroy them the way I'd planned to, but then you wouldn't be able to feel this ever again." He released his grip and I sank back against the table.

"If I leave them, I can come back here and do this again and again. But that can't happen if I go all the way. So there's my dilemma."

He sat in silence for a while then. I tried to think of my best way to proceed, but I didn't have any more success with my decision than he was having with his. He rubbed me a few more times with the sandpaper, then brought back the electricity, then brought out some needles and was busy poking them into me while I grunted and hissed when suddenly he stopped and said "I've got it!"

"Sir?" I gasped.

"I know what to do. Since I'm having so much trouble with my decision, you, Hopeless, are going to make the decision for me."

"Sir? How can Hopeless presume to know what Sir would..."

"Oh, shut up with that fake 'your humble servant' crap. You and I both know it's bullshit."

"Yes, sir." Eyes closed, not wanting to provoke any worse reaction.

"Speak to me. Tell me what you're really thinking about, not this 'whatever Sir wants' tripe. What are you thinking about while I'm working on your tits?"

"It hurts."

"And do you like being hurt like that?"

"No, Sir."

"Some guys do, you know. I sometimes enjoy tit pain myself."

"No. Hopeless just wants you to stop."

"And how would you feel if I were to destroy those nipples of yours? It would mean the end of any further tit pain. You would be immune from all future nipple torture, not just from me, but from anyone else, too. Is that what you want?"

"No, Sir. Hopeless just wants you to stop hurting them, not to cut them off."

"Even if it means I can hurt them again in the future?"

I sobbed then, just a bit, and it was only partly for show. "Yes, sir. Hopeless has already had so much of his body removed. Please don't take the tits as well."

He sat back. "All right. You are going to get the chance to keep your nipples. But you'll have to earn them, you understand? Now sit tight, I'm going to go find what I need."

He got up and left the room. When he came back, he was carrying a pair of fish hooks, thick and curved with a small barb on the business end, and a rectangular plate made of metal and glass.. I saw him coming toward me with the hooks and tried to squirm away, but of course there was nowhere I could go.

He carefully inserted the hooks into my nipples. The sharp point went in a short way above the tip of the tit and he pressed it through until it poked out an equal distance below. It hurt, and I cried out. He ignored me and repeated the procedure on the other side. When he removed his hands, I looked down at myself to see two thick wire hooks protruding from my nipples.

He set about attaching lines to the hooks, lines that looked thin and frail but were actually strong enough to haul in a 200-pound fish. Then he unstrapped me from the table and told me to stand up. He led me to a place where there was a hook in the ceiling. He ran the lines over the hook but left them slack. Then he plugged the metal plate into a wall outlet and set it down directly under the ceiling hook. I recognized what it was then - a hot plate.

He waited until it was good and hot before he told me to step onto it. I did. It was hot, but not unbearably so. Still, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other in an effort to keep either one from overheating too soon. Meanwhile, he took up the slack in the lines, stretching the hooks - and my nipples - higher until I was forced to stand on my toes. Only then did he tie the ends off to a post.

"Now," he said while I struggled to keep my balance, my toes growing increasingly uncomfortable on the hot surface, "the choice is yours. You decide whether you want to keep your tits. You decide how much you're willing to endure to keep them intact. If you can stand there for ten minutes, starting..." - he checked his watch - "... now, then I won't destroy them. But, if you cause either one of those hooks to tear out through the flesh, then I'll know you don't care enough about your nipples to keep them, and I will go all the way."

My toes were really starting to become uncomfortably warm and I wanted to lift one foot up to give it some relief. But my balance was already precarious. If I tried to stand on one foot, the odds were good that I would start to tip over. The hooks were embedded securely, so I could put a little bit of weight on them, though it hurt to do so. But they couldn't support my whole weight - if I tried to rely on the lines to keep my balance, I'd end up ripping them out right through my aching tits, and then I'd lose them for good. I couldn't reach any place else to put my feet down; the only option was the hot plate.

So I endured, keeping both feet on the plate while they baked and burned. All the while, the guy kept talking in enthusiastic detail about how he was planning to destroy my nipples. It was clearly a subject he had devoted a lot of time and effort to thinking about. I tried to tune him out. A few times, I couldn't stand the heat any more and had to lift one of my feet up. Twice I got away with it, and was able to get a bit of relief for first one foot and then the other. The third time, though, I began to tip backward and actually felt something tear on the left side before I got myself back under control. After that I just tried to suck up the pain and deal with it.

Even that wasn't enough, though. Standing on my toes like that was hard work, and my leg muscles began to tire. I began to lose my balance again and again, being yanked up by the lines each time, mortally afraid that the skin of my tits had finally reached its limit and was going to give way. I pinwheeled the stumps of my arms around constantly, flailing for balance. Always in view at the bottom of my vision I could see my poor nipples, stretched obscenely upward by the hooks that had been pierced through them.

"Five minutes. You're halfway there."

Five minutes?!? It felt like hours! My feet were on fire, my calves were twitching and shuddering, and the pain in my chest was just indescribable. I had to lift my foot again a few times, and again got lucky that the other was enough to hold me upright while I rested the muscle and cooled the skin. Then back into the fire with the first one while I gave the second a break, hoping against hope that my tits would be strong enough to withstand the strain.

"I don't believe it," he said after a long while, his voiced raised to be heard over my moaning. "I think you're going to make it. Thirty seconds to go."

My legs were shuddering uncontrollably now, the lines above my head quivering in response. The toes of both feet felt completely cooked, which actually helped a bit - the sensation of heat wasn't quite as strong. I hung in there, grimly enduring, tears squeezing out from the corners of my clenched eyes.

"Four... three... two... one. You did it!" He untied the lines from the post and I stumbled forward as soon as I could, sagging helplessly to the floor, crying. I snatched a glance at the balls of my feet - they were an angry red color, but not the black that I had feared. They would heal.

It turned out that my "reward" was not quite what I had thought - that I would get to keep my nipples the way they were. I did get to keep them, but not unchanged.

He removed the fish hooks, and did so by cutting them and then sliding the cut end through the skin, not by trying to slide the barbed end backward the way it had gone in, as I had feared. Then he took a very thick needle, thicker than the lead of a pencil, and pushed it horizontally through each of my tits, one at a time. It was good that he had strapped me down to the table again, because it hurt like hell and I don't think I could have held still otherwise. He might have ended up trashing my tits anyway from repeated needle sticks.

After the needle came an even thicker needle, and after that came an equally thick ring, as big around as a quarter and heavy. The ring had a segment missing - once the main part was in place through my tit, he tried to spread it apart with a pair of pliers and fit the missing segment into place, but he wasn't strong enough to do both at the same time. He had to go get the ape Kerchek to wield the pliers, spreading the ring enough that he could fit the missing segment in place. The whole process was pretty rough on my already-tender tits. When Kerchek let go of the pliers, the missing segment was locked into place; those rings weren't going to come off without at least as much effort.

Then he flipped me over and fucked me doggie-style, with the two rings bouncing and flapping against my chest, tugging at my aching nipples and constantly reminding me of their presence. I wasn't thrilled about having these huge holes through my tits, but it sure beat the alternative.

Chapter 23

Maybe ten or fifteen days later, I had another date with Mortie. Worthless, who almost never got picked any more, was brought out, too. They led him off to the area where Dr. Cresh's offices were, while I went to one of the date rooms, where Morton and I played another round of "Revenge Of The Geek". It was more physical this time, and I did plenty of yelling and screaming while he worked me over. But again, it ended relatively quickly and he still had a dissatisfied air about him. I wanted very much to figure out what it was he wanted from me so I could just do it for him and get him to stop asking for me, but I was at a loss.

Worthless didn't come back that day. Or the next. No one said anything about his absence, but it was on all of our minds.

The day after that, we were surprised by three of the aides - Aaron, Kerchek, and Pete. They lined us up to go out, arm linked to arm, even though we had just been shaved and washed the day before. We were taken out through the main room, up the stairs, and to the wrestling-themed date room, where we were left to wait. They hadn't unlinked our arms, so after a few minutes of standing there, we carefully sat down as a group to wait for them to come back.

"This is not good," Useless kept saying. "Not good at all."

"Yammerin' 'bout it ain't gonna change nothin'," Shithead griped.

"Is it something to do with Worthless?" I asked. Toilet, next to me, nodded.

Nobody else spoke. Even Helpless, off on the other end of the human chain, was subdued.

After a long while, Pete came back in. "Up. Time to go."

