“What did we discuss?”
“I… I can’t. I can’t do it.” I sagged my head as reluctant tears streamed my cheeks.
The suit exhaled painfully, playing his fingers along the handle of his silver tipped cane. He spun it carefully, burrowing its end into the black shagged carpet while studying me with an unwavering eye. The beats that he remained silent were a pain to me, his quiet a dense fog clouding the space between us, inching into my nostrils choking me until at last he spoke.
“You are weak, a disappointment to me.”
“Please, I… anything else, anything.” I looked up allowing myself to look fully upon him for the first time, the pleading stark in my eyes. He seemed an apparition in his black tailored suit set against the black suede of the couch he lounged on, an illusion to my eye he blended so well. Everything in the room was of one color, if not glass or silvered metal. The suit said it bespoke class. Elegance. Silver framed mirrors hung on black, wood slatted walls with sleek glass paneling marking their divide within the room.
An end table sat before me with an array of chromed tools set precisely on a reflective silver tray in the middle. I willed myself not to study them for fear of conveying to him the anxiety they gave me.
The suit seemed to swallow his fury, He blinked, willing himself patient. “It will be what we agreed upon.”
“But I – ”
“Enough!” the suit burst out.
I tensed, holding my breath, so frightened was I to move.
The suit adjusted his tie. Cleared his throat. A gentleman must never lose his head.
“Ahem… It seems you are misunderstanding of your obligation” said the suit, “You are to do what I prefer you to do, to act when I tell you to act.”
To this I could offer no argument. I simply sat receiving his scold.
The suit pressed his lips, “I’d hoped, Mr. Tullis, that it would not come to this. Unfortunately you have forced my hand. You need to be cleansed. We must purge you of this prideful weakness. You will learn to be obedient.”
“Please…” I begged, “I – ”
“Remove your shirt.” He ordered. The two of us locked eyes, “Do not make me ask twice.”
I discarded my jacket and placed my cane on the cushion beside me, then loosened the knot of my tie, whipping it free of my collar before undoing my silver cufflinks. I tugged the shirt from my waistband and unfastened its buttons, welcoming the air’s cool kiss against my bare skin. The shirt landed in a crumpled heap on the floor covering the Italian leather wrapped around my feet.
My palms began to moisten as I awaited further instruction.
“Have you seen my tools, Mr. Tullis?” The suit asked me. My eyes glanced them briefly before looking away. “I’ve noticed how you avoid them. A pity really, it’s such a marvelous collection.”
The anticipation of the unknown brought sweat to my brow.
“So many choices…” said the suit, the consternation dressing his face, “You’ve got your ice pick… the straight razor, an homage to Sweeney Todd that one, vise grips… all sterile mind you, fear not.” The suit drummed his fingers along his chin. “Hmm, which will it be?”
My eyes followed as his words directed, my pulse bounding as he detailed his inventory. I stopped when I reached a glass beaker containing a mysterious green liquid. Poison? Would he have me to poison myself?
“Rubbing alcohol. Mentholated.” He said. I looked up. “Your eyes asked for you. Ah, here we are… you shall use the pizza cutter. Yes, Mr. Tullis, if you please, take up that pizza cutter.”
I took a deep breath, then obediently reached out with my left hand.
“Ah ah, right hand please.”
I grasped its gleaming handle with a sweaty palm.
“You will start at the clavicle. Begin.”
I applied the cool metal to my skin. Its edge was so sharp it felt soft.
“Do it right, or God help you.”
I wheeled the blade down my pectoral and around my cold hardened nipple. I could see the thin ruby line before I felt it. The sting only came as my skin loosened, splitting to reveal the sinewy flesh beneath. My nipple folded over then cascaded from my torso landing flat on the table before me. A little brown suction cup adhering to the glass.
I continued to wind the cutter over the ridge of my abdominals, rolling it around my outpoking belly button. Down along my hip, across my waist, cropping the pubic curls peeking from behind my waistband. Bits of skin flopped aloose, falling to join my nipple as I doubled back, retracing and forging new paths with that blade. What skin remained intact seeped thin rivulets of capillaric blood.
“That is enough.” Seemingly satisfied, the suit directed me to place the pizza cutter back in its place.
I started up, but the suit sat me forcefully down.
“The cutting was enough, Mr. Tullis. I did not say we were done. Though you are competently opened, you’ve yet to be cleansed. The first step was necessary, as changes in our character must be made from the inside out. With your inside now clearly visible, this lesson will more aptly stick. It will be ingrained in you, healing in scars of braille along your ravished skin.”
I perspired profusely as I sat, my nerve endings aflame as my skin hung open. The salt in my sweat dripped from my face down into my wound, burning my sensitized flesh.
“Look in the drawer there, search out the window cleaner.”
I did as I was told, grabbing the spray bottle.
“Very good. Now, loosen the cap and discard its contents.”
The blue liquid made a small lake on the glass table before thinning and running over the edges, sinking into the carpet.
“Now pour the contents of the beaker into the emptied bottle.”
My heart thudded in my chest as I urinated the green liquid into the hollow bottle, then rescrewed the spray nozzle.
“Twist the cap until it is set to mist… I don’t believe I have to tell you what comes next.”
I held my breath, my eyes crying fresh tears as I aimed the bottle at my chest and pulled its red trigger. My sinuses cleared as the menthol floated into the air, cooling my nostrils. I inhaled deeply, my ribs stretching even further my butchered skin as they expanded to fill my lungs with air. My nerves throbbed with the burn as I squeezed and sprayed, my heart beating the pain all the way down to my fingertips until I grew faint, finally dropping the bottle. The pain was unlike any other I’d ever felt, like how a snail must feel after an evil child showered it with Morton’s table salt, as if my innards had liquefied and spilled out of me. I’m unsure of how long I’d been gone, but when I came to my blood had congealed, comingling with the sap-like pus of the growing infection festering in my wounds.
The dropped spray bottle had cracked open, seeping its green blood onto my discarded shirt. I could feel the wet through my shoes and polyester socks.
I looked toward the far wall and into the mirror before me and was met with the suit’s piercing gaze.
“Have you learned, Mr. Tullis, your lesson?” he asked.
“Y-Yes, master.” I replied weakly.
“Will you now do what it is you’ve been tasked to do?”
I studied the suit’s features before I answered, took in the sweat on his brow, and the ugly blistering of his exposed skin. He surveyed me as I him, awaiting patiently my response.
“Yes, master.” I said, “Yes, I will.”