“BRING THAT ONE UP!”
A blinding light explodes in my eyes and a rough claw nearly rips my arm out of its socket. I am being dragged by my t-shirt over a jagged wooden floor, splinters ripping off into my calves, but I can’t feel them. My vision starts to clear as I lift my hand to my head. I feel around and draw back a hand full of sticky blood. I hear a slam behind me and a voice shout out,
“LOOKS LIKE WE’VE GOT A LIVE ONE!”
The screams and jeers rip through the air as pounding feet and hands on the ground shake the floor beneath me. I open my eyes again to see metal bars surrounding me on all sides. I lift my hand up to one bar and smear blood down it. The cheering blasts in a second wave at the sight of my movement.
“WHO HAS SOMETHING FOR THIS ONE?”
The voice blasts in my ear, feet away from me. Louder shouts resonate all around me as I become more aware of my surroundings. Looking through the bars I see…people everywhere. But they aren’t like people I’ve ever seen before; they look like a mangled idea of what a person should be. Women with hair that goes down to their ankles wearing necklaces made of bones jingling around their necks dance around men with startling faces and thin bodies. The man closest to me appears to have one of his teeth growing out through his lip, while chunks of flesh are missing from the rest of his face. His nose is smashed in and pushed to one side, his eyes sitting inexplicably in gouged out sockets. In his withering hand I see a chunk of meat. I can’t make out what it is but it looks nearly raw, like he just ripped it off of some animal.
I hear another bark come from behind me and look for its source. A man is standing behind my cage waving his arms and shouting something to the crowd while they shout back. Then I see a figure behind him. At first I can’t make out what it is, but as I slowly start to see it, my mind changes from not being able to see it to not wanting to see it.
My best friend is tied to the wall, still wearing the spring break shirt we both bought together yesterday, his head resting on his shoulder with his eyes closed. As I look down his body I see that chunks of flesh have been literally ripped off of him, the floor beneath him pooling with blood. The horror floods my head as realization sweeps over me. I look back at the man holding the meat in the crowd. He is chewing on it like a dog. I turn towards the side wall of the building and see something I would have never believed. Fire pits line the wall, each one with a spit over it. On one of the spits is a human arm, blood still dripping from it as it is turned slowly around. I can’t scream because I can’t even comprehend what I am seeing. Hundreds of people all jammed in this small building for one thing, and I’m next on the menu.
Suddenly, a great cheer comes from the crowd as one man with an eyeball around his neck steps forward, not taking his eyes off of me for a second. He doesn’t look as withered as the rest of them. He is wearing clothing, albeit not much. On his shirt reads “Spring Break Everglades 2014”. A clink comes from behind me as another man opens the cage and grips my arm to drag me out. I can tell by his hand on my arm that this was the man who dragged me in here. He pulls me out and walks me back to a different room away from all the screaming people, the man with the eyeball necklace following closely behind. I’m shoved forward into the room and I hear, “He’s yours now” and footsteps exiting the room.
An eerie silence falls as I slowly turn around and look at this man. His eyes have a crazed expression and his fingers don’t stop moving, tapping against his body. He starts to move towards me and I panic. I search the room and see one door leading out. Whether it leads outside or just into a different part of the building I’m not sure, but it’s a start. The rest of the room holds one very large metal table with two leather straps going across. It is drenched in blood. On the wall next to where I’m standing is a big metal rake. I don’t know what I could possibly do with a rake, and I can’t even imagine why it is in here or what they were planning to do with it, but it’s all I have.
The man steps closer to me and starts to sniff my neck. He looks back up at my face and tilts his head like a dog would do when it is confused. I grab the rake and drive it up underneath his chin with all the force I can muster. It doesn’t pierce the skin but it knocks him back a few feet and he trips and falls onto the ground. I take off towards the door. When I get there I fumble with the lock, my hands shaking violently. I can hear the man running up behind me but I can’t open the lock, it’s jammed at an angle that looks like someone before me drove their body into this door without knowing it was locked. A sharp pain rips through the back of my neck as I feel teeth sink into me and tear away my flesh. I whip around and see the man take a step back with my skin and blood hanging out of his mouth. He smiles and runs right at me. I try to step to get out of the way but my foot slips on a puddle of blood on the floor and I fall to the ground. The man runs right over me in confusion, smashing into the door and breaking the lock. He lies still on the ground while I try to process what just happened.
Slowly I get up and walk out the door. I feel warm blood flooding down my back and waves of pain cascade over me like fire. A rumbling behind me makes me turn around. He is getting up and growling some low, guttural sound. A breeze blowing on my face brings back my attention to my surroundings. The door did go outside, but it wasn’t the outside I had hoped for. I was hoping maybe to see a bunch of police cars waiting to take me home and kill the man chasing me, but what I see is trees; trees everywhere. More groaning behind me urges me forward into the never ending forest.
I break into a run after I hear another noise from behind me and I don’t stop for hours. It feels like days, my legs burn and my neck feels like it was split in two. He doesn’t stop either. No matter how fast I run, I can always hear him following me. Finally it turns dark and I run in the moonlight. After hours of darkness I collapse. I lie face down on the forest floor for a minute before crawling to a tree to sit against. My hands are chalk white, and blood covers my shirt and pants. I can hardly see anything as nausea consumes me. I black out for a second and fall over. As my vision comes back I am staring at the sky. I have never seen so many stars before.
Rolling on my side I see something that I had completely missed when I collapsed. There’s a cabin not more than 50 feet in front of me. The cabin is in ruin, the roof has huge holes and the walls are falling in. I summon every last ounce of strength and stand up to walk to the cabin. As I push the door open, the top hinge breaks and the door hangs to one side.
The cabin appears to be one large room with one small room in the corner. Inside is a disaster. Cabinets are ripped open and furniture lies in disrepair. A sink lies in pieces on the floor next to a gaping hole in the wall. Time did not take this place, something else did.
I walk over the wreckage to the small room. Pushing open the door slowly, shock crashes over me. A little girl lies on the ground. Her eyes are open and staring at the ceiling. Her body has been completely consumed. Like the bodies outside my cage, she has been mutilated. I almost fall to my knees in disgust, tears streaming down my face when I hear rustling just outside the cabin. I don’t look out the window, I don’t have to. I know he has found me.
Not taking my eyes off the girl, I step backwards into a cupboard close by. I close the doors and wait. Rage has filled my bones; I feel no pain, no weakness. I’ve lost almost all the blood in my body by now but I feel no more nausea, no more shock. I hear him walk into the cabin, sniffing around like a dog. My eyes are still on the girl through a crack in the door when I know what I have to do. He comes around the corner and steps in front of my cupboard, his back to me. Without hesitation I leap out and climb onto his back, biting into his neck. He screams and throws me off, again I sprint at him and tackle him to the ground, clawing and biting at everything I can reach. A piece of his skin rips off in my mouth and I swallow it. He stops fighting and stares into my eyes. I raise my fist and drive it into his head and his body goes limp. I fall over him and lie on the floor. I try to move my legs but they don’t respond. The pain comes back in full force and my vision starts to disappear. I blink my eyes a few times as my life seems to drain from me and out the window I can see the sun rise over the trees.
That was years ago now, and I’ve never told anyone this story before. I never told the police, my parents, not even my now late wife. And I never will. I didn’t hide it because I’m afraid, I hid it because I think somewhere, deep down, I am grateful for what they showed me.