The whip cracked and Lucas Newton muffled a scream as he felt a new hole rip through his back. His curly blond hair was matted to his forehead with sweat. Pain streaked through his body in volumes he never thought possible. Blood drenched the back of his shirt to the point where it would have to be cut open to take off. His voice was so hoarse that he couldn’t scream anymore. He didn't know how much more he could stand before passing out. Every once in a while he would spit out blood and beg for mercy. His wrists and ankles were bound to two support beams which held up the rusty old barn they were in. The beams were arms arms length apart, which was just enough for Lucas to be tied up like Ann Darrow being sacrificed to King Kong.
"Let the pain of those you have sent into the next world be your own!" Shouted the man who held the whip. "And let your soul be cleansed by the blood of your body!
How many times had this man said the same thing with different words? No idea, Lucas had lost count. His vision was beginning to fade, and his body was becoming numb. But with every crack of the whip brought a new round of pain for him to fight. The punishment continued for what felt like hours. Just as Lucas was about to lose consciousness, the man started to slow down. Eventually he stopped his charade around Lucas and stood just feet away from him. For the first time, Lucas got a good look at the mysterious man. He wore black robes with a hood that shrouded his face in a wall of darkness. The cloak held He was about six feet tall, roughly the same height as Lucas. His right gloved hand clenched around the bloodied whip.
"I know who you are Lucas. I know the urges you have."
“You don’t know shit all!” Lucas managed to push out of his tormented wind pipes.
The man chuckled a cold, dead laugh that sent a chill through Lucas’ bones. “Oh I don’t?” He said. “I know about what you did. Nobody else does. But we do.”
He spun around and walked into the darkness, passing the rotting wooden beams that held the barely standing barn together. “I understand that Judge McDonald found you innocent” Echoed the man’s voice from what seemed like everywhere. “But we know the truth.”
Panic seized Lucas and he began tugging at the rope which bound him to the support beams of the barn. His wrists were bloody and raw and his head was pounding.
"That won't help, Mr. Newton." the voice told him from nowhere but everywhere at once. “You’re only making the next round worse.”
Lucas swiveled his head back and forth, searching desperately for something useful. His view was limited to only a few feet, as the only light in the barn was from a Coleman Lantern on top of a wooden crate in front of him. He continued to wrestle with the rope, despite the warning of more pain. He wiggled his feet, trying to pull the rope loose. "What the fuck do you want from me!?" Lucas yelled, his feet becoming numb and his wrists burning.
"I want to kill you." the voice spoke. "But we want you to confess."
"Who the fuck are you!?" Lucas shouted.
"My name is Riley Hammond", he said, emerging from the darkness of the barn, taser in hand. "But we are The Enlightened.
Riley Hammond. Serial killer, sadist, Enlightened, and torturer extraordinaire carried the limp body of Lucas Newton down the secret underground corridor beneath the barn. The hallway was dimly lit with candles hung off the wall, casting eerie shadows in between each light source. The humane part of Riley told him to set the man in his arms free, maybe turn him over to the police. Yet the demon inside him was much stronger, urging him forward, towards the certain death of Lucas Newton.
The narrow corridor let out into a huge cavern, only viewable by the the dim lights hanging a few a feet apart, thirty feet above the floor of the cave. Riley could see only the vague outline of the walls. The darkness was pure once all of the lights were turned off. His feet slapped the dirt ground with a satisfying whump of every step.
Physical pain obviously wasn't working. All they needed was for him to crack. If he confessed his sins, he would be cleansed and ready for the task ahead. Was that so hard? Yet he would not confess. It was time for less physical pain, more emotional pain. Riley plumped the body onto a small wooden chair in the middle of the cavern. He took each of Lucas's hands and tied them behind the back of the chair. He took the two limp legs and tucked them underneath the chair’s front legs, so that his feet pointed outward from under the chair and his calves lay against the back of the leg of the chair. Riley tied his ankles to the legs of the chair.
