40: I am terrified that I am going to live forever.

40: I am terrified that I am going to live forever. WOE.BEGONE

SUMMARY:

Mike finally gets to kick back and sleep off some of his stress. He really takes a huge weight off of his shoulder.

TRANSCRIPT:

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[Warning: this episode contains a description of extreme violence. Listener discretion is advised.]

            Hi there. I’m Mike Walters. You might know me from such roles as Mike Walters The Woe Gone Boy and The Bear Of Oldbrush Valley. Recently you have known me as Donny Evans, my toughest role yet. It is that role, actually, that I have come to speak to you about today in this very special episode of WOE.BEGONE. [Intro theme starts prematurely, then stops.] [Mike laughs a fake laugh.] No, no. Not yet.  

            You might remember some rare occasions where I have whined and complained upon learning that I have a task ahead of me that is less than ideal. Though I generally handle hardships with a [accented] “stiff upper lip,” to borrow a phrase from my friends in England—sometimes I have let my temper get the best of me. During these times of duress, I have, on more than one occasion, said something to the effect of: “can’t I just cut my own arm off again?” in a petulant but ultimately jokey tone. Dark comedy, I’ve heard it called. [Laugh.] What can I say? We do like to laugh here. [Laugh.]

            It is that repeated utterance of mine, “can’t I just cut my own arm off again?” that I would like to formally rescind. Cutting one’s own arm off is no laughing matter. I realize this now. I take back that laughter. [Laughter plays in reverse.]  When I made those remarks, I thought that I would never have to do such a thing ever again. How could I ever be made to do it again? Cutting my arm off was a WOE.BEGONE challenge, one that I had already completed. It is easy to joke about such a thing because it was in the past and was going to stay there.

            Now, of course, Donny Evans is playing WOE.BEGONE and I am playing Donny Evans, like a turducken of violence. I successfully completed the first challenge. It is pretty hard to fail that one. Upon completion, I could feel a twinge of dread. The reality was slowly making itself known. That’s alright, though! That is still in the future. I had to talk to CANNONBALL first. I could worry about the challenge after I talked to him. I could compartmentalize it, only to worry about it later. Then, well, that interaction did not go as planned. It lead to me spending 4 months tied to a chair, only for CANNONBALL to be standing over me with a circular saw as I tried and failed to escape. My escape attempt was frantic and painful. I was willing to go to extensive lengths to avoid cutting my arm off for just a little while longer. I would not joke that I wish that I could just “cut my own arm off again.” It is no longer a joke.

            In my time being held hostage, I wondered why the Flinchites did not retrieve me. It could be that they were somehow unable to, but I think it is more likely that they didn’t care. They were willing to see how everything turned out. I was providing useful data to them. Well, bully for them, I guess. It occurs to me now that if CANNONBALL forced me to do the second challenge, then they would not have to spend the money and resources to prepare the conditions necessary to complete the challenge. So perhaps they were pinching pennies. It is also possible that they were not able to intervene for some reason. I know that I become harder for them to track further through time. Maybe that is related to the events as they occurred.

            Regardless of the reason, they did nothing to intervene. I was left on my own to deal with CANNONBALL and I dealt with him poorly. Four months that were so boring as to be psychologically damaging later, time was up. Still, seeing the circular saw in his hand, I was reinvigorated with a drive to get to safety. I would be damned if I was going to cut my arm off at gunpoint in CANNONBALL’s house.

            I mean, it didn’t work. I writhed on the ground (technically the door of the dishwasher, actually) for a bit, until CANNONBALL tied me up again and roughed me up for my troubles. I wasn’t getting away. I was really going to have to go through with this. This is WOE.BEGONE.

[INTRO THEME PLAYS.]

CANNONBALL had the air of someone who had power for the first time in a long time: giddy, sinister, with a newfound bloodlust. He was over the moon at having his plan start to come together, at getting the ball rolling after all this time. He had turned the tables on his kidnapper and his future murderer and was now going to exact revenge for all slights, past and future. On some level, he had a point. I was absolutely going to kill him and I wasn’t planning on losing any sleep over it. I couldn’t fault him for wanting vengeance based on that point alone. It excused his cruelty quite nicely. I was familiar with cruelty. I knew what it felt like to be cruel, so be pushed so far as to enjoy inflicting cruelty. I could see myself doing exactly what CANNONBALL was doing if I were put in his position instead. Still, that did not mean that I appreciated that it was happening to me, that I was the target of the cruelty.