We stood. Pete took a moment to crank Dogfucker's internal nut crushers up a few turns, then we made our delicate way back down the stairs to the main room. The space had been transformed. Usually it was a stark, barren place: brown tile floor, dingy walls, dim light. Now parts of it looked like an elegant party hall. One area had been set up with buffet tables and a bar, another section had been covered in sumptuous burgundy carpet and laid out with half a dozen tables, each able to seat four or six diners. Candlelight changed the dim gloom to something more like ambience. Shithead's exercise equipment was gone. In its place was a platform, like a stage, set up at the front where everyone could see it. A large plastic cylinder dominated the center of the stage.

The boys were all there, dressed up in tuxedos. Aaron was finishing the setup of the buffet tables while Phillip was fiddling with the sound system on the stage. Others were lighting candles or messing around with wires and such. Pete took us into our cell for a toilet break, then brought us back out and lined us up against one of the walls. Shithead at one end of the chain and Helpless at the other got their free arms hooked to the wall, forcing all of us to stand while we waited for whatever was going to happen next. Pete disappeared, then came back pushing a small table with wheels on the bottom and some misshapen object on top of it. He rolled it over and left it by the wall next to Helpless.

Then I saw the thing on the table move, and realized it was a human being. Or what was left of one.

Useless caught my eye and mouthed "Mat", but I had already figured that out for myself. It was a hideous sight, just a lump of flesh with a protrusion at one end that was not at all obviously its head. Only the fact that there were holes on the top side made it clear that the thing was lying face up. I wanted to look away from the horror of it, but couldn't tear my eyes away. Finally I forced myself to face forward and watch what was going on in the rest of the room, but almost against my will, my gaze kept slipping back to the awful sight by Helpless's side.

Pete had gone out and now came back dressed in a penguin suit of his own. He took up a spot behind the bar and began to shuffle bottles and glasses around. Subtle string music started to play, infusing the room with its silken sound. The smell of cooking food was absolutely heavenly. I had eaten nothing but mush forever, it seemed, and now I could smell meat searing on a grill somewhere, setting my mouth to watering.

I felt like I had been transplanted to a completely different world.

People began filing into the room in ones and twos, all men. Almost all of them wore either fancy dress clothes or elaborate leather costumes. A few, though, wore much simpler outfits, in some cases little more than underwear. After watching for a few minutes, it became clear that these were servants of some sort, each attached to one of the well-dressed masters. I recognized some of the men as they wandered around the room, sipping champagne from thin crystal glasses and mingling with each other. The German guy was there, and the guy who had crucified me, and a few others I had been paired up with. Kenny and my new pal Morton were not among them.

A few times, one or two of the party guests came up to inspect the lineup of mutilated torture slaves. It was completely incongruous to be in this setting, naked, chained to each other by our stumps. We didn't belong in this plush environment, we belonged in the cell and the torture chair and the dungeon. Seeing these men in their elegant dress I was painfully aware of my nakedness in a way that I hadn't been since my early days in the doctor's service. We stood, eyes cast down, while they ran their well-groomed fingers across our bodies, cupping a set of nuts here, tweaking a tit there. Shithead's balls and my newly-decorated nipples drew particular attention. They made comments, but always to each other. We were nothing more than part of the decorations. Wallpaper. Furniture.

After a while of this, Phillip got up on the stage and began speaking into the microphone.

"Gentlemen, if I might have your attention, please? Gentlemen? Thank you." His voice sounded rich and smooth. It was impossible to believe that this was the same guy who would take us out for our shaves and showers, spouting abuse and kicking us like dogs when we didn't step lively enough for him. The murmur in the room quieted down.

"Gentlemen, on behalf of all of us here, I would like to welcome you this evening and thank you for joining us tonight. We know that some of you have traveled long distances to be with us, and we appreciate all of you taking the time to join us for this special occasion. We will begin serving dinner in just a few moments, but before we do, I would like to present to you your host, Dr. Reginald T. Cresh."

There was a smattering of applause. Philip turned toward the door and two dozen pairs of eyes followed him. Dr. Cresh appeared, resplendent in a white suit that was elegantly tailored to a perfect fit. My heart gave its usual jump at the sight of him. He walked in, gracefully accepting the accolades. He made his way to the stage and took Phillip's place at the microphone.

"Thank you, thank you all. I am so delighted that so many of you could join us here tonight. It is my pleasure to welcome you here to tonight's festivities..."

He droned on and on, thanking the gathering over and over for being his most valued clients, the elite of his patrons, and expressing his appreciation for their continued support, blah, blah, blah. Before long I had tuned out and was watching the five servants in the room. I was trying to figure out if they were in that position voluntarily or if they had been shanghaied like me. As far as I could tell, none of them had any chains on, nothing forcing them to serve their masters, so I had to conclude that they wanted to be doing what they were doing. The sound of my name startled me alert, though I had had too much practice at hiding my emotions to let it show.

"... is Hopeless. Many of you have already had an opportunity to get to know him, and the feedback I've received about his performance has been quite satisfactory." Eyes were looking at me, some of them bored, some of them hungry, and it would have been very nice if I could have fallen through a hole in the floor.

"After dinner, I invite you to get to know Hopeless if you haven't already, or reacquaint yourself with him if you have. He and the rest of the stable will be available to assist you with any of your needs for the duration of the evening."

Well, that explained what the purpose of dragging us out here was.

"For now, I invite you to please relax and enjoy your meal."

The boys began serving plates of salad and bowls of soup to the assembled guests. Pete at the bar was kept busy shuttling bottles of wine to the tables. Glasses and silverware clinked and voices chattered while we stood, our legs growing steadily more tired from standing so long in one place. My mind had started to wander when I was startled by a sudden moaning noise coming from nearby, sounding like a wounded moose or something. It turned out to be Mat, moaning about some unknowable discontent he felt in the deaf, dark prison of his body. I heard Shithead next to me mutter a curse under his breath.

When the soup and salad plates had been cleared away, Dr. Cresh took his place behind the podium once more. "Before we bring out our main course, I would like to present to you tonight's feature entertainment."

As he spoke, Aaron and Brogan were wheeling a gurney up to the stage. There was a body on it, alive but very obviously not well. I got a look when they turned it and was not at all surprised to recognize Worthless lying on the table. Something had happened to his legs - there were bandages across the tops of both thighs, crusted with dried blood. While Dr. Cresh continued speaking, the boys lifted him up and placed him inside the large cylinder at the center of the stage. They attached ropes to his ankles, ropes that were connected somehow to the bottom of the cylinder, but they left plenty of slack. They also put a belt of some sort around his chest just under his armpits. Worthless was unable to stand up, slumping down to the floor when they let go of him.

Useless watched all this, his expression like stone.

"Many of you may recall this particular creature, known as Worthless. He has been here for a number of years, and many of you have spent pleasant evenings in his company. My good friend Gene, in particular, was quite fond him, weren't you, Gene?" One of the well-dressed diners tipped an imaginary hat toward the podium and smiled broadly.

"So much so," the doctor continued, "that he got a bit carried away one night and, sadly, broke his favorite toy. It was a pity, really, but unfortunately these things do sometimes happen."

The doctor, who had not so much as glanced at us all the time he had been here, stared directly at Useless as he spoke those words. I risked a glanced over at him - he still had that terrible flat mask on his face.

Brogan reached into the cylinder and draped a noose around Worthless's neck. I started feeling sick to my stomach. The noose went up to the top of the cylinder and out through a hole in the center. Brogan stepped back and sealed the cylinder closed.

"Such incidents are an inevitable part of doing business, and the costs must be planned for accordingly. Nevertheless, one must always keep an eye to one's balance sheet if one wishes to remain in business. Worthless's condition has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer cost-effective to continue his upkeep, and so I decided that it was time for a send-off party. To liquidate my investment, as it were."

Water began to rise up from the floor of the cylinder.

"Gentlemen, I invite you all to take part in Worthless's final contribution towards your amusement. At your tables you will find a small electronic switch. It only has two settings - on and off. There are twenty-one of you, and you each have a switch to control. Together, we will use those switches to decide what happens inside this cylinder."

The water in the cylinder had risen to knee height. I briefly worried that Worthless might drown as it continued to rise, but knew that the doctor would never let him escape so easily. The belt on his chest was for floatation, and it buoyed him up as the water rose.

"There are twenty-one pipes leading into this cylinder, and one large drain leading out. The water is continually recycled via a pumping system. If you turn your switch on, then your corresponding pipe pumps water into the cylinder. If you turn it off, your pipe turns off. The drainpipe is able to handle about the same amount of water as half the pipes. Thus, if ten or eleven switches are on, the water level in the tank will remain roughly constant. If more of your switches are on, the level will rise. Conversely, if the majority of you turn your switches off, the water level will fall."

The water had reached halfway up the cylinder. Worthless had floated up with it. As he rose, Brogan took up the slack in the noose rope.

