A SubstituteMature

   They dragged a woman into the room and I half expected her to be kicking and screaming, but she wasn’t. Her face was dull and there wasn’t any fear in her eyes. Whatever fear she had felt had probably been tortured out of her long ago.

   The two demons pulled her over to the wall and they strung her up, much the same way they had done with me, and then stepped away. Alastair smiled that sick smile of his and he stood in front of her. One long hand moved up and brushed up against her cheek, then up through her dark hair, gripping it tight and pulling her head back. He leaned in and brushed his mouth against the smooth, sweaty skin of her neck. And then he looked across her at me and his smiled widened.

   “Whaddaya think, Dean? Think you’re gonna enjoy watching this?”

   A muscle twitched in my jaw, I could feel it, and I kept my eyes on Alastair. I knew what he was doing; I knew what he was trying to accomplish but I wasn’t going to let him win with a trick this elementary.

   “She’s pretty, ain’t she Dean,” Alastair was talking to me but his eyes were on his victim. She returned his stare with a sort of resigned defiance that bothered me more than I thought it would. How long had she been down here in hell that facing off against the butcher held absolutely no fear for her

   I let my eyes wander over the woman and, yeah, I had to admit that she wasn’t bad looking. Even with her slack face, I could see that she was had potential. “I wouldn’t kick her outta bed,” I answered, keeping my voice as light as I could. I didn’t like the way her eyes turned to me as I spoke. She didn’t say a word; she just stared at me with her dull, dead gaze. I kept up the eye contact as long as I could before I swallowed hard and turned my face away.

   Alastair seemed to enjoy the tension in the air as he casually strolled over to his table of toys and selected a long, sharp knife. “Whaddaya think, Dean? This one looks good?” He held it up so that the light reflected off the blade, turning it to the left and then to the right. “Is this the one you’d choose?"

   I clenched my jaw as my hands flexed open and shut. “Yeah, I’d choose it to shove up your ass.”

   “Language, Dean,” Alastair just chuckled as he walked over to the bound girl. He tipped his head and smiled that greasy smile. “You wanna tell us your name, sweetheart?”

   Her eyes were locked on the butcher. It was like she didn’t even see the knife that he clutched in his hand. “Amanda,” she said in a voice as flat as her eyes. “My name’s Amanda.”

   The demon nodded. “How long have you been down here, Amanda?” He moved closer to her and played with a lank tendril of hair. If it had been me, I would’ve been jerking my head away but the woman just let his long fingers tangle in her limp waves.

   “A long time,” and she sighed just a little, just the slightest exhale of breath. “Almost seventy years.”

    “Hear that, Dean? She’s been down here seventy years and I’m still torturing her.” His shoulders moved upwards in a shrug as he continued to stroke his fingers through her hair. “I mean, most of the fight has gone outta her, but it doesn’t matter. She still screams when I pull out her goddamn intestines.” His fingers gripped tightly all of a sudden and he pulled her head back sharply – violently. But the girl didn’t even gasp.

   I couldn’t take my eyes off of the two of them and I knew my face was disgusted. Hell, I could feel my stomach rolling as Alastair started to trace the thin knife down her jaw line, along her collar bone and against the curve of her breast. But – she just stood there. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t try to pull away. I felt my top lip curve up as the point of the knife circled around the woman’s belly button then disappeared into the flesh. Alastair’s eyes were on me the whole time; his smile widened as he gave the blade a cruel twist and then began to saw upwards.

   He opened a gaping hole in Amanda’s abdomen and I felt like I couldn’t watch what the demon was doing, but what the hell else was I going to look at? The stone walls? Alastair’s bright grin? No, it didn’t matter where I was staring because I knew what he was doing. I could hear his breathing increase and when I looked at his face, it was frozen in maniacal glee.

   “I wish you’d scream,” he whispered, leaning in close to Amanda. His lips were on her earlobe. But he never took his goddamn eyes off of my face. I knew what he was waiting for; he was waiting for me to tell him to stop.

   But I wasn’t going to.

    Alastair just chuckled and he plunged his hand into the open wound. The blood was pouring, soaking the dirt floor and turning it into thick, dark mud. The smell of it, the metallic, coppery scent of it hung in the air strong enough to make me gag. My lip curled again, wrinkling my nose. But I still couldn’t turn my head away.

   Amanda was hanging by her wrists – she had no fight in her, not one little bit. I imagine that she’d learned a long time ago that it would all be over soon. Her face was white except for the dark circles under her eyes; brownish black smudges like bruises. She was shaking, her whole body was trembling and tears were pouring down her cheeks, but she wasn’t making any noise.

   I wanted her to scream, though! I could feel my expression harden as a muscle in my jaw jumped slightly. I wanted her to scream and cry and beg Alastair to stop because it didn’t seem fair that she could manage to keep her pain inside and I couldn’t; that I was weaker than some girl. I swallowed hard and twisted my wrists in my bonds, watching Amanda with a hard stare. Could she really keep up the silent treatment for so long?

   Alastair’s long hands were red and slick and he had opened up the wound even more. The flesh hung in tattered strips on either side of the bloody hole and he was busy pulling things out. Long, slimy ropes of intestines that he held up for both Amanda and I to see, a thick piece of organ – I’m not sure which one it was, honestly. He was just throwing the stuff on the floor, smiling and humming to himself as he worked.