            Being held hostage with no idea what was going to happen to me, I hadn’t had a chance to grieve the inevitable pain of the second challenge yet. It had only occurred to me to do so when I heard CANNONBALL make the phone call. I suppose that trying to escape in the way that I did constitutes “denial.” Once he returned with the saw, I hit the “bargaining” phase of grief hard and fast. It was urgent for me to convince him that his plan wasn’t going to work. I had to throw everything at the wall and hope that something stuck.

            “But Mike Walters isn’t playing WOE.BEGONE,” I said. “Donny Evans is playing WOE.BEGONE. I don’t know how they were going to pass me off as him, but it wasn’t going to be me alone doing that. I barely even know what he looks like. I’ve only seen one picture and that was months ago.”

            CANNONBALL laughed. “He looks like any old douchebag, just like you. We’ll get some baggy clothing to hide your body shape and put a Red Sox cap on you and no one will be able to tell the difference. Not from a cell phone video, anyway. We’ve gotta shave that beard, though. He wouldn’t be caught dead with that scraggly thing on his face. Instant giveaway.”

            “Scraggly? Well, I haven’t had access to beard oil in the past few months, as you might have noticed, fuck you very much,” I replied. “Fuck, CANNONBALL, I’m gonna look like a thumb if you shave me.”

            “Yeah, Donny looks like a thumb too, now that you mention it. It’ll be funny,” he said. “As long as you don’t talk, you’ll be fine. His voice is a lot lower than yours, so it would be a dead giveaway. Let me do all the talking. They should believe me. I’ll be all like “Donny, are you sure you wanna do this? Is it really worth it? All for me?” and you can nod sullenly and then you cut your arm off. It’ll be fun.” He smirked. I hated how much he was enjoying this.

            “I’m going to have to do this challenge no matter what, gun to my head or not, you know,” I said. “So why are you so set on me doing it at gunpoint? The Flinchites are going to make me do it anyway.”

            “They are orchestrating your participation,” CANNONBALL said. “If they are helping you go through the game, then they are going to help you with the fourth challenge. That means that they are going to help you kill me. Killing me was always part of the plan. You were always in on this part of the plan. You were going to kill me and not think anything of it. I am not going to let that happen. They seem a lot smarter than you, a lot more capable of getting the job done.”

            “It doesn’t have to end up that way,” I said. “I was Anne’s prize and I’m still alive.” I held my tongue about Matt. He didn’t need to know about that. “Maybe the Flinchites could protect you. Maybe we could fake your death, using whatever technology that they are using to make me seem like Donny.”

            He scowled. “If I give you back to them, they have no reason to help me. They don’t care about me. They brought me back to life for the reason of killing me again. They would prefer to do that, to meet their own goals. I am not going to put myself in front of them and ask for mercy that I am not going to receive. If there is a way around it, we are going to figure it out without them. I haven’t been sitting around with my thumb up my ass this whole time. I have plans.”

            “Plans? What plans?” I asked.

            “That is none of your concern yet,” he said. “I’ll tell you more after you kill the pig.”

            CANNONBALL was crude as he handled me, tied to a chair, in order to shave my beard. I put up no resistance, not really seeing the point of doing so anymore. I was afraid that he might cut me. Getting the upper hand had affected him in the worst way. It was a way that I was familiar with. It was how I acted when I thought that I had the upper hand against him when I kidnapped him. Though turnabout is fair play, I do wish that he had decided to be the better man. It can’t be that hard to be a better man than Mike Walters. Most people do that all of the time without even thinking. It was unfortunate for me that CANNONBALL was not one to show grace.

            “You know, you can’t brutalize me too much,” I said. “I do have to live to the end of this. I’ve never actually done this challenge before and lived.”

            CANNONBALL smiled. “You don’t have to live that long,” he said. “If it’s anything like the old days, you just have to get the video out. That was your problem, if I remember correctly. You made it over to the phone but couldn’t send the file and so you died before you could complete the challenge. I could be wrong, though. You’re not the only one to ever fail that challenge, after all. I might be getting you mixed up with someone else. It’s not like you were anyone important back then.”

            “Am I someone important now?” I asked.

            He looked me up and down. “For some reason, yeah,” he said. “I don’t really get it either. Like you said, you couldn’t even get through the game on your own. You had to be bailed out by another player. You failed upwards through this whole thing, even past this whole thing into a whole new thing and kept failing upward with those Flinchite guys.” He rummaged around and pulled out a mirror and held it up to me. “How did I do?”

