Joshua opens his eyes.
He’s lying down, but not on a bed … it looks more like a table for him, but most likely it’s the floor.
The first thing he sees is the ceiling, a bit dark; the first thing he hears, besides his breathing, is the constant clicking of a clock …and then the screams. They were the ones who woke him up.
The boy stands up and looks around: the room he’s in is small, lit by a single bulb and devoid of any object; in there there is only him, a wardrobe, a mirror and a door; even the windows are missing.
Joshua decides to get up, but in doing so he feels something strange on his back, at the level of the lumbar area; it feels like someone is pulling him down, and by putting a hand there he feels what seems like a small rope.
The boy turns around to understand the situation better, and notices that he wasn’t wrong: on the floor there is a sort of socket to which a rope connected to his back is attached; Joshua follows the rope with his hands to understand its origin, but it seems to go directly into his body.
He pulls at it…but it doesn’t come off, either from his back or the floor.
He pulls again, harder, and this time the rope comes off the floor but not off his back; the boy tries once again to snatch it from him, but the pain he feels in doing so suggests that perhaps it is not convenient for him, and as soon as he stops pulling, the rope it’s sucked into his body.
Joshua is confused, but doesn’t waste too much time thinking about it because the screams are getting closer; they belong to a boy who is apparently begging someone to “stop it” and “leave him alone,” and judging by the source of his voice that boy isn’t too far away.
Joshua stands up and advances towards the door of the room, which opens sideways automatically; beyond there is a corridor as narrow and claustrophobic as the room in which he woke up, but it is much brighter and more colorful, and is there where he finds the screaming boy.
The scene is less frightening than he was imagining: there are three boys as young as him who are assaulting another boy, but they are doing it with their bare hands and in a rather messy way.
The victim is on the ground, his nose is bloody and his hands are raised; the three assailants are standing around him, looking half-angry, half-amused; they’re clearly having fun beating the boy.
Joshua doesn’t quite know what’s going on, but he doesn’t mind walking up to them and interrupting them.
<<Hey>> he says, getting their attention <<what’s going on here?>>
One of the three boys turns towards him, annoyed <<What do you w-?>> he starts to say, but then he stops suddenly and assumes a slightly perplexed expression <<Why are you naked?>> he asks after a pause.
<<Uh?>> Joshua looks down and notices that in fact he doesn’t have any clothes; he hadn’t given too much weight to this detail due to the simple fact that the temperature of the room is perfect <<Ah … ehm … I don’t know.>> he replied, looking at the guy in front of him again <<Do you have any clothes?> >
<<No dude, you can find the clothes in the closet of the room you came out of, so go back there and cover yourself up, moron.>> was the boy’s answer, accompanied by the amused giggles of the other two.
<<Uh … okay, I will. But first I want an apology.>> says Joshua.
<<What?>> replies the boy making an eloquent grimace <<What do you want?>>
<<An apology.>> Joshua repeats quietly <<You called me moron, so I want an apology.>>
<<Or nothing. Just give me an apology.>>
At this point the boy approaches Joshua with a threatening expression <<Listen dude, you just woke up … why don’t you simply go cover yourself instead of looking for trouble, uh?>>
<<I don’t want trouble, I just want an apology.>> Joshua replies <<Do I need to slap you for having it?>>
The boy’s expression wavers for a moment due to disbelief, then gets even angrier <<Who the fuck you think you->> he begins to say, but the sentence is interrupted by a punch as quick as it is sudden.
Joshua looks down at the hand that punched; it moved with an almost unnatural fluidity, and struck the boy in front of him with an extremely fast but also quite light blow, a sort of warning blow; the boy that got hitted takes three steps back due to the daze from the impact.
<<Uhm … sorry.>> Joshua says, returning to look at the guy in front of him.
<<F…fuck you!>> was the answer <<You can’t hit people like that! There are rules to follow here, you will get punished for this!>>
<<But I didn’t mean to, I’m serious.>>
<<No?>> the boy was visibly furious now, and his nose was bleeding.
<<No.>> Joshua confirmed <<Sorry.>> he repeated <<But I think I’ll do it again.>>
<<W … what?>>
Joshua looked at his hand again <<I didn’t want to do it, but it felt pretty good so … I’ll do it again if you don’t apologize.>>
<<Ugly son of a b-!>> the boy is interrupted again; with extreme naturalness and a lightness that he doesn’t remember ever feeling in his life, Joshua hits him again on the face; the blow is similar to the previous one, quick direct and “light”, but the effects are worse because the boy loses his balance and falls to the ground.
His friends decide not to just stand by and attack Joshua in unison, but for some strange reason Joshua already knows that, and he already knows what they’re going to do.
The one on his right will try to give him a hook, the one on his left will try to throw him to the ground using his weight; Joshua have a hundred of different ways to react to that aggression, every movement he can possibly make, present and future, are like written in a book he has already read. He doesn’t even need to think, he just has to choose what result he wants to achieve and his body starts moving by itself, automatically.
After knocking them down, Joshua looks again at his hands with surprise: he had taken boxing lessons in the past, but he didn’t remember being that good at it. Furthermore, the feeling of absolute control and awareness he experienced during that little skirmish was totally new to him, and to be new to him is also the sense of pleasure he felt in sending those three boys to the ground.