"The outcome, gentlemen, is thus in your hands. During the course of your meal, feel free to adjust your switches as you see fit, causing the water level to rise or fall according to our communal whim. I see that dinner is now being served, and I hope you will enjoy your meal. But first, a toast! Please raise your glasses and join me in thanking Worthless one last time for his years of service, for his contribution towards your pleasure here tonight, and last, but not least, for a contribution somewhat more... personal. To Worthless!"

The words were echoed by the assembly, along with chuckles that I thought were just garden variety sadism at first. Then I thought I heard Useless hiss "fucking animals", too softly to be heard by anyone but us. I looked over at him, puzzled at the intensity of his reaction. How was this worse than anything else the doctor had done? Was it just because he and Worthless had been close?

"Look at them, the pigs" he breathed. "He's not even dead yet." I don't think he even realized he was speaking. Then he repeated his earlier words, and this time I heard him correctly. "Fucking cannibals."

I swung my head around to look at the plates on the table nearest to me. They were gracefully laid out with either grilled chicken or fish, some kind of fluffy rice flecked with herbs, a medley of colorful vegetables, and a finger-sized sliver of something that looked like steak. I remembered the bandages on Worthless's thighs, and made the connection in my mind. It was all I could do to not throw up as one of the diners carefully sliced a bit off of his portion and lifted it to his mouth.

Truly, these people brought horror to depths beyond anything I would have imagined possible.

On the stage, the water level had reached a point near the top of the cylinder. Worthless was floating as high as he could, but now the purpose of the ropes on his legs became clear - they prevented him from moving up past a certain point. He was kicking, trying to keep his mouth above the level of the water, but it continued to rise and he was forced to hold his breath. I saw some of the diners fiddling with their controls and the water stopped rising and began to fall, agonizingly slowly, it seemed. But before too long, the level had dropped to the point where Worthless could squeeze a breath. It continued to fall, and Worthless was able to breathe easily.

But only for a brief time, because while the water had been at its peak, Brogan had tied the end of the noose off. As the water level dropped, so did Worthless until the noose would let him fall no further. Then it began to take up more and more of his weight as the water supported less and less of it, until he was again deprived of air, this time by the constriction at his throat. More fiddling with switches, and the water level began to rise again, slowly.

I saw how it was going to go. Worthless was going to spend the last hour of his life alternating between nearly drowning and nearly hanging, while these well-dressed scumbags kept him poised on the brink, never letting him succumb entirely to either alternative. And while they held him halfway between two deaths, they were going to chat and laugh and feast on a meal that included bits of his own body.

The magnitude of Dr. Cresh's callous, inhuman sadism was absolutely staggering.

The water had buoyed Worthless up again so that he was briefly at that point where neither noose nor submersion threatened his breathing. But of course, it continued to lift him until the ropes at his ankles stopped his upward motion and the water rose above his lips. He grabbed an enormous lungful of air at the last minute, then held his breath while the water gradually slowed in its upward course and began to sink back down once more. I was pleading with him in my mind, willing him to let it out, to suck the water into his lungs now and cheat these devils of their fun. But too much of Worthless's mind was gone. He had no capability for such long-range planning. All that was left of his brain was the animal part, the part that wanted to cling to life for as long as possible. He couldn't help but try to live, and in so doing, prolong his death for the amusement of his killers.

"Fucking cannibals! Murderers! Fucking cannibals! You should all be in that tank!"

I realized Useless's voice had been growing steadily louder, to the point where he was now shouting and yanking at his restraints. The force of his movements was tugging on his neighbors, transmitting the pull through Dogfucker to Toilet all the way to me and Shithead.

"Do none of you realize how completely wrong this is? Do none of you have a shred of decency left? That's a human being in there! He does not deserve this from you! No one does! Please, all it would take is just one of you to blow the whistle, and this whole operation would come tumbling down!"

Philip and Aaron were moving towards us. Dr. Cresh returned to the podium. "Does the sight of what's happening to your friend disturb you, Useless? Then I suggest you avert your eyes."

Useless kept shouting. Helpless next to him tried to get him to shut up, to no avail. "You guys on the floor, you've got to know this is not right! You can save us! Please, I'm begging you, get the word out of what goes on in here! He's working on another one, you know. Somewhere upstairs, there's a guy who's been ripped from his normal life and raped senseless. Right now he's lying chained to a bed wondering which part of his body he'll be ordered to slice off next. You can stop this! Please!"

The doctor had the benefit of the microphone, and his amplified voice easily overpowered Useless's. "No? You choose to keep watching. Then I will solve your problem for you. Useless, remove your eyes from their sockets."

Oh, no.

Useless exploded in helpless rage. "Fuck, no! Fuck you, no, I will not do that to myself! I am through with following your commands, and goddammit there is nothing you can do about it! You're gonna have to kill me like you're killing poor Brian in there!"

"Incorrect, Useless," said the doctor. "You'll die when I decide it's time for you to die. Until then, you will either carry out my commands, or I will arrange to have them carried out for you. I'm certain that Gene and perhaps some others here would be happy to assist me."

Useless spluttered in his fury. I saw a smug, hungry look on Gene's face.

"Now, Phillip, I believe our guests would appreciate some peace while they dine."

Phillip and Aaron forced Useless's mouth open and shoved a massive gag inside. They buckled it around the back of his head. The whole lower half of his face was covered by a flat black sheath, his jaws forced wide open by the part stuffed in his mouth. He couldn't say a word, and even when he tried shouting, the only sounds that came out were no louder than the clinking of the silverware.

The boys left and we all stood there, six mutilated freaks, one of whom who was going to be mutilated even more in the very near future.

"Dude, you should not have done that," Dogfucker said. Useless just glared in impotent fury.

They kept Worthless - Brian - alive until after the dessert course. A few times he breathed water in, but always when the level was dropping. In a few seconds he was able to cough it out again and grab a few quick breaths before the noose took up his weight and closed his throat again. The look on his face was one of pure helpless misery.

At last, when the dessert plates were being cleared away and the boys were serving brandy to the guests, Dr. Cresh announced that it was time for the show's culmination. He had Brogan override the switch settings, causing the water level in the tank to rise rapidly. At the same time, Aaron did something to the ropes that were tied to Worthless's ankles, tightening them so that he was pulled sharply down.

I had wondered how it was going to end, by drowning or by hanging. The doctor, in his infinite cleverness, had found a way to do both.

Worthless erupted in a panic, the stumps of his arms pinwheeling around while his legs tried to kick. A few bubbles squeezed out of his mouth and broke on the water's churning surface, then a few more. It didn't take long, though. He was too weakened from his ordeal. The spastic convulsions intensified, then suddenly slowed, and finally Worthless's body was still. One last bubble crept out from his nose and rose through the water.

I think I would have gladly given my two remaining limbs to be anywhere else at that moment.

There was silence, and then a wave of applause swept through the hall. The doctor accepted the accolades graciously, and then announced that the remainder of the evening was available for whatever recreations his guests desired. Phillip and Aaron unclipped our arms and we were led off to join groups of three or four or five of the guests, to service them in whatever ways their sick, twisted imaginations could come up with.

I didn't have it too bad. I got a group that seemed fascinated by my willingness to inflict my own pain. They had a great time watching me do tricks like take a lit cigarette in my mouth the wrong way around and hold it there until they gave me permission to extinguish the burning end with my tongue. It wasn't a cakewalk - some of the stuff they made me do had me screaming a few times, but compared to what I could see and hear the other guys going through, I got off relatively easy.

Shithead was a popular guy. He got his massive nuts squeezed and slapped and prodded and zapped so many times it's a wonder they didn't swell up to twice their gargantuan size. And they had him work those huge muscles, too, one time pitting him in a no-holds-barred fight against one of the "voluntary" slaves. It was a surprisingly even match, with Shithead's muscles making up for his missing arms. I didn't get to see how it turned out.

Dogfucker was on the receiving end of a gang-bang for a lot of the time. His ass was going to be seriously hurting tomorrow morning. Helpless got to wear a set of prosthetic balls for the evening, which were in a bag that someone sewed to his skin in the appropriate place. They were about as big as Shithead's, which looked ridiculously out of place on Helpless's skinny frame. With at least one of the six of us screaming from one torment or another and the non-stop shoving of various cocks into various mouths and asses, the room was pretty much constantly filled with the sounds of pain and sex. It was like Satan's own orgy.

Useless, though, poor Useless by far had it the worst. Dr. Cresh took him up on the stage and spent the entire time taking out his eyes like he had promised, with the help of Gene and the German guy and one other. His screams were pretty much constant - they took out the gag so that they could hear him holler. At one point, I saw them stand him up. His eyes had both been extracted from their sockets and were hanging down on his blood-stained cheeks, still attached to his head by thin cords. They had him walk and move around, laughing at his disorientation from what must have been a dizzying view from his dangling eyes, a view that he couldn't shut off because his eyes no longer had lids to cover them.

