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They say hell is hot, but it's not.
It's cold. It's so damned cold that your skin bumps up like little grains of salt, and underneath that, your muscles stiffen, your bones ache. You get to feeling like my mom Bobby always does before she scrapes together enough cash for a bottle of Thunderbird. Afterwards, that stuff used to leave her with a nice warm glow. Only I know that won't work for me because nothing works in hell. Nothing really warms you up when you're god-only-knows how many miles underground.
At least I think I'm underground. I've been here one week so far. Don't ask me how I know. I just do. I haven't seen any calendars. I haven't seen much, period: only this weird room which is covered from ceiling to floor with tiles so brightly white that it hurts my eyes. It reminds me of a bathroom, but there's no sink or shower or sh*tpot (which has been real inconvenient at times. I think that's the whole point). All the sides look exactly the same, so sometimes it's hard to know which wall is where.
One morning I woke up on top of something hard and smooth. My palms turned down. My fingertips skimmed over the cool surface, then dipped into regular angular ridges. I followed the ridges, tracing one square shape after another. Tiles. Had to be. I was lying on top of those tiles.
But where was my damn bed? Cautiously I cracked open one eyelid, and what I saw made both eyes pop wide. What the ...? Now my bed hung upside down above me. At first, I thought I was somehow stuck to the ceiling. My stomach lurched. I started to press tighter against the tiles so I wouldn't fall, but then I noticed that my hair lay flush against my body instead of hanging straight down. Weird, huh?
Off the bat, I knew two things. Number one: I had to be lying on the ground after all. And number two: either someone has a really weird sense of interior decoration or they were trying to mess with my head. For the next few days (at least I think it was days), the same thing kept happening - only the bed would be on different walls. It was just like that time my so-called friend Skinny Minnie slipped a little free-ride into my Coca-Cola. After a couple of sips, I started seeing things, but back then my head felt all squishy like a half-filled water balloon. Now my head was clear. I knew I wasn't making it up. Too bad. If I were, then I could just stop it. Snap. Like that. I'd wake up somewhere else. I'd be out of this crazy-ass joint.
What kind of place is this anyway?
I'm not crazy.
I know I'm not.
I keep telling myself that because every morning that stupid bed hops from wall to wall like a flea hops on a dog. Whenever I see it, I pretend it's no big thing. I keep breathing slow and regular like I'm bored sh*tless. I close my eyes again. But as soon as I do, I start hearing those sounds. Sometimes it's police sirens or little girl shouting. Other times, a German is barking out bitten-off words. But here's the really strange thing -- I know that voice. I figure it must be all those old World War II movies I used to watch with Bobby. Yeah, that must be it. It's all some dumb mixed-up soundtrack stuck inside my head. Only soundtracks are just annoying, and this stuff makes me feel more than annoyed. It makes me feel scared. My mouth's so dried up that my cheeks stick to my teeth. Man, I am dying for some chewing gum right now.
Maybe I'm losing it. Maybe I'm all confused like Bobby, who thinks everyone's out to get her. Capital-P Paranoid. Heard it every day of my life. I wish she'd just shut up. I wish these sounds would shut up, but they won't go away on their own. They never do, so I have to do it. I have to go away myself. In my head, I see a patch of blue sky with puffs of clouds. I'm as light as those clouds, so light that I can't feel the tiles any more. The bed drifts away. I just lift up and float away from those sounds, the room, everything ... I'm so far away that no one can find me. I'm gone.
Later that day, someone visited me. I didn't hear him come into the room. He just showed up like a tall shadow. The light was real bright behind his head so that the outline of his hair looked like a halo of fire: more red than brown. It fell in waves around his face, almost reaching the top of his black-suited shoulders.
"Hel-lo," he said in soft accents, "I won't hurt you."
I could feel my lips start to tremble before I forced them to still. My heart started to skitter. I felt ... something but I didn't know what. I only knew I didn't like it. It was the damnedest thing.
Who was this guy? He just stood there like he was expecting me to do something, say something. Didn't make any sense. None of this did, but this guy - least of all. I studied that chiseled face, those unblinking green eyes. I studied him just like he was studying me. But the more I looked, the more confused I felt. I had never seen him before but I sure as hell recognized him.
If that isn't crazy, I don't know what is.
It took three more days. I finally found out his name.
Huh! Not that he told me. It's kind of weird. He sure doesn't say much. Not sure if he can't or he won't. Once I knew a girl like that. She had bright orange hair and her name was Julie. Her tongue was connected to the bottom of her mouth so it couldn't move right. Whenever she tried to say something, she always sounded like she was talking through a mouthful of marbles. Everyone made fun of her, so she hardly ever talked. She never had to because I usually spoke up for her. Or tried to.
Maybe Michael's the same way - or used to be. Maybe he got fixed but he's still used to not talking. So yesterday I asked him. You know what he said? (You only get one guess.) That's right ... nothing. Big fat surprise.
I guess he's not tongue-tied. Naw, it's not that at all. I got to thinking about it some more after a sparring session. I had to kick a dummy that hung from a ceiling. Michael hung it higher and made me kick it again. This time I had to jump up, but my boot smacked it right in the jewels. Afterwards, I gave Michael a good "that could be you" look as I walked back to the edge of the mat. Naturally, he didn't say anything. No "good job" or "that sucks."
Silently Michael just moved the dummy up another notch. Each time the target was harder. Each time I kicked it good. He made me do it over and over again like I was retarded or something. I certainly got it. I don't think he did. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was him, not me.
Yeah, that was the whole problem. I think Michael's slow. You know - in the head. Maybe his brain is like an abandoned railroad yard. All his thoughts are rusty and creaky and the lines are torn up so it takes a real long time for the words to link up, and then, even longer before his sentence can finally leave the station. Slowly, slowly it gathers enough steam, then ... chuff! He speaks.
What is with this guy? When he walks by, people shrink back like they're afraid of him.
I don't get it. He doesn't seem so scary to me.
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