Are You Ready

The light was finally beginning to fade, and the gentle orange glow of sunset brought new shadows to the room. Darker shadows.

“Do you recognise me, Mr Cochrane?” He spoke in a direct manner, though calm and soft in tone.

“Should I?”

“Of course – I’m the man you murdered.”

Alex Cochrane looked down at the ropes holding his wrists to the chair. They were old, but tightly bound. Despite his last memory having been somewhere towards the end of dinner the previous evening, he focussed on the here and now, and gave them a gentle pull. There was hardly any slack in them, and he felt the fibres burn slightly as he turned his wrists back and forth. This could get tricky, he thought, as he furiously tried to clear his head.

“Murdered, you say? Ah. How embarrassing. You seem well for it, at least.”

He gripped the arms of the chair tightly and quickly took in the room, keeping his host in view. His host, as yet unremembered, had turned to the table behind him, busying his hands with something out of view. Metal clinked against glass.

“Yes, no thanks to you of course. Now, are you ready? You should make yourself ready, for the end. For death.”

“Hmm, prepare myself, do you mean? That’s not really my style.”

“In the end we die alone. It will help to be… prepared, as you say.”

“I don’t think so. I came into this world kicking and screaming, and I intend to go out the same reluctant way, so no I’m not fucking ready and I doubt I ever will be. Oh, and while we’re on the subject – fuck you.”

“You have spirit, my friend, and that is to be lauded, but I fear it is profoundly unproductive given your current situation.”

All the while, Alex’s fingers had been feeling out the ends of the old wooden chair he had so recently woken to find himself tied to. Finally, the right-hand one gave a little. He coughed to cover the noise, as he pulled harder and felt it lift away slightly. He steadied his feet, as he flexed the muscles in his shoulders and lower back, and waited for the right moment.

His host – a slender gentleman in a long black coat, more gaunt than tall – had been filling a syringe. It was of an older style, made of metal, and wouldn’t have looked out of place under a glass display in St Bart’s museum. Alex could see it now it as the man started to turn, and just hoped it wasn’t as rusty as some of its display counterparts probably were. He was curiously less concerned about what it contained, and rather more about what the state of the implement could end up doing to him. His host stopped to tap the main body of the syringe, holding it softly between long bony fingers. That was when Alex lunged. In one swift movement he charged forward bringing his right foot upwards in a high kick. His foot caught the gentleman’s wrist and sent the syringe up and back, plunging the business end into his eye. The scream was feral, as one hand shook in front of his face, the other clawing back towards the table’s edge. Alex’s momentum had pulled the chair’s arm away from its base, with two spokes accompanying it. Alex swung out at his host’s head, catching him in the left side of his neck. A shattered end of one of the spokes struck home and sank into his grey flesh. A spray of blood arced out and gently kissed the wall’s grubby plaster on its way down to the bare boards of the dusty floor. The gentleman gurgled once and followed barely seconds behind.

In popular movies, when someone is shot with an arrow, caught with a spear, or stabbed with a pair of scissors, or a syringe, they only ever seem to fall away from the offending intrusion – as if to do otherwise would break some hypersensitive celluloid taboo. Real life is often less delicate. The stranger face-planted with all the elegance and taste of a blood-soaked corpse with a syringe buried in his left eye. Alex kicked him in the side for good measure.

“What the fuck! Who… WHO the fuck!”

With most of the chair in ruins, he removed the remaining ropes with relative ease, stood over his would-be torturer, and massaged his wrists. Frowning, he turned and headed for the door.

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