They did it right there under the tank that Worthless was still hanging in. I happened to be nearby at the time they squashed his one remaining eye in a vise. They had pointed it toward the tank so that the last thing Useless would see before his vision went forever dark would be his friend's drowned, lifeless body.

Back in the cell, I was wakened from sleep by someone shaking me. I was disoriented - the room was pitch black as usual, and for a moment I forgot that I was in hell. Then recent events all came crashing back.

"Hopeless, wake up. Come on, please wake up." Useless's voice was cracked and broken, a harsh whisper, soft in the darkness.

"What is it?" I spoke barely above a breath.

"I need you to help me. You're the only one I trust."

"What do you mean? Help you how?"

It should have been obvious, I guess, but I was still sleepy.

In the next half hour, I learned his real name - Cameron - along with the first and last names of seven of Dr. Cresh's victims, including the most recent mortality, Brian Lendersen. He made me repeat them over and over until I had them committed to memory and could recite them all flawlessly.

I tried to talk him out of it, but he was adamant that it had to be now, tonight, so that it could be blamed on the trauma he had experienced and I would not have to suffer punishment for depriving Dr. Cresh of one of his "toys". Reluctantly, I agreed. He lay down on his back and blew out as much air as he could. Then I placed my armpit over his nose and mouth and squeezed.

It took a long time. Even though this was what he wanted and he tried to control his reactions, the instinct for life is strong. As his hunger for air became overpowering, he lost control and his body fought me with all its feeble strength. I held tight, grimly squeezing his face between my arm and my ribs, denying him the air that he both spurned and craved. I didn't worry about blood from his ruined eye sockets staining my skin and giving away what I had done - I was so covered in my own that a little of his would make no difference. We fought, silent in the blackness, but the outcome was never in doubt.

His body flailed, then spasmed, then twitched, then stopped moving. Still I held on, counting slowly to three hundred from the time of his last movement, as he had instructed me to do. Five long minutes. I added another sixty to be sure, then I lifted myself up off his mat, where he would be found in the morning, and crawled back over to my own.

Chapter 24

So then there were five of us. Useless's body was removed without fuss the next morning, and there were no repercussions from my murderous act of mercy. The boys took away the two extra bed sets, of course. Shithead tried to take Helpless's so he could have two again, which didn't bother me. But it would have bothered Cameron, and so I made sure that Helpless, the irritating, whiny little gnat, got to keep his mat and blanket.

We had a long break then when none of us were called out on dates. At least ten days went by with the five of us cooped up in our pen, only taken out to be hosed off, then brought back in. The days dragged by in endless tedium, but after that horror show, none of us had any objection at all to tedium. We didn't talk much, each of us just lying around or pacing or whatever, lost in our own thoughts and sorrows. Shithead got to do his exercises, which helped him to keep his temper under control. At one point we heard the struggles of Dr. Cresh's next victim out in the main room. It sounded like a different voice than before. I figured the first guy probably didn't make it, and this was maybe a new one

When the dates resumed, mine was one of the two names called.

Kerchek led me upstairs to the wrestling room. This was the least-used room, I had found. Most of the clients preferred one of the two dungeon settings or the prison cell or the medical office. Only Kenny the stump-fetishist had much interest in wrestling, and so I expected him to be the one who walked through the door, but, to my surprise, my date turned out to be with Mortie. He was dressed not in his leather getup but in a Polo shirt and casual pants. That was my first clue that the evening was not going to go anything like our previous sessions.

He started by having me sit down at a table on the side of the room. He took a chair across from me, then he opened up two bottles of beer and plunked a straw in one so I would be able to drink from it. He took a long pull from his and, when I sat staring at him in puzzlement, gestured for me to do the same.

I had forgotten what beer tasted like.

"Eddie," he said, "I imagine you're feeling pretty confused right now."

That much was true.

He went on to explain, in great detail, his thoughts and feelings ever since he had discovered that his childhood tormentor was now a torture slave that he could abuse at his whim. We polished off our beers while he was talking and he opened up a second set. I was already feeling fuzzy-headed after only one, so I just sipped at the second. The thought of checking out for a while in an alcohol-induced haze was almost irresistibly tempting, but all sorts of danger lay down that road and I could not risk going there. I needed to be able to pay attention to what Mortie was saying, because even though the situation seemed pretty harmless so far, there was no telling what the future might hold.

"... it's not at all what I thought it would be like," he was saying. "I mean, think about it, it's a perfect situation. You tormented me as a kid, now I get to have all the revenge I want. It's like a dream come true. But it's just not satisfying!"

He took another long pull of his beer, then wiped his lips. "There's got to be something wrong with me. This can't be normal, right? I should be leaping at the chance to put you through hell, and at first I was. After that first night when I learned you were the dreaded Eddie Kearns of my nightmares, I couldn't wait to get back here again. But that second time just felt empty. The third time was even worse. It was like I was supposed to be getting this great rush out of smearing your face in the mud, but all I could think about was 'Mortie, you're a good man, and you're beating up on a cripple. That is not like you.'"

I wasn't saying much, but he must have seen the look of puzzlement on my face.

"See, Eddie, it's like this. I've been coming here for a couple of years now, once every few months. Just to let off steam, you know? A guy like me has a hard time getting dates. Let's be honest, I'm not an attractive man. I've got money, sure, and that helps to make up a little bit for what I lack in the physical beauty department. But money can only buy whores, not partners. I'm only 26, and already I'm resigned to the fact that I'm never going to find that special someone I can share my life with."

Man, this was getting drippy. Was he drunk already?

"So next best thing: I come here, I pick a guy at random and I know that in his eyes, I'm going to be the man, I'm the top dog. He'll do anything I tell him to, and he'll jump at the chance to do it. Eddie, you don't know how that feels to a guy like me. You could always hold your own, but I've spent my whole life cowering and sucking up to guys who were bigger and stronger than me. In here, in these rooms, the tables were finally turned and I could be the alpha male."

Another long pull on his beer, draining it dry. He set the empty bottle down next to his first and got himself another. I made a show at sipping from mine, but swallowed only a little bit.

"What I learned from my last two visits with you is that it's all make-believe. In here, I can pretend I'm the big man, but as soon as I step outside, I turn right back into wimpy ol' Mortie Friedmann again, who lets people cut in front of him in line and carries spiders out of the house instead of squashing them. The illusion worked because I never thought about the guys I was dominating. They were just blobs of meat, they didn't even have real names, just words branded across their chests. They weren't human at all.

"I mean, I knew on some level that they all must have been real men at some point, but Dr. Cresh doesn't go out of his way to tell how he acquires his merchandise. There's an unspoken assumption that the residents of his stable got there more or less voluntarily. Some guys would do that, you know, turn themselves into slaves. The gay S&M world is full of bottoms who at least talk about putting themselves into permanent submission. And you're all so cooperative, it's easy to believe that deep down you crave the abuse. I never probed too deeply into why so many men would willingly undergo such... dramatic alterations.

"But then I found you, and the one thing that was obvious was that you would never have put yourself into this position voluntarily. Am I right? Tell me, Eddie, did you become like this of your own free will, or was it forced on you?"

I took a sip of the beer to cover for the fact that my voice would be shaking if I tried to answer. Finally I swallowed and said. "You're right. Hopeless did not do this by choice."

"Damnation," he said. "I knew it. Would you be willing to tell me, then, how it was that you came to be in this place?"

It wasn't an order. It was a request, something that I could say "no" to if I wished. But I didn't wish.

"Hopeless doesn't remember the exact date. It was some time in July..."

"July of this year?"

"Hopeless doesn't know what year this is."

He told me the current date. It was November, two years after I had been taken. I had been in this hellhole for almost two and a half years.

"I'm sorry to have interrupted," he said. "Please go on with your story."

It was awkward at first, because I had to keep using elaborate constructions to avoid the "I's" and the "me's" that the story called for. After a few clunky workarounds, he suggested an alternative.

"This is too hard to follow. I'll tell you what: why don't we pretend we're talking about someone else? Let's make up a name - Doug. Why don't you tell me Doug's story?"

So I did. I told him of Doug's innocent inquiry into an ad for participants in a medical survey and all the tortures and mutilations that had happened to him since. I told him about the cell where Doug lived with Toilet and Shithead and the rest, and our miserable, pain-filled lives. I didn't mention the recent deaths of Worthless and Useless - that was still too fresh to talk about, even with the emotional distance that the "Doug" masquerade provided.

Then, somehow, the conversation turned nostalgic. We compared school stories. I learned what life at Glen Burns Intermediate had been like for him, and told him in return what I - what Doug - remembered of my time there. He told me about his well-meaning but nagging parents and the successful internet business he had built while he was still in high school, which he had since sold to Google and which explained how he could afford Dr. Cresh's prices. I told him about my sister and my series of dead-end jobs, and what had become of Andy since school. We found that we had known a few people in common back in seventh grade and swapped stories about them.