Riley stood back, admiring his handiwork. He double checked every knot to make sure they wouldn't come loose. They held fine. Riley walked to the wall near the entrance and flicked off the lights. The cave became pure darkness except for the candle in the middle of the room, right in front of the chair that held the man he so desperately wanted to kill.
Lucas Newton slowly opened his eyes. He looked into the candle light shining in front of him and his head exploded in pain. The edges of his sight went dark and he thought he would pass out again. He managed to stay conscious, but barely. His temples throbbed and his back was sore. He tried to lift his hand to massage his temples and realized that his hands were bound behind his back. His feet were also unmovable. He lifted his head slowly toward the source of the light. He felt his eyes ache and his head pound with every inch he raised his head. The candle sat upon a wooden crate, decorated with a red ornate table cover. It had symbols unknown to Lucas, but obviously had some significance. He took a second to gaze into the light of the candle before he averted his eyes to two pictures that stood on the cloth. Panic set in when Lucas realized what the pictures were. Even from where he sat, six feet away, he could not mistake the faces that stared back at him. The two faces he had come to fear most, the faces that haunted the little sleep he got every night sat in front of him. He stared at the little girls curly blond hair and pale blue eyes. The woman's pale eyes matched the little girls, but her hair was brown. The little girls hair matched Lucas's. His daughter Page and his wife Katherine's eyes burned into him.
The waterworks opened and Lucas heard himself blubbering and begging for forgiveness. His head bowed and with his eyes dripping onto the floor, he sat. He sat and sat until he finally cried himself to sleep.
Lucas jerked himself awake. His head whipped upwards and his neck cracked. His head once again exploded in pain as the light hit his eyes. His wrists were rubbed raw and his thighs ached from being at such an awkward angle. Worst of all was his head. It was the mother of all headaches, the kind that no over-the-counter medicine could cure. His head pounding, he squinted his eyes in an attempt to see through the light and look at the pictures once again. The pain of seeing them was torture, but the need to see the faces he loved far outweighed the guilt he felt while looking into their eyes.
His eyes adjusted to the light after a couple seconds of squinting. But instead of pictures, on the table lay a plate with food on it. Nothing special. Just some bread and an opened bottle of water. His stomach grumbled. Until this moment, he hadn’t realized how truly hungry he was. His stomach was nearly empty, and his throat was sore from screaming. He shuffled his chair towards the small treasure by hopping and rocking back and forth. As he moved closer to the crate inch by inch, his hunger grew greater by the second. As did his suspicion. Why would they feed the torture victim? Could it be a trap? In the end, it didn't really matter. Hunger pains seized his gut and he continued his trek. Three feet away from the salvation of his stomach pains, a bullet slapped the dirt just before Lucas's feet. He stopped dead in his tracks, almost knocking himself and the chair over from shock.
"Ah ah ah." Echoed a calm voice from somewhere inside the darkness. "You know I can't let you do that. That would be far too easy.” He stopped, taking a loud and obnoxious breath. “The crate before you represents what we can do for you. We can save you from pain, show you your loved ones. You only need to confess. You can help us make the world a better place. Tell us everything."
‘So easily fooled’ Riley thought as he crept up behind his victim in a crouch. He stood up as silently as possible and raised his right leg while turning his upper body to the left. He brought his leg down and forward as hard and fast as he could. The chair leg snapped out from underneath Lucas and he fell backwards, still tied to the chair. He hit the ground with a thud and a crack as his hand broke underneath him.
Laughing, Riley strolled into the darkness and emerged with a tape recorder. He held it as he hovered over Lucas, taunting him. He hit the stop button with his index finger. "Their faces don't have to haunt you, you can see them aga-"
Tears flooded Lucas’ eyes. "OKAY!" He shouted at Riley. The reaction was so sudden that Riley had to force himself not to take a step back or flinch. Tears streaming down his face, Lucas told the story he vowed to never tell.
