Saturday, May 22, 2021

Remote Controlled

Disclaimer: The following story was inspired by an amazing place: The Edge Jail and Dungeon. This is a real location and I am thankful that its owners have graciously consented to let me use it as inspiration for this tale. I need to emphasize that the people and events described here are purely fictional. In particular, please do not assume that the owners of the real-world facility are anything like the jailer in this story. The captive is likewise a fictional invention. Also, for any readers who have been to The Edge, please know that I tried to make the fictional version as similar as possible to the original, but I needed to take several liberties with the setting in order to make the story work, so the descriptions here might not completely match your memory of the real thing. The narrative contains non-consensual male-on-male sexual activity, restraint, and captivity. 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 non-consensual acts in real life.

Copyright © 2021 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.

Remote Controlled

The sun shone brightly down, its light shattered and scattered into hundreds, thousands of tiny pinpoint beams by the lacy branches overhead. The September day was warm. All traces of the morning's fog had burned away hours before, leaving the sky above those lacy branches an endless clear, hazy blue. The night would get cool as it always did in this stretch of the Santa Cruz Mountains, but Pete was ready for that: layers. Never go anywhere in the Bay Area without planning for temperatures anywhere from the 50s to the 90s, usually only hours apart.

His backpack rested easily on his shoulders. This was Monday, day two of a planned weeklong hike. Pete had no particular destination in mind and was simply roaming across the hills and valleys, following trails wherever they led, sometimes making his own trails. There was no plan whatsoever for the first four days. He was simply walking. Or, sometimes, when the mood struck, sitting and not walking. It was the perfect antidote to his over-regimented, over-structured job in Palo Alto.

Pete had arranged for a week off and told his colleagues that he needed to just... detox. To address the Nature Deficit Disorder problem that was turning every day into a 72-hour-long grind. He would be completely unavailable for the entire time. Out of touch. No contact. His coworkers had either scoffed or else quietly shaken their heads at the naive idea that he could be out of touch with the world for so long. No Facebook, no Snapchat, no LinkedIn? For a whole week? Yeah, right! He'd bail out, of course he would. This was the 21st century, not the 19th. They made jokes about covered wagons and the Donner party.

His plan for the first four days was aimless rambling. He was packing all the food he would need, a bedroll to sleep in, and a tarp for shelter from any rain that might fall (unlikely this time of year). He would have to refill his water bottles at some point but he had brought a filter along for that purpose, and these mountains were full of freshwater streams. On day five, he would use his map and phone - yes, he had brought his phone, and a solar charger to keep it powered up, but it would stay turned off until it was needed - to figure out where he was, then start working his way out of the wilderness. The wooded mountains seemed to stretch out forever, but they were laced with roads and homes and he would never be very far from rescue if he needed it. Then phone a friend and catch a ride back to civilization. This was not his first hike through these mountains, though it would be the longest time he had ever been out.

He had gotten a lift from a friend who was going to Santa Cruz yesterday morning and had asked to be dropped off well before town, just where the forest started giving way to suburbs. From there he struck out northward, inland. The undergrowth was thick by the road but once he had pushed through a bit, it cleared out. The dense canopy overhead blocked the light from reaching ground level, keeping the understory relatively open.

He had climbed, gaining altitude as he pushed away from the coast, until all at once, rounding a stony outcrop, he had emerged above the marine layer to look down on the mist that he had been ascending through. It was a glorious sight, the sun gleaming off the clouds that shrouded the ground from view, vapor wisping and flowing as breezes skittered capriciously through the pale streamers.

A brief descent next, and then another climb to his first campsite of the journey. A meal and then a rest. His legs ached but it was a warm, satisfying kind of ache, the ache of muscles that had been doing what they were supposed to be doing. There would be an adjustment over the next few days as his body adapted to a life on the move, but Pete was in shape and had done this before.

Today, day two, had been spent mostly climbing again. Whenever he had a choice of path, he picked the one that trended most uphill. The vegetation cleared out even further as he rose out of the moist valleys into the drier uplands. Trees became more spread out, less dense. Every so often he came across a home or a road, but there was always plenty of room to go around or cross over quickly and be back in the forest.

In the early afternoon, after a dried lunch that was nevertheless satisfyingly filling, he came into an area that had clearly been affected by one of last year's many wildfires. The few standing trees were skeletons, charred and ash-colored. Quick-growing vegetation was furiously reclaiming the newly-opened space, sending forth shoots and runners to colonize what would have been a moonscape six months ago. He came to a road before too long, which was a help because the undergrowth was thick and made for difficult walking. He followed the road for a while and at one point came up around the shoulder of a hill and saw an intact building not too far away.

The building stood alone in a clear field where nothing more than knee-high grew. A large satellite dish clung to one wall, high up near the roof, which sported an array of angled solar panels busily converting the sun's bright rays into electrical potential. The building looked as if it belonged on a military base, a command-and-control center occupied by uniformed crew-cuts busily intercepting enemy communications, tightly encrypting them, and then relaying them onward via that giant dish. Looking at the dish, Pete realized it was not pointing upward toward the sky but rather sideways toward some invisibly-distant matching receiver on a remote hilltop. This was clearly not a dish for receiving television programs, which just added support to the idea that the structure was some sort of military bunker. It looked completely out of place on this remote fire-scarred ridge, as though the whole thing had somehow been lifted from among its dozens of peers at Camp Pendleton and plunked down by itself several hundred miles north. Had Pete accidentally stumbled into a restricted area without realizing? No, that couldn't be - he had crossed no fence line, passed nothing that might have been a guard house. The building stood in silence, inscrutably declining to answer his questions.

One of those questions was: how had it survived the fire? Surveying the area, Pete could see the foundation of other structures nearby. One might have been a house... or a barracks; another a garage judging by the paved area next to it. Neither was very far from the intact building, so what sort of inferno could burn two buildings clear to the ground while leaving a third apparently undamaged? He moved in for a closer look.

The explanation became clear as he drew near: the surviving building was constructed entirely of cinderblocks. Nothing about it was flammable, not the roof, not even the windo— well, now that was odd. There were no windows. There was no door either, at least not one visible from where he was standing. There were no vehicles anywhere nearby as well, which reassured him that he wasn't about to be swarmed by a squad of stone-faced MPs and arrested for trespassing. He stepped up close to one wall and began circling around to the other side.

Ah, there was the door. He inspected it - no fire damage. Touching it, he found the door to be constructed of steel. There were a few scorch marks on it and on the walls, but aside from the minor cosmetic marring the entire structure was unscathed. Maybe this was a storm shelter... no, that didn't make any sense. Oklahomans needed tornado shelters, not Californians. An earthquake shelter, then? But no, that didn't make any sense either.

He pressed against the door, feeling its sturdiness and strength beneath his fingers. This was a serious door, not something that was going to give way lightly, not even to a blazing inferno that had effortlessly bulldozed every other structure in the...

... the door eased open under the pressure from his hands.

Startled, Pete let go and the door slipped shut again. He pressed again and the door yielded once more, exposing a crack into a darkness that his sun-adapted eyes could make nothing of. I really shouldn't be doing this, Pete thought, and yet, what was the harm? He had always had a curious streak, and there was no one here. The owners of this property were clearly elsewhere, probably having long, protracted negotiations with their insurance company and the local zoning board and half a dozen overbooked building contractors. He had no intention of taking anything. I just want to see what's inside. One quick peek, that's all...

He set his pack down and pushed the door open enough to slip himself through. It swung leftward; there was a light switch on the right, just inside the doorway. He flipped the switch up and, somewhat to his surprise, lights came on. Oh, right: the rooftop panels. He walked all the way through the door and found himself in a small room. There was a desk in front of him with a computer screen on it, its back toward him. A rack of miscellaneous supplies hung on the wall behind the desk with tape and various hooks and locks and metallic odds and ends like you would see at a hardware store all arranged in tidy rows. Another door stood in a wall on his left and a narrow hallway led ahead along the wall on the right. The interior walls, like the exterior ones, were made of cinderblock, though the inside ones were covered with a thick coat of industrial-looking neutral-colored paint, light on the top half, darker on the bottom. The room definitely felt institutional, like a bunker or some other government building. Or the basement of a hospital, or perhaps an aircraft carrier.

He edged his way around the desk to see if the computer screen held any clues, but it was dark and inert. He cast a glance down the narrow hall and noticed that the light in the room had begun to dim. Whirling around, he saw the door slipping slowly closed. Crap - it had one of those spring-loaded pneumatic thingies attached! He retraced his steps and dove to reach it, but was unable to get to the door before it had closed completely, shutting out the sunlight and leaving the room lit only by harsh fluorescent bulbs. He had one terrible oh-fuck moment as he grabbed the handle, fearing that some lock would have engaged itself leaving him trapped inside but then... relief! The door pulled open easily. Of course - it had opened and closed once before when he was on the outside and he had had no trouble re-opening it after that.

He chuckled at himself for his brief panic, then opened and closed the door a few times, reassuring himself that the action was both easy and repeatable. Inspecting the mechanism, he could see that there was a lock on the door in the usual place, but it was key-operated and was not something that could engage on its own. The only thing holding the door closed under normal conditions was the pressure of the spring.

He toyed with the idea of leaving his pack propped in the doorway, if only for the added daylight it would allow in, but decided against it. He had just proven that he could get back out any time he wanted (and was feeling kind of sheepish for having ever doubted it) and besides, the sunlight would only illuminate this small antechamber. It wouldn't be able to penetrate to the end of that hallway up ahead. And he was only going in for a minute, two at most, just to see what this place was. Then he would be out and on his way again. He opened and closed the door one more time, quadruple-checking his exit route, then confidently set off down the short hallway.

The hall was narrow, lined with lockers on his right and framed sketches on his left, but his attention was mostly focused on the heavy door at the end. It had numbers on it starting at the halfway point and rising up from there, as though some overzealous mother had recorded her kids' growth in hugely stenciled indelible ink instead of pencil. Reaching the door, he pulled it open, stepped through, flipped on the light switch and then froze and stared slack-jawed because really, the only possible phrase to describe the space he now found himself in was "sex dungeon".

There was a large, low bed against one wall, entirely black. Four tall posts rose to the ceiling at each corner, connected at their tops by reinforced bars. All of it was black: the frame, the bedclothes, even the human-sized X-shaped brace at the foot of the bed: deepest black. Against that background, the chains that hung down from the corner posts gleamed like silvery waterfalls that had been frozen mid-cascade.

Other large structures in the room that caught his eye turned out to be cages. Tall ones, low ones, boxy ones... all just the right size to stash a human inside, standing or lying or sitting, and ensure that whatever position that human was put in, he would stay in. Most of the cages were of the usual sort with open bars, but one (black, of course) had very ominous-looking solid walls instead.

There was other furniture too: chairs and a table, but not the kind for relaxing in or eating at. These chairs and this table were all equipped with straps from head to heel. Whoever was sat in such a chair, or lain on such a table, was likely to find that he would not be standing up again of his own free will for a very long time.

Pete roved slowly around the room, unable to take it all in at once. There was a giant black bag hanging from the ceiling, a gallows-looking structure standing next to it, a hoist suspended among the rafters. Parts of the walls were lined with... things... gas masks, hoods, paddles, leather straps and ropes and chains and more chains and still more chains...

Pete was simultaneously horrified and fascinated. Sure, he'd heard of people who were into such things, but to actually see one of their lairs, to stumble onto what must be tens of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment dedicated to the task of living out these fantasies... that was another thing entirely. He roved around, touching leather here, feeling cold, impersonal steel there, marveling at the solidity of the bars on the cages and the restraints hanging from the walls.

What would it be like to be actually locked up in - or strapped down on - one of these devices? Pete had occasionally wandered into that part of the internet, seen some pictures and videos of this sort of equipment being put to its intended use, but had never seen anything like this in real life. There was no way he would dare to try any of it - he was here by himself and the prospect of accidentally getting trapped in even a pair of handcuffs that he had no key for was not something he even wanted to contemplate. But he could certainly imagine lying down on that black-sheeted bed, with someone gently but insistently stretching his arms out to the corners, then his legs, leaving him open and available for... he didn't finish the thought.

Would that be hot, or merely terrifying? He wasn't really sure. It would probably depend on the circumstances, on who else was there with him. That guy Alex from work would probably enjoy this place. He had dropped hints here and there about kinky stuff he and his girlfriend had gotten up to. The hints were vague and ambiguous and of course there was no way to tell if Alex actually did any of the things he had implied or if it was all just empty talk. This was certainly the place where Pete could tell him it was time to either put up or shut up! He imagined Alex walking through the door Pete had just come in through. Would his eyes open wide with hunger or would he stick his tail between his legs and head right back out through the door again?

Pete opened the door of one of the upright cages, even dared to climb inside with the door safely wide open. It wasn't uncomfortable at all, just like standing in a closet... well, OK, a closet made of steel bars. But still, it wasn't hard to just stand there. He closed his eyes for a few moments, thinking about what it would be like if there was someone there to close the door, to lock it shut, to leave him trapped in the tiny, confined space until... again, he didn't complete the thought, but stepped out of the cage instead.

OK. Enough of this.

He headed back into the hallway and retraced his steps to the antechamber. Curiosity more than piqued, he couldn't resist trying the other closed door. It did not swing open as he expected; rather, it slid sideways to his left, revealing a second door behind it, this one made of a grid of bars with dark gloom beyond. There was another bank of switches next to the door. He flipped a few and light bloomed into being on the far side.

He pressed tentatively against the barred door. It wouldn't open. But there was a key in the lock and so of course he had to give it a turn. The lock released with a loud clank and the door swung smoothly open, pivoting leftward. Unlike the door to the outside, this one was not equipped with a self-closing device. It stayed open as he released his grip and moved forward.

Stepping through, Pete found himself in a jail. A very small one, to be sure, but there was no mistaking it for anything else. Immediately in front of him was an open room, little more than a hallway, really, with a shower head mounted on the wall at the far end and a drain in the floor. To the right of that were two cells with barred doors, then what was probably a third though it was hard to say for sure because this one's door was of heavy, solid steel that Pete didn't even try to open. Finally, continuing around another bend, there was an open door leading to a padded cell.

Holy shit. This was some serious stuff. Whoever built this place wasn't messing around. The bars on the doors were solid, heavy, impossible to break or bend with mere human strength. The mood was bleak and industrial, exactly what a prison should feel like. Pete felt the hairs creeping up on the back of his neck just from the ambience of the place.

OK, I said I'd only be in here a minute or two. Time to move on. He retraced his steps back out through the cell block door and closed it carefully behind him. Gentle as he was, the metal still rang out with a harsh clang that echoed through the whole room. And now the antechamber made sense - it was the administrative area of the jail. This is where the jailer sat. And the door with the growth chart on it down the hall was for mug shots. And now that he paused to pay attention, the metal hanging from hardware rack was more than just hooks and latches - there were handcuffs and leg irons as well. All the trappings a tiny but well-equipped prison could need.

Flipping off the jail lights, he slid the outer cell block door shut and then realized he had left the lights in the dungeon room on. Down the hall again and through the heavy door to the vast panorama of sex toys and bondage tools. Some serious shit here... he mused, taking one last look around.

All right. Time to go. He reached for the light switch to turn it off. His hand had almost made contact when a voice sounded from somewhere behind him. "Leaving so soon?" it asked calmly, quietly, insouciantly. The sound startled him badly enough that he spun around toward the source of the voice, lost his balance, and tumbled into the wall, rattling into a set of chains and manacles and sending them clattering heavily to the floor. The sudden noise was appallingly loud in what had been a sepulchrally quiet place and his heart started hammering in his chest.

"Sorry!" Pete gasped, searching frantically for the voice's origin while trying to pick up the fallen hardware and replace it on its hook at the same time. The room was full of bulky objects and hiding places and the speaker could have been anywhere. "Sorry," he said again, having re-hung the chains loudly and haphazardly but at least getting them off the floor. "Didn't mean to bother you. I was just leaving." He still couldn't see anyone else in the room, but it didn't matter. Time to get the hell out of here. He ducked into the hallway and headed for the entrance chamber. From behind him, the voice sounded again.

"Oh, I don't think so."

There was a buzz and then a thunk up ahead of him and when Pete grabbed the outer door's handle and pulled... nothing. He tugged again, harder and harder, but the door that had yielded to only moderate pressure just minutes ago now refused to budge. What the fuck? Casting frequent glances back down the hall toward the dungeon to check for pursuit, he fought the door for a good two minutes, even bracing his leg against the wall to get better leverage. It absolutely refused to move.

He was trapped.

Heart still hammering, breath heaving, he at last gave up. The door was unopenable... at least by him. Apparently the owner of the voice controlled some sort of electronic lock. He could see it at the top of the door, in fact, once he took a moment to look for it. Some electromagnetic thing, no doubt, a supplement to the purely mechanical one at hand level, one that had been quietly off before but was now firmly engaged and had a grip on the steel that was much, much stronger than his. He stood there at the end of the cinderblock hall for long seconds, feeling his pulse in his eardrums and trying to think of any way at all to get out. The outside was only two inches away! He had just been there less then five minutes ago! How could it possibly be so unreachable now?

