Wayne, Darren, Stephen, Joe, and of course Ricky. They were all from the USA, just coming from different states. Wayne works as a lawyer and was probably around fifty, Jean guessed. Darren, maybe a couple of years younger, a successful dentist, and the farm they were currently at, was rented from one of his French contacts. Someone ‘like-minded’, someone who would arrive there the following evening. Stephen, the youngest of them all, was probably around thirty years of age and worked as a high school teacher.
Only Joe was someone who was more in contact with Ricky, others had come to their acquaintance through their twisted interests, and Ricky had seen them fitted for this ‘job’, to punish a ’whore’ who escaped him.
It seemed that the others, but Steven, had used Michael at one point or another and it was beginning to be painfully clear to Jean that Michael really didn’t remember those times. The men had talked about it, laughing with sick satisfaction as they savored the memories of how drugged up the boy had been back then.
During the early morning hours, it had also come painfully clear that although Stephen and Wayne had to head back home the following day, Ricky had invited new men to replace them. Jean was sickened with the thought of how the torture would continue and only turn worse for Michael, sickened that he had helped to bring them both into this nightmare.
For the time being and considering the circumstances, Michael had survived with such physical injuries that would heal with time and care. But if he would not get Michael out of there before the following day’s evening… Jean did not even want to think about it. It would be so much worse than with Sebastian.
Jean had only gotten a couple of hours of restless sleep that night. Sebastian did not leave him. The dream had started calm, they had been alone, Sebastian in his arms as he had once been all those years ago.
He had felt confusion at first, partly realizing that it couldn’t be real, and still he had wanted it to be so desperately. He had wanted to drink away that horrible truth, not wanting to be a part of it, not really and still nothing washed away the fact that it was ultimately because of him that Sebastian ended up murdered by Ricky. Nothing changed the fact that he had been there that night and participated.
“I didn’t want it, you must know I didn’t want it”, Jean had sobbed in his sleep, holding onto the other’s slender form. Sebastian leaned back and looked at him. The gaze in blue eyes dimmed and turned vague, his skin painting almost white, only moments before his head fell back as his neck split open spilling blood all over him with unnatural force.
Jean had woken in a cold sweat, clothes damp around his lean figure. If he didn’t act, Michael would experience an even far worse fate and it was more than he could take, more than he was ready to go to his grave with.
Ricky considered him as a pitiful drunk, too far gone in his addiction and ventage to see a threat in him. He had made sure there were plenty of drinks available, even now Jean could hear that faint calling. ‘Take a sip, just a small drink, enough to make you feel lighter and no more…’ And at the same time, he knew that even the small sip could make him crumble, and he was Michael’s only hope. In his twisted way, Jean loved, the only way he knew.
He pretended to drink, and filled his glass, carrying around the temptation that tortured him; take a sip, it kept whispering. Surprisingly he managed to resist the torturing temptation, surprisingly his love, as twisted as it was, was stronger than the lure of the devil though it had not been strong enough to prevent this ordeal from taking place. He was successfully a better actor than many would have given him credit. None of them believed him strong enough to resist the demons of his addiction to liquor.
When Jean said he wanted to take breakfast for their ‘whore’, Ricky had given him an amused look and agreed. It was more than likely that there were cameras in the room, but he hoped that he could pass the painkiller without being obvious. It was fortunate that Ricky hadn’t checked the clothes he had brought with him thoughtfully.
The medicine, or the drugging substance more accurately, numbed the pain and brought out a surreal feeling. It would slowly take Michael somewhere between reality and hallucination, somewhere where he was only partly present and still enough that hopefully, Ricky wouldn’t suspect anything.
Jean had no plan; he didn’t know how to get Michael away from there. Ricky had taken his cell phone as they got to the house the previous afternoon. “You don’t need this now, right?” He had cunningly asked while placing it in the box where he had collected the other men’s cell phones as well, or at least pretended that they were theirs.
“No,” Jean had indifferently replied accepting the drink Ricky had offered next. Ricky had taken the box to a secure place, after promising that he’d get his phone back as soon as the ‘job’ would have been taken care of.
