Operation Stingray                        Part 5 // PG. 2 of 5

     

     “Oh my god, Brian, are you okay?” I shouted as we passed each other.

    His head lifted and I got a good look at him. His face was sunken and hollow, covered in bruises and fresh scars. His lips were white and cracked. Part of his ear had been torn off. But it was his eyes that frightened me--dark and empty, the soulless eyes of a man being broken apart. He looked through me instead of at me and then he turned his head back down. The guards pushed me forward.

     We entered a tiny room, where I was strapped to a metal chair. The man in the bowler hat stood facing the wall, his back to me. There was a long silence.

     “The human animal,” he said, “is a remarkable creature. Not for his inventiveness, nor his reason, nor his ingenuity, nor any of the other fabricated qualities for which he congratulates himself. No, the human animal is remarkable for one reason and one reason only: his sheer capacity to delude himself. Specifically, his ability to pretend that he is not an animal. He imagines that he is above the natural world, separate from it. He creates a fictitious set of laws and morality to convince himself that he is a being closer to the gods than to the filthy earth. But man is not made of air. He is made of meat. And he screams when that meat is torn from him. He cowers when threatened and groans when beaten. Man is an animal like any other and there is only one law that governs animals: the right of the strong to rule over the weak.”

     Dreiser turned around. His pale, wrinkled face would look frail if not for the crazed fire behind his eyes. “You've caused a lot of trouble for us, young man,” he said, coughing into a handkerchief. “I don't like to have my time wasted and you've wasted a lot of it.”

     “Where's LaFarge?” I said.

     He smiled. “LaFarge never stopped working for us. He just stopped drawing a paycheck. His task was to find weaknesses in the operation and he unknowingly performed admirably. Once we know how the pill functions we'll be able to develop the next generation of Stingrays so that nothing can keep us out of your heads. Of course, we still have some research to do, but we will learn all that we need to when we dissect his brain.”

     I struggled to free myself from the chair but the straps held me tight. “You son of a bitch,” I shouted.

     He stepped toward me and studied my face. “Please,” he said, “call me Dreiser. You and I are going to be working very closely in the coming days. The pill's effects are still protecting you but that's just as well. I'm going to be doing this the old fashioned way.”

He gestured to one of the guards, then took a rubber club from him. He raised it above his head and smashed it onto my left hand. Bones splintered and white pain shot up my arm. I clenched my jaw. I wasn't going to scream. He struck me across the mouth. Teeth clattered on the stone floor. He struck my knee and the crack reverberated up my thigh.

     I gave him nothing.

     Panting hard, I asked, “That all you got?”

     He smiled. “Excellent. Truly excellent. I knew there was something special about you.” He gestured to the guards. “That's all for now. Take him away.”

     The guards unstrapped me and lifted me up. I hobbled to the door. As we left the room, Dreiser called to the guards, “Send his friend back in for another session.”

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H. K. Reyes

SCIENCE FICTION & HORROR