George snapped awake to a whirring sound beside his head and an overwhelming feeling of despair. The room was dark. He could feel restraints at his wrists and cold steel against his back. He moved cautiously and felt no resistance, no argument from these phantom restraints he could feel but did not see.
Where the sound seemed to originate, he saw nothing.
He was on the floor, leaning against a wall. In the darkness he could just make out the silhouettes of five other men, slumped just as he was, around the room.
Nothing, I said. I will give you nothing. Nothing.
The voice he heard was familiar to him, and seemed to exist only inside his head. But these thoughts did not belong to him. Neither did the sudden intense pain that ripped through his body, shattering his consciousness and rendering him powerless under the weight of it. A few heart-rending screams echoed about the room. He was not sure if any of them were his, but his mind remained quiet.
The horrific sensation stopped. The stillness in the room had not been interrupted. George wondered, then, who had screamed?
Did I scream? I mustn't.
He recognized the urgency, the agony, of the voice in his mind, but not its source. His body was sore and fatigued, and one by one, watery images returned to him of the desert, grey and endless, and sometime before that, his own home. His bed. His kitchen table laid neatly with the tea set his wife had painted for him, collecting dust as he woke each morning and sat before it with his cereal, smiling at the reminder of her stubbornness. His weary lips tried now to curl into a smile as the memory comforted him, until the whirring stopped suddenly and plunged him into silence.
Is it over?
His conscious mind responded with uncertainly, until the whirring began again. A tense anticipation gripped him, and into his petrified mind slid a more recent memory, one of six men identical to himself, all appearing to him in the desert. It was too dark to say for certain who was in the room with him now, but he supposed it was probably them. However, here he counted only five silhouettes. Perhaps his mind was playing tricks on him.
Somewhere near the figure opposite him, he heard a familiar clink as an object fell to the ground.