By the time the evening ended, it was as if we had been friends our whole lives.

When we started feeling like we had said everything there was to say, he brought the conversation back to the present day. "You know what it is? You and I, we're not the same people we were back when we were kids. We're different now. My whole problem was that I was locked in the past, thinking that if I could get my revenge on you, then it would somehow undo the hurt that you had caused me. But I'm not that scared little kid any more, and you're not the same Eddie Kearns who loomed so large... Oh, what a selfish, arrogant little prick I am! Here I am, droning on about my trivial little trauma to you, who has suffered so much worse than I have that it's an insult to even speak of the two in the same sentence!"

He leaned forward and put his elbows on the table, staring straight into my eyes. He gestured for me to come close and spoke in a quiet voice, wary, I guess, of being overheard by any electronic eavesdroppers. "Eddie, I know that nothing I can say or do can ever give you back what you have lost, but I want you to know that I am truly, deeply sorry for my part in what has been done to you. Dr. Cresh takes guys like you because guys like me are willing to pay him for it, and I promise you, I'm not going to fund his operation any more. I'm through subsidizing this barbarity."

I actually had a lump in my throat. In two and a half years, no one had ever said such a thing to me. Though he was right, there was nothing he could do to change things, it still meant a lot that he was willing to say that. I leaned forward, too, setting my stumps near his hands, speaking haltingly.

"For what it's worth... 'Doug'... Doug wants you to know that he's... he's sorry, too, for what he did to you when you were kids."

He grabbed me by the arms and lifted me to my feet, embracing me in an enormous bear hug and squeezing hard. He held me for a long time, and just before he broke away, while his lips were next to my ear, he whispered in a voice so soft that it could never be picked up by any microphone, "I'm going to get you out of here."

I knew better than to react outwardly, but inside my heart actually turned somersaults.

I warned him that he needed to be careful, that terrible things might happen to him if Dr. Cresh ever suspected that he might go to the police. He assured me that he would be discreet. He let me go and we began to tidy up. He had polished off three beers; I had gone through two. He started to offer to let me keep the last one in the six-pack, but realized that I'd have no way to carry it back to the cell and no way to open it once there even if the boys let me keep it, so he tactfully left it sitting on the table.

That night, lying on the mat in the pitch darkness of the cell, I reached my left arm across my chest. I couldn't see the letters branded there, but I knew where each one of them was. I positioned the stump of my arm so that it covered the last half of the word, and fell asleep knowing that the letters on my chest now spelled "HOPE".

Chapter 25

In a way, having hope is more painful than not having it. When I woke up in the morning and nothing was different, it was as if I had been briefly given wings and had started to take my first tentative flight, only to have them ripped from my shoulders before I could truly get off the ground. It made me see all the daily abuse and humiliations with fresh eyes. When I was forced to lick the tasteless gruel off of Toilet's chin and cheeks and submit to the same treatment from Helpless, I was once again aware of how deeply demoralizing that act was. Being shackled to the others and hosed down as if we were not much different than the dirty floor was insulting. Our cell seemed like far too small a prison to be cooped up in, not when I had dreams of once again seeing the sky.

But I kept all my resentment inside, and locked away that tiny sliver of hope in a corner of my mind where I could warm myself by its glow, but only when I was by myself, alone in the dark night when nobody could see the smile that came over my face at the thought that some day I might escape this hell.

He would come for me. He would.

Of course, by day, sobering reality crashed against the fragile walls I had built around my tiny spark of hope. Everything depended on Mortie, after all, and any number of things could go wrong with whatever plan he was going to come up with. Assuming, of course, that he was even going to come up with a plan at all. For all I knew, our beer-soaked trip down memory lane was just an amusing diversion for him, and his promise to set me free could have had all the weight of a movie producer's "let's do lunch". He could have been lying the whole time, but what would the point of that have been? If he wasn't serious about what he said, then why would he waste an evening chatting with me when he could have spent it making me grovel and scream?

So I had to assume his offer was genuine. We had truly connected, Mortie and me. Somehow during that long conversation, we had gone from being master and slave to being equals, maybe even friends. I kept telling myself that I was probably reading too much into his words, but the more I played back what he had said in my mind, the more convinced I became that he had undergone a complete change of heart. We, the occupants of Dr. Cresh's stable, were no longer meat in his eyes, but men.

Then my thoughts would range to all the ways that a breakout plan could fail even if Mortie did have the best of intentions. Dr. Cresh was certainly no amateur, and would have multiple layers of protection against those who would try to betray him. From my position down in the cellar of his operation, I couldn't even imagine the sorts of things that went on at the top levels, but I knew they had to be complex. I passed many hours in the cell imagining what Mortie's plan might eventually turn out to be, and what Dr. Cresh might do to thwart it, and how I could provide the key insight that would allow Mortie and me to slip out from between the jaws of disaster. And from that delightful prospect to the other end of the spectrum, where the doctor caught wind of what was happening and Mortie ended up here in the cell, armless and toothless like the rest of us rejects.

Time passed as it always did. I had dates with a number of men, including one with the German guy, one with Gene, the man who had helped to tear Useless's eyes out, and a session with some guy I never even saw in which I was stuffed into a tiny box for what must have been an entire day. Aaron brought me into one of the dungeon rooms and had me kneel down inside a box that pressed against my body from all four sides. Then he shoved my head down and closed the lid. I was trapped in the tight space, unable to fully catch my breath because of the compression on my ribs. I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing did, and as the hours wore on the pain and the need to move, to shift my position even just a tiny bit, became so overwhelming that I thought I would go insane from it.

Finally I felt a draft of cold air on my backside. Someone had opened up a panel there, allowing cool air to enter the box. I felt a cock pressing up against my asshole, and before I could prepare myself, it had forced its way in. I shrieked at this new pain added to all my others. The fucking was long and hard and brutal. When it was over, my rapist sealed up the box again and left me there, blood and cum dripping out of my shredded asshole. Eventually, Phillip came and let me out. I couldn't even stand - my knees had gone numb from having my weight on them for so long, and my legs wouldn't support my weight. He had to half-drag, half-carry me back down the stairs to the cell.

Helpless lost his nipples one night, to the same guy who had settled for putting rings in mine. I asked him about it, and he said the same thing had happened: he was strapped down, tit-tortured for a while, then given the chance to save them if he could pass the fish-hook-and-hot-plate test. He didn't. Having been in the situation myself, I could imagine what it must have felt like: the burning feet, the shaky balance, the first few tentative stumbles, the eventual fall that could not be recovered from, the abrupt yank on the tits, the metal tearing its way out through the flesh...

He was reluctant to go into details about what happened after that. All he would say was that it took a long time. His chest was bandaged, leaving the sight hidden from view. My imagination supplied the details, of course, ranging from the clean slice of a knife to the rough tearing of teeth or the searing flame of a branding iron. I tried to stop thinking about it, but every time I moved and my rings tugged at my tits, my thoughts immediately veered toward what might have been.

And so the days and weeks passed. Until one night when the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived...

Chapter 26

It started out as a date like any other. I was dropped off in the last room down the hallway, the second of the two dungeon rooms. I waited for the client to arrive. When I saw Mortie come through the door, I was overjoyed, but tried not to show it on my face. Still, something must have leaked through to my expression, because he smiled at me, a cold, nasty smile.

"What, you're expecting more beer, maybe?"

My heart sank - it seemed our previous time was all a lie after all. But a few minutes later as I was washing his boots with my tongue, he bent down, ostensibly to check my performance, and whispered "Work with me - we're putting on a show for the cameras." Then, louder, "Every single inch, you wormshit troll! I don't want to see a single speck of anything but your spit when you're through!" He seemed nervous and uncomfortable.

So I polished his boots until they gleamed, ignoring the gritty particles that clung to my gums and tongue. Then it was on to more flowery descriptions of how unworthy I was to even be composed of the same kinds of molecules as he was, how there should be a separate kind of carbon for creatures like me, all addressed to the germs in the dirt on the floor with the hope that they would relay my words to Morton for me because his ears were too far above my execrable state to be polluted by the sounds of my speech directly. It was all much like our first session together, only he made sure to throw in lots of references to things he had learned about me over our beer chat.

I began to get the idea of what he was doing. He needed to have an explanation that Dr. Cresh would buy for why he had treated me, a mere torture slave, like an actual human being last time. To a certain extent, it seemed, the clients were free to do what they wanted with us. But if the doctor sensed that a client was about to jeapardize his operation, his defenses would go up. That's why easy-going Kenny could treat me like a near-equal - because he wasn't an exposure risk. He liked coming around to feel up us amputees too much to blow the whistle on the organization.