At last he yielded to the inevitable logic of the situation. The only way out was to go back, find the owner of the voice, fess up to the curiosity that had led him inside, and ask... possibly beg... for help. The prospect did not appeal. He abandoned the door and crept slowly back down the hall toward the dungeon.

"Ah, you've returned," the voice said. Pete's ears told him it was coming from somewhere toward the middle of the room, but there was no one there. Eyes darting around, he walked into the dungeon. "Uh... where are you?" he ventured.

"Lake Tahoe," the voice responded. "Enjoying the start of what was supposed to be a relaxing week of vacation until my security system notified me that there was now an intruder at large in my play space."

Pete zeroed in on the sound of the voice as it was speaking and finally figured out that it wasn't coming from another body in the room with him at all. Instead, it was coming from the base of a wall-mounted video screen. The screen showed no picture, but the voice was coming out of speakers set beneath it. Suddenly the dish on the wall made sense: it provided internet access to an otherwise inaccessible, off-grid location.

Pete faced the empty screen and spoke to it. "Look, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to intrude. I was just curious. I shouldn't have been, and I'm sorry."

"It's funny watching you talk to where you perceive me to be. Actually, the camera I'm watching you on is over to your left. No, more to the left. Turn your body ninety degrees. Now up. Up higher, right up by the ceiling. Yes, now you're looking at it. There are several in the room, but this one happens to be the one I'm viewing you on at the moment."

Pete took a few steps toward where the camera was. It was a bit disorienting to think of the voice's owner as up there when the voice itself was coming from behind him. But by facing the camera, the man who was watching him would perceive Pete as facing him, so Pete directed his words toward the flat black lens.

"Look, I'll be happy to get out of your..." he trailed off, not quite sure what noun to use. "... your place." That seemed neutral enough. "I didn't take anything, didn't disturb anything... well... except for that thing I knocked onto the floor... didn't mean to do... and I guess I did touch a few things, but not to..." he realized he was stumbling over his words and probably not helping his case. He paused and took a deep breath. "Would you unlock the door, please?"

"Why, certainly. I'd be happy to," the voice behind him said. He heard a buzz and a differently-pitched thunk from down the hall and heaved a sigh of relief.

"Thank you," Pete said. "I won't bother you again, promise." He stepped into the hall but when he was three steps away from the door, the buzz and thunk sounded again. Needles of suspicion began pricking at his brain. Sure enough, when tried it, it was sealed firmly shut. He went back into the dungeon.

"Very funny," he said. "Look, you can't keep me here. Please just open the door and let me out."

"Or what?" the voice asked. "You'll threaten me? How, exactly, do you plan to do that?"

This was infuriating. Pete's only crime here had been curiosity! He was not the sort to make threats, but the guy was leaving him little other choice. He was practically goading him, in fact.

Fine. He began searching around the room.

"I don't want to threaten you, no. But if you don't let me out, maybe I might need to." Most of the stuff in here was solid metal, not something he would be able to damage. But there were a few things that might be breakable. He paused by the sturdy-looking gallows thing. That was made of wood. "You want a threat? This is a nice piece of furniture you got here. Be a shame if something were to happen to it." He couldn't think of an obvious way to break it, but the room was full of heavy metal objects. He picked one up - some kind of ball attached to a chain - and began to swing it experimentally. If he really got a good windup with it, it would do some damage for sure. Might take a couple of hits, but Pete could definitely make his displeasure at being held against his will known.

"Yes, that certainly would be a shame," the voice mused. "But probably not the way you think. See, right now what I have in my space is a mere trespasser. If I were to call the police and unlock the door when they arrived, they would ask you a few questions and almost certainly be satisfied by your story and send you on your way. But. If you were to cause any harm to that flogging frame... or to any of the rest of my equipment... well. Then you would no longer be a trespasser. Then you would be a vandal."

Pete stopped swinging the ball. "It'd be justified. You're holding me here against my will. Illegally. I want out. So either let me out, or I start swinging this thing for real. The police would understand I was only trying to get you to let me go."

"You're sure of that? I'm not quite so certain. We would have ourselves a bit of a he-said, he-said situation. You would tell the police your version of events, and I would tell them mine, in which I caught a vandal who had entered my private space and started wantonly smashing things. I only locked the door to hold him until the police could arrive. If you're that certain you can be more convincing than I am... especially since I happen to know several members of the local police force and I suspect you do not... then by all means, swing away."

Shit. No, he wasn't all that sure.

"Besides, I think you may be overlooking something. The police only come if one of us calls them. I have that capability. Do you?"

Pete felt his face flush red. His phone was in his pack. On the outside of the door. Along with everything else he had brought on his trip aside from the clothes on his body. "FUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKK!" he shouted, slamming his free hand into the gallows-thing.

"I didn't think so," he voice continued, implacably calm as ever. "So let me spell out your predicament for you. Get it out in the open so we're both clear on where things stand. It is this: you are trapped in my dungeon until I decide to let you out. Does that one sentence adequately sum up the situation, do you think?"

"Look, please," Pete said, setting the steel ball down and returning to stand under the camera. "Just open the door, okay? Lemme out. You can't keep me here forever."

"You assert that very confidently for someone who has no idea what I'm capable of. No idea at all. But as it turns out, you're correct. I don't intend to keep you locked up forever. But I do intend to enjoy the rest of my vacation. Seriously, we just got here this morning. You couldn't have waited a few days before showing up to snoop around?"

"So let me go! I'll leave and not look back! You can lock the door behind me and no one else will get in!"

"Sorry. Not gonna happen. Now, I'm going to go sit out on the deck and read for a bit, then we'll be off to get dinner. I'll check in with you after that and then make a decision what to do next. Don't break anything."

"Wait!" Pete shouted. Pause.

"Hello?" Pause.

"Are you there?" No response.

"Fucking hell!"

He was so, so screwed.

Two hours later... or something like that, since there was no way to gauge the passage of time... Pete was no closer to escape than he had been since the moment the door lock had first buzzed shut. That lock was, of course, still solidly in place - he had tried the door several times with just as much lack of success every time. No amount of force would budge it, no amount of manipulation of the lock mechanism would dislodge the fiercely strong magnet.

There was no other door anywhere in the building. He had combed every inch of wall in the dungeon space as well as in the jail area. He had even opened up that heavy solid steel door in the cell block and found that there was another door inside, this one made of bars like the other cells. It had to be some sort of isolation cell, a solitary confinement option. A prisoner could be locked into it and his jailer could then close the outer door. There would be a two-foot-wide separated space so that next time the jailer opened the outer door, there would be no way the prisoner could be lurking on the other side of it, ready to make his escape. It looked even more gloomy and depressing than the cells that were open to the rest of the room.

Most significantly for his immediate purposes, there was no door there. In fact, now that he knew the purpose of that third cell it would be absurd to think that there would be a secret exit door hidden inside it. There was no hidden door there or anywhere else, no window to pry open. It was all solid cinderblock. There were only a few ventilation ducts, far too small to squeeze his body into and far too high up off the floor to even try. He even used the hoist mechanism back in the dungeon to get himself up into the ceiling rafters and explore up there. Nothing.

Throughout his explorations, he had been careful to bring something heavy with him to block any more doors from closing. The ball-and-chain thing got dropped in the path of the heavy door separating the dungeon from the hallway to ensure that his unseen captor couldn't further restrict his movement by sealing him into either half of the building. Likewise, the cell block door and each individual cell door that he opened got a large chunk of metal dropped in its path to keep it from closing again.

In the end he had to give up. There was no way out except through the door he had come in, and that was firmly sealed shut.

He settled himself down on the floor of the dungeon, leaning up against the bed, and found himself with absolutely nothing - nothing at all - to do. The irony was not lost on him. He had told his coworkers that he was looking forward to a whole week of relaxation, of having no responsibilities. Now, he had exactly that, but it wasn't relaxing at all. His brain couldn't stop spinning around and around, desperately seeking a way out and circling back to the harsh reality that there was none to be found. Not to mention the fact that if this dragged on too long then at some point he was going to need food and water and a bathroom and a place to sleep and oh, a shower and a toothbrush would be nice too and just how long was his jailer going to keep him here that he might start to need those things and hopefully it wouldn't come to that point but what if it did and... around and around and around...

"Stand up, prisoner," the voice sounded with no preamble. "Step over to the camera where I can see you clearly."

Pete's first instinct was to refuse. Who the hell did this guy think he was, calling him "prisoner" and telling him what to do? That question, unfortunately, answered itself the moment he thought to ask it. And so Pete climbed to his feet and walked over to stand beneath the camera on the wall.

"I've decided on your sentence," the speaker said from behind him. "You will serve one week of detention."

"A WEEK?" Pete shouted. His voice came out whiny and he fought to claw it down to a lower register.

"One week," the voice repeated. "Seven days. From now until next Sunday at 10 AM, to be precise, which is close enough to call it a week. I waited all year for this vacation and I'm not about to cut it short without a good reason. It's Sunday today. We'll be back in the Bay Area Saturday night and I'll come down the following morning to unlock the door."

"Wait... come down? But you could unlock the door from where you are."

"I could, but I'm not going to. I'll need to visit in person. Make sure you haven't trashed the place."

"But... but I can't survive a week in here! I need food, water..."

"You have water. Surely you noticed the facilities in the cells during your explorations? The combination toilet and sink units? Those are fully functional, able to both supply you with water and remove your wastes."

"But what about food? I can't go a week without eating!"

"Untrue. You'll be uncomfortable but in no danger. Look at you - you're fit and healthy. You can easily go a week without food as long as you stay hydrated. I would recommend that you try to conserve your energy as much as possible. Don't spend your time doing jumping jacks and chin ups. That would just burn away your fat reserves needlessly quickly. Just relax and take it easy."

"No... no... no, I can't spend a whole week in here, I just can't." Pete was frazzled enough to start pacing back and forth in the space under the camera's eye. "Please... there's gotta be something I can do to get out sooner. What do you want, huh? You want money, I'll pay..."

The voice cut him off. "I don't want your money," it said. "Although. Now that you mention it. There might be a way for you to reduce your sentence. Time off for good behavior, let's call it."

"What do you mean?" Pete asked, suddenly wary.

"Well, as you know, I'm at Lake Tahoe for a week of recreation and enjoyment. My partner and I plan to do some water skiing, hit some casinos over on the Nevada side, do a little shopping, maybe play a round of golf or rent some bikes and go for a ride. All mundane, ordinary activities. But I do enjoy... mmmmmm... other kinds of activities as well. Activities that are less mundane."

Pete started to get a sense where this would be going but didn't particularly want to think about it.

"You probably noticed the artwork on the wall in the hallway." He had. Images of taut-muscled men dressed (to a greater or lesser or much lesser degree) in black leather jackets or harnesses or chaps. Not a female figure to be seen anywhere.

"One of the things I appreciate is an attractive man in restraints. Or undergoing... let's say... discomfort."

"Torture," Pete blurted.

"A blunt choice of word, but not an inaccurate one," the voice agreed. "And as it turns out, you happen to be an attractive man. What? Are you blushing? Oh, please, I'm sure it's not the first time someone has told you that."

It wasn't, no. It wasn't even the first time he'd heard it from a man, but it was the first time he had been sized up like a piece of meat by camera from a hundred miles away. He felt exposed with no way to cover himself up.

"So. What I have in mind is this: I will knock time off your sentence for every additional restraint you put upon yourself. As you've seen, there is an abundant selection to choose from. I would enjoy my vacation all the more knowing that you have voluntarily placed yourself in some sort of restraint, possibly even one that causes you discomfort while it's on you... or while you're in it. My round of golf will be much enhanced by knowing that while I'm out in the sun, you're sitting shackled in cold steel. My time at the casinos will fly by all the faster if I can check my phone now and then and see you standing uncomfortably between the uprights of that flogging frame or squeezed into one of those cages.

"In other words, I will be able to fit a week's worth of recreation into less time if you help me out. And then I'll be able to come home and let you out sooner. It's a win for both of us."

Pete bit off a retort about the "win" being a rather lopsided one before it could escape his lips. "Do I have to decide now?" he finally asked after a long pause.

"Not at all. Would you like to sleep on it, perhaps? I'll check in with you in the morning."

"Fine. Yes. Is it OK if I use that bed?" Pete gestured back over his shoulder.

"By all means."

"And that won't add time to my so-called sentence? Because if discomfort reduces it, I would hate to increase it by being comfortable. Hypothetically speaking."

"That is correct. Your sentence ends at 10:00 on Sunday. The door gets unlocked at that time, possibly earlier but no later."

"Glad to hear it."

"Well. Enjoy your night, then, prisoner. I'll check in on you in the morning."

Chafing at being addressed as "prisoner" again, Pete turned from the camera and paced around the room some more. The lack of background noise from the speaker or any visual feedback from the camera was very disconcerting. There was no hiss or hum as there would be with a phone call or a radio station where the sound of a carrier signal provided a clue that someone was there. And the camera, it seemed, or cameras, rather, were always on, and Pete had no way of knowing if his unseen captor was watching him at any given moment.

The absence of privacy was unnerving. He could be monitored at any time and never know it. In fact, that's what he would need to assume: that he was being watched at all times. His captor couldn't possibly do that, of course. No one could stare at a screen twenty-four-seven. But Pete could never know when he was on display, so he would have to act as if his every move was done in public.


There was something he could do about that. He made his way into one of the cells, checking each of his door props along the way. He took a long drink of water from the sink and then used the toilet. That, too, was vaguely unsettling, to have the drinkable water so integrally connected to the waste water disposal. He tried not to think about it. Thousands of real convicts presumably used such fixtures every day across the country and weren't dropping dead from dysentery. Still... he wasn't willing to change the order in which he used the two parts. In fact... there were two of these. He mentally designated the one he was using, cell number two, as "bathroom" and would declare the other to be "drinking water" starting next time.

With that taken care of, he turned out the jail lights, returned to the dungeon, turned on a small bedside lamp and then turned the room lights out. Once in the bed, he turned that light off as well and lay in the dark. Watch that on your camera, he thought with more than a hint of smugness.

It was hard to get his whirling mind to slow down enough to let him sleep, but eventually it did.

When he woke up, it was still pitch black, of course, and Pete had no idea how he was going to know when morning arrived. For that matter, he had no idea what time he went to sleep. It might have been 6 PM or midnight or anywhere in between. With no access to the outside and its day / night cycle and no clock anywhere inside the building, he had nothing but his own body clock to judge by, and that was going to be a very inaccurate timepiece.

In hindsight, telling everyone he knew that he would be 100% out of touch and unreachable for the entire duration of his absence was not the wisest thing to do. No one would notice that he was missing for days yet. He might as well have hung a sign around his neck saying "Hello, random stranger. Please make me disappear." Definitely not smart. On the other hand, it was smarter than his decision to give in to the impulse to walk through that open door. He was not exactly on a winning streak in the judgment department, it seemed.

His bladder didn't feel overly full yet. It was probably still some time in the early morning hours. Two, three, four AM? He rolled over and after perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, fell back to sleep.

The next time he woke was with an erection. Still drowsing and foggy-headed, he ground his hips into the soft surface beneath him Then, acting more from instinct than conscious thought, he reached into his pants, got a grip, and began to squeeze and stroke. In logy half-awareness it felt so, so good. It was that very feeling that eventually dragged him out of his semi-dream and into full wakefulness. Remembering where he was and why he was there, he stopped himself abruptly, cock still straining mightily to finish. But no, the absolute last thing he needed to do right now was stain his jailer's sheets with his load. There would be no way to recover from that with anything like grace.

He lay awake in the darkness a while longer. In time, his dick softened, but he still did not stir. What was the point of getting up and turning on the lights? It wasn't like he had anywhere to go, anything to do, and so he waited, bored and frustrated, thoughts still churning endlessly in a futile search for escape.

At last his full bladder told him that he could declare the time to be morning. He turned on the dim bedside lamp and let his eyes adapt to the relative brightness. Then, folding the sheet and blanket down, he stood up and returned to cell #2 for a bathroom break. The lights here had no "dim" setting, or if they did, he couldn't figure it out. They were either full-on harsh fluorescent glare or pitch-black off. He squinted as he made his way to the toilet fixture. Letting his stream flow, he happened to glance up at one point after his eyes were more adapted. There, set up high in the corner where wall met ceiling, recessed into the ceiling with just the lens visible, was another camera just like the one in the dungeon.

Of course there would be. His jailer no doubt had cameras strewn all over this structure. After finishing and flushing, he checked each of the other cells. Sure enough, there was a camera in each. And a speaker as well. He had no privacy in here, none at all. Well, unless he kept the lights off.