            I looked at my shaved face in the mirror. “Fuck, man. I look awful.” Recent injuries from my escape attempt aside, my shaven face made me look, well, like a thumb.”

            “Yeah, okay,” CANNONBALL replied, slightly miffed, “but can we agree that you were always going to look like shit? I was only working with so much here. But you do kinda look like Donny, actually. The bones in your face are similar or something, I guess. Is that why you picked him for your little project?”

            “Sort of? I think?” I said. “I mean, we knew that we wanted you because you could have information that could be highly valuable. We could have chosen a random person and gotten no information but decided to roll the dice with you. And if I was going to impersonate someone who might get a chance to receive you as a WOE.BEGONE prize it was going to have to be one of your brothers. And… uh…. What’s his name? Brandon?”

            “Brendan,” he corrected me.

            “Brendan! Yes, sorry. It has been a long time since I had to do the phone call,” I said. “I hope I’m not breaking bad news to you here, but I don’t think Brendan likes you very much. As in, he seems to think so lowly of you that it made it into the file that I got. I am not even sure that you would be an option if we had decided to impersonate Brendan. There might be someone closer to him that might be the obvious choice instead.”

            CANNONBALL was quiet for a moment. I could see his reflection in the mirror, contemplative. I had some idea of what he was thinking. The file went pretty in-depth into the argument that I was supposed to be relitigating on the phone. CANNONBALL had to know what his brother thought of him and it was an insultingly low opinion.

            “Donny cared,” I pitched the words into the silence. “At least enough to get your stuff. At least enough to yell at Brendan about you. That’s something,” I said.

            “Yeah, Donny can be a douchebag. He’s got a temper, too,” CANNONBALL finally said. “But Brendan’s worse. I could never do anything right by him, not even as a kid. I don’t think he ever approved of anything that I ever did. But we’re done talking about this. Why would I ever talk to you about this?”

            “Fair enough,” I said, hoping that the concern I was attempting to show would grant me some mercy. He sat the mirror down and left the kitchen for a moment. I could hear him rummaging around in what was probably his bedroom closet. He emerged a few minutes later.

            “I thought I had this lying around somewhere,” he said. I could feel him place something on my head. He held up the mirror again. It was a well-worn Red Sox cap. “The genuine article from the man himself. He left it here awhile back when he was visiting and never came back for it. Guy loves the Red Sox.”

            “That’s… oh god I’m about to embarrass myself… that’s baseball right?” I asked.

            “I don’t think you and Donny would have much to talk about if you ever actually met,” he said. “Yeah, it’s baseball.” He took a long hard look at me. “Yeah, this’ll do. If I squint, you do kinda look like Donny. With the cellphone video quality, and we’ll put some distance between you and the camera, not enough to seem suspicious like we’re hiding something but just enough to cover you up a little, we should be golden. And the warehouse lighting should make it even harder to tell that it’s you. We should be good to go.”

            “Warehouse lighting?” I asked, confused.

            “Yeah, we’re not going to do it here,” CANNONBALL scoffed. “I told you that my walls are paper thin. You think that I am going to let my neighbors hear the sound of a circular saw and a man screaming? I don’t think that leaving the sock in your mouth is a good idea, either. Why would someone do that to themselves in the middle of the second challenge. They might suspect that something is up. We have to put on a convincing show. You need to be realistic. You need to be able to show pain. You need to be able to howl. You know, while your arm is being severed from your body and all that.”

              I had some time to imagine what CANNONBALL might do to transport me to the warehouse. He would have to keep me at gunpoint the entire time, which meant that he couldn’t simply be driving with me in the passenger seat. I could open the door and bail out of the car before he could get a shot off, especially with him having to look at the road to avoid crashing. He couldn’t hogtie me and stuff me in the trunk. He would have to get me down some stairs and onto the street where someone might see me. He could force me to drive, at which point I could attempt to crash the car and flee. No matter what he did, he was assuming some amount of risk. I did see why he might think these risks were not as severe as the risk of doing in the challenge in his apartment. There was a decent chance that someone would hear what was going on and think that something was up. They might even suspect something before the challenge is done and the cops might show up to find me with a half-lopped off left arm. That would be no good, to say the least. When I did the challenge, blood seeped through my floor and into the neighbor’s apartment. If something went wrong in his apartment, he would be totally screwed.

            CANNONBALL walked into the room with a large, dark green, long sleeve shirt. He untied my hands and handed me the shirt. “Here,” he said, “put this on. I found something baggy so that it won’t look like you.”