<<G … guys>> says the guy who fell to the ground first <<Let’s just go away.>>
Hearing him speaking Joshua immediately brings his gaze back to that boy <<Not so fast.>> he says while approaching him <<You still owe me an apology.>>
The boy gave him an indignant look, but then calmed down and mumbled an apology.
<<I didn’t hear you.>>
<<Sorry!>> he yelled at that point <<Happy now?>>
<<Honestly not. Say it better.>>
<<Just leave me alone!>>
<<No.>> is Joshua’s curt reply <<Apologize properly or I’ll kick you until you do.>>
<<Okay!>> exclaims the boy <<I’m sorry. Seriously. I will never offend you again, I swear. I’m the moron here.>>
Joshua looks at him for a few seconds with a thoughtful face, then he nods <<Apology accepted. Now… where did you say the clothes were?>>
<<Inside the closet. There was a wardrobe in the room you came out of, right? Your clothes should be there.>>
<<Okay, fine. Now move.>>
He didn’t have to repeat it twice: the three attackers stood up and left. Joshua watched them silently while they were walking away, waiting for them to disappear around a corner before turning to the boy that was being attacked, who is still on the ground.
<<Your screams woke me up.>> he says, catching him off guard.
<<Uh … uh … s-sorry?>>
<<And by the way, why are you still on the ground? Do you have something broken, beside the nose?>>
<<N-no, I’m … fine.>>
<<Then get up and go, before they come back.>>
<<Yes… yes, of course.>>
Having said that Joshua goes back to the room from which he had come out, heading towards the wardrobe; before reaching it, however, he passes in front of the mirror, and taking a quick look at his reflection he couldn’t help but feel proud of the spectacular physique he has, sculpted and also quite massive; the three boys from earlier looked like starving skinny kids compared to him, maybe that’s why it was so easy to knock them out.
He then opens the wardrobe, and inside he finds several clothes which in a certain sense look all the same: they are divided into 3 different colors (white-red, black-red or gray-red), and all are very close-fitting, clearly sporty clothes, but unbranded.
<<Yes, there isn’t much choice. They are all like that.>>
Joshua turns and notices that the boy from earlier is behind him; he’s wearing a suit identical to the ones in the closet, but his colors are different, they are yellow, and the clothes are also looser and more airy.
<<Why are you here?>> Joshua asks him.
<<Uhm… well … I wanted to thank you for before.>>
<<Don’t worry. We are ok. You can go.>> Joshua says, starting to dress up.
<<S-sure?>> the boy insists nervously <<Don’t you need a hand?>>
<<To do what?>>
<<Well, uh … you just woke up. Aren’t you a bit confused?>>
<<Trust me, you are. It’s just that you’re still under the influence of the sedative.>>
Joshua raises an eyebrow <<Sedative?>>
<<Yes. It inhibits both body and mind. It doesn’t make you think. Like, you are now in a place you’ve never been before, not knowing how you got here … but you’re not afraid, right? That’s because of the sedative. It’s keeping you from fear and other worries.>>
<<Ah. That’s cool.>> Joshua comments as he finishes getting dressed and checks himself in the mirror <<And when does the effect end?>>
<<An hour and it should end.>>
<<Good. Well, thanks for the info, you can go now.>>
<<W-wait! That’s not all! There are thousands of things you don’t know yet, and>>
<<Dude, I’m not going to be your bodyguard. I don’t know what you did to those guys, but I came to help you just because your screams were annoying. Nothing else.>> Joshua says <<And now that I think about it, it’s your voice that’s annoying. So go away.>>
<<N-no, wait! I’m not asking you to be my bodyguard, I just want to… help you, really.>>
<<I don’t need your help, thanks.>> Joshua turns to him <<Now go.>>
<<I don’t want to get in trouble because of you. They’ll probably come back for you, and they’ll do it with their buddies. So go away.>>
The boy assumes a desolate expression <<P-please, I… I’ll do whatever you want, I swear.>>
<<I want you to leave though.>>
<<They will make me a slave!>> the boy exclaims at this point.
Hearing that, Joshua makes a strange expression <<What?>>
<<Yes, you got it right. Slave. They can do it, and I don’t want to be enslaved.>>
<<Well nobody would want.>> is the answer.
<<So … i-if you could … I’m not saying you have to be my bodyguard, but if I’m around you maybe they won’t come close. And I won’t bother you, in fact I’ll do whatever you want. I promise!>>
<<If you do everything I want you’d be my slave though.>> says Joshua <<So I don’t see many differences.>>
<<Come on! Please!>> the boy insists again <<I won’t get you in trouble, I promise! And trust me that once the sedatives wear off you will feel completely lost! You’ll need someone to explain you what to do.>>
Joshua sighs <<Whatever dude.>>
<<So … can I stay?>>
<<Yes. But I don’t know if it’s worth it for you… this room sucks. There isn’t even a bathroom.>>
A short laugh escapes from the boy <<This place is not made for sleeping. Is normal.>>
<<Oh, really? By the way … since you want to be useful, start with telling me what place this is.>>
<<Well, um … when the effect of the sedatives is gone you will remember it.>>
<<What do you mean?>>
<<That stuff also suppresses memories, so you already know a lot of things…you just don’t remember them.>>
<<Ah … if so, why should I even need you?>>
<<B-because there are a lot of other things that you don’t know! Trust me!>>
Joshua sighs again, then advances towards the exit of the room <<Okay. While my memory returns, I want to take a look around though. Follow me if you want. Or stay here, do as you please.>>
Coming soon …