On his way out, he tried the door to the outside again, not really expecting it to open, and sure enough, it didn't, and so he returned to the dungeon where the atmosphere was less ominous than in the jail side. He called out to the empty room to see if his jailer would answer, but there was no response. That proved nothing, of course - the guy could be watching him right now and toying with him by not answering. After that... nothing. There was nothing to do, nothing that needed to be thought about or tended to. He just sat and existed. So far, at least, he wasn't hungry, though he expected that would change before too long.

He realized that perhaps he did have a crude way of telling time - the place felt cooler, as it would in the early morning hours. It would presumably warm up as the day went on, then drop again after the sun went down.

Or maybe he was only imagining the temperature difference. Maybe he only felt cold because he had just gotten up out of a warm bed.

"Good morning, prisoner." As before, there was no hint of background buzz, nothing to indicate that Pete's captor had suddenly started paying attention to him. He might have just turned the system on, or he might have spent the whole night watching a black screen with Pete sleeping invisibly on it, then watched him shamble around the place this morning. That would have been a long, boring way to pass the night for him. Or perhaps his system had motion sensors that could detect when Pete turned the lights on and started moving around, and notified him that there was something to see again? There was no way to know.

Pete got up and stood in front of the camera, keenly aware of the rumpled clothes that he had slept in and his pillow-mussed hair.

"Morning," he said, not quite willing to add the word "good" on the front.

"Have you decided whether you want to try reducing your sentence?"

"I have. And I do." Then, voicing the thoughts that had occupied his mind during the time he hadn't been sleeping, he went on. "But... I have no idea how to use any of this stuff. And I don't know what kind of time off I could buy by doing what. I mean, is this like an auction, where I say 'how much will you bid for me to put on a pair of handcuffs for an hour?' and you tell me and we kind of dicker back and forth until we settle on an agreeable price?"

A soft laugh emerged from the speaker. "You seem to be overestimating the amount of leverage you have. No, that's not how it will work. The process will be more like this... you suggest something that you are willing to do and I will tell you how many hours I am willing to pay if you do it. There is no negotiation to be done. Each of my offers is final. You either do it or you don't. If you don't, no problem. There is no compulsion to participate. If you do - and if you carry the action to completion, whatever that may mean for that particular action, then I will reduce your sentence by the amount I specified. If you can't come up with any ideas on your own, then I will be quite happy to suggest actions I would enjoy watching you take.

"So that you know where we stand: the time is now 6:15 on Monday morning." Pete's head spun a moment - that early? He never woke up that early, not even sleeping outside. The sun wasn't even up yet... and he had been up for a while now... what time had he gone to bed last night? It was all too disorienting, but he needed to pay attention; the voice was still speaking.

"Your sentence ends at 10:00 AM on Sunday. According to the handy spreadsheet I've set up, that is six days, three hours, and forty-five minutes away. If you'd like to bring that release time closer, then please: make your offer, and I'll tell you how much of my vacation time it's worth to me."

Pete truly had no idea what to suggest. So far, events had been entirely out of his control and he was not prepared to take the lead. He stammered a bit.

"Uh... what about... uhhhhh..." He closed his mouth, realizing he was sounding like an idiot. He turned and looked around the room, hoping that something among the mountains of gear might spark an idea that wasn't too terrible to imagine enduring.

"Do you need some time to think about it?" the voice continued after what felt like far too short a time. "I can come back later."

"No! Don't go!" Pete called, but the voice continued implacably on. "I'm going to go get some breakfast and I'll check in on you after that. Maybe you'll have thought of something by then. Remember, though, it's totally optional. You are free to do nothing at all and I'll see you on Sunday."

"No, wait," Pete said. "Hello? Are you still there?" He tried a few more times but knew it was hopeless. His jailer called all the shots. Pete couldn't initiate conversation but instead had to wait for the jailer to deign to talk to him on his own schedule. He wouldn't have thought it possible, but somehow that realization made his despair and frustration even worse. How was he ever going to survive six more days of this? And without food! Distasteful as it was, he was going to have to come up with some kind of offer.

He explored the displays of bondage equipment. Half the stuff he couldn't even figure out how to put on or begin to guess what its intended purpose was. He skipped over the impact implements - canes and whips and straps and paddles. He wasn't quite desperate enough to try to figure out how to hit himself with one of those. The restraints were more promising. He could handle wearing cuffs or leg irons or something like that for a limited time. It wouldn't be great, but if it would get him closer to freedom, it would be worth it.

Oh... there. Even better - a collar. It looked heavy, but he hefted it in his hands and figured he could tolerate wearing it. It was shiny steel, perhaps an inch high and a quarter of an inch thick. There were larger, heavier ones nearby, but this one would do just fine. He hoped.

As long as he was exploring, he finished checking the room. When he had examined it yesterday he had been looking for hidden seams and hinges. Now he took an inventory. Most of the contents of the various drawers and cabinets was more bondage equipment, but there was one corner that held more useful things. A cup, for instance. Now he would be able to drink his water like a civilized person rather than gulping it straight from a toilet sink. He went and filled the cup and sipped on it as he worked. The cold water hitting his belly triggered the first pangs of hunger that he had felt since skipping dinner yesterday. Viewed one way, he was lucky to have avoided the feeling for so long. Looked at another way, this was only the beginning; it was just going to get worse from here on out. He tried to stay focused on the positive viewpoint.

A drawer beneath the cup cabinet turned up two actual food items buried among miscellaneous utensils and other detritus: a protein bar and a snack-sized bag of Fritos. Not exactly much to work with - he was not particularly fond of corn chips in general, and Fritos barely qualified as corn chips - but still better than nothing at all. He wondered how many days he could stretch a single protein bar out to. The numbers were not promising. He vowed that he would not touch either item today no matter how hungry he got. He would save them for tomorrow... assuming he could figure out when that was.

He was still rifling through cabinets when the voice returned.

"Hello, prisoner. Have you thought of an offer yet?"

Pete grabbed the collar from the shelf where he had laid it, walked to the camera, and held it up. "How much for putting this on?" he asked.

The voice was silent for a moment. "Tilt it a bit," it commanded. Pete obligingly shifted the angle so the camera could get a thorough view of it.

"That collar would be worth one hour," the voice said with finality.

"An hour?" Pete cried. "Just one?"

"Well, it's not much of a collar, is it?" his captor said. "Fairly lightweight, not lockable... you could remove it at any time. How could I be sure you would keep it on for the rest of your stay?"

"Wait... the rest of my stay? I figured I could wear it for a couple of hours..." Pete's voice trailed off. There was no point in protesting. He was not the one in charge.

"No, that one is worth an hour of my vacation - if you wear it from now until your release - and that's being generous. I would be willing to triple that, though, if you choose one that locks on. There are several about the same weight where you found that one. Why don't you go take a look."

Three hours. That was barely a dent in the time remaining! And yet... what choice did he have? He wasn't quite mentally ready to try strapping himself down to a chair or a table or to commit to getting into one of those cages like the one he had stood in during his first visit to this room, which now felt like it had happened a month ago. It was one thing to imagine having the door closed and locked; it would be something else entirely to be on the inside when it actually happened, especially with no one here to let him back out. He tried not to think about how it would probably come to that sooner or later. Not just yet, though.

Pete stepped back over to the stretch of wall where the collars were hanging, which happened to be near the speaker. When the voice said "Try the third row from the top" it sounded like his captor was standing right next to him. Indeed, in the third row he found a collar similar to the one he was holding. This one had more rounded edges, which was probably a good thing in that it would sit more comfortably on his collarbone than the one he had originally chosen. Also, this one had an integrated lock mechanism and a small key tied to a string that was looped through the collar. He brought it all back to the camera.

"So this one is worth three hours, then?" Pete held it up to the camera's view.

"Yes. I'll give you three hours if you lock that on with no way of removing it," the voice replied after a long enough pause that Pete started to worry his jailer had lost interest and left.

"How do I do that? I need the key to get it off when you get here, so I can't—"

"There's a lockbox at the far end of the room. Go take a look." The voice called out guidance as he navigated through the piles of stuff until he found the box the voice's owner had in mind. The voice was just as audible here at what he was starting to think of as the "back" of the room as it was at the "front".

"That box is locked shut. I have the key at my home, so I know you won't be getting into it. See the slot at the top? It's large enough to fit small objects like keys through, but not fingers. It is bolted to the shelf and you won't be able to move it. Anything you put in there - such as the key you are now holding - will be staying in there until my return. So. That's the offer. Lock the collar on and put the key into the lockbox and I'll deduct three hours from your sentence."

Pete hesitated, but there was no doubt in his mind he was going to do it. Wearing a collar was not awful. He just hated the idea that this invisible tormentor was making him do things from afar. The thought chafed, but he couldn't see any way around it. Every step to this point had been the logical, rational thing to do... and yet he still couldn't quite believe he was about to voluntarily lock a collar around his neck that he would not be able to remove.

"Having doubts?" the voice asked. "No problem, I can check back later."

"NO! I'll do it. Don't go away." He walked quickly back to the camera. "I'm putting it on, see?"

No response.

"Are you still there?" he asked, disgusted at the pleading tone in his voice.

Still no response.

Then, at last, a sound from the speaker. "Yes, I'm here." Spoken with just a hint of indulgent mockery in the tone, not enough that Pete could call him out on it, but definitely enough to set his teeth on edge. God, the sense of powerlessness was terrible! So frustrating to be toyed with and have no way to respond!

Pete fumbled with the collar and was able to get it open. It had a single hinge. He lifted it up and placed it around his neck, hinge in the back. It closed easily enough, but opened back up again just as easily. It took some fiddling to figure out how to get the key inserted properly so he could turn it, but eventually he did. He tugged experimentally at the collar. It wasn't going anywhere.

"OK, I'm putting the key into the box." He held it up where the camera could see it - there was no telling what his captor would do if he thought Pete was trying to pull a fast one, pretending to drop the key into the slot but palming it instead. So he did it as clearly as he could, hoping the camera would catch it.

"OK, done," he said when the key had thunked to the bottom of the box. He returned to the front of the room. "So... what else?"

"I would think that is up to you," the voice said. "Your sentence now ends at 7AM on Sunday, a hair less than six days away. If you want to try to reduce it further, well... make me an offer."

Fuck! How the fuck was he supposed to know what to do with all this fetish shit?

He looked around the room again, walked over to the racks of gear hanging from the walls. He skipped past the whips again and came to a section with hoods. He reached out and straightened one of them so he could see what it looked like, imagine what it might be like to have it over his head. There was a dizzying array of them, with and without eyeholes, with and without mouth holes. His fingers slid from one to the next.

"It's clear you have nothing in mind," the voice said. "I'm going to head out, then. We're going to wander around Tahoe City this morning, do a bit of shopping, check out the dam where the Truckee starts. I'll look on you later."

"No, wait!" Pete called, but there was no reply. DAMMIT! Gone again and no way to call him back. Pete had nothing to do but sit like a pet hamster in a cage, waiting for his owner to shower a few minutes of attention on him before getting bored and moving on again.

Only now he had this metal thing locked around his neck. More to relieve the boredom than from any hope of succeeding, he went over to check out the lockbox again. Sure enough, it was solidly bolted to the shelf it sat on and would not be moving any time soon. His fingers could not fit into the slot. There might be a way to get a thin metal bit in, though... if he had a coat hanger, then perhaps he could unbend it and try to fish the key out? But he didn't have a coat hanger. And even if he succeeded, all he would likely do was lose the three-hour reprieve he had gained. The collar had to stay on for the duration of his stay in this hellhole or it wouldn't count toward his early release. And the bastard would know if he took it off because he could spy on Pete any time he wanted to.

GODDAMMIT, this is unacceptable! Pete fumed, stomping around the room. He slammed his hand into things as he passed, doing damage to exactly none of the cages and bars and frames that he pounded on. The space was just too small to contain him - he needed, needed to be outside. But outside was not available... Just in case, he headed down the hall, banging on the lockers as he passed, and yanked at the exterior door once again, more violently than ever before but with the same lack of result. "FUUUUUCKKKKK!" he shouted.

Needing to move, he extended his pacing into the jail area, but this was enough to alter his mood when he did. Something was just creepy about the cell block. It was too real, too sinister-feeling. In fact, just being in there for a minute bled all the anger right out of his system. It was hard to stay emotional in the face of the callous indifference radiating from the grey walls. Those walls couldn't care less how he felt or what he did. They sucked up all his rage and energy and gave nothing back. He felt emptied out, hollow and so he slunk back into the room with all the sex toys.

The hours passed, slowly and emptily. He found a hood that looked like it wouldn't be too uncomfortable to wear and a pair of handcuffs that probably wouldn't hinder him too badly. Not that he had any experience with wearing handcuffs. He was reluctant to try any of the gear on, knowing that his captor could be watching him at any time.

His hunger steadily grew throughout the morning. He was very much a breakfast person. Others might be able to get through their mornings on coffee and maybe a 2-inch-square pastry, but Pete generally needed something more substantial. Its absence was definitely noticeable. He tried to appease his empty belly with plenty of water, which could only be obtained by a trip to the jail area. And that in turn led to needing to make more trips to the jail area to empty himself out again. He even emptied out the remains of the previous days' meals, uncomfortably aware of the camera trained on him the entire time but not knowing if his crap-taking was being viewed for his jailer's entertainment.

Back on the bed, he twiddled his thumbs. He had all this energy and nothing to spend it on. It took an effort to stay still and calm but he forced himself to do it even though his nerves jangled with tension. The more energy he burned up, the hungrier he was going to feel. Already it was tempting to hit that protein bar and even pound down the whole bag of Fritos at once, but he forced himself to wait. He was going to need those calories even more tomorrow.

"So, prisoner. Any new offer in mind?" He must have been dozing - the voice jolted him into alertness. He got up and went to the camera.

"Yeah. How much for the hood?" He held it up for inspection.

The voice took its time deciding. "Half an hour," it finally said.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Pete exploded. "Thirty fuckin' minutes?"

"Mind your manners, prisoner," the voice replied. "Remember: you need me more than I need you. I suggest you choose a more respectful tone."

It was tough, but Pete forced calmness into his speech. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Sorry. If I may know... why so little time?"

"That is a basic lycra hood. It has holes for both eyes and a large nose/mouth opening. Note the construction: cheap materials, poorly stitched, probably made by some sub-par knockoff manufacturer in India. It is a toy, not a serious hood. I would gain very little enjoyment from seeing you in it."

"What about the cuffs, then? How much time would wearing them get me?"

"The cuffs are a bit better. I would not expect you to lock that key away permanently. You could wear the cuffs for... let's say... 24 hours. For that I would give you two hours off your sentence. You'd be free at 5AM instead of 7."

Pete fumed again, but kept it to himself this time. The going rate for the things he was willing to do was much, much lower than he had expected it would be. He started trying to think of a way to bargain, to tip the scales more in his favor. But the opportunity soon slipped between his fingers.

"Look," the voice continued. "My partner is getting impatient. We need to see about renting a boat for tomorrow and then get some lunch. He's got his heart set on Rosie's Cafe. I'd prefer someplace a little less... well, diner-ish, but we can do something more upscale for dinner tonight. In the meantime, I want to keep him happy, so unless you've got something to say that's worth my while...? No? Till later, then."

Pete didn't bother begging this time. It wouldn't be any use.

An hour or three of boredom later, the voice was back. Pete was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, moving as little as possible and trying (not very successfully) not to think about the yawning ache in his belly. He had decided that the sneering putdown of the "diner food" had been deliberate, a calculated ploy to remind him that his jailer had access to so many food choices that he could be afford to be choosy and express preferences about them, while Pete - the prisoner - did not. He was constantly aware of the collar around his neck. It didn't hurt or cause him any trouble breathing, but it was constantly there and he couldn't stop noticing it.

His manic energy and taut nerves from before had completely vanished, replaced by the bleak clouds of a looming deep, dark depression.

"Prisoner," the voice said with no preamble. "I think we need to change the system a bit. Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed in your imagination. I was hoping that by having you make the bondage suggestions that you would entertain me with your selections. But it hasn't worked out that way. Everything you've come up with has been so far at the vanilla end of the kink spectrum that it barely registers."

Pete didn't bother getting up off the bed. The owner of the voice could see him everywhere in the room. He was comfortable where he was, so why bother moving?

"In short, it's time for me to take charge. I will offer you suggestions and their corresponding price in hours reduced. You then decide whether you want to do it or not."

"Why don't you take your suggestions and go fuck yourself with them?" Pete muttered under his breath.

"First up: clothing," the voice went on. If the jailer had heard Pete's caustic remark, he gave no sign. "You will recall I mentioned I enjoy seeing attractive men in restraints. I enjoy the view all the more if my view of the attractive man is unobstructed. I will offer you six hours off your sentence if you remove all your clothes."

This caught Pete's interest. Not the prospect of stripping for a stranger, but the "six hours" part. That was twice what the collar had earned him.

He looked over at the camera. "Six hours? For undressing?"