            “Long sleeves?” I complained. “But it’s like a thousand degrees outside.”

            CANNONBALL looked at me, confused. “No it’s not? It’s the middle of winter.” Of course it was, I thought. It had been so long since I had been outside. I hadn’t even thought about the weather changing. “But I didn’t pick a long sleeve shirt to keep you warm, like I care about that. It’ll keep anyone on the street from seeing that your hands are tied.”

            “You’re going to walk me to your car with my hands tied?” I asked. Another opportunity. He would have to decide whether or not to shoot me or chase me down if I made a run for it. How hard could it be to wriggle myself free?

            “Yep, speaking of: hands behind your back again.” I complied and he tied me back up. He rummaged through his things and pulled out a pill. “Open up,” he said.

            “What the fuck is that?” I asked.

            “Ambien,” he said. “You’re gonna take a nap in the back of the car until we get there.”

            “And you’re going to shoot me if I don’t take it?” I asked, flatly.

            “There are other ways of getting you to comply,” he said. “The gun is just the most dramatic one. I’m capable of beating a bound Mike Walters into submission, I can assure you. Do you really want more scrapes and bruises on top of what you’ve already earned yourself?”

            I didn’t respond. The opportunities were collapsing.

            “Open up,” he said. I kept my mouth shut. He was going to walk me out to the car while I was falling asleep and disoriented. Then he would have plenty of time to take me wherever he wanted, set up what was needed for the second challenge, and wait for me to come to. If I didn’t open my mouth, he was going to open my mouth for me.  

            “You’re seriously going to fight me on this? Seriously?” He asked. I didn’t reply. I kept my jaw tightly shut. “What’s your fucking plan, Mike? You think I’m going to give up and let you go because you made this harder than it needed to be? I’m in too deep. You have to eat sometime. I’ll put it in your food. The time for backing out of this was months ago. This has to happen now. If they’re doing things like we used to do them, either we do this or you lose the game pretty soon. You don’t want that, I don’t want that. Just take the fucking pill.”

            I wanted to shoot back at him. Fuck you, Topher Evans. Your stupid little shitshow of a life. You had a second chance and you wasted nearly all of it fucking around with me when you could have been spending time actually living. Even your douchebag brothers could see that something was off about you. They were right about you, even if it was mostly on accident that they were right. You were involved in WOE.BEGONE. You ran this. This awful thing that made you take me hostage. The thing that is going to force me to cut my arm off, whether it is right now or once I make it back to the Flinchites. You operated the system that is going to cause me to kill you and then you retaliated because you knew that I would have no choice but to kill you. Fuck you, CANNONBALL.

            Instead I kept my mouth shut. I kept my jaw clenched. I looked him straight in the eye.

            CANNONBALL took a step back, looked at me, and then unceremoniously punched me hard in the temple. The world blinked, briefly. Maybe a few seconds. Long enough for my muscles to relax, for my jaw to unclench. Long enough for CANNONBALL to slip the pill into my mouth. When I came to, he had one hand on the top of my head and the other holding my jaw closed. I could feel it in my mouth, the taste getting more bitter as it dissolved on my tongue. He tilted my head back. Eventually, the pill slipped backward into my throat and then down it via peristalsis. There was nothing that I can do. I couldn’t fight back. I was stuck in place.

            “Fucking finally,” he said as he released my head. “Worse than giving a pill to a cat. I swear.”

            I felt demoralized. Any fighting spirit that remained was exterminated in that moment. All of my opportunities had eluded me. It was over.

            “We should be good to go in like 30 minutes,” he said. “I’ll start putting things in the car. You stay put.” I didn’t say anything. I looked down between my legs at the chair. I was tired. Not because of the sleeping medication, but because I had been tired out. Not just that day, but everything. Not just CANNONBALL, but everyone. I had emptied out over the course of months. I was suddenly unable to see it as anything else. I had simply emptied out. I remembered myself yelling at… well, myself. The night that I was sent back to fix the fourth challenge. Matt’s house. I remember yelling that we should have done the honorable thing, the reasonable thing, and allowed ourself to die a long time ago. Nothing had been worth it in a long time. And then, ignoring my own advice, I got that challenge done, too. I didn’t die. I lived on. I don’t know how or why I did it. That was before Edgar. Edgar put a little fuel in the tank. He was why I ignored my own advice for so long. Now I was without him, I was completely alone, alone in the terrifying way that I always feared that I would be, alone like I was on the night that I learned that Matt died, crushingly alone and unable to die. And I am terrified that I am going to live forever.