But Mortie sitting down and chatting with me must have raised some red flags. The doctor couldn't allow him to develop too much of an attachment to me, so Mortie must have invented a cover story - how he wanted to use our past history with each other to further increase my debasement. It was certainly working - some of the things he said to me stabbed like a knife. He took words and thoughts that I had entrusted to him and twisted them around to wound me with them, and only his whispered comment that we were putting on a show kept my faint spark of hope alive.

At last I was allowed to accept his cock in my mouth and suck him off like usual. Instead of shooting in my mouth, though, he pulled out at the last instant and shot his wad all over my face. He used his fingers to rub it into my skin, where it quickly dried and hardened into a crusty film.

"Now," he said in his stage voice, "now we will see if the seed of a real man can have any hope of lifting such a wretched creature out of its squalor. I will tell Dr. Cresh that you are to remain here tonight. You will spend the night contemplating the nature of the sacred substance that now coats your face and you will strive to allow its essence to penetrate your pathetic feebleness. Come!"

He led me over to a spot near the door, where he fastened my arm to a post with a buckle. He made a great show of twisting the buckle shut, but actually left it open so that all I had to do to slip out of it was raise my arm and slide the eyebolt on the end out through the gap. While he was working, he whispered into my ear.

"Count to 60 ten times. When ten minutes have passed, slip out of the buckle and go out the door. Turn right. There's a staircase at the end of the hall. Go down one flight, then out the door. An alarm will sound. Ignore it. I'll be waiting in a car outside. Get into the back seat and get down." Then, louder, "Maintaining a standing position will encourage you to remain awake, so that you might spend the time you otherwise would have wasted in sleep meditating on how my essence might help you rise, however fractionally, from your degraded state."

He finished with a flourish, then opened the door and left, turning out the lights as he went. I was left in utter darkness - none of these rooms had any windows, of course.

I started counting. My mind kept straying, running on overdrive, and I lost count a couple of times. I took my best guess at where I had left off and tried to stay focused. Then I added a few extra numbers at the end on the theory that it would be better to make my break late rather than early.

Finally the moment arrived. I slipped out of the buckle and stood unrestrained. The doorknob gave me a bit of trouble - it was designed for people with hands - but I got it open and peeked out into the hallway. It was deserted, brightly lit with glaring fluorescent bulbs that made me have to squint my dark-adapted eyes. I slid the door shut, then stepped as silently as I could further down the hallway, away from the path that led back to the cell toward a place I had never been before.

At the end of the hall was another door, which swung open when I pushed. So far, no alarms that I could hear. I tiptoed swiftly down the steps to find another door. This one opened by a horizontal bar, and when I pushed on it, it swung outward and an ear-splitting racket assaulted my ears. I plunged through into a bracingly cold night and there, right in front of me and down two steps, was a black car waiting with its engine running and its back door open. I dove inside and had only enough time to catch a quick glimpse of Mortie behind the wheel before he accelerated so quickly that the door slammed shut and we were off into the cold slush of a Boston winter night. He threw a blanket over me, which I tried to arrange over myself.

Five or ten minutes passed. I huddled under the blanket, hardly daring to believe that I was actually escaping from Dr. Cresh's house of horrors. Then I heard Mortie's voice. "I think it's safe for you to sit up now. There doesn't seem to be anyone on our tail."

I peeked up. There around me, flashing by outside the windows, were buildings, cars, trees, lights, all the things that had been outside my world for so long I had just about forgotten they existed. I sat up and watched the world go by for a while, the blanket in my lap, rapt with amazement. We were on one of the highways, but I couldn't tell which one.

"Congratulations. You made it," Mortie said. I swung to look at his eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror and suddenly I realized that I had spent so much time thinking about how to make my escape that I had not thought at all about what to do afterward.

"Morton... we've got to go to the police," I blurted, "no, not the police, they're in the doc's pocket. The FBI? How do you call the FBI, anyway? What..."

"Hey, easy there. Relax. You're free. We'll figure out what to do. We both want to shut that asshole down. And we will. Right now, though, I think you can afford to take a little time for yourself. 'Kay?"

I nodded.

"Besides, tomorrow's Sunday. We'll have better luck finding someone to talk to on Monday. Here's what I thought we'd do: I'm going to drive us to a place in southern Vermont that a friend of mine owns. It's up in the mountains; he uses it for skiing but he's not there now. I figured we can't trust the police in Boston, maybe all of Massachusetts, so getting out of state might be a good idea. Whatever connections Dr. Cresh has probably grow weaker with distance. We'll go there tonight, you take the whole day tomorrow for yourself, and then we'll figure out what to do after that. We can afford to wait a day: the doc's not going anywhere."

"But what if he figures out what happened? What if he knows that you helped me escape? Could he trace us there?"

"Not a chance. Remember, it's not my place, it's my friend's. I hate skiing - I've only been there once for a Fourth-of-July barbecue. He won't know where we've gone."

It dawned on me then that if Dr. Cresh did figure out what happened, Mortie now had just as much at stake as I did. If the doctor ever captured him, he'd be turned into something like me. Or worse.

"Morton," I said in a soft voice. "I can't believe you did this for me. You know what he's capable of, and you helped me anyway. Thank you."

"Hey, it was the right thing to do. Now we just have to see that he's put behind bars, and then we'll both be safe."

We left it at that and drove steadily into the night. I stared at the world for a while, watching the traffic grow gradually lighter as we left the city, noticing things like trees and bushes and the stars wheeling by overhead that I had never paid attention to before. Eventually I fell asleep curled up under the blanket on the back seat.

When I woke up, we were winding along a country road surrounded by a darkness so deep I might have been back in the cell. The gleam from the headlights barely penetrated the inky dark ahead of us, but Mortie knew where he was going. At last we pulled up in the driveway of a A-frame house, the perfect rustic getaway for the sort of rich suburban people I never was.

We slogged through a couple inches of snow, and Mortie slapped his head at forgetting to bring boots, or indeed any clothes for me. He dug the key out from under a red urn on the porch and opened the door. The house was cold inside, but he cranked up the thermostat and heat began to tick and click out from the radiators along the walls. He went to a closet and dug some clothes out. There wasn't much - all we found was a T-shirt and a bathrobe, both of which fit me well enough.

"Morton, Hopele... I... man, that feels weird to say! I hate to ask this now that you've helped me get all this stuff on, but..."


"I think what I could really use is a long, hot shower. Would you...?"

He agreed to help me. The shower stall was tiny, but we both squeezed in. He kindly ran soap over every square inch of my body and massaged shampoo into the peach fuzz growing on my scalp. Twice. He even tenderly washed away the residue of his own spunk that was crusted on my face. I felt bad for him, because the close contact was obviously turning him on. His dick had stiffened up and kept slapping into me as we moved around, but he made no move to do anything about it.

Finally we ran out of hot water and he turned the nozzle off. He dried me off and helped me put on a bathrobe. We talked for a few minutes, then headed off to bed. Separately. I managed to pee on my own, but needed his help to pull down the sheets on my bed. I shrugged the robe off and climbed in, he pulled the blanket up over me, and I sank into the delicious softness. It felt like heaven.

"Sleep well," he said, then left for his own room. "I'll leave the doors open. If you need anything, just call."

The bed and the pillows and the blankets were soft and warm and so luxurious I could hardly believe the sensations on my skin were real. I was so used to sleeping on the hard floor with my stump for a pillow that I had a hard time finding a good position to lie in. I usually sleep on my stomach - back when I had arms, I would tuck one of them under the pillow to prop my head up. Now, though, my head sank so deep into the fluffy pillow that it kept blocking my nose and mouth. So I squirmed around a bit, the velvety fabric whispering deliciously against me as I moved, trying various positions in the warm embrace of the bed. For whatever reason, I just couldn't seem to fall asleep. Maybe it was the nap in the car, or being so keyed up about my escape, or the thoughts of what I should do next that kept running through my head.

Eventually I gave up and got up, leaving the blankets heaped up so that when I climbed back in they would fall on top of me. The house was dark and quiet. I was in the room at the end of the hall. Mortie was in the next one toward the stairs. I peeked my head inside - he was snoring softly. I saw a tiny light gleaming on the dresser and went to check it out. It was something I had heard about in my old life but never seen before - a cell phone that could take pictures.

I wandered down the stairs, through the main room and into the kitchen. The faucet was a lift-up kind, so I was able to turn it on and get a drink. I poked my head into the fridge, but there was nothing there - not surprising for an empty house. We would have to figure out what to do about breakfast tomorrow.