"For undressing and staying undressed for the remainder of your sentence. You are to remain completely uncovered, available for my viewing pleasure at any moment. You are not to cover yourself in any way, not with clothing, not with a blanket, not at all. If I look in on you even once and see so much as a tissue covering a part of your skin that I want to see, the arrangement is void and the six hours gets added back on to your time."

"Uh, not sure if you noticed," Pete said, "but it gets pretty fucking cold in here at night. I'm not..."

The voice cut him off. "So use the pretty fucking thermostat. Turn the heat up."

Pete's consternation must have shown on his face, even from across the room.

"On the wall near the cabinet where you found the cup. There are two zones - the jail and the dungeon, each controlled separately. Turn them up a few degrees if you think you'll be cold."

Pete got up and found the controls, unsure how he had missed them before and wondering what else he might have overlooked. Like, a circuit breaker box, for instance, with a big switch labeled "OUTSIDE DOOR LOCK". He resolved to do a more thorough inspection once this session with his jailer was through. He heard ticking sounds that presumably meant warmth was on its way.

It also meant, he suddenly realized, that his captor knew he had found a cup and where he had found it. Proof, as though he needed it, that he was being watched even when the voice was not speaking to him. Big Brother...

"OK. I'll do it," he said. "No clothes in exchange for six hours."

"Very well. Strip."

Pete did. He tried to not make it sexy in any way. Nudity didn't bother him. It was not his preferred way to spend the rest of his time here, but six hours off was the best he'd achieved yet and if it came at the price of some bits of fabric, so be it. But he was not going to humiliate himself by staging some sort of show for his jailer. When he had removed everything, he folded it all neatly and laid the pile on top of his shoes by the door to the hallway. He returned to the camera, trying to feel as nonchalant as he hoped he looked.

"So what's my revised release time?"

"Six hours off takes you to 1AM on Sunday, five and a half days away. Assuming, of course, that you uphold your end of the arrangement. Now, offer number two: sexual services."

"No. No way."

"Oh really? You're shy all of a sudden? Interesting. You weren't shy at all last night. Why the change in attitude?"

"What... do you mean?" Pete asked guardedly.

"Go turn on the screen above the speaker."

Pete did. No image appeared at first and Pete was about to ask if he had done it right when the voice came once more. "One sec... I'm syncing up the devices... there we go."

There, on the screen, was Pete in bed, jerking off. It was a black-and-white video and most of Pete's body was under the blanket. But there was no doubt at all what he was doing with his hands under there. The expression on his face made that plain. Pete felt his face - his current, real-world face - flushing red.

"The cameras also capture infrared," the voice said, "and there are infrared lights in the room controlled by switches you do not have access to." The rest of the thought did not need to be spelled out. Even in utter blackness, there was no escape from the all-seeing eye. His every move was visible to his captor, even if he himself couldn't see. Not only that, he was being recorded. That was the real message he was being sent. Presumably every minute of his time here so far had been captured and archived. The video clip ended. Pete turned away feeling vaguely nauseous.

"Now, about those sexual services. I'll knock another six hours off if you stroke yourself to an orgasm for me."

"Not interested." Pete didn't even need to think about what his reply would be.

"So noted. For the record, that was a one-time offer. Now that you have declined, it will not re-open. You are, of course, free to jerk off if you wish any time in the future, but you will earn no time off for it. A pity, really - it would have been the most enjoyable discount you could possibly earn. I suspect you won't find the other offers nearly as much fun."

Losing six hours hurt, but there was no way he was going to put on a show for this pervert. Especially knowing it would be recorded. And then possibly uploaded to some skeevy corner of the internet, complete with his face. No, thanks. Even immediate freedom wouldn't be worth that.

"Offer three is the opposite: I'll give you eight hours off if you lock your dick into a chastity device."

"A wh... wait, what?"

"In the drawer under where you found the collars. Go take a look."

Pete took a few steps back and found that the drawer contained a variety of devices for locking up dicks. Some of them were clear in their intended usage; others he could not figure out at all which way was up or front. They ranged from little palm-sized gadgets up to large, formidable-looking complete belts.

"The thin metal belt will do," the voice said. Pete rummaged around and found the specified device. "That one is sufficiently secure without being too weighty. Some of the others you could weasel your way out of, but this should hold you."

"So... I put this on and it...?"

"Keeps you from getting hard. Or from touching your dick at all, for that matter. Since you expressed no interest in using it to speed your release, I thought the idea of locking it away toward the same end might appeal instead."

Pete inspected the device. Its usage was pretty clear, though he wasn't quite sure what the sequence of operations to put it on might be. He was even less sure that he wanted to commit to wearing it.

"I'll think about that one," he said.

"You are a choosy one," the voice tutted. "It's fine by me either way, of course. I'm enjoying your captivity regardless. Bear this in mind, though: it's eight hours for putting that device on now. The price drops to seven hours if you wait until later today and tomorrow I'll only give you six for it. It would hardly be fair to give you full price... taking that to its logical extreme, you would be able to wait until eight hours before the end of your sentence and say 'OK, I'll put the belt on now' and have it off again five minutes later. So. Eight hours if you put it on now, seven tonight, six tomorrow, and I'll see what I feel like after that."

"Can I... you know... pee through it?"

"Yes, of course. It would hardly be usable otherwise. And there's a gap in the back to keep the other end from getting too messy."

Dang. This was probably a mistake... actually, this whole thing was already a gigantic mistake... but eight hours less time was a big bite out of the endless stretch that still lay ahead of him... and he definitely didn't feel any urge to jerk off under the constant gaze of the cameras.

"OK. I'll do it."

"Any business you'd like to take care of first? A shit, a shower? A last-chance wank?"

Pete decided to empty his bladder first. He didn't take a full shower, but he did use some water and toilet paper to wash the area he was about to lock away. He could wash the rest of his body later. Then the voice directed him how to step into the belt and fit his dick into the tube that awaited it. Metal straps tightened around his hips and finally, all that was left was the lock. He hesitated.

"In the next five seconds, prisoner, or the price drops to seven hours."

Click. It was done.

"Put the key in the lockbox." Pete did, walking awkwardly with the strap that ran between his legs chafing at his insides of his thighs. The key dropped away, forever out of his reach. He started second-guessing himself almost immediately. This was a mistake, I shouldn't have done it... But there was no way to back out now.

"It's a shame I won't get to see you with an erection. Ah, well. I suppose that's as it should be - you do the suffering, I get the hard-on." Pete felt the blood starting to surge up into his face again. He did not consider himself a violent person, but if he ever got his hands on this smug asshole he could easily see himself pounding the shit out of him. The man's arrogance was off the chart.

"One more offer, and then I really need to go. We have a busy afternoon ahead of us. But not so busy that I can't check up on you from time to time. What I would like to see when I do is you on your hands and knees. Will you do that for me? I want you to spend the next four hours down on all fours. On the floor. I'll give you another eight hours for it if you do."

That didn't sound so bad. For another eight hours off, yeah, it seemed worth it.


"Very good. You'll need to put another collar on."

"Uh... why?"

"It will help remind you to stay in the proper position. It's on the rack with the others. Look for the one with the thick front side. Also, pick up one of the padlocks from the shelf, one of the combination ones."

"Wait, what do you mean, help me stay in the proper position? I'm not locking my neck to the floor or any shit like that."

"No, this collar will just provide you with a reminder. Nothing more than that."

Mollified but still wary, Pete went to the shelves and found both items without too much trouble.

"Put the collar on, heavy side to the front. The weight will remind you to keep your head down. And I will be looking in from time to time. If I see you in any position except on all fours, the deal is off."

"Yeah, I got it. Hands and knees." Wearing two collars at once was about half a collar too many. There was barely any room and he found his chin was pressed upward by the new one. Its thick, elongated front took up a lot of space in a spot where he wasn't used to feeling anything at all.

"Make it snug but not so tight that it constricts your breathing or your blood flow. I will let you know when time is up and you may stand again. Now, use the padlock to secure the collar in place."

"How am I going to get it off again?"

"I will give you instructions when the time comes."

"But, I can't see the dial behind my hea—"

"Look, I don't have the patience for this. Either click the lock shut or don't and forfeit the eight hours, it truly does not matter to me."

"Fine! Fine, I'm doing it. Jeez, I was just curious."

"Curiosity, if you'll recall, is what put you where you are right now."

That shut Pete up. It was awkward to try to get the lock through the right loop behind his neck, but he was able to manage it. It clicked into place and once again, as soon as he had passed the point of no return, he instantly regretted it. This is a bad, bad idea... But there was no turning back now.

Something bit his neck!

Pete jumped backward and reflexively tried to yank his chin down to his chest, grinding the two collars against each other and pressing metal into skin. "Ow!" he shouted.

"That was 30% of max power," the ever-calm voice said. "A little demonstration."

"This is a shock collar?" Pete shouted. "Oh, fuck, no! Get it off me right now! Tell me how to open that lock, you mother fucker." He realized the voice was speaking and quieted down to hear what it was saying.

"... be controlled remotely. I'm setting the level to 50%. You have five seconds to get down on your hands and needs."

The collar emitted a warning beep. Terrified, Pete dropped to the floor and hung his head down, bracing for another jolt. It didn't come. Instead, the voice continued.

"See, you can learn. So learn this: you are now a pet. The collar has a position sensor inside. If it senses that the front part of the collar is pointing any direction but down, it will emit a beep. After the beep sounds, you will have two seconds to get back into the proper position or it will shock you. You are to remain on all fours at all times. You may, on occasion, lift a paw for some purpose like rubbing an eye or scratching an itch. Then the paw goes right back down on the ground. I will be looking in on you from time to time and if I see any deviation, I will correct you. Via the collar."

Pete waited for more, terrified to move at all, but the voice never resumed. Ten, fifteen, twenty seconds went by and Pete realized it wasn't going to. His four-hour term as an animal had begun.

Well, fuck.

His heart continued to hammer for a few minutes, but as nothing happened and the threat of another shock to his neck remained just a threat, he began to calm down. Soon he realized that his primary problem was going to be boredom just as it was before. Only this was going to be worse than before because he was being held in a single not-very-comfortable position. Now not only was he bored, frustrated, and ravenously hungry, he was also down on the cold bare floor, naked except for a couple of steel-ornaments-slash-torture devices, compelled to stand like a dog or risk an agonizing jolt to the neck.

How the hell had he come to this? Each step hadn't seemed so unreasonable and yet here he was torturing himself for his captor's sick pleasure, exactly the situation he had tried to avoid by choosing "easy" restraints earlier! He had been conned somehow, tricked by the voice's smooth, glib words. He should have known better. He should have seen it coming. He should have been smarter.

Great. On top of all the other discomforts and humiliations, he could now add self-disgust and -loathing.

And it couldn't have even been two minutes yet and already his spine was beginning to feel the burden of maintaining this position. His knees weren't too keen about the concrete floor either. At least it was polished smooth, not rough like a sidewalk would be.

There was nothing to do, nowhere to go. His role was to just stand. Stay. Good boy, good doggie.

God, how pathetic.

Perhaps there was something he could do. He slowly hand-and-knee-walked his way to the table beside the bed where he had left his cup, still mostly full. Carefully, gently, without looking up, he reached up and groped around until he found it, then took hold and brought it carefully down to floor level. No warning beep from the collar - good. He took a sip, carefully. Success again. He wouldn't be able to drink past about the halfway mark without tipping the cup, and his head, but it was better than nothing.

There had to be a way to make this easier. He explored the collar with his paw... HAND! With his hand, making quick exploratory forays as if scratching an itch, which was allowed by the rules. It would probably be possible to defeat the shock mechanism. If he could separate it from his skin then the damn thing could beep and buzz all it wanted and he wouldn't care. Maybe after enough time the battery would lose its charge.

It wasn't a bad strategy. The only problem was the all-seeing eye. His jailer would notice what he had done and take away the eight hours he'd been promised. Maybe it would be best to do it now, early on. If he suffered an hour under this thing and then bailed out, he would have suffered in vain.

But could he even bail out at all? The only way to get the collar off was with the voice's help, and if he sabotaged the shock feature it was very likely that no help would be forthcoming. He'd be stuck wearing both collars, which was uncomfortable enough even without the zap.

No. Suck it up. Endure for four hours and then it would be done. He passed some time by calculating the cumulative effect of the discounts he had bought... three hours for the first collar, six more for shedding his clothes... or was that eight? No, it was six, definitely. The eight was for putting on the chastity belt, and then eight more if he got through this afternoon with his sanity intact... that was 25 hours. A whole day.

OK. That put a brighter spin on things. Now instead of six days locked up without food, he was down to five with the prospect of cutting it down even more. Mood buoyed, he resolved to endure with as positive an outlook as he could.

Half an hour later, his positive outlook was shaky and teetering. His knees were complaining loudly. The rock-hard floor felt like it was absolutely destroying them. He had to get some relief.

The bed beckoned. He tried to remember all of the rules he was supposed to be following. He was fairly sure the bed had not been mentioned, neither allowed nor forbidden. He had to maintain the all-fours position, but maybe it didn't have to be on the concrete? Slowly, carefully, he climbed up on top of the mattress, remaining on all fours as he did. Blessed softness! He luxuriated in the relative comfort. His mood lifted - this he could sustain, this he could do for the rest of the time.

Pain exploded in his neck and his entire body convulsed. He lost his balance and toppled sideways, letting out a half-choked grunt as he fell onto his side.

"Get off. Pets aren't allowed on the furniture."

Fighting back tears, Pete climbed slowly back down off the bed, down onto the implacably solid floor. His knees were OK with it at first, having had a brief break, but that lasted for less than a minute and then they were complaining whole-heartedly once more.

Much later, his positive outlook was a broken shambles distantly visible in the rear-view mirror. He had managed to avoid getting shocked again, but there had been a couple of close calls where the warning beep had sounded. It was just impossible to hold this position! Every muscle ached in his neck and his back, his arms and his thighs and his calves and his elbows and shoulders and even his feet. His knees were balls of flaming agony. He caught himself whimpering a few times, whining like the dog he was, and it was not a sound he ever thought he would hear himself making. If he could just change position even slightly, just for a little bit. But the consequences of screwing up were too dire.

He had found a bit of relief. His clothing, retrieved from where he had left it folded by the door, made for an adequate buffer between his knee bones and the ground. Not a great buffer, far from comfortable, but adequate. And he found that he could drop down like a dog lying on its belly, with his butt resting on his ankles and his elbows on the floor, and not get chastised for it, though he experimented with the position carefully, dropping down for a minute and then rising back up, then daring to sink down for two the next time, and then a bit longer the one after that. His blood sang with adrenaline for fear of being jolted without warning. There was no way he could sustain this level of tension - his body chemistry would not allow his fight-or-flight reflex to remain on high alert for so long. At some point, he would crash, an exhausted wreck. He just hoped he could get the collar off before that happened.

He had long since drunk all the water he could and did not feel like making the long slog into one of the jail cells to top off the cup. So he knelt, and waited, and prayed to every god he didn't believe in to make the time pass faster. But instead the minutes crawled by on all fours in cruel imitation of his own situation.

At least the sense of hunger was less. It just couldn't compete with everything else.

At long last, the voice sounded again. "Hello, prisoner. I spent a delightful afternoon feeding the slot machines and watching you squirm. But alas, all good things must come to an end. I've taken the collar out of pet mode. You may stand."

Relief flooded through him. He had done it! He had endured. And without getting auto-zapped by the collar even once. The only jolt was the one the voice had manually delivered. Pete rose slowly to his feet, his body creaking like an 80-year-old man's. He stretched his back out gingerly, feeling as though vertebrae might come popping out of it like buttons off a too-tight shirt.

"Let's get that lock off. Walk over to the camera. Face away from it so I can see the lock." Pete hobbled over as instructed, gingerly setting each leg down with every step.

"Now, slowly, turn the knob to the right. Clockwise." Pete had to think which direction that would be, behind him but not mirror-reversed. "Move your index finger down. I can't see the notch on the dial."

Ahh. That was how this was going to work. He wasn't even going to be given the combination. He would be opening the lock with his own fingers, but he would not be permitted to know the combination himself. Pete obediently spun the dial right, then left, then right, going slowly so as to not overshoot the numbers that he could not see but his captor could. When the third number was set, he tugged on the lock. It required some force, but the thing came open. He breathed a sigh of relief and then, as quickly as he could, unlatched the collar and pulled it from his neck. He wouldn't have put it past the smug bastard to have zapped him just as he thought his ordeal was safely over, but either the bastard hadn't thought of that, or else he had and was just letting Pete stew over the possibility.

By the time he got the collar off, he realized that in setting down the lock, he had not been thinking to keep the dial still. Damn. His brain wasn't working at full power. He could have gotten one-third of the combination if he had been more careful. That might have been useful information in case the lock featured in future torments.

"You look exhausted. Go get some rest. I'll be back in a few hours with another proposal." Then nothing more.

Pete filled the cup with water and then emptied it, peed, and collapsed on the bed without bothering to turn off the lights. The post-adrenaline crash came on quickly. He was asleep within minutes.