At that moment he hadn’t thought about it much, he had been dead set on the thought to punish Michael, that it would be what would be only right. Now, he was almost sure that Ricky had no intention of returning his phone, because it was exactly like Michael had said; Ricky’s plan didn’t include Jean’s survival any more than Michael’s. Ricky planned to have him as the sole suspect in Michael’s disappearance, still disgustingly confident that he would get away from the whole thing with washed hands, relying too much on the aid of his contacts to cover up his tracks. But Ricky was bound to fail, he already had, without his knowledge.
Whatever Jean had given him took him to the twilight of awareness, where dreams mixed with reality. He was pulled between the two worlds, desperately wanting to hold on to the dream world build from memories of the past once good, the world he felt nothing of the disgusting reality they tried to pull him in.
There was a moment where he snapped into reality, of watching the bathroom tiles. His hands freed and awareness of being nude. They had probably just raped him again, and Michael felt dizzy. He was allowed to release his bodily functions. There was one of the monsters with him in the room, it was not Ricky or Joe, nor the man from the restaurant. It was the youngest of them, but years older than him, perhaps the same age as Jean? It didn’t matter, not really.
The next moment he was back in that room, his prison, his nightmare, the same man behind him. There was another person there, perhaps a third? He didn’t want to stay and allowed his subconscious to call him out to his getaway, his dream reality.
The world, built by his past when life had been good, was green and amble, Tony was there… Tony… The red-haired lad smiled, walking a horse by his side. “Want to go riding, Mikey?” Tony hadn’t changed, he was still just seventeen.
“You should be older,” Michael took notice.
“Yes, I suppose I should. But you haven’t seen how I grew up, have you? I did try to find you.” Tony grinned, in that carefree way of his, the way that had caused butterflies to collide in the bit of his stomach way back then. “You should see me now! I’ve grown super handsome!” The teenage Tony assured and made Michael laugh.
“I always thought you were handsome,” Michael replied smiling. Tony had freckles, his red hair was wavy and if they got down to a certain length, they became curlier. He was tall and had broad shoulders, the physique of a rugby player; Michael had once teased him. Green-blue eyes, Michael could have stared forever into.
Some others had once commented on Tony as a curious-looking boy, and Tony hated his hair and freckles, but to Michael, he had always been handsome. One of the most handsome lads he had ever seen, perhaps partly because of his curious features.
“Hey, Michael!” He heard the familiar voice and turned his head in confusion.
“Jack?” He asked and the other boy smiled. Jack looked healthy and well, he was lean as before but not as thin as the last time they saw each other.” How are you here?”
“Because you missed me.” Jack stood beside a horse. “I’ve never ridden before though, but that’s okay, right?”
“That’s okay,” Tony confirmed. “I’m not very good either. I can stay on a horse, that’s a start. Come, Mikey.”
And for a while in that strange dream, he rode beside Jack and Tony, until he wondered where Sam was and saw him a little farther away, beside a cabin, waving at them. It made no sense since Sam was the one who actually liked riding. Jack never had and Tony, though he had ridden, those times he had stayed with him in Ireland with his grandparents, it was more to please him than anything else. And when they got closer, he saw that Sam was wearing an apron and he was barbeguing something on a grill, that didn’t make sense either.
“This is a dream,” he said. “I don’t want to wake up.”
“I know. This is the final field, the last opponent, it’s pretty bad, but you can conquer it!” Tony assured.
Michael snapped back to the unpleasant reality, where he lay on his back, naked. His hands hadn’t been shackled, and at that moment he didn’t feel like he had the strength to fight anymore. Last opponent, final field, – he thought. You can conquer it!
He heard sounds of chatting, Ricky’s voice, Michael turned his head in exhaustion. Jean came closer, the man was stripping his clothes and climbed on top of him. Their gazes met, there was a flash of emotions in the man’s eyes before he brought his lips down on his to a violent kiss, Michael tried to fight it.