   A sob suddenly sounded and for a moment, just for a moment, I wasn’t sure if it was from Amanda or me. But I saw Alastair smile and nod and pause in his work. He stopped in mid-gut and looked up into the woman’s face. “Didja say something, sweetheart?” he asked. His voice was cruelly sympathetic and his expression, just for a moment, was all knitted brows and concern.

   Amanda’s body jerked in the ropes holding her and she gave another gasping sob. Her slack lips opened and her head dropped forward. When she lifted her face, her cheeks were wet and mixing with the mucous from her nose and the spit from her open, sobbing mouth. Her body was trying to curl in on itself to protect itself but there was no strength left in her. She turned her face from the butcher and let out another wail.

   “She’s putting on a show,” Alastair stepped back and put his hands on his hips. He seemed pleased. He shifted his hands so that one was curled over his chest and the other was cupping his chin in a contemplative way, leaving streaks of gore on his face. “I can’t remember the last time she actually cried.”

    I didn’t answer; I didn’t know what to say. I stared, instead, at the woman as her chest heaved with each tortured breath of air. She wasn’t looking at me; she wasn’t looking at Alastair, either. Her face was turned away and she let her long hair fall in front of her face like a curtain.

   I felt a bubble of disgust in my stomach as I stared at Amanda and then looked at Alastair. He was grinning to himself and when he caught my eye, he grinned even harder.

    “You like the look of that, kiddo?” his voice was casual but he scowled slightly as he picked off a fleshy bit of – something – from his shirt and flicked it onto the ground. “You think you wanna be the one doing the cutting instead of being cut?”

    I stared at Alastair because I didn’t want to stare at Amanda. She was still crying and shaking, pulling at her ropes. She was whole again, at least. The rupture in her stomach was gone. But I still didn’t want to look at her. And I got the feeling she didn’t want me to look at her, either.

   “How many times do I have to tell you before you get it through your thick skull,” I kept my voice low, “you can take your fucking knives and you can gut yourself on them, d’ya understand?”

   Alastair’s eyes held no surprise even though he went through the motions of affecting it; his gaze widened and his mouth opened just a little. “You were really okay with poor Amanda going through your torture session today, Dean?” He pulled his head back slightly and looked at me with his brow quirked. “That’s funny, you know, because what I heard about you made me think you’d rather chew on broken glass than let someone take a punishment for you.”

    I kept my expression neutral even though I wondered what angle Alastair was coming at me from. “What are you talking about, you son of a bitch.”

   He smiled unpleasantly. “Well, think about it, Dean. Think about when you and Sam were kids, huh? He’d do something wrong, break something, spill something – you’d jump up to take the blame so that he wouldn’t get in trouble, right? You’d rather have daddy yelling at you than him.”

   My back stiffened and, in their bonds, my hands tightened into fists. I could feel my eyes narrow as I glared into the face of the butcher, daring him to keep talking.

   “Of course,” he continued breezily, “maybe that self-sacrificing behaviour doesn’t extend to some random bitch that you’ve just met. You obviously didn’t care that my little chew toy, Amanda, just went through a gutting for you. But I have to admit, Dean, that I was surprised. Knowing what I know about you, I thought you would have been screaming at me to stop cutting her – ordering me to let her go so you that she wouldn’t be tortured anymore.”

   I blinked rapidly and I opened my mouth to answer Alastair, but nothing came out. He had a point, damn him. Normally I wouldn’t have let anyone take a cutting for me, but I was so tired of it – so tired of being ripped open…

   ‘Pathetic!’ My mind screamed at me even as Alastair kept looking at me, waiting for me to say something. ‘You dumb, pathetic son of a bitch! Amanda has been down here seventy years and she hardly said anything when Alastair cut her. You – you’ve barely been down here thirty years and you’re already willing to let someone go in your place! What would dad think of you, huh? What would Sammy say?’

   I made a weird noise, a half choke, in the back of my throat as I thought of Sam’s reaction to what just happened. He would have been disgusted with me, letting that innocent woman go through what she had went through because I was too much of a coward to speak up and tell Alastair to stop. Of course, if Sam had been down here, he probably would have ripped Alastair a new asshole by this time, but that was beside the point. He would have been just as disgusted with me as I was with myself.

    Alastair watched me for a few moments and then when he decided I wasn’t going to say anything, he shrugged and glanced back towards the door. Two demons strode in and they let me down from the wall. For the first time in a very long time, I didn't tumble bonelessly to the floor. I stumbled a bit, yeah, but I managed to keep my balance. Amanda wasn’t quite so lucky, though. When the two demons undid her ropes, she fell first to her knees and then forward. My first instinct was to move towards her and help her up, but the mooks grabbed my arms and held me back.

    “Uh, uh, uh,” Alastair shook his finger. “Why do you care, Dean? You let her get tortured for you, what does it matter if she falls?” He gave me a mirthless grin and then glanced up at his assistants. “Get him outta here.”

    I struggled against the two of them, but they were huge; their hands fit easily around my arms as they dragged me from the den. I could hear Alastair laughing as I was pulled down the hallway

The End

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