A loud blast jolted him awake. He was completely disoriented, had no idea where he was or why the mean cafeteria lady was blowing a horn in his ear. Wait, cafeteria lady? That couldn't be right... was that a fire alarm? But he wasn't in school anymore, why would there be a fire alarm... no, it must be his alarm to wake him up for work. He reached for his phone to turn the fearsome noise off, where was it? He always kept it by the bed... and why were the sheets black?

The noise stopped on its own as he slowly, painfully, clawed his way back to consciousness and remembered where he was and why. He must have been deeply asleep, solidly in the middle of a dream cycle for the transition to wakefulness to have been so brutal.

"OK," he moaned to the empty room. "I'm up. What do you want?"

"Twelve hours for this one," the voice said.

"No. I can't. Just let me sleep."

"You're sure? You don't want to even hear the offer?"

No, he didn't, not really, but it was already too late: sleep was gone and would not be coming back. Tired and de-energized as he was, his bloodstream was now filled with all the wrong chemicals for sleep; he would be tossing and turning for hours. Might as well earn some time off while he was at it. "OK. Sure. What's the offer?" He tried to keep his voice from sounding too disdainful but probably missed the mark.

"I want you to spend the night in one of the cells. One of the normal cells, not the isolation cell or the padded one. Twelve hours in the cell in exchange for twelve hours off your sentence."

Pete yawned. "What time is it now?"

"I'll keep track of the time. I want you to go into the cell and lock the door with the same padlock that you used for the collar. Much as I would love to be able to lock and unlock the cell doors remotely, I haven't yet set up that capability. This place is still a work in progress, but I would have focused on that feature sooner if I had known you'd be paying a visit. But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, so you would need to lock yourself in. In the morning, I'll tell you the combination and you can let yourself out again."

"That's all? Spend the night in there instead of here? And that's worth twelve hours off to you? There's gotta be a catch."

"Well, I don't know if I'd call it a catch, but there is one more thing. I want you to wear the punishment restraints while you're in the cell."

Pete did not like the sound of those words. "What are punishment restraints?" he asked warily.

"The thing you knocked off the wall when you first arrived. Go look."

Pete got up, acutely aware of the belt around his waist holding his cock imprisoned. Somehow wearing it made him feel even more naked than naked. It covered nothing, really, just his shriveled shaft, but he felt as if the belt was making the cock tube and the rest of his package jut obscenely forward. Totally exposed.

The punishment restraints turned out to be abominably heavy, massive steel shackles connected by chains. There was a ring for the neck, one for each wrist, and one for each ankle.

"Shit, how much does this thing weigh?"

"Sixty pounds. But it won't matter quite as much because you'll be lying on a cot, not slaving away on a chain gang."

"Aw, man, I dunno..." The bed beckoned, the warm blanket... he suddenly remembered that he was not supposed to be under a blanket. Had he been before? He couldn't remember. No... the voice would have said something if he was. He wasn't about to ask and thereby draw attention to the issue. He must have been on top of the sheets. He must have been.

As long as he was on top of the sheets anyway, why not be on top of the sheets on a cot? Twelve hours... that would move his release up from Friday afternoon to the wee hours of Friday morning. That was tempting. Still achingly far away, but half a day closer than otherwise.

And yet... the jail was so harsh, so institutional. He didn't even like going in there for brief water and bathroom trips. To be locked in? That was a big ask.

"Gimme a minute to think about it," he said.

"Take up to five. Then the offer expires," the voice said.

Setting the heavy chains down, Pete walked into the jail area and entered cell #2, the middle one. He didn't quite trust the voice's assertion that the doors couldn't be controlled remotely, so he closed the door most of the way behind him, but not completely, making sure the gap was filled with the chunk of metal he had brought in earlier. Just to see what it felt like.

It was grim, all right. Sounds echoed strangely off the walls, somehow being both muffled and reverberant. The lighting was harsh and the air felt colder even though he had turned up the thermostat in here too. This was not a place he would want to spend a lot of time in.

But perhaps he wouldn't have to. One lesson he had learned from his last go-around was the inadvisability of getting himself into something he couldn't get back out of. The four-on-the-floor thing would have been fine if he could have decided for himself when to call an end to it. His mistake had been in letting his captor commit him to a fixed duration, a mistake he was not about to repeat.

He went back into the dungeon. "I propose a slight change. Give me the combination now, before I go in. I don't want to be locked in there with no way out. I'm OK with locking the door, but I want to be able to get out if I need to. And in exchange, I'll ask that you give me one hour off for every hour I spend in the cell."

"Interesting," the voice said. "Up to a maximum of twelve. No more."

"Fine, yes."

"And you'll earn one hour for every full hour served. If you stay in for two hours and fifty-eight minutes, that's two hours off your sentence. I will not round up to three."

That was irritating, but not worth making a fuss over. "Deal. And you'll tell me when I reach twelve hours. If I choose to stay in that long. I don't want you keeping me in there for fifteen, sixteen hours and only earning twelve for it."

"Very well. The combination for the lock is 36-2-20. Practice opening it here, then put the punishment restraints on. You will leave the key to those here in this room. That ensures that you will keep them on during your stay in the cell. After you have released yourself from the cell, you can come back in here and unlock the shackles."

Damn, they were heavy. Pete first practiced opening and closing all the locks on the oversized thing, making sure he could do every one before committing to putting anything on his body. When he was comfortable working the mechanisms, he put the collar on. Again, there was a collision - his neck was not quite big enough to hold two metal bands, making it difficult for him to lower his chin in anything like comfort. And the new one, underneath the first, seriously weighed down on his shoulders, too.

He did the leg loops next, clicking them into place. Finally, the wristbands. When he was finished, he stood up most of the way, clanking and jangling. A very solid chain ran down from the front of his neck to his knees where it split in two and continued to each ankle. His hands were attached via more short chains to the central one, leaving them with a limited range of motion in the area around his waist. He could not fully stand because the chains were not quite long enough to permit it. Walking meant stooping down further to increase the amount of chain available to spread his ankles apart. Every movement had to be slow and measured - there was simply too much extra mass at the ends of his limbs to move with any suddenness. Or coordination, for that matter.

"OK, I'm ready," he said.

"In you go, then," the voice replied.

He stopped by the thermostat on his slow, ponderous way and stretched his arm to turn the jail section up another two degrees. He wasn't going to be moving around much - no room to do it in, and no way to do it wearing sixty pounds of steel - so a bit of external warmth would be welcome.

Down the hall, through the antechamber, into the cell block. He left both the outer and inner cell block doors open. The voice hadn't mentioned closing either one and he wasn't about to volunteer. He stopped on the outside of cell #2 and practiced closing and re-opening the door. As best he could tell, the voice had spoken the truth: the lock was key operated, not electronic. And the key was right there in the lock. Still on the outside, he closed the door, locked it, tested that it wouldn't open, then unlocked it and opened it easily. When closed, two of the vertical bars came up flush against each other and he practiced putting the combination padlock on around both of them and taking it off again.

At last, satisfied that he would be able to get out again any time he wanted, he shuffled into the cell, closed the door (leaving the keyed lock unsecured), and then fastened the padlock around the two adjacent bars. The door could slide only a fraction of an inch before the lock prevented it from going further; he was trapped inside until the padlock was removed.

Thirty-six, two, twenty. He kept repeating the combination to himself, determined to remember it.

The voice sounded from the back of the cell, up near the ceiling where the camera was. "The clock starts now," it said. Then it was silent.

As ever, the main issue at first was boredom. His body was still too jangled up from his sudden awakening to try sleeping, but he did lie down on the cot just to ease the pressure from the restraints. Their weight was absolutely oppressive. Every single movement he made required conscious planning and extra effort. Even lying down was only a partial relief because the heavy collar pressed against his neck no matter which direction he was facing. If he was upright, gravity pulled it down toward his shoulders. If he lay on his back, he had to scrunch down hard to keep the weight of the steel off his Adam's apple. Lying on his stomach was best because the collar pressed against the back of his neck, but then his hands - and all the rest of the chains - were stuck beneath his body.

There simply was no comfortable position to be found, and before too long, boredom was no longer his primary problem. The constant discomfort made the minutes crawl by very slowly indeed. By the time perhaps ten of them had passed, he was absolutely convinced he would not be able to endure this for twelve hours. He'd be happy with two but might only make one. It would be nice to have a timer so that if, for instance, he was ready to call it quits after an hour forty-eight, he could try to suck it up for twelve more minutes for the sake of the extra reward. But that was not an option. He would just have to stick it out as long as he could stand it and hope the timing worked out in his favor.

The atmosphere of the jail kept working on his psyche all the while. Even for someone without claustrophobia, the walls were unsettlingly close and oppressive. Add to that the harsh, institutional lighting, the massive impregnable construction, the eerie way that sounds got sucked into the stone to disappear... As well, the ventilation system provided a nearly-constant background of white noise that caused his ears to play tricks on him. In the whooshing rush of air he imagined hearing voices or footsteps or rhythmic pounding in the distance. Every once in a while the system would shut off and then the eerie quiet was almost worse since it emphasized how alone and cut off he was. Then, some minutes later, it would start up again and he would once more start hearing whispers of not-quite-language in the whistling of the moving air.

Even the smell was vaguely unsettling. There was a damp feeling to the place, an aroma of concrete basement, perhaps even a faint hint of earth as if muddy water had once seeped in after a particularly heavy rain, then dried but left its trace to linger in the air forever after, a subtle hint of soil and rotting leaves and slow decay. Overlaid on top of that was the stench of his own body - he had not used the shower yet since his arrival and his aroma was not exactly pleasant.

Between the visual impression, the sounds, and the smells, the cumulative effect drilled home the point that this was not a place designed for human comfort. This whole section of the building was designed to make its occupants suffer both physically and mentally, and it was very effective at its job.

Turning off the light overhead would have been nice, but there were several problems with that. One, the switch that controlled it was out in the admin area, far out of reach. Two, the bulb itself was in a cage and couldn't be unscrewed without opening the cage first. And three, even if he could turn out the light, that would just leave him in utter darkness, which might turn out to be even worse. Actually, no, there would still be some light leaking in from the other bulbs elsewhere in the cell block. That might be good, but... see points one and two, there was no way to make it happen. That bedside lamp from the other room would have been perfect. He could have turned off all the other room lights and just used that one. But, of course, he hadn't thought to bring it... not that there was a socket to plug it into if he had.

Perhaps half an hour in he realized he had made one other mistake. He should have brought the protein bar into the cell with him. Although actually, as he reflected further, maybe that wasn't a mistake at all. By not having the option, he prevented himself from deciding to allow himself a single bite and then "accidentally" taking another and another until he finished the whole thing. This way it could be a reward for enduring the cell and the chains. That was what he would do to further incentivize himself to keep at it: once he was out of the cell, he'd permit himself one nibble from the bar for each full hour he achieved. A bit of short-term reward to supplement the long-term goal of getting the hell out of this place.

He stood and shuffled around the cell a bit, the chains weighing him down at every extremity. There was absolutely nothing to do in here, no stimulation of any kind. Blank walls, harsh glare, a choice of stand, sit on cot, lie on cot, making sure to account for the chains in each of those positions. He tugged experimentally at the door, but it wasn't going anywhere. The temptation to open the lock and bail out was strong, but it was too soon. An hour couldn't have passed yet. He'd kick himself if he endured all this for nothing. But how to know when to quit?

Maybe the best thing to do was sleep. He used the toilet, more acutely aware than ever as he did that his every action was subject to scrutiny. He lay back down on the cot on his belly and closed his eyes to the incessant glare. There was no way to get his hands up under his head to act as a pillow so he just turned his head sideways, arranged all the steel bits in the least uncomfortable position he could, and then tried not to move.

Five minutes later, he had to move - the chains were digging into his body in several places. He adjusted them but five minutes after that the new contact points were complaining. So he shifted to his side, but that left the collar putting uncomfortable pressure on his neck and left his un-pillowed head at an uncomfortable angle.

No pillow. He really hadn't thought this all the way through.

"Hey," he called. "You mind if I go get the pillow from off the bed?"

There was no response. He called out once more but then gave up. There was never any real possibility that the answer would be "sure, go ahead, I'll even keep the timer running while you're away." More likely it would be "sure, go ahead, but the timer resets to zero and restarts when you return" or even "if you leave now, the deal is off." He would just have to suck up the additional discomfort... and once again feel that sense of self-loathing that came from the knowledge that his suffering was worse than it needed to be and it was his own fault.

And once he started thinking that way, it was not a large stretch to thinking that every bit of this was his own fault. He should have just kept walking, should never have stuck his inquisitive nose through that door. He could be miles from here right now, sleeping out under the stars with his belly full of food and his muscles pleasantly sore from a day of hiking. Instead, he was trapped inside a tiny space, weighed down with sixty pounds of steel that he could never stop noticing, his muscles very unpleasantly sore from lugging sixty pounds of steel everywhere he went, trying to shut his eyes against the glare of the caged bulb overhead and willing the hours to pass by swiftly even as every minute took a month to drag by...

Damn. This place really was getting to him. He tried to force himself to remember: this was not his fault. The villain here was his unseen jailer. That was where the responsibility for his predicament lay. His captor could set him free right now, right this very instant. But it was hard to bear that in mind when he remembered that every step of the way he had had a choice. He didn't have to do the pet thing, or wear the collar or the chastity belt or strip off all his clothes. He had chosen to do all those things, just like he had chosen to lock himself up in this cell. Maybe the better thing to do would have been to not accept any of the trades his tormentor had presented. Time off his sentence sounded like a good deal, but it came at such a cost! Perhaps he should just resolve to wait the rest of the sentence out, put up with the hunger and deprivation but do it from the comfort of the bed in the other room instead of the cot here in the cell.

Eventually he must have fallen asleep, mind whirling with such thoughts, because all of a sudden he woke up. Nothing had changed, of course - the cell was exactly as it was before. The only reason he knew he must have slept was that his body was now sore in new and different places and it was this discomfort that had woken him. He shifted laboriously around again and after a long while was able to doze off again.

The next time he woke it was to a still different set of discomforts, and this time he had had enough. He shifted around on the cot, worked his legs off over the edge, and climbed slowly to his feet, chains clanking noisily as he did.

"That's it," he said to the air. "I'm done. I can't do this any more. I don't care if I'm two minutes away from the next hour, I'm getting out of here now."

He shuffled the few steps to the front of the cell and began spinning the dial on the lock. Thirty-six, two, twenty. He lined up the 36 and had just started to spin the dial the other way when...

... the lights went out.

His hand froze. He waited for his eyes to adapt to the dimness, but it wasn't dimness he was in, it was the complete absence of light. There was nothing, not even the tiny cheerful glow of a status LED in a smoke detector somewhere. Nothing.

"Twelve hours," the voice said, and understanding blossomed in Pete's brain.

"Oh... oh no... oh, you MOTHER-FUCKING piece of SHIT! You utter ASSWIPE!" He continued spewing profanities, rapidly running out of distinct words and having to cycle back and repeat them in new combinations, but there was no reaction from the man who he knew was watching him and hearing him, able to see him even in the pitch blackness of the cell thanks to his magic infrared camera.

The goddamn bastard had tricked him into coming in here, deftly letting him believe that he could exit at any time, knowing all the while that there would be no escape. And he had fallen for it again! Even knowing the guy liked to play dirty tricks, Pete had still blundered his way willingly into the spot he now found himself in. He had tried to be careful and ensure that every step he took was reversible, but the indisputable fact remained: no one had made him do any of it. He had locked these monstrous chains onto his body all by himself. All by himself, he had failed to bring any sort of comfort into the cell with him. And, again all by himself, he had locked himself in with a lock that could only be opened in the light. Which he now had none of.

The asshole had said he couldn't control the doors remotely. He never said anything about the lights. And Pete hadn't thought to ask.

And then he had really twisted the knife, too. He could have doused the lights two minutes after Pete was locked in, but he hadn't. Instead, he had let Pete stew in his own delusion, forcing himself to make the mental effort to choose to stay in confinement, fighting against the temptation to want out. The two mental spaces were very different, he realized: having a choice and choosing the harder option was very different from having no choice at all. And making the hard choice wasn't an over-and-done thing. He had had to really work at it, choosing again and again and again. And only when he had finally given in to his weakness... only then did the sadist reveal that there had never been any choice at all. The son of a bitch had kept him in ignorance for however long it had been, watching him constantly, waiting for that one moment when he was ready to give up and then let on that it had all been a sham.

His hatred for his captor was only exceeded by his disgust for his own naivete and gullibility.

He made a half-hearted attempt to operate the lock by touch, but it was hopeless. There was no way to tell which number was which. He gave it a few tries and then abandoned the effort. There was no chance it would ever work. He was stuck in here until "morning", whatever that word might mean in here. What it meant was "whenever that fuckhead decides to turn the light back on". Which, he had no doubt, would be twelve hours and a few minutes after the lock had clicked shut. However long ago that was.