“Forgive me…” He heard Jean whisper, but some things and deeds are unforgivable. Things that could never be atoned.
Because the mind knew that these things were too hard to deal with, it offered another escape.
He was sitting on a boat with his grandfather from his mother’s side. He was holding a fishing rod, the sun shone brightly in the sky above them and the blue water glistened underneath its rays. The seagulls shrieked loudly as they flew above the water and Michael looked at his grandad who smiled softly, a gentle look on his features just as he always remembered him.
“But you’re dead?” Michael wondered.
“I am, son.” Edward smiled. “But now I am here, with you.”
“I’ve missed you.”
His grandfather had died when he had been ten years old from, a sudden brain infarct, he had been only sixty-eight years old then and very dear to Michael.
Edward Harris had fought in the war as a young man and met his grandmother in Spain some years after the war had ended. Edward was a gentle, kind man, who had seen a lot and experienced the traumas of war but had gotten past them better than many of his comrades. Edward had enjoyed fishing and had often taken Michael with him when he had been a child.
At times they had gone with a motorboat, where there had been a small cabin on the bow, a place where one could sleep in. His grandfather had a sonar that showed the fish in the depths of the ocean, and Michael remembered sitting on his lap in the cockpit. Often, Tony had been with them as well. Those had been happy days. And at times, like in this dream, they had used a simple rowing boat and fished with rods. “Am I dead as well?”
“No, you still have years ahead of you,” Edward smiled. “I’m with you here for a moment.”
“I don’t want to go back.”
“I know, son, but we must finish our battles. You will survive.” His grandfather assured. “And I’ll be here when you need me.”
And for a moment Michael remained there with him, fishing like the happy days in the past until the harsh reality pulled him back into the nightmare, he wouldn’t have wanted to return. But battles had to be battled till the end, even the ones you hadn’t wanted to participate in in the first place.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, he drifted between consciousness and oblivion. His body ached all over and he felt cold throughout. Jean gave him water which he thirstily took. “I’ll think of something, I will get you away from here,” Jean promised, and Michael wasn’t sure if this too was a dream or reality. “You need to act when the time comes, you understand?” Michael nodded, disoriented. When the time comes. Last field. Battles must be battled through.
Michael stood at the doorway of a room, it was not a familiar room, the curtains of an open window danced in the wind that blew inside. In front of the window, a dark-haired boy stood. The boy’s back was to him and on his right side, there was a bed. A writing desk between him and the window, and pictures on the wall, but the pictures were cloudy, and you couldn’t make them out clearly.
Michael saw the gun in the boy’s hand, one he hadn’t seen before. “Don’t.” He said, words coming out without thinking. The boy turned around slowly; Evan remembered him from the pictures he had seen. The boy smiled at him sadly.
“It’s too late,” Evan said. “For me, it is too late, look.” The boy pointed towards the bed and Michael looked. He was startled seeing what he hadn’t seen before. The boy’s corpse half lay there, his feet on the ground, fallen there dead after sitting there alive. The corpse’s eyes were open, staring at him, and blood was now all over.
Michael would have wanted to scream, but there was no voice to be heard. “He has to pay; he has to be stopped.”
Michael woke again, ‘he has to pay’ his mind repeated and he knew he was alone in the room, without a sense of time and what had happened. Had Jean been in the room?
The door opened, and Michael turned his face to it and saw Ricky.
The monster had a disgusting superior grin on its features, it thought it would win. But Michael knew it would be destroyed, it seemed obvious. Sam knew and even if he would die there, Sam knew, knew Ricky’s name, knew what he had told about him. And even if it wouldn’t happen right away, Sam wouldn’t let it go, his parents wouldn’t let it go. The knowledge made Michael smile in a way that confused the monster.
Ricky tilted his head, cocking his brow, hiding his confusion with a grin. “Have you enjoyed your time here?” He asked, kneeling by the bed. “My friends have. Stephen and Wayne were regretful that they had to leave already, but worry not, there will be new guests by tonight.” Ricky brought his hand to his face, moving it down to his neck and continuing to his chest. The touch was falsely tender.