I stared out at the dark night outside the window for a long time, pondering what the best thing to do would be. It was great to be free, but I would only feel truly safe when that scum-sucking bastard was locked away, or preferably dead. Setting the others free would be a nice side benefit, but my main goal was to stop him from getting to me. Given that he had power and influence, with his slimy tentacles insinuated into all sorts of places, then what was the best way to bring him down? I wandered around a bit more while I thought, exploring the house while turning various plans over in my head.

I fell asleep eventually and stayed asleep until well into the next morning, when the smell of bacon sizzling on a griddle gradually percolated into my awareness and gently lifted me awake. The sun was pouring brightly into the room, making little specks of dust sparkle in the air. The smell had made my mouth water so much that as soon as I was awake enough to register what it was, I practically leaped out of bed, getting all the way to the door before remembering that I was back in normal society - I should put on the robe. I bounced down the stairs, eager to get to the source of the scent and delighted that the man in charge of breakfast apparently wasn't all that Jewish.

Downstairs, Morton was busy in the kitchen. He had clearly gone shopping, or perhaps there had been groceries in the trunk of the car. He was finishing up the most magnificent breakfast I had ever seen in my life. He had made omelettes, with so much crumbled bacon, diced onions, and cheese stuffed in that it was spilling out the sides. There was toast, which he had cut into bite-sized squares, and coffee and orange juice and chunks of melon and pear. "Good morning," he said. "Hope you're hungry."

There was no way to eat it in a civilized way. He offered to handle the fork for me, but I told him I would prefer to just lower my face to the plate and slurp, if that was OK with him. It was pig-like, but effective. I plowed through one whole omelette and a pile of fruit before coming up for air. The toast was harder to manage without teeth. I could gum it until it was soft enough to swallow, but that took too long, so I left it until I was halfway through the second omelette, when enough of an edge had been taken off my appetite that I could spare the time.

I finally got to the point where I couldn't shove another bite down my throat. "Morton, you need to get out of the software business and become a chef. That was fantastic."

We spent the day hanging out around the house. I kept feeling like I should be doing something, but every time I suggested it, Morton told me to relax, that I was safe here, that I had been through hell and it was OK to take a day to unwind before launching our crusade against Dr. Cresh. He was right, I supposed, but all through the day, I kept having these flashes that I needed to DO something, as if I were a mouse that had just seen the shadow of a hawk in the sky. It just felt so unnatural to be sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping Coke through a straw, watching the Montreal Canadiens on ESPN by satellite. Too bad there wasn't any football on, but it was February.

How could the world have gone on so normally all those months while I was suffering? It didn't seem possible. I spent the day running through every emotion I possessed, from delirious joy that my ordeal was now over, to anxiety that it might not be if I didn't get Dr. Cresh put away, to abject despair at everything that had been taken from me, to curiosity about what kind of life I could make for myself now. I even felt hope, the very opposite of the name Dr. Cresh had bestowed on me, as Morton told me about the advances that had been made in prosthetics due to all the GIs wounded in the Middle East. There was the possibility that I would one day be able to take care of myself, dressing and bathing and brushing my own teeth, wiping my own ass instead of needing someone to do it for me.

At one point we tried to get the rings off my nipples. Unfortunately, the metal was too rigid to bend with just our hands, and there were no tools anywhere around. Morton tried, bless him, but the best he could manage was wedge two kitchen knives into the ring and try to force it open by bending them. It just didn't work - the knives kept slipping and he couldn't get enough leverage.

"That's OK," I told him while he apologized for accidentally jamming one of the knives into my chest. "There'll be time to get them off later when we can find some pliers."

We skipped lunch - I was still stuffed from breakfast - and he made a superb goulash for supper, with thick chunks of lamb that simmered all afternoon until they were tender enough to fall apart if you looked at them too hard, and potatoes and carrots and onions and noodles. It was all soft enough for me to eat, and delicious beyond measure.

"My friend who owns the place is coming up here tomorrow morning," he said during dinner. "I called him because he's got some contacts with federal law enforcement, so I thought he might be able to help us figure out what we should do next. He said he could be here by nine." I grunted something around a mouthful of lamb.

Like at breakfast, I gorged myself until I couldn't eat another thing. It would have been nice to take a walk outside, but there was no other clothing at the place besides the robe and shirt we had already found. No shoes, no boots, no coats, and it was well below freezing out there. Morton offered to loan me his, but even that was not warm for the conditions outside. He hadn't realized how much colder it would be here in the mountains than it was back in Boston.

So I contented myself with staring at the pristine white snow out the window while Morton did the dishes. I would have liked to have helped, but that was impossible. I stayed in the kitchen for a while, trying to make conversation, but he didn't seem to be in the mood for chit-chat, so I eventually headed back to the chair by the TV, flipping channels until I eventually settled on a CSI rerun. I watched Gil, Sara, and the rest use their amazing deductive skills to put together tiny, unrelated clues to solve a supposedly horrific crime that seemed, frankly, pretty tame by my standards. I didn't get to see how it turned out - my full belly made me feel sluggish and drowsy and I dozed off before the end.

When I woke up, it was a little after 1:00 by the clock on the satellite receiver, and somehow, there in my brain, fully fleshed out, a plan had formed. I knew exactly what it was I had to do.

Morton had turned the TV off and draped a blanket over me, not wanting to wake me, I guess. The house was dark and quiet. I sat for a bit, trying to see any flaws in the plan I had come up with in my sleep, to spot any hitches I might have overlooked. It was comfy in the chair and it was very tempting to just stay there and drift back off to sleep, but I needed to pee, so I got up and took care of business. When I was finished, I went to bed upstairs and, after a long while, was able to fall back to sleep despite my jangling nerves.

Chapter 27

When I woke up the next morning, Morton was already up, bustling around. I didn't hear voices - his friend had probably not arrived yet. There was no clock in the room, but I figured it must be early because the sun was still low enough to be hidden behind the trees around the house. Time to get moving, then, just in case there were other possibilities I hadn't thought of last night. I shimmied into the robe and padded down the stairs into the main room.

"Hello, Hopeless. I hope you enjoyed your vacation."

At the sound of Dr. Cresh's voice, I froze at the bottom of the stairs, my eyes locked in horror on the sight of that evil man here in what should have been my safe place, seated in the very chair where I had dozed off last night. I lost control of my bladder, the hot liquid dripping down my legs and assaulting my nose with its acrid smell. My estimate of the time must have been mistaken - Morton's "friend" was already here.

"Ah, look at that mess," he said at the puddle I was making on the floor. "You'll need to clean that up, but it can wait until we've had a chance to chat."

I couldn't speak - fear had locked my tongue. Morton slowly walked into the room. He came right up to me, staring into my face while I shook in terror. I turned briefly toward him with the faint hope that he might somehow save me once again, but all he did was stare into my eyes, his face an unreadable mask. I swallowed and prayed that I would wake up from this nightmare, but it was no dream. I thought of fleeing, but my feet were rooted to the spot. Doom had come for me, and there was nothing I could do.

"There," said Dr. Cresh. "Mr. Friedmann, was that the facial expression you were hoping to see? It certainly is the look I had in mind. That," he gestured at me with one thick finger, "that is exactly what I wanted to inspire. That look of total and complete despair."

Morton didn't say anything, just kept staring at me.

"But... but... how... why?" I stammered, my voice shaking to match my body.

"Why?" said Morton, his voice flat. I would have expected him to be gloating over his betrayal, reveling in my torment the way the doctor was, but he seemed remote, detached. "Because I just wasn't able to reach you back in your prison. You were beaten, a shell, there was no life left in you. None of the humiliations I forced on you seemed to matter to you. You just didn't care."

"Now you do," added the doctor. "You see, Hopeless, as I told you when we met, I like to choose names for my animals that either reflect qualities they already possess or qualities I would like to instill in them. Some names are easier to work with than others, obviously. Yours is a particularly difficult moniker, because the nature of hope is so transitory and elusive. At first, your hopes were easy to crush. With every bit of your body I removed, you lost a bit of hope as well. I so enjoyed the way you put up such a brave fight while I was slowly taking off your fingers and drilling out your teeth. For a while, I believe you actually thought you stood a chance against me. Poor boy. Your bravery only made your eventual collapse all the more delicious. You should know that yours has been the most enjoyable destruction I have to date had the pleasure of experiencing."

I stood, the words washing over me only partly making sense. Morton had turned away during the doctor's speech and had sat down on the room's small sofa, staring at his hands.

"But then there came a point when I could drive you no lower. You had no more hope left to lose. It was as Mr. Friedmann described: you were a beaten shell with no life left inside. I so wanted to bring the old Eddie back so that I could have the joy of crushing him all over again. But how to do it? One cannot force-feed hope into another. I could not ram a tube down your throat and fill your belly with a gallon of the stuff. No, rather, hope is a fragile flower that blooms on its own terms."

I had sagged against the railing of the stairs by this point, and Dr. Cresh noticed.