He settled down on the floor, avoiding the cot because sleep would be a long time coming. He managed to find a not-too-uncomfortable position where he sat with his back up against the wall, his knees bent, and his elbows propped against his legs with his hands taking some of the weight of the collar off of the bones at the base of his neck. Eventually, his head drooped and he slipped into a half-drowsing state, sort of sleeping but still keenly aware of the passage of every single minute. Inevitably, even this position grew too uncomfortable to sustain and so he climbed back onto the cot and tried another dozen ways to minimize his discomfort, shifting from one to another to another as the interminable hours crept by with glacial slowness. His belly began to complain again, letting him know that all this squirming around took energy and that energy needed to come from somewhere and maybe it would be a good idea to get some food down his throat.

I never signed on for this, he whined bitterly in his head. Guys who wanted to be SEALs or army rangers or CIA agents stationed overseas... they trained for this shit. They expected that some day they might be in the situation Pete was now in, and so they knew how to deal with hunger and sleep deprivation and stress positions and torture. They had the right state of mind to stand up against an enemy who was trying to break them down. They were physically and mentally ready for it. Pete, on the other hand, had a desk job in Silicon Valley and spent his day answering e-mails and taking notes at meetings. He never went an entire day without a meal. And he was now painfully aware that gym fitness and hiking fitness had very little in common with ready-for-the-gulag fitness.

It was a long, long, long night.

When at last the lights came back on, they did so with no warning. Pete was awake and had been so for some time, lying on the cot and staring emptily into the blackness, his mind a blank. He squinted against the sudden brightness. He knew that he should get up immediately and open the lock as soon as he could before the asshole flipped the lights off again. But he just didn't have the energy to move fast, not with the chains weighing him down. Besides, if the asshole was acting true to form, he would wait for Pete to climb wearily to his feet, trudge over to the door, start fiddling with the lock and then he would douse the lights again. So there was no rush.

On the other hand, the sooner he got himself up, the sooner he could get these chains off. And so he hauled his burdened body to its feet and shuffled to the door. The voice had not spoken yet and Pete was in no mood to start a conversation either. Eyes still squeezed half-shut, he lifted his too-heavy hands and started turning the dial. Thirty-six... two... he almost missed the two; his fingers weren't quite working right. Some combination of low blood sugar and exhaustion of his arm muscles made them tremble and spasm. But he forced them to comply with his will. Twenty... pull the hasp... the lock fell open. Pete dropped it to the floor, slid the door open, and made his laborious way back to the dungeon. The key to the punishment restraints - the reason behind the name was painfully obvious now that he had experienced them - was right where he had left it. He got the wrists unlocked first, then the ankles, and finally removed the collar. His neck was free to bend forward for the first time in half a day. It felt so good he barely noticed the original collar still locked in place.

He went back to the cell. He almost couldn't make himself do it - his body absolutely did not want to go back in there, it was like trying to push himself through a solid wall. His heart pounded and dread filled his whole being, but he did it. He sat and peed through the tiny hole at the tip of the tube of the chastity device, then drank a few mouthfuls of water. Had it really been only yesterday that he had fastidiously declared one of these fixtures to be for wastes and the other for drinking? The distinction seemed pointless, arbitrary, and utterly irrelevant now.

He drank his fill and then went back to the dungeon, noticing as he moved that his body still expected to be wearing the steel. The way his legs moved, the way he held his hands up and forward of his waist just a bit... he had been conditioned by his overnight ordeal. Trained. His body had physiologically adapted to the restraints he had worn. It'll wear off soon, I'm sure.

He dropped onto the bed, flopped over onto his belly, forced one hand up away from his waist and under the pillow - the position he preferred to sleep in but had been unable to get into until now - and within minutes was out cold.

It might have been an hour later or ten when he next woke up. Nothing was different in the room. Time seemed frozen as if he was trapped in a cheap '80s (or even '50s) sci-fi show. This little building had detached itself from the rest of the universe and was now carrying him along in some pocket-sized bubble of space-time, and even now Rod Serling was narrating his plight to the viewers watching him from their comfortable living rooms. He thought about getting up but just didn't have the energy. His bladder wasn't too full, so why move? Every muscle ached from the effort of carrying the punishment restraints around for so long, and besides, what would he do if he got out of bed? There was nothing to do, nothing at all. So why bother?

God, he was going to go insane in here.

He wondered how much time was left before his captor would let him out. After yesterday's ordeal, the release date should have moved up to Friday night... or was it morning? He couldn't remember. But it really didn't matter because he had no idea what the current time was, or even what day it was. Friday felt so far away it might as well be forever.

Planning for the future was something humans did. Prisoners should just live in the moment.

He lay there thinking of nothing at all for what must have been several more hours. Eventually his bladder filled up and he made himself move, standing gingerly up from the bed, muscles aching all over. He walked slowly back toward the jail, legs and arms still behaving as if they expected to have chains weighing them down. He went into the jail cell where he used the toilet, filled his cup with fresh water, and then started back toward the bed. As he passed the shower room, he realized that now as as good a time as any to wash at least two days' worth of accumulated grime off his body. He turned the water on and waited for it to warm up.

It never got completely warm, but it was endurable. And there was no soap or shampoo or even a towel to dry himself with afterward. He squicked the water off his body with his hands as best he could, not daring to try using a cloth in case his jailer decided that violated the nudity rule, then figured the rest would air dry as he moved around. All in all, it was probably the worst shower experience he had ever had, but by the time he was done he felt marginally cleaner and even a bit more mentally alert. He headed back into the dungeon.

He didn't feel like lying down again and so wandered around the room, slowly working life back into his overworked muscles, his arms and legs slowly adapting to the absence of the extra resistance of the punishment restraints. When he got to the cabinet where he had found the cup, he suddenly remembered: the protein bar! It was still in the drawer where he had first found it. He took it out, sat down on the bed, and carefully opened the wrapper, gently prying the glued surfaces apart so he would be able to fold it shut again to enclose whatever he didn't eat. He decided to allow himself half, the amount he had earned by enduring the full twelve hours in Cell Hell.

He took one tiny mouthful and it was gooooood, oh so good. Nuts, some kind of grains, a couple of dried berries, a bit of honey or something to bind it together, a few thin trails of chocolate drizzled on the top. He savored the first bite, chewing slowly and letting the flavor saturate his entire mouth. But it was a tiny bite and before he had even swallowed it he had taken another. This one spent less time being fawned over before the third bite followed it. He took his first swallow then, washing the masticated pulp down with some water. He forced himself to wait before starting the next bite, but a minute couldn't have gone by before he was tearing the next piece off with his teeth.

Naturally, he ate the whole thing. It was supposed to be twelve nibbles, half the bar divided into a dozen portions to be slowly, individually appreciated. But though he tried to pace himself, it still only took eight bites to get through half. And by then his stomach had woken up to the fact that it had finally gotten its wish - food was coming in - and doubled down on its demand for more with a vengeance. And so he allowed himself just one more bite after the first half was gone. And then just one more, and one more, and then there was hardly enough left to be worth saving and so, thoroughly disgusted with his total lack of self-control and knowing he'd be cursing his short-sightedness later, he found himself finishing it and then licking the sticky residue not only off his fingers but from the inside of the carefully-but-uselessly-preserved wrapper as well.

The worst part was that far from satisfying his hunger, the too-small meal only made him crave even more.

Cursing himself for an idiot, he tried to content himself with sipping on water instead. It sort of helped to satisfy his stomach, but only in the way that a thin shirt is better than nothing on a cold day. It offers nothing like actual warmth or protection from the wind, but it provides a feeble illusion that you can almost fool yourself with. His stomach didn't believe the illusion at all for a while, but as time passed and it realized no more food was coming, it grudgingly started thinking about allowing itself to be fooled.

The slight upswing in attitude he had experienced after the shower was gone completely. He was bored and exhausted and underfed and totally powerless to change anything about his situation and, worst of all, hating himself for his weakness and for the role he had played in making things harder on himself. His mood could not possibly get any bleaker. No more, he vowed. No more games, no more tricks. He was done.

"Hello, prisoner. Up for another challenge?"

The voice had made enough surprise appearances by now that he was no longer startled when it did. He had grown accustomed to the idea that even though he seemed to be alone, he was never actually alone. "Go to hell," Pete responded dully. "I mean that in complete sincerity. Take yourself to a fiery bottomless pit and jump in."

"No. Who would unlock the door for you if I did that?"

Pete found the energy to rise to his feet again. "You would. You could unlock it right now. Please, I'm begging you. Let me out. Let me out now. I can't take this. I'm dying in here."

The voice actually laughed at that. Pete would have been outraged if he wasn't so overwhelmed with despondence.

"A word of advice," the voice said. "Be very careful tossing that phrase around, 'I can't take this' or its cousin 'I can't take any more.' Bear in mind that you are talking to someone who has extensive experience with inflicting pain on others and enjoying their reactions. And so far, each of them - every single one - has used that phrase at some point. And I laugh when I hear it because it is so predictable and it is always, always false. They claim to have reached their limit and say they can't take any more and I always find a way to up the intensity one more notch when they do.

"And you know what? They take it. Every single one so far. They take it because they have no choice. It's awful and they hate it and they want the pain to stop but it doesn't stop. That's because I am in charge of deciding when it will stop. Not them. They are in charge of enduring. Nothing more. So be very careful with that phrase because the next time you say it I will find a way to drive home the point that yes, you can take it and you will take it."

Pete swallowed. The protein bar had left his throat dry and scratchy and no amount of water or saliva had made it moist yet. He didn't trust his voice to try speaking; his legs began to tremble and it wasn't entirely from exhaustion and lack of nourishment. His captor's words hit home this time in a way they wouldn't have been able to before. Where before he might have scoffed disbelievingly at what must be bluster, he just couldn't do that any more. He had been through too much and could easily accept that those were not the words of a blowhard who was merely trying to sound intimidating. Those words were a matter-of-fact declaration and Pete believed his tormentor was fully capable of doing exactly what he had threatened to do. He swallowed again, convulsively, and tried to calm his quivering calves.

"Now, I'm going to make you one more offer. It's actually three offers, choose any one of the three. But before I do that, there is a small bookkeeping matter to attend to. On Monday at 12:30 PM, I offered to reduce your sentence by six hours if you would strip naked and remain naked for the remainder of your stay. Do you remember this?"

Pete nodded.

"SPEAK UP, BOY, I CAN'T HEAR YOU," the voice commanded sharply.

"Yes!" Pete coughed as the word scratched his throat. "Yeah. I remember."

"And do you remember me saying that if I at any point saw any part of your body covered with fabric that the deal was null and void?"

Pete felt blood rushing into his ears. "Yeah..." he said.

"Well. My partner and I went out boating and water skiing today. We had a terrific time. We found a great little place for lunch, too, a nice little Italian place down by Emerald Bay that actually had decent seafood. I had clams in garlic sauce over linguini and you always take a chance when you order that because all too often the clams are unappealing, rubbery little blobs, you know? But these, to my surprise, were just about perfect. And my partner opted for... well... it doesn't matter. I digress. Anyway. Of course I took a few moments to check in on you every now and then and at one point, I looked and saw that one of the bedsheets had somehow come to cover your legs from the knee down. I was inclined to be generous and overlook the issue, but when I checked back an hour later, it was still there."

"That's not possible!" Pete protested. "I checked when I woke up and I was on top of everything. I'm sure of it!"

"Look at the screen," the voice commanded.

Pete went over to the screen, which was still on from the last time he had seen an image of himself displayed on it. Now it showed his sleeping, exhausted form. Sure enough, his feet were tucked into a warm pocket formed by a fold in the upper sheet. His legs were hidden by fabric clear up to the knees. He had no memory of it, of course - he had been completely wiped out.

"No..." he said. "No, no, no, that's not fair, that's not right, it was just my feet, I was asleep..."

"I would show you the subsequent photo but there would be no point because it looks exactly the same as this one. You spent at least an hour with your legs covered. You violated the terms, and so I have added six hours back on to your sentence. Your new release date is Saturday at 3AM."

"No!" Pete wailed. "I can't—" in the nick of time he stopped himself before the words could come tumbling out. "I can't, you can't, this can't be happening..." he moaned into the air.

"You are distraught. I will return later to make the next offer when you are calmer."

"NO! Don't go!" Pete half-shrieked. "I have to get out of here. What do I have to do?" He took a deep, gasping breath and tried to get control of himself. Five minutes ago he had vowed to never accept another "challenge" from his lying, treacherous captor. So what was the point of listening to what it would be? And yet he needed to know what it was that he would be refusing... one would think the curiosity would have been beaten out of him by now, but apparently not. He gave up trying to stop his legs from shaking and sank slowly to the floor in front of the image of his sleeping self on the TV screen.

"This will necessarily be the last offer I make. Not because I plan to ignore you but because of the nature of the offer. I would like to see you in some form of severe, inescapable restraint. I want you to lock yourself up in such a way that you cannot release yourself. If you do this, then your sentence will end somewhere between 18 and 24 hours after you click the last lock shut. When the time is up, I will cut my vacation short and come and set you free. Think about that: only 24 hours, and very likely less, from whenever you start your ordeal, and then your sentence will be served in full."

"It'll be agonizing, I know it will," Pete said. "And you'll find some way to trick me again."

"No trick this time. I will be completely up front with you. Your three choices are:

"One: drag one of the long cages into cell #1. Lock the cell door, throw the key out of reach, then climb into the cage and lock it shut with two key-operated padlocks. Do not bring the keys with you. You may choose whether to orient the cage vertically or horizontally."

Hours trapped in a coffin-sized cage did not appeal. Pete just sat on the floor shaking his head.

"Two: drag one of the box cages into cell #2. Lock the cell door, throw the key out of reach, climb into the cage and assume a seated position with your body folded so as to fit inside with your head sticking out the top. Lock the cage shut with a keyed padlock, then cuff your hands together in front of you. Bring no keys into the cell with you."

That was no more appealing than the first option. The box was better than the coffin, but he knew he would quickly grow desperate to stretch his limbs out and be unable to.

"Three: take four short-chained manacles into cell #3, the solitary cell. Lock yourself into the cell, then use the manacles to lock your ankles and wrists to the four corners of the cell, stretching yourself out spread-eagle."

As expected, the third option was just as bad as the first two. All three were too terrible to contemplate. He would just have to suck it up and wait out the duration in here.

"If you choose any of those three options, I will expect you to lock a hood on your head as well, one that covers your eyes but has a large opening for your mouth and nose so that your breathing will not be compromised."

Worse and worse. No. No thanks. Pass. "I can't do any of those. It's too much," he said.

"Suit yourself. In that case, we will not be speaking again. You still have over three days left on your sentence. If you're not interested in any of those offers, then we have nothing more to say to each other. I've enjoyed watching your confinement so far, but honestly, the novelty of bondage at a distance has started to wear off. Usually I'm much more directly involved in a scene like this. More hands-on. People actually pay for the privilege of having the experience you are now enjoying, you know. I should be charging you! But I'm not, partly because I thought the remote control aspect would be a nice variation that would amuse me, and it did at first, but at this point I'm just watching you lie on a bed, and that has ceased to entertain."

"So that's it? I'm stuck here with no food and no contact for three days? At least?" Pete tried to keep his hysteria at bay, but he could hear his tone rising and his voice cracking.

"Unless you change your mind, yes."

It took Pete a moment, but he figured out what that meant. "So this offer doesn't expire like some of the earlier ones did?"

"That is correct. The reason the earlier ones either expired or earned you less time off was because of the nature of the offer - do this for the rest of your sentence and earn that much time in exchange. The longer you waited before beginning, the less time you had left on your sentence, therefore the less time you would spend wearing the additional restraint, thus, the less it was worth to me.

"This offer, on the other hand, has the opposite incentive. The amount of bondage doesn't change no matter when you start. You could start right now and be free 18 to 24 hours from now. Or you could dither about it for six hours, half a day, a whole day and then begin, and you would still spend 18 to 24 hours in the additional restraints... only you would be that much weaker and hungrier at the start of your ordeal. The choice is yours.

"You don't have to decide now. If at any point you decide you want to take on one of the additional challenges, just take the punishment restraints you were wearing earlier - the ones you left lying in a heap on the floor there - and stretch them them out. I will see that as a signal that you want to proceed and will get in touch. If not, then this is the last time we will speak until it's time for your release."

Pete waited for more, then concluded his captor had finished speaking. Then, a minute later, the voice sounded again.

"One more thing... only send the signal if you've made up your mind. Don't waste my time by sending the signal and then asking questions or trying to negotiate. You already have all the information you're going to get. Only send the signal if you've decided to accept one of the challenges. A false alarm will meet with a response you will not enjoy."

Then the voice was gone for good.

Fuzzy as his brain was, Pete could see the trap laid out before him. Just like before, the options appeared to be plain and clear. But he had been duped twice now, and been outright lied to at least once, so it was a near certainty that the asshole would pull another fast one on him this time. Somehow. Pete would just have to out-think his captor, which was a tall order given his current mental state. He was having a hard time staying focused on anything; his brain kept wandering off to think about something else or about nothing at all.