Michael felt his heartbeat speed up, he felt sick. New men? How long would this continue? It would keep getting worse until it would kill him. But he couldn’t die. He thought of Evan, thought of all those after Evan, before him and those who had come after, those who had yet to meet their horrid destiny with Ricky.
‘He must be stopped.’ The words echoed in his mind. Words that the dead boy had said in his dream, but the words were his own because the dead couldn’t speak, could they? And he couldn’t die, for he had to speak with all their voices, all of those who had lost their lives in the hands of this monster.
“Do you believe in fate?” The monster suddenly asked, keeping its gaze on him while continuing to touch him with such tenderness that didn’t belong to it.
And behind that gaze, Michael could see a glimmer of weakness, a glimmer of a man who would fumble. The man in him was difficult to see and at first, Michael thought he had been mistaken, the monster hid its human so well, but it was there.
The human was neither beautiful nor good, but it was there. A man that was cruel, but vulnerable and did his best to hide his weaknesses inside the monster. But once the human in him would have been forced out of his shield, it would bleed and break and be as vulnerable as any other man. It was destructible.
Michael didn’t reply but looked at the monster that in the end was just a man. And his gaze seemed to startle the man, for his gaze didn’t give out any fear that the man wanted to see. Fear that he should feel. The man could not read his gaze but believed that the fear would come out and his defiance would end.
“A pity,” Ricky said, caressing his face, “a pity that I have to destroy you,” Ricky said and seemed to expect him to show fear. Michael gritted his teeth and forced himself to keep his gaze in the man’s eyes, defiant and silent. “You were nearly my ruin. I won’t be so careless with the next one,” Ricky smiled, and Michael’s gaze turned into confusion. “Isn’t it peculiar, how small choices affect something greater? Do you ever wonder how your life could have been if you had not entered that bar that night? If the doorman hadn’t let you in? -He must have questioned your age. And what if I hadn’t been there that night?” Ricky moved his hand down on his body. “Fate that you look so much like Evan. Did you know that Evan’s roots were also from Ireland?”
Evan Bristly, Michael knew because he had searched for his information. The surname had sounded familiar, Bristley family lived near his father’s family. He remembered playing with one girl as a child, whose name was Kerry… Kerry Bristley.
Indeed, it was peculiar chance or fate, who knew? Evan’s father had been from Ireland, from his mother Michael wasn’t sure. The fate of the boy had haunted his thoughts, either way, the fact that his parents had never gotten the answer to the question of why. It had bothered him, but he hadn’t dared to take the matter further, just like with his own family. Now he regretted the fact that he hadn’t acted sooner, he regretted the lack of courage that could have saved him from this.
Ricky took the keys and opened the shackle that bound him to the bed. But his arm was numb and weak, and Michael could only bring his hand clumsily to his chest. The man wanted him to fight, wanted him to beg, wanted to see the fear taking over. But Michael’s mind was partly numb and partly filled with intense hate. He looked at the man who started to undress. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
Michael was quiet and massaged his numb arm. “I am Evan,” he finally spoke, keeping his gaze on the man who snorted in confusion and spite.
“I broke your mind already?” he questioned, opening his belt. Michael gritted his teeth as he forced himself to rise slightly supporting himself with his other hand, to a half-sitting position to his side. He looked at the man who thought himself invincible.
”I am Evan,” Michael repeated and saw that Ricky wondered if he had lost his mind and the other part was interested to play along with his game. Evan was the one, the one where it had all started, someone Ricky hadn’t been able to have other than force and someone he hadn’t been able to keep though he had wanted.
Evan had decided to die because he hadn’t seen another way out. And Ricky hadn’t been willing to part with him, Ricky hadn’t seen he would take such drastic action. “Do you see?” Michael asked.
Evan was Ricky’s weak spot and at that moment it seemed crystal clear. Perhaps the dead did talk, just differently than the living?
