He didn’t know how he got to that chair, or who tied his hands and feet. The last thing he remembered was being immersed in that deep sleep caused by the medicine prescribed by his doctor. He was in the middle of a tunnel without hours. Long pipes seemed to run through it like veins that kept that building alive; or maybe not, and that building was dead long ago.
George shook the chair but it did not move. Its hind legs were bolted to the grimy concrete. The smells of chlorine and urine, embedded in the walls and floor, started to make him nauseous. He screamed as loud as his throat and lungs would allow, but the echo ended up martyring his temples. He didn’t have time to ask himself too many questions when three men began to march in a pyramid way. The paced walking seemed like a meticulous attempt to delay their arrival. George counted their steps «one, two, three … thirty … sixty», he wanted to know how extensive was that tunnel. In front of him, a wall full of graffiti that had become a thick layer of indecipherable messages; written language had disappeared from that surface, and now they were just screams trapped in the concrete like the primitive art on caves.
Two of the men stayed behind the chair; the one in black walked forward until facing the scrawled wall.
—Do you have any idea how many years have passed, so that nothing painted there is understood? —the man asked without revealing his face.
—I suppose that many. —George said.
—Maybe a little more than what I’ve spent looking for you. —The man turned with his hands still resting inside the pockets of the black satin raincoat.— I know you have no idea why you’re here.
George tried to recognize that patibulary face. He was sure he hadn’t seen him before. That stranger was a man in his mid-fifties and from whom it was not possible to extract more information than that.
—I can assure you that you are mistaken me for another person. —George added in fear.
The guy, who was obviously the boss of the other two, took out a confidential file that he carried in one of the coat interior pockets. But first, he signaled to one of the companions, who proceeded, like an automaton, to inoculate into the prisoner’s forearm a fluorescent green substance that he had prepared inside a black case.
––Your name is Julian Koons…
—You see! I told you that this is just a misunderstanding. My name is George Dunn.
—If you listened carefully and wouldn’t interrupt me anymore, you’ll see that I know much more about you than you’d imagine. —He paused and leafed through the first pages.
––Are you not the one in this photo?
—Yes, you could say that. —George was confused.
— But I have no idea where that photo came from. I’ve never seen it before. Could you just say, once and for all, what is all this about? I’ve never gotten into trouble, you can ask in town.
––How long you’ve lived here in Greenville?
—For three years.
––And where did you live before?
—Belmont, Ohio. —The man cut him off as if he were waiting for that exclusive moment.— And you ended up living here because it was the first town where you could find work. And, all this because of a failed relationship. I also know that you go to the psychologist because of those unbearable migraines you suffer every time you try to stop taking the medication. I imagine how devastating are those nightmares that cause those headaches. Those nightmares that scare you and that you only tell your doctor about —he paused and continued turning the pages—. You were born on September 6 of 2060, which makes you thirty-five years old. And it is obvious that you are wondering how I know so much about you, and yet you cannot even recognize my face. The truth is that you have not been easy to find.
The man returned the folder to the inside of his raincoat, took a deep breath and stared at George for a while. He enjoyed that scene for a few minutes as he was very attentive to the clock for several minutes.
––In this exact minute, you have been officially here for a day. You will feel that your mouth is parched. Oh, and of course you haven’t taken your pills either.
George’s confusion reached such a point that he ended up shaking his chair frantically as he yelled «If you’re going to kill me, do it now, you son of a bitch!» The man grimaced at the mastodons that covered the rear. They started to beat George and left him with his nose and mouth bleeding, and some ribs broken. There were cyborgs with metal fists wrapped by flesh. The intense blows turned George’s face into a pathological expression.
––You look really good. I would say it’s more like you. –– The boss didn’t try to hide the ironic tone of the last sentence. He took a transparent sphere similar in size to a tennis ball from his pocket and pressed the only button it had The interior of the artifact lit up in a dim blue light and levitated in midair, in the same spot where the palm of his hand had left it.
It was a tiny projector that cast holograms of photographs of a naked young teen girl on the ground who had been slaughtered after beastly blows left her face unrecognizable; other images from various angles of the household knife that was used to murder her, and all the objects in the room that were shattered during the predictable struggle. George tried to look away but one of the bodyguards forced his head toward the wall and whispered, «If you close the fucking eyes, I swear I will take them off.»
The same images would repeat again and again. The prisoner felt every vein burning in his body and was sure that the inoculated substance had risen to his brain. The nightmares returned and this time he could not prevent feverish screams from escaping his mouth; the nightmares were a carbon copy of those photographs, that now stuck like pins in his eyes, and to which his mind was gradually reincorporated order and movement.
—She deserved it for being a whore. —George shouted with a machiavellian giggle. The man took out the knife and stabbed it without hesitation in the thigh—. At least she did not die a virgin like the others. I took care of that before opening her neck from side to side… ––the boss took out the knife and while the others opened his mouth, he cut his tongue. George tried to scream but began to drown in his own blood that gushed out of his mouth. It didn’t take long for a rat to take away the tongue that had fallen on the ground.
The oppressive atmosphere of strong contrasts was submerged for an instant in a deathly silence. George couldn’t straighten his neck and barely managed to splutter «Go to hell!»
––You will go first. —He whispered in George’s ear and started wiping his blood-soaked hands with a purple arabesque handkerchief.— You know I couldn’t believe when I found out you were free. Can you imagine how I felt when they told me that I shouldn’t worry about anything, that they had made you a new man? A new man! Well, some people determined, like that —he snapped his fingers—, that prisons were no longer necessary. According to them, the new brain reprogramming technology was a success by using memory blockers that allowed assassins like you to assimilate new memories. And I asked them what about justice, if it was also abolished, and do you know what they responded to this? Nothing! They patted me on the back, and told me that they could understand what I had been through, but that these were the new laws and have to be accepted. That was the moment when I was convinced that I wouldn’t stop until I find you. Believe me I lost a lot to get here, but you see, sooner rather than later the rats end up in the sewers, from which they should never have left.
—Sheriff, if you want, we can get rid of him. ––suggested one of the companions.
The man denied as he put away the projector that remained suspended in midair emitting the same images without interruption. He looked at George one more time and memorized every detail of that scene. Before leaving him, he patted him on the back.
It didn’t passed an hour when the first rats began to climb up George’s legs.