As before, he couldn't see any obvious right choice. None of the options was appealing in the slightest, even if they were taken at face value with no treachery intended. He could - and probably should - wait it out. But three more days? His body already felt near its breaking point; what would it be like after three more days of living on nothing but water?

Unless it wasn't three days left on his sentence but only one? Or worse, only three hours? Maybe that was the treachery. Maybe Pete was close to the end of his sentence and his tormentor was lying about the length of time left. Perhaps the trick was to get Pete to torture himself pointlessly? Instead of spending the last few hours in the relative comfort of the dungeon, he might volunteer for strict, uncomfortable restraint, increasing both his suffering and the length of his sentence and gaining nothing in return.

On further reflection, he thought it unlikely. He couldn't know for sure how much time had passed, but it didn't seem long enough to be five or six days. He would be much hungrier, much weaker, he would have slept more. But his sleep schedule was all screwed up, and maybe he was already weaker than he thought, in which case...

No. He had to stop his mind from spiraling down meaningless dead-ends. Assume the end of the sentence really was three days plus away. If that was the case, then the only tool he had available to shorten that time was inescapable, severely constrictive long-term bondage. All the time he had spent in the punishment restraints plus half that again or more. How could he endure any of the three torments the voice had described for that long? It seemed impossible, even if his captor was being honest, which he almost certainly wasn't. No, he'd be a fool to accept any of the three.

One thing was certain: he was not thinking at his best just now. There was no need to rush into a decision. He certainly had nothing else to do, so he could afford to take a bit of time to think things through before making a choice. He drank some water, trying to distract the growling beast in his belly. Thinking of hunger reminded him that the Fritos were still there in their bag and he considered eating them but decided against it. Eating the protein bar had only made him feel hungrier, and Fritos were basically empty non-food anyway, like eating styrofoam. He would feel better for the twenty seconds they were in his mouth, then worse for the next two hours afterward.

He lay down on the bed again. Maybe things would look different in an hour or two.

They didn't. He was still faced with the same impossible choice. Long, drawn-out torment, or slightly-less-drawn-out, more intense torment. Only now, as the voice had said, he would be starting from a point an hour or two weaker and hungrier than he was before. And that would only get worse the longer he dithered.

He would almost rather have not had the option to choose at all. No matter what he chose, he knew he would constantly wonder whether he had done the right thing. He would forever second-guess himself afterward. It was almost better to not have the choice, to simply have to endure whatever his tormentor forced upon him. At least that way he wouldn't feel responsible for causing it.

He continued lying on the bed, staring at the rafters above his head, not deciding.

Some time later, the thought occurred to him that, rather than try to think about what he would choose, he should try to take the view of someone outside the situation. His thinking, after all, was suspect and his brain was not operating at its peak. He should delegate his thinking to someone else, someone who had had a decent meal recently and who wasn't emotionally invested in the outcome and would be able to look at things logically in a way Pete could not. What would that person do? What choice would he make on Pete's behalf?

After pondering that for a while, he found he could turn it slightly around: what if Pete were the one on the outside making a choice for the hapless wretch who was trapped in prison? Suppose he was well-fed, unstressed from days of captivity. What would the he choose, knowing that someone else would have to live with the consequences of his decision?

That train of thought led inevitably to memories of what life on the outside was like and imagined fantasies of being back in that life. Such thoughts were, of course, unproductive but he couldn't stop himself from indulging in them.

The empty minutes ticked by, one by one by one.

It might have been two hours later. Or five, or three. Without ever really coming to a conscious decision, he knew what he was going to do. He absolutely had to get out of here no matter the cost. There was no way he would be able to survive another three days of this. What the imaginary rational Pete outside the prison had thought was: get it over with as quickly as possible. Like ripping off a bandage, it would be best to do it fast, feel a moment's sharp bright pain, and then be done. And so he rose from the bed, made a trip to the toilet in cell #2, then returned to the dungeon.

He stopped at the puddle of chains on the floor. Taking each heavy manacle one at a time, he stretched the chains out until they formed the rough shape of a stick figure on the floor.

I'm committed now, he thought, knowing that he would certainly regret it later. But he knew equally well that no matter which choice he made, he would regret it. At least this way the choice had been made and he didn't have to agonize about it any more. It's too late to change my mind. There's no turning back.

He lay back on the bed to wait and to perhaps think of ways to make the coming ordeal less horrible, the way he had failed to do with the punishment restraints.

The wait was longer than he had anticipated and Pete had dozed off and was snoring gently when the sound of his captor's voice roused him.

"... make me blare that alarm at you again. It's tempting... oh, good, you're awake. So, prisoner, which challenge have you decided to accept?"

Disoriented, he couldn't think of the context this question might belong in and had no idea what the right answer could be. He fought to get his brain spun up and running again. It didn't take long before memory clicked into place. Oh god... what have I done? He tried to respond aloud but only gargled, his throat full of phlegm. He cleared it and tried again.

"I'm not sure, I..."

"Prisoner, I warned you about wasting my time. You need to either name a challenge within five seconds after I finish speaking or else I will shut off the lights and crank the thermostat down as low as it will go for the remainder of your stay. Now choose."

"The solitary cell," Pete blurted, no more certain why he had chosen that option than he had known why he had decided to any of them at all. What the hell had he been thinking before? The imaginary rational Pete outside the prison didn't exist. Sure, it was easy for him to make blithe comparisons to ripping off bandages, but now that that the event was imminent for the real Pete it was clear there was no similarity at all to a quick, brief moment of discomfort. This was going to be a slow, grinding slog longer than the dog collar and the punishment restraint episodes put together. There was nothing he wanted to do less. He stood up and nearly fell back down again, his limbs shaky.

"An excellent choice," the voice said. "The restraints you will need are in the last drawer on the right. There should be four. Bring four padlocks as well, and the keys to both the manacles and the padlocks. If you screw something up during the setup phase I want you to be able to recover and get into the proper position. You'll also need an appropriate hood and a lock and key for that. Try the one on the farther rack near the top."

Pete selected the items he would need as well as a few extras he had thought about during his earlier ponderings, back when this whole thing was safely hypothetical. Naturally, these were questioned right away.

"I note that you are carrying more than I requested," the voice said. "Explain."

Pete held up each item in turn. "A blanket. To keep me from lying directly on the floor. I'll hurt plenty even with this, enough to satisfy you."

"You presume to know what quantity of your suffering would satisfy me. But I'm amused, for the moment. Continue."

Pete held up the next item. "Pillow. Same purpose. No hidden keys, no bolt cutters or other means of escape. It's just to make the misery slightly less miserable."

"Ah, but your misery is what I am after."

You'll still get plenty of it, asshole. Pete was pretty sure he had only thought the words, not spoken them aloud. He held up the last two items. "Finally, external catheter and bucket to aim the tube into, with lid. There's no way I'll be able to last a day without peeing, and unless I make other arrangements it would just soak into the blanket."

"Increasing your misery which, again, is something I am seeking to maximize, not minimize. But I am entertained by your initiative. It's refreshing that you're thinking ahead now in a way you weren't before. You may keep your comforts. Now. Off you go."

Moving as slowly as he thought he could get away with, Pete headed down the hallway that led to the jail. He passed through the administrative area and reached the heavy door that opened into to the cell block.

"Stop here," the voice said, coming now from a speaker in one of the cells. "Show me that you have everything you need. All right, good. Take everything into the cell block and set it down. Good. Now, go back out and set the latch on the outer door to its horizontal position. Yes, like that. Go back inside the cell block and close the outer door most of the way, but leave it open just a crack."

Pete complied. "Next, close the inner door and lock it with the key." The key was in the lock mechanism. Pete swung the door around and pushed it shut. It clanged into place with a reverberating crash of metal on metal that rang loudly off the cinderblock walls. Pete reached through the bars and twisted the key. The lock banged shut with a smaller set of echoes.

"Toss the key to the floor on the far side of the door. Aim it sideways, back down the hall you came in through. Then slide the outer door shut."

Pete hesitated. This was the last possible moment to change his mind. Once that key was out of reach, he would be trapped in the jail side until... whenever. But really, there was no choice to be made at all. If he backed out now, the lights would go out and the temperature would drop and he would have made himself worse off for no reason, with no reduction in the time he would serve. And so his hesitation lasted only a moment, then he dutifully threw the key out, well beyond reach. He gulped down a deep breath and tried not to think about what he had just done.

Next he set to work on the outer door. He reached between the bars and awkwardly began trying to slide the heavy panel on the far side. It was difficult to move from this side with the bars of the inner door in the way, but not impossible. Eventually it shut with a click. Experimentally, he tried to move it back the other way, but could not budge it. He was now doubly locked in. Triply, counting the exterior door that had stymied him since his arrival.

"Last chance for water or a bathroom stop," the voice said. "I recommend both, but it is up to you." Pete decided these were both wise ideas and took a moment to empty his bladder and take several long pulls of water from the sink. His heart was really racing now. The reality of what he was doing, of what he had no choice but to do, had sunk in and it terrified him.

"Moving on. Take your pile of gear to the solitary cell and lay it down, then set out your comfort items as you see fit. Leave both cell doors open for now."

Still moving slowly, hands trembling just a bit, Pete spread the blanket out on the floor, centered under where his body would be. His arms and legs would be against the bare concrete, but that would be tolerable as long as his core was off the ground. And his head. Of course, adjusting the pillow once his arms were stretched out would be difficult, but he would manage as best he could. The blanket was fairly coarse and rough, but it would still be better than lying on bare stone. Pete had done what he could.

"Now lock the manacles to the four corners of the cell using the padlocks. Use the full length of chain for each. If I've judged your height correctly, this won't hold you at full stretch. There will be some slack in the bindings. For a long lockdown, that will be essential to prevent nerve damage. You'll be sore and uncomfortable, but you will not suffer any permanent harm."

Working as carefully and methodically as he could despite his pounding heart and his quivering fingers, Pete connected the chains at the far ends of the manacles to hooks set into the floor at the corners of the cell, ensuring that the smaller ones were placed where the wrists would go and the larger ones at the ankles.

"Now we come to the tricky part of the setup," the voice said. "The manacles are capable of locking themselves shut automatically, like handcuffs, but they can only be unlocked with a key. So what you need to do is open them all up and then ensure that each one does not click shut until your limb is in place. Before you do that, I would like you to make a practice run with your right hand. Unlock the right one, then lie down as if the other three were secured in place. Then try to shut the one around your right wrist using only your right hand. Do it with your eyes closed because you will have the hood on when you do this for real."

Of course the voice knew he was right-handed. His captor had been monitoring everything about him with a keen attention to detail these last few days. Pete slowly got down on his belly, stretched his arms and legs out, and began working the manacle mechanism, pressing it against the floor to try to get it to click shut around his wrist.

"Why are you facing down?" the voice asked.

"Because I'll die if I'm face up," Pete replied, sounding much more calm than he would have thought possible with his heart racing and a fat lump in his throat. "I can't sleep on my back. My jaw relaxes, my tongue slips down and it blocks my breathing. I won't be able to stay awake for the next eighteen hours, never mind twenty-four. If you don't want your toy to choke to death by the time you get here, I need to be facing down."

The voice took a long time to mull this over. Pete succeeded in locking the manacle around his wrist. He unlocked it with the key using his left hand. "Very well," it finally said as he climbed to his feet. "I accept your reasoning. But you have now pushed me to the limit with your requests. No further changes to the plan will be allowed. In fact, be grateful I don't take away the blanket and pillow."

"Thank you. Yes, I am grateful." Pete said, and possibly even meant it. He couldn't really be sure.

"All right. You have proven you can lock yourself in correctly. It's time to do it. Take all the keys outside the cell, including the key to the inner door, and put them on the floor. Come back in, closing the door behind you. The outer door can't be locked from the inside so closing it will have to do."

Pete went out and set the keys down, then took one last look at the rest of the cell block. It was as grim and institutional as ever. Strange to think that when the ordeal ahead was over, this would be the first sight that greeted him, and he would welcome it like a breath of fresh spring air. Turning back, he entered the cell and closed the door behind him. The cell remained lit by the glare of the caged bulb overhead.

"Now close the inner door. It is a 'slammer' door - the lock will engage as soon as the door closes." He pulled the door until it clanged shut, then pushed it experimentally and of course it would not move. He was now separated from the outside by four locked doors, none of which he had keys for.

He took a moment to put the catheter on, stretching the elastic end over the tube of the chastity device covering his dick. He left the other end dangling for now, figuring there would be time later to fit it into the bucket and then set the bucket's lid down over the top of it to both hold it in place and keep some of the smell-to-come trapped.

"Down on the floor now. Lock your ankles in first, then stop." The first ankle was straightforward enough. The second took a bit of doing since his legs were spread fairly far apart. He eventually got it done by standing, his butt up against the barred door, bent down at the waist. When both legs had been secured, he slowly dropped to his knees and then down onto his belly on top of the blanket.

"The hood goes on next. Place it over your head, line up the mouth hole, then lock it in place." The hood had laces down the back. Pete loosened them, donned the hood, and then tightened them up from the top of his head down to the base of his neck. The final step was to slip the tiny padlock into the last two lace holes and click it shut. It was difficult to do with his eyes covered, fumbling in the darkness, but he found the lock and was able to maneuver it into place. He was now blind.

"I've turned off the cell light. You no longer need it. But I can still see you by infrared. Finish the process. Lie down. Lock your left wrist in place, then your right. Be very careful not to click either manacle shut until your wrist is inside it, because there is no opening them now. If you need incentive to get it right, the clock only starts ticking once you are correctly secured in place. Screw it up by not locking both wrists and... well... I don't need to spell out the consequences, I hope."

Pete was well aware of what that meant. Very carefully, he groped around until he felt the left manacle, slid his wrist into it, then clicked it shut with his right hand. Then he scrunched his body over to the right, made sure his pillow was aligned where it should be, and reached toward the right manacle. Gingerly, carefully, he lined his wrist up with the curved inner surface, rotated sideways, and pressed carefully down.


It was done.

He lay his head down on the pillow, face pointed to his left. There was stillness for a moment. He breathed in and breathed out, trying to settle his racing pulse, smelling the slightly damp aroma of the cell walls and floor mixed with the scent of his own sweat. The sound of the ventilation system made the air rustle overhead, a gentle, steady whoosh that was only partially muffled by the leather covering his ears. There was no discomfort at all, at least not yet. The position was not one he usually assumed, but there was no strain, no pull, no tension in his limbs.

He could do this. It would be a challenge, but a surmountable one. All he had to do was take it one minute at a time, just knock them down one by one and ride it out.

"Damn, I'm good," the voice crowed quietly.

That caught Pete's attention. It was only three little words, but there was something about the tone that carried potential implications that Pete really did not want to think about. He mulled them over for a moment. Perhaps he was worrying for no reason. Perhaps his tormentor had just found new way to needle him. Still, he had to know... always the curious one. "What do you mean?" Pete asked.

"Exactly what I said. From a hundred miles away, without laying a finger on you, I put you where you are now. I convinced you to do this to yourself. Even after giving you plenty of reasons not to trust me, you went ahead and did it anyway. Look at you. Totally, completely helpless. No one knows where you are. You're locked away behind multiple steel doors, none of which you could open even if you weren't staked out down on the floor. Unable to so much as scratch your balls if you develop an itch. Totally, totally screwed. But don't feel too bad. Perhaps you really couldn't help yourself. I'm very good at this, after all."

Pete began tugging on the restraints. There was no hope that any of them would yield in the slightest, and they didn't, but he couldn't help but try. The sense of unease was growing too large for him to dismiss.

"What do you mean, I couldn't help myself?" Pete had chosen to do this. All by himself. Hadn't he?

"Let me explain it with an example. Think about how you felt after you removed the punishment restraints. Think about how you walked and moved your hands. Remember how that felt?"

He did, very plainly. For a while after opening the locks, his body had felt as if the restraints were still there, had expected them to be there and believed it was right for them to be there. It had adapted to the restraints, altering not just the way he moved but the way it anticipated his limbs would respond to those movements. He wore imaginary chains for hours afterward, even though he had slept for a time immediately after their removal. The phantom steel had lingered on his limbs long after the real thing was gone. His body had been conditioned.

"Now consider this," the voice continued. "I see that you are still naked. This is good - if you weren't, I would have instructed you to be, so you saved me a step. But I wonder why you didn't put your clothes back on earlier."

Well, duh. Pete hadn't done that because he couldn't. He had been directed to stay... oh. But wait. The deal was: stay naked or lose the time off that he had bought in exchange. But he had already lost the time, hours and hours ago. The deal was void. He could have gotten dressed any time after that and there would have been no consequence. Yet the thought simply hadn't occurred to him.

That stung. It was not that he had thought about getting dressed and decided not to, it was that he had not thought about it at all. He had grown accustomed to being naked because naked was normal in here. It hadn't occurred to Pete to question that once the reason for it no longer applied.