Evan may have been Ricky’s weakness, but it would not make the man gentler. Ricky had never loved, it wasn’t that. He had wanted to own and keep. He had wanted to own Evan, to do with him as he desired, but Ricky would have wanted to make the rules and decide when the game would end. Evan had decided to end it in the only way he could come up with. And now, this game… it was easy to lure Ricky to play.
”Evan?” Ricky asked and Michael knew he doubted to jump into the game, but the temptation bested him.
“Ricky…” Michael whispered keeping his gaze on him. His plan wasn’t accurate, but he had to make Ricky interested enough that he wouldn’t want to invite the others to play. He had to get the gun and the rest was partly in Jean’s hands.
Ricky came closer and grasped his hair, bending his neck back. The grip was so painful that it brought tears to Michael’s eyes, but it was what Ricky wanted.
“Evan,” Ricky whispered lustfully.
Michael moaned in pain, he had to fight, the final round. It was pretty bad, but he would win. In his mind he prayed that Jean had meant what he had said, prayed that Jean would do his best.
Ricky was careless. Too lost in his fantasy. The gun was on the floor, in its case, partly hidden underneath the clothes.
Michael’s lip was bleeding, the corner of his eye bruised, he lay on the bed next to the monster and he could hear how the gun called for him. He heard the call, and it was powerful. With Ricky, it was difficult to get to the dream world, and this… This was the final round and it had been bad. Michael heard the gun calling for him.
“I should have left you in that room in Mexico,” Ricky spoke. Michael didn’t reply, he stared numbly into nothing allowing Ricky to believe that he had broken him. ‘I will be your destruction,’ he thought. And he would speak with everyone else voices with his own- He would be silent no longer.
“It’s a shame…” Ricky touched his face, “you would still have a good couple of years before getting too old…” Michael quivered in disgust and Ricky chuckled. The man felt relaxed, feeling confident that he had broken him enough that his guard was low.
Michael focused on the thought of the gun, he had to be quick. He remembered those video games he had once played with Tony, the last opponent was always bad. Not as bad as this. He would die if he didn’t win, die if he didn’t try. He had to be quick. The monster was languid and believed it was invincible.
Michael calculated in his mind. One. He had decided that when would get to ten he would act.
Two. He went over the trajectory in his mind.
Three. During the final summer in Ireland, his dad had tried to get him to take interest in hunting.
Four. Michael hadn’t liked it, but he had agreed to take the lesson on how to handle a gun.
Five. It was a riffle, of course, this was a handgun.
Six. But he could do it.
Seven. He thought of the times in the arcade years ago, when they had shot those clumsy animated characters.
Eight. They weren’t his favorite games, but Tony had loved them.
Nine. Ricky lay there beside him, and he felt sick.
Ten. Michael sprinted up, perhaps not as agile as he would have imagined, but with such speed that the monster was caught off guard. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and Michael felt no pain, he was focused on surviving.
Michael snatched the gun and pointed it towards the man who gave perplexed laughter for he didn’t want to take the situation seriously. The monster couldn’t believe that the prey could fight so hard, or that it stood a chance against its superiority.
“Give me the gun,” Ricky held his hand out. “Give me the gun and you won’t suffer.” Michael laughed at the grim irony and backed away as the man approached. He wanted to kill the man, wanted him to suffer. He was filled with rage that made him tremble. When Ricky got closer, Michael took the safety off, loaded, and fired. But he had been much too agitated and nervous that he missed.
” Next time I won’t miss if you come any closer!” Michael threatened him.
Jean hadn’t completely been able to resist the temptation and he had surrendered to the alcohol. He had been forced to be involved when Michael was raped once more, he had participated but only because Ricky would doubt him if he wouldn’t; that’s what he kept telling himself.
And when it was over, Stefan and Wayne left for the journey home and Jean knew he’d soon have his chance. The only chance he would have to face Joe, Darren, and Ricky and now when Ricky was with Michael, it was the best moment to act. Joe had kept an eye on him earlier, Jean had seen it, but he tried to pretend clueless, carrying a glass of whiskey in his hand.