"Are you actually relaxing, Hopeless? What, do you think you are still on your holiday? No. Take that ridiculous robe off, get down on your knees, and lick that mess up."

I couldn't bring myself to do it. It had only been a day and two nights, but that was enough to waken me to what life as a free man could be like. "But... wait..."

"Now," said the doctor, in his icy, calm voice. "Don't make me say it again."

I caved. I shrugged off the robe, which fell to a dry part of the floor. I got down on my knees and stuck my tongue into the puddle of my piss, using my lips to suck the now-lukewarm liquid into my mouth, tears squeezing out from the corners of my eyes and sobs of anguish occasionally escaping from my throat.

The doctor continued his soliloquy. "When I learned of your prior acquaintance with Mr. Friedmann, my first thought was that it would provide a perfect opportunity to rekindle your broken spirits so that I might have the joy of crushing them all over again. If hope would only flower under conditions of its choosing, then what could I do but provide those conditions so that it might grow? And so we engineered your escape the night before last, setting up your dramatic flight down the stairs and out the door to Mr. Friedmann's waiting car. All very convincing, wouldn't you say? Did you have any idea that it was all staged?"

I paused in my licking long enough to say "No, doctor."

"Of course not. How could you? And so you came here to my quiet, woodsy retreat and spent a whole day basking in what you thought was freedom. I'll tell you, Hopeless, I wish I could preserve forever that moment when you came down the stairs and first heard my voice. Sadly, though, the absence of hope is hope's twin, and the one can no more be forced than the other. I shall simply have to rely on my memory whenever I wish to relive that moment. It's such a pity this trick could only work once."

I finished licking up the piss, but stayed on my knees. "Was this all revenge for what happened in school?" I asked Morton.

Morton laughed, a short, nasty honking sound. "Don't kid yourself. You're not that important to me. It was fun to have a little weekend romp with you up here in the woods, but after we leave, I can't imagine ever wanting to see you again. You're just another armless, toothless, dickless freak like the rest of them. The fact that you used to be Eddie Kearns means nothing to me. Nothing at all."

I could tell he was lying. Whatever impression pre-teen Eddie may have made on pre-teen Mortie, it seemed that modern-day Eddie had made an impression of a different sort. I was beginning to suspect that Morton was not an entirely willing participant in this little play. I kept my observation to myself, of course.

"I suppose that's as clean as you'll be able to get it," the doctor said, climbing up out of the chair and inspecting my work on the floor. "The housekeeping service will have to see to the rest. All right, Mr. Friedmann, would you care to have Hopeless provide any other service for you?"

"No, thanks, I've had quite enough of him this weekend."

"Truly? Nothing of a sexual nature? I would think that would be the perfect way to drive the point home in his mind."

"Hey, if you want to fuck him, by all means, please do. After yesterday, I've had my fill. Now I just want to get him out of my sight."

"Very well, then."

They led me into the garage, where Dr. Cresh's car was waiting. Inside, lying on its side on the back seat, was the same box that I had been stuffed into a few weeks back, the one that I had spent an entire day in. Though my mind was screaming all the while, I climbed at his command into the box and scrunched myself up inside while he fixed the lid in place. I may have had a day or two of freedom, but I still knew the number one rule of my captivity: defiance always brings more pain than it's worth. The stench of urine that had dried on my legs and lips filled the tiny space.

I waited a short while, and then came Morton's whispered voice, barely audible through the walls of the box. "Eddie, I am so sorry. He made me do it after that beer night. Threatened me. I had to. I wish... here he comes."

The car door closed. Morton and the doctor exchanged some words that I couldn't make out. I waited in my small, cramped prison.

Eventually, the car began to move, creeping out of the garage, then beginning to pick up speed, bouncing over the rough, snow-and-ice-covered road. Mortie's parting words didn't surprise me too much. He had gotten himself in over his head. He inadvertently ran afoul of Dr. Cresh and found himself in a lot more trouble than he was capable of dealing with. I could just imagine how it had all played out: Dr. Cresh's discovery of the beer-soaked love fest between Mortie and me. A politely-phrased but nevertheless clear choice presented to Mortie, now that he had been identified as a threat to the operation. Mortie's enforced cooperation with the doctor's plan to revive my hopes so he could bring me down all over again.

I couldn't really blame Mortie for choosing to save himself over me. He was weak. He would never have been able to survive what I had been through. I'm not bragging when I say that, that's just the way it is. Mortie was the kind of man who would always take the path of least resistance. It was in his nature. He would tell himself he would have saved me if he could, but that Dr. Cresh was an overwhelming force that he couldn't possibly stand against.

Perhaps, then, he wouldn't mind so much when he got his next phone bill.

The thing that had come to me in my sleep last night was the knowledge, the certainty, that this had all been a setup. Like the guy on CSI, all the clues were there, and I just needed to look at them the right way to reach the right conclusion. The isolation of the cabin was one thing, with a fully-functional satellite TV system but no phone connection to the outside world. Another was the lack of winter clothing that I could have worn, particularly odd at a place ostensibly used for skiing. Then there was the insistence that I take a day "for myself" before trying to contact anyone else. They had set up the perfect illusion of freedom, while ensuring that it was only an illusion.

The reference to Mortie's friend coming was the clue that convinced me my guess was right as I was turning over my thoughts in the midnight darkness of the living room. I remembered that he had said he called him, but if that were true, I would have heard half of the conversation. I don't know if Mortie intended to give me a hint, hoping I would leap to the right conclusion on my own, or if he was just an inexperienced liar who couldn't help let slip that he knew what was coming. Whatever the reason, it was enough to let me connect the rest of the dots.

I hadn't had time to implement all of my plan last night, but perhaps I had been able to get enough of it accomplished to make a difference. I had spent the rest of the night making use of that nifty phone he had. It was tough to handle at first, since it had been designed to be operated by fingers. What eventually worked best was to hold a pencil clenched between my jaws and use it to press the buttons.

First I took some photos of myself using the timer delay feature, some head shots and some whole-body images. The tiny, postage-stamp-sized screen was too small to convey the full impact of my scarred, branded, mutilated body, but I hoped that when viewed on a regular computer, more details would be visible. I then used the web browser feature to look up e-mail addresses for the FBI, for police all over Boston and Massachusetts, for politicians and lawyers, and then I started looking up the media: CNN, Fox, the Globe, MSNBC, then Amnesty International and the Archdiocese of Boston and the ACLU, bloggers and Google groups and even the Humane Society, anything I could think of. I sent those pictures to every address I could find, along with a note that took me an hour to type, but which fortunately I only had to type once.

Then I started making voice calls from out in the chilly garage where Milton wouldn't hear me. Most of the time I had to leave messages, given the early morning hour. I tried to speak as clearly as I could. The few times I got to talk to a real person, I could tell they didn't believe my impossible story. I was undeterred. The people who really counted were my buddy Andy and my old third-grade teacher, who had always been a friend of my mom's and who always had high expectations for me no matter how many times I failed to deliver. I also was able to track down the number for Cameron's International Relations advisor at the University of Chicago, where he had been studying before Dr. Cresh arranged for his disappearance from a boat on Lake Michigan, as well as the numbers for seven different friends of his and Brian's and mine. I included all those contacts in my note to the major outlets.

The doctor may have taken the precaution of disabling the cabin's land-line phone, but it seemed he hadn't counted on Morton bringing his cell phone along and of me taking advantage of the excellent reception it got so close to a ski resort. I made calls and sent messages until the battery died, only then putting the phone back on the dresser in Morton's room and crawling into my own bed.

I'm sure that not everyone I wrote to or spoke to or left a message for will believe me - most probably won't. But all it will take is one to verify with Andy that, yes, his friend, supposedly dead these two years, had left him a message early on Monday morning, and the snowball will start rolling. It might take days or weeks to happen, but once it does, the momentum will be unstoppable.

The thought of allowing Dr. Cresh to take me back into his custody the following day was terrifying to the point that I almost preferred to run out into the snow and die of exposure. The only reason I didn't was the knowledge that I had spread the news of the existence of his torture house so far and wide that all the money and power in the world couldn't keep it hidden any longer. I fantasized of having a nice big welcoming committee of uniformed police and TV cameras waiting for Dr. Cresh when we got back to his urban dungeon. That was unlikely, though - it was still much too soon. One day, though, they would come.

It didn't hurt that all the calls had been made from Morton Friedmann's phone, which might have been ringing with callbacks even now except for that dead battery. Now his "path of least resistance" approach to life would work in my favor. When he got back to his house and the phone calls and visitors started coming in, he would start singing like the proverbial canary.

As the car jounced down the icy road back toward my prison, I was a lot of things: cramped and smelly, sore and bruised, cold and frightened and mutilated and branded and scarred. But one thing I was definitely not was Hopeless.