His body wasn't the only thing that had been conditioned, and he hadn't even known it had happened.

"It's a shame I can't see your face because I know I would relish the expression that is on it at this moment. I'll just have to be content with visualizing it in my imagination."

His mind had evidently undergone changes just like his body had, shaped by this whole experience. He had needed to adapt to captivity in order to survive it, and he had... but obviously the experience had changed him. Pete felt like the floor had dropped out from under him. How much change could he undergo and still be himself? Or had that moment already passed and he had already become someone else? Because his "real" self would never have locked his body down like this, would never have dreamed of it. And yet that's just what he had done. Or someone had, because he couldn't really remember a moment when he had consciously decided to do it. He had just... done it. Sent the signal, committed to the ordeal, without ever thinking about it at all. He thought he had thought about it... but what did that really even mean? Thinking about thinking... about thinking... In the blackness of the hood and the unlit cell, his mind was spinning, spiraling out of control...

"Perhaps you are starting to understand," the voice said. "You have heard of Stockholm syndrome, I suppose? Where captives come to identify with and even try to assist their captors? You're still far from that stage, but perhaps you have a sense now of just how easily that can come to pass. With enough time, it would. Make no mistake, prisoner, you have been under my control from the moment I allowed you to walk through my door."

It took Pete a few seconds to register that something wasn't right about that last sentence. He tried to squeeze words out through his tightening throat. "What... what do you mean... 'allowed'?"

"Exactly what I said. Surely you don't think that outer door was left open by accident, do you? Surely you know enough about me by now to realize that I am far too organized and conscientious to forget to lock the door to my own playroom. And you can probably deduce from the number of cameras I have placed inside the building that I have some on the outside as well?

"Your approach triggered my motion detectors, which alerted me to your presence. I watched you draw near, liked what I saw, and made sure the door would open for you if you tried it. Which, very cooperatively, you did, even going so far as to leave your pack outside, which made my work so much easier. And since that time I have owned you completely, even if you're only realizing it now. You are mine, a piece of clay in my hands that I can mold into anything I want. Your own thoughts and desires only matter in as much as I can use them against you. Which, as you now recognize, I have already done."

It was true. He had been used. He couldn't trust his own mind, which was a horribly disorienting sensation because what else was there to trust if not that? He was helpless, not just because of the chains and the doors and the locks but because his mind had been hijacked. His brain had made him do things that he really didn't want to do without him even realizing it, and now there was no way back.

It wasn't just this latest predicament, either, he now saw. He had been manipulated and used the entire time. Every decision he had made, every bit of free will he thought he had exercised had been an illusion. There had never been any choice at all. The last real choice he had made was to walk through that door days and days ago.

"It's only temporary," Pete protested, clinging desperately to the illusion that he still had a shred of control despite all evidence to the contrary. "Eighteen to twenty-four hours. I can make it that long."

"And what happens after that time?" the voice asked in patient, patronizing tones as if instructing a child.

Pete felt tears start to prickle at the corners of his eyes under the hood. The spinning sensation was getting worse; he clung to the chains to reassure himself that there was something solid in the world. "Then you come and let me out." That had to be the case, that was the only reason he had subjected himself to this: the promise of freedom sooner rather than later.

The voice said nothing. Nearly a minute passed where the only sound was the rush of air through the vent. The teardrops in Pete's eyes grew larger and fuller as the seconds crept slowly past.

"Hello?" he finally called.

"I was trying to decide whether to shatter your illusions now or let you keep fooling yourself for a while longer in pursuit of a more devastating impact when reality finally came crashing in. But I just can't postpone the moment. My dear, gullible little prisoner... the only assurance you have that you will be released is the word of a known liar. You can't trust anything I say. So I ask again: what happens after eighteen to twenty-four hours? What will you do?"

Pete began to yank on the chains in earnest as the voice spoke, jangling them loudly as he struggled. "No... no, please. You have to come. You have to let me go."

"I'll tell you what will happen. If I don't set you free, you'll continue to lie there in the exact position you are in now because you can't do anything else. You are completely, totally powerless to alter your situation in any way. The extent of your entire world is the six-by-eight foot cell in which you find yourself, and even the top three-quarters of that is out of your reach. The rest of the world is so far removed from you that it might as well not even exist. Now I'm not saying I won't come, but you need to prepare yourself for that possibility because, as you know, I'm a liar. Even if I promised you I would, how much would that promise be worth?"

Pete pulled on the chains as hard as he could. There was some mobility allowed to his hands and feet, but only a very limited amount. The chains were massive, absurdly oversized for the job they had to do. There was no chance at all of him breaking free of them, but he had to try. They clanked heavily against the stone floor. The tears were flowing freely now and his breath started to come in hiccuping gasps.

"Well, enough of this," the voice said. "I'm off to go hit a round of golf. I might check up on you, or I might not. I don't really need to any more; you're not going anywhere. I'll leave you with this thought: remember during the next hours that even though you are spending every minute focused on your suffering, I am not. You are suffering because I want you to be, and I'm enjoying that, but it's enough for me to know that it's happening. I don't need to wallow in it real-time. How tedious that would be! No, instead, I'll think about you now and then and smile as I'm out on the course, but then I might need to focus to line up a shot and think about that for a while, and afterward we'll be heading out to eat and I might get distracted by the food and conversation and end up not thinking about you for hours. When I do happen to remember you, I know right where you'll be if I want to take a look."

Pete was sobbing openly now. He had a hard time forcing recognizable words out. "But you'll... you'll come... come let me out. In eighteen hours." It was the only shred of hope he had left.

"Of course I will." The voice's tone walked the perfect line between sincerity and sarcasm. Pete could believe it to be genuine just as easily as he could believe it to be mockery. There was no certainty to be found.

Then the voice was gone.

God, what an idiot he'd been. Not once, not twice, but three times he had allowed himself to be fooled. First the shock collar, then the punishment restraints, now this, each one worse than the one before. Tempted by the promise of the one thing he wanted - freedom - he had been lured deeper into captivity. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," the saying went. What did that mean for him, three times fooled?

And willingly fooled, that was the worst of it! He should have stuck to his conviction after the second betrayal, he should never have allowed there to be a third. How had he let this happen?

The sobs had slowly faded to hiccups, then an occasional shuddering breath, then stopped entirely. It had been fifteen minutes if he had to guess. His arms were holding up OK for the moment, uncomfortable but managing. His legs were better. But it would get worse, of that he had no doubt. And there was not a single fucking thing he could do about it. He was stuck here and it was his own goddamn fault. And now he couldn't even be sure that an end would ever come. Eighteen hours had seemed far enough away, and that was the low end of the range, but what if the condition he was in - that he had put himself in - was permanent? What an idiot, what an absolute fool...

He knew the routine by now: boredom. Frustration. Discomfort. The imaginary sounds conjured up by the flow of air through the ducts. Endless, gnawing hunger. No thirst yet, but that would surely come in time. So would pain.

He couldn't stop thinking about worst-case scenarios. What if his captor never came for him? What if he died here? How would it go? It would be the thirst that got him, no doubt. His breathing was unimpaired and he hadn't been without food long enough to starve to death. But in a matter of days his body would dehydrate, his blood would thicken and grow sluggish and eventually his heart wouldn't have the strength to push the viscous sludge through his veins, his kidneys would shut down, toxins would build up and that would be the end: long and slow and agonizing.

Would his captor let that happen? Pete hoped not but it was not beyond the realm of possibility. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that there would be no way to pin his murder on the man who had killed him. That man's hands weren't dirty, only Pete's were. All his captor had to do was wait a week or a month before visiting his own property and "discovering" the corpse in the cell and calling the police. Any halfway-competent investigator would reach the only possible conclusion: Pete had done this to himself.

The keys tossed on the floor in the hall, the multiple locked doors, the clear evidence that the place had been lived in for days... Pete had left his clothes in the dungeon, brought out plenty of "toys" and used them without putting them back, slept in the bed. There would be no evidence of anyone else being in here with him because there had been no one else. The investigator would conclude that Pete was one of those whips-and-chains types who had sneaked into Kink Disneyland and had himself an orgy of solitary fun. Whether he had locked himself in and chained himself down as a deliberate suicide or just as the result of a lust-addled brain too far gone in depravity to remember to leave himself an escape route would be impossible to determine, but it didn't matter. Either way, the jail's owner would be in the clear. He had committed the perfect crime. He would get away with what he had done.

With what he had made Pete do to himself.

It was too much. He yanked on the chains again, pulling hard against the implacable resistance. It hurt his wrists and ankles where the metal dug in but he didn't care. He slammed his fists against the stone floor and shouted out his frustration to the black, empty cell around him. The bars sang in tune with his screams but the walls just sucked up the sound. Maybe his tormentor was watching him and getting off on his pathetic struggles. Or maybe he was out on the golf course already, teeing up in the bright sunshine. Pete would never know.

When he finally stopped, spent, he was still as trapped as ever, still helpless, still alone. His pillow had slipped away while he had been flailing around. He was able to get hold of a corner with his teeth and tug it back into position beneath his head, then collapsed down on it and willed himself to be anywhere else.


His left foot suddenly tensed itself into a knot and would not let go. Pete's mind had been wandering, aimlessly drifting as his body remained pinned to the ground, but this jolted him back to full awareness. Unlike the dull aches all over his body, this pain was exquisite, sharp and bright and relentless. He tried flexing his ankle, but it didn't help. What he needed to do was set his foot down flat on the floor and press his weight down onto it. And while he was wishing for that, he might as well wish for someone to oil his feet and massage the cramp away while feeding him little morsels of chocolate-covered strawberries. Both fantasies were equally realistic.

There was no position he could contort himself into that would ease the agony. He could sort of touch his toes to the bars of the door, but he couldn't apply any pressure and so there was nothing he could do to stop the muscles from clenching and folding his foot along the arch as if someone was trying to make it into a paper airplane.

And, of course, being dragged back to awareness meant he noticed all his other aches and pains as well. His arms felt distant, only remotely a part of him, and so he flapped them to try to wake them up. Once the blood started flowing again and the nerves started waking up, he started feeling tingles all along the outer edges. He yearned to pull them in toward his body but was forced to leave them stretched out as they were. The movements, feeble though they were, took energy, and he had precious little of that left. His belly was no longer painfully empty, it was merely empty. Hollow. His body had started going into starvation mode, rationing its resources and concentrating on keeping his core alive at the expense of the periphery. It was concentrating its dwindling stash of sodium and potassium ions into his heart and brain and lungs, and if that meant the nerves and muscles of the fingers and feet didn't get enough to keep working properly, well, that was just a price that Pete would have to pay... which brought him back to thinking about the cramp.

At long last, it eased on its own and he was able to relax the tension in the rest of his muscles.

One hour down, maybe two. Only a million more to go...

Soon enough, the discomfort of being forced to remain in a single position began to become the predominant sensation he was experiencing. There was a little he could do about that, but not much. He could twist his body to one side or the other, gaining slack in one arm and leg at the expense of the others. He could lift his hips or his chest or his belly up off the ground and get a little circulation moving there while pressing down harder on all the other contact points. Or he could try to shift the heavy manacles so that they weren't pressing down on the same places all the time, flicking his wrists or kicking his feet to shift the metal temporarily elsewhere. The effort to do any of those was exhausting.

That was about his limit, though. Whatever position he was in was only bearable for a few minutes before either his muscles lost the ability to hold his weight up or the discomfort of his position forced him to shift to a new one once more. Any delusion that he had had of simply lying still and sleeping through the ordeal was long gone. He would be experiencing every single minute of it, and simply making it through any one of them was a drain on his already depleted reserves. And his reward for completing a minute was: he got to immediately start the next one.

He peed once, then again a long while later. There was a tiny amount of satisfaction in the success of his bucket setup. Only a slight whiff of scent emerged from under the lid. Hooray. One thing went right among the several thousand that went wrong. Oh, and the pillow too, which he had managed to not knock out of reach with all his squirming around, though he did have to constantly grab it with his teeth and adjust its position.

He wasn't quite sure whether he wanted the voice to come and gloat some more or leave him to suffer alone. Sick as it was, he found himself actually hungry for the company because it would at least provide a brief distraction. But it didn't matter. That choice, like every other, was not his to make.

He endured. There was nothing else to do.

Gradually he became aware that he was slowly detaching from his increasingly-pain-wracked body. About the only movement option he had left was the ability to turn his head to lay either his left cheek or his right on the pillow. Perhaps every ten or fifteen minutes, he would swap over as the twist in his neck grew too uncomfortable. Every so often another cramp would strike that would yank him back to himself again. But it became easier and easier to just... drift away. His body was in prison, yes, but it also was a prison and his mind found ways to escape.

He began to wonder if any of this was real.

Every so often, lucidity returned. It was like waking from sleep, only there was an element of Groundhog Day to it because it was always the same: his body was still lying on the floor, limbs spread out and clamped in place. There was still no light. He was still alone and abandoned, desperately awaiting the arrival of someone he both needed and feared, someone who might have left him here to die but maybe - just maybe - might come and rescue him some day. Because "day" is what it felt like at this point. He had been lying here for weeks, months, forever. His eyes might not even work any more, it had been so long since any light had reached them.

These moments were the worst because it was then that he fought, more weakly each time, to shake life back into his lifeless limbs, to reassure himself that they were still attached to him, only this was always, always a mistake because by moving them he stirred them out of their numbness and then the lightning bolts would start to light up his nerves as they woke. He should just let them be, and yet every time he roused he couldn't stop himself from doing it again. Over and over and over.

Then the tears would come once more and he would lie in the blackness, keenly aware of every pain in his body, until last his mind would start to drift away again and he could once more, until the next time, forget, forget, forget...

The voice was saying something. He couldn't make out the words. There was a nagging sense that if he wanted to, if he just tried, then he would be able to turn the sounds into meaning. But it was not worth the effort.

Eventually, the noises went away again.

Some indeterminate amount of time later, so did Pete.

Gentle Reader, how would you like the story to continue from here? (Click or tap one of the links below to display the text for your preferred ending. Don't like the result? Come back here and make a different choice.)

I'm in the mood for a happy ending.

Fuck that, I only read this blog for the dark stuff.

Could I maybe have something between those two extremes?


  1. Absolutely enthralled by this one. The language, the descriptions, the feeling of actually being in there with Pete - it's all brought together by the inimitable style you have. Loved it. Time now to get my pulse slowed down.
    But I'm in a predicament. I want Pete to get out. Now his mental state is such that he's "floating" and hardly conscious there's not much fun in watching him. I'll have to choose something between the two extremes. He's let out eventually but there's more uncertainty and tricks to play on him.
    I can't see his jailer just arriving and letting him go, Pete wouldn't be in any state to treck off. So what does he do with him? Getting Pete to regain consciousness and find himself fully dressed and out on the trail seems a bit weak. Was the "voice saying something" at the end the loudspeaker, the jailer actually there or his imagination? I can only conclude that I want an ending that's between the two extremes but with a twist that only POW can conjure.

    1. slave, thanks so much for the compliments... but clearly I have screwed up! I need to make it clearer that you can click the three links at the end to display the continuation of the story as you wish: to a happy ending, a dark one, or something in between. I'll see if I can edit to better convey that.

  2. There, I added some explanatory text. Hopefully that helps. I meant to provide you with three endings, but instead I left you with none! Sorry about that.

  3. My bad. Maybe need some discipline.....I should have realised not jumped in. Thanks for your reply. s.

  4. Again, thank you. Now I've read all three endings I can say that the dark and the one between are both great, true endings that fit the story for me. The dark ending slightly less so but perhaps that's because I'm afraid of it, both for Pete and my own imagination. I think the "between" one suits best as it continues with the reality, somehow it's all believable. I'm not making myself very clear here but personally I enjoy these stories when they have a ring of truth and for me that ending fits so well. Pete has to struggle through a panic to get out but finally makes it. His captor is never revealed and we are never quite sure if the invitation to return will be taken up. I'd love to know if it was.
    POW, you write excellent stories, to my mind the "literature" of the genre. Thank you again for sharing.

    1. I'm glad you were able to get the full experience, slave. There is definitely sequel potential in that invitation to return in the in-between ending. (Of course, there's sequel potential in the dark ending as well.) We'll see if the writing muse strikes and grants me inspiration to continue.

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I'm honored and touched and grateful.

  5. fetishbearsslaveMay 31, 2021 at 3:01 PM

    Absolutely incredible story. i chose the "dark stuff" ending - and it was the best one. The writing was full of detail and color so could imagine being there - feeling it, smelling it, tasting it.
    Thank you for the great work!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it.

  6. Fantastic story. I would love to visit the Edge and serve some time there. The cell block sounds amazing.

  7. Enjoyed the story very much, not just because of your ability to write very well, but because I've visited the Edge several times, and it brought back the memories during this time of no play due to the virus.

  8. As someone who has visited Edge before, I love this story!