            The next few hours, at least I think that it constituted a few hours, are a blur, as expected. My legs were unbound. I was essentially perp-walked to CANNONBALL’s car. I was made to lie down, I think in the floor of the back of his car. I remember my face pushed against the carpeting of the floor of his car, like gravity had become much stronger. I was really and truly zonked. From there, I slept. I don’t remember much about getting dragged into the warehouse. I didn’t know where I was or how CANNONBALL had access to a warehouse. It felt remote, as though we had left town. It also felt dusty and abandoned, though I didn’t get to see it all that clearly. It was possible that CANNONBALL simply knew where an abandoned warehouse was, somewhere that someone could get up to something heinous and never get caught. It probably comes with the job, being able to locate places like this.

            I came back to consciousness in phases. Once I was able to tell where I was, I realized that I was sprawled on my back on a concrete floor, plopped down unceremoniously. I still felt foggy, as those there were a screen between myself and the rest of the world. “Maybe it’s better that way,” I thought in passing, “Maybe I won’t know what’s going on.” Even as I thought it, I understood that it was false hope. Realizing that I was unbound, I sat up.

            CANNONBALL was a few feet away. “Is the star of the show ready?” he asked.

            I looked around for exits. I tried to stand up but I wasn’t ready yet and ended up sitting down again.

            “The doors are all barred,” he said. “This isn’t my first rodeo. C’mon now, get up. I’ve let you fuck around enough. It’s time to actually do this.”

            He paused to look me up and down. “Wow, you were really out, huh? I thought I was going to wake you up.”

            It took a moment to understand what he meant by that. I had been injured so frequently and across so much of my body that it was difficult for me to detect a new injury, especially in the fog that I was in. I looked down at my left arm. Something felt wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Isn’t a pun, get it. “Couldn’t put my finger on it,” because fingers are on hands and hands are on the end of arms and CANNONBALL had popped my left arm out of its socket. Do you get the hilarious pun that I made?

            “You… pulled my arm out of its socket?” I asked, blearily.

            “And put the other one back in its socket, actually,” he said. “It’s a shame it couldn’t be your right arm. You did a number on it trying to escape. But now you can feel for where the separation between the bones are and cut there. It should save you some time and time is of the essence here.”

            I didn’t respond. I looked down at my left arm.

            “Are you ready? Let’s get this show on the road, Mike!” I could hear the excitement in his voice as he pumped himself up. “Let’s do this!”

            He led me over to the contraption that he had put together. It was more thought out than mine, more mechanical. It was something that had the appearance of being designed to some degree, not just slapped together by someone with literally no idea what they were doing.

            “So you hold on here,” he said, “You rest your arm on it so that it will be still while you find the separation with your other hand. Then you pull down on this,” he grabbed a pulley on the other side of the contraption, “and this allows you to lower the saw blade. You pull down to put its weight on the pulley and then you can control the speed at which it lowers by putting resistance on the handle as it goes upward. If you let go it will fall at the speed of gravity, so don’t do that. Guide it between the shoulder and the arm joint. As soon as there is separation, I will end the video and send it to the gamerunners. That’s when you reach out and push this button,” he gestured at a big red button next to the pulley system designed to be used by the right arm. “And hold your left shoulder into that torch there. That’s going to cauterize the wound, which will buy us some more time while we are waiting for the video to be accepted. So maybe you won’t bleed out and die on the floor this time.” He winked.

            I sat there, groggily. I looked down at my arm again.

            “Did you get all of that?” he asked.

            “Uh huh,” I said. I thought that I got all of it. Arm up, cut down, push button.

            “Ok then, stand up,” he commanded. “It’s time.”

            I stood up. I could see more clearly by this point. The doors were in fact barred. In my state, I wouldn’t be able to beat CANNONBALL to one of the doors and unbar it in time to get free. He would be able to tackle me and drag me back to start the process over again.

            I walked over to the machine. CANNONBALL turned on the circular saw, which whirred loudly in my ear. He walked over to the video recording setup. I put my arm up on the platform designed to hold it still. I was empty. I stared dead-eyed at CANNONBALL as he readied the cellphone camera.

            “Remember to look at me and give me a sullen but determined nod when I say the line,” he reminded me. I didn’t respond. I just looked at him.