Joe got a call, Darren was upstairs, and Jean heard Michael’s pained moan from the next room. There was a landline phone, it hadn’t been switched off, Jean’s heartbeat was rapid, his senses high, he took a glance around before going to the phone and picking up the earpiece and dialing the emergency number. With another glance, he heard a woman answer.” I don’t have time, the young man kidnapped last night is here, come quick! I can’t talk. I don’t know the exact address.” Jean lowered the earpiece next to the phone and walked away to the kitchen.
He could only pray that neither Darren nor Joe would notice the receiver on the table. He prayed that they would manage to track the call soon. It was nearing six pm, he wasn’t sure when the other men were coming.
Jean snatched a knife from the kitchen, his hands were sweaty. The fire of a gun startled him, it left ringing in his ears.
“What’s going on?” Joe shouted. There were hurrying steps in the stairway leading to the bedroom where the sound had come from. Jean followed the two men, still holding the knife. Michael stood naked in front of the window, holding a gun which he pointed at Ricky trembling all over. And Ricky seemed surprisingly calm considering the circumstances, he brought his hands up.
“Stay away!” Michael snapped, holding the gun even tighter.
”My dear, there aren’t enough bullets for all of us and you already wasted one,” Ricky smiled and Michael breathed tensely.
“There’s enough for you,” Michael replied keeping his eyes on them. Joe pointed his gun toward Michael.
” Which of us is faster in his shoot, Michael?” Joe asked.
It looked bad. Jean swallowed; he knew that the men wouldn’t have wanted to kill Michael in this way. They still hadn’t gotten enough fun from him. He stroked the handle of the knife, the others hadn’t seen that he had it, too focused on Michael.
” Lower your weapon, boy, and I don’t have to shoot you.” Joe said Michael chuckled almost hysteric.
“And you would let me go free?” he asked still aiming the gun towards Ricky. He didn’t say what he thought; they would kill him in either case and getting shot was probably the merciful way to go.
Jean lifted the knife so that Michael could see it and nodded, they had to act now. Jean made a quick movement, pushing Joe before stabbing him forcefully on his side. The gun fired, almost at the same time that another gun did. Sounds followed soon by a third shot. Ricky roared, and Joe moaned in pain and confusion. While Darren tried to grasp the situation and react by taking a hold of the gun that had slipped from Joe’s hands.
With another gunshot, the situation was disoriented, and Jean attacked Darren with the knife.
The shot Michael had fired had hit Ricky’s shoulder and the man groaned in pain, while the second shot on his leg made him lose his balance. Joe’s shot had luckily missed Michael, because of Jean. The man cursed in agony, while blood oozed out of the wound. Jean struggled with Darren to get the gun and Michael fired once more toward Joe, which made him scream and fall to the floor, the bullets had run out. Michael trembled but felt satisfaction. Ricky wasn’t dead, but he couldn’t stand, and Michael didn’t want him to die because death would be too good for him.
Another shot of a gun, followed by piercing pain. Michael gasped, he looked down and saw the blood that stained his hand for he had placed his hand over the wound by instinct.
He collapsed on the floor; the voices distant in his ears. He remembered looking at Ricky, the man had been injured badly and couldn’t move though he tried. The sight made him smile. ”I will be your ruin,” Michael whispered. He heard Jean calling his name in panic, but the voice seemed to come from somewhere afar.
“Help is on its way, chéri… Help will be here soon…” The voice assured now close to him. Michael opened and closed his eyes, he was exhausted, so exhausted, everything was foggy. Jean pressed something against his wound. “Stay awake, just a moment longer,” he begged.
Michael saw his grandmother, and she smiled softly, stroking his hair gently.
”No temo a mi niño, nuevo día me levantaré pronto,” she assured and Michael smiled at her.
”Le falto abuela.”
”Michael?” Jean asked in confusion, but Michael focused on his grandmother.
”He estado siempre aquí, no tema a mi niño,” she whispered. ”Te quiero.”
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