"I was driving home from work at the Realtors. I was early, I finished all the paperwork quickly so that I could get home fast enough to be there when my daughter got home from school. I got there and saw that my wife's car wasn't there. I really thought nothing of it at first. Maybe she went out to get milk or bread or something. You know, no big deal. My daughters bus arrived and she let herself in. I was shocked. I had no idea that she had a key. I asked her when she got it. She told me; "Mommy gave it to me, because she's always home so late." I was angry. Why hadn't anybody told me this?! WHY HADN'T-"
He stopped. He took a second to compose himself. When he continued, his face was soaked with tears. "I looked out the window until my wife - Katherine - got home. I was mad. Very mad. She'd been hiding something from me. She opened the door, saw me standing there, and went white as a ghost. 'Honey' she said 'You're home early.', in a voice that said ‘Oh shit’ I turned around and told Page to go to her room."
"I snapped, I pushed Katherine against the wall with my forearm pressed into her throat. She started crying. She told me that she'd been getting home late every day because she was out at the gym. I knew she was bullshitting me. She had to be. We weren't missing any money from the bank account. I'm not stupid enough to think she had gotten into the gym for free for God knows how long. I started yelling. I asked her who she was sleeping with. She was sobbing at this point. 'ANSWER ME YOU WHORE!' I had yelled.”
“I shook her until I heard her say in almost a whisper; 'Liam'. "
"I was filled with blind rage. I slammed her against the wall as hard as I could. 'YOU BITCH!' I had yelled. She had cheated on me. With my best fucking friend. I was in a blind fury, ready to destroy anything that got in my way. She was sobbing, begging for forgiveness. I grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into the kitchen. I slammed her head off of the marble countertop. She didn't pass out. I kept her head held against the counter with one hand as I reached over to the left and pulled a knife out of the holder. Blood was coming from her hairline. I lifted my her head up again by the hair. She was telling me that I meant the world to her, that she never loved Liam. Once a liar always a liar I guess." Lucas stopped for the third time. Preparing himself for what he was about to say.
"And I slit her throat." He said in an almost emotionless voice, looking up into the eyes of Riley Hammond. "Blood spewed all over the kitchen. She tried to speak but blood poured from her mouth instead. I will never forget her eyes. Wide with fear, pleading. I didn't move. I just stood there. I watched her bleed to death on the kitchen floor."
"I heard a small gasp behind me. I spun around and saw Page standing on the stairs with her hands covering her mouth. Her eyes were wide as they darted between me and her dead mother. I took a step towards her, saying 'It's okay honey. I love you'. She darted upstairs, and as she ran, I saw she was holding my cell phone, which I had left on the table just beside the bottom of the stairs. I charged after her. My nine year old girl wasn't stupid, she knew the phone number to the police. I rounded the banister of the staircase and half ran, half stumbled up the stairs. I could hear her scream at the back of my mind as I reached the top and saw her slam her bedroom door closed. It only took a few seconds to dial 911, and I knew that. I only had a few seconds to get the phone from her. I barrelled towards the door with my shoulder down in a football position. I connected with the door and it flew open. She was huddled into the corner of her bed where it connected with the wall, fumbling with my phone. I ran to her, ripping the phone from her hand. Tears streamed silently down her face. I pulled her towards me and held her close. 'I love you, I love you.' I repeated over and over. She was struggling, kicking her legs against my shins and wailing her little fists against my chest. 'I'm sorry' were the last words I ever said to her."
He let his head fall against the dirt floor of the cave with tears streaming from his face. Riley stared at him with emotionless eyes. Finally, Lucas asked; “Now what?”
Riley let out a small and quick exhale from his nose, as if the question had been funny. He took a step back, still facing Lucas where he sat/lay on the chair with the broken leg. "Thank you, Mr. Newton. Was that really that hard? Now you are cleansed, and pure. Now-" he said, beckoning with his hands on either side of him. Five men wearing identical cloaks stepped out from the shadows. "-you die."
From the darkness of the cavern, a boy watched in terror as Riley Hammond and The Enlightened strangled the man named Lucas to death with their bare hands. He turned and faded away before anyone saw him.
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