            “Okay, we’re ready. No funny business. We’re here, let’s get this over with. Let’s strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. There’s no turning back now. Okay, okay. Aaaaand…. Action.”

            I could hear the cellphone beep at the video started recording.

            “We’re rolling. Oh my god, Donny. Are you sure you can do this? For me? Is it worth it?” CANNONBALL’s acting was bad, as though the presence of a camera had made him forget how to be a person.

            I stood there, staring into the camera, in my dark green baggy shirt and Red Sox cap. I nodded, sullenly. I couldn’t work up determined. Sullen would have to do.

            I felt for the separation between the shoulder and the arm joint. I found it. Unsurprisingly, it hurt. I looked up at the saw blade. It was right over the separation. I took a deep breath, grabbed the handle on the pulley and pulled it down. The mechanism that was holding the saw blade unlatched and it was free, held only by my weight on the handle. I screamed preemptively as I eased the saw blade down into my left arm. It didn’t feel like myself screaming, though the pain was white hot. It was no different than the first time I had done it. I did not feel detached from the pain. I felt every bit of it. I felt as though I were being devoured by it, devoured by scalding hot white light. It tore through the upper part of my muscle. As I became weak from the pain, I was unable to keep pulling down on the pulley to keep the saw blade up. Fortunately for me, this made me unable to hesitate. The saw cut down through my arm, barely grazing the joint on its way down. Needless to say, there was blood everywhere. I could tell that I wasn’t remembering to breathe, but there wasn’t anything that I could do about it. I was not breathing, I was just screaming. Screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming. CANNONBALL was right. I don’t think that a sock stuffed in my mouth would be enough to prevent this sound from alerting the neighbors. Wait, nobody checked on me until the blood dripped through the floor? Did nobody hear me screaming like this? Did my neighbors not care at all? Wow. You think you know someone and then they don’t call for a wellness check when you cut your left arm off. Some people, I tell ya.

            The time from start to finish was agonizingly long, but it was shorter than the attempt I made on my own the first time. It was probably only a few seconds, stretched forth psychically into what felt like hours. The saw lowered through and found freedom on the other side. It hung there, inertly, swinging slightly. My arm flopped down, limp, onto the platform designed to hold it. Thud.

            I stood there in stunned silence. I had done it. I had cut my arm off again. The white hot pain remained. It ate at my consciousness, threatening to completely devour me. I stood there and looked at my arm. It still felt like part of me. I could see it and my brain thought that I could move it but it was gone. It was simply an optical illusion. It is what a brain does when it sees an arm that looks like it should be able to move. It was dead on the table. I stood and stared at it.

            “PUSH THE FUCKING BUTTON!” CANNONBALL yelled at me. I had forgotten about the button. I had forgotten about CANNONBALL. I was drifting out of the world. Blood was everywhere, of course, and the amount of blood was only increasing. I think that I was only standing from the sheer inertia of having already been standing.

            CANNONBALL rushed over. I didn’t notice him until he was holding me up. “Shit shit shit shit shit,” he muttered and pressed the button. An acetylene flame came out of the torch on the left side of my body, cauterizing the wound shut. After I was sufficiently scorched, he helped me to the ground.

            “You gotta make it like 2 minutes, buddy,” he said. “Are you still with me?”

            I just stared at him. My mind was not cooperating. I was thinking about how I was going to die in a stupid Red Sox hat being held by CANNONBALL. How embarrassing. I could only think about how embarrassing that was. Such a stupid thing to be preoccupied by, but I didn’t have any choice in my own thoughts. It was at this point that I lost consciousness.

            I woke up tied to the bed in CANNONBALL’s spare room. I looked at my left arm. It was there. Thank God. We did it. Somehow, we did it. It was over. And it was the worst fucking thing that has happened to me and that’s truly saying something. Even with the pain gone now and the injury reversed, it is still so much worse than the bear or what the Flinchites did to my hand.

            CANNONBALL heard me stirring and came into the room.

            “Welcome back. I don’t know how you experienced the last 12 hours or so, but you’re with us again, so that’s great. I thought I would give you some actual rest in an actual bed, with all that you’ve been through. It was hard, but it needed to be done,” he said.

            “Fuck you,” I said.

            “Understandable,” he replied. “But, hey, you were going to have to do it anyway, right?”

            “Fuck you,” I said.

            “That’s fine. We’ll talk later. If my experience is anything to go on, we have a few days and then we are going to have to intercept a pig at my brother’s doorstep. So get ready for that.” [END THEME PLAYS.]

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