After his escape in SOTL, Dr. Lecter wrote to Dr. Chilton. He mentioned that he planned to call on Dr. Chilton at some future date. After this visit, Dr. Lecter added, it would make sense to have feeding instructions tattooed on Chiltons forhead, to save paperwork.

What ever happened to Frederick Chilton? I've often wondered . . .

Caution: What follows is extremely nasty. Extremely. Be warned.

The Sentence

I'm not sure where I am.

I'm not sure where I am but I think I must have been here for a long time. Long enough to begin to understand some of what is said around me, anyway. At first, in the beginning, I heard talk, but it was all gibberish to me. There was no sense to it, just rising and falling sound and the soft, terribly gentle and oh-so-quiet tones of voice.

When I think about it, I suppose it's a matter of language. Different voices have come and gone, all around me, and I suppose these voices must have been speaking in a language unknown to me. But I think a considerable amount of time must have passed since first I heard the voices, because now I find I can understand a few simple words.

"Change". "Bed". "Bath". "Tube"

Things like that.

I can't answer the voices. I have no tongue, no teeth, and the hinges of my jaw don't work. My emptied mouth hangs open all the time, and my gums and lips and throat get very dry. Someone, one of the voices, swabs in there periodically, with a flavored swab. Most of the time, the flavor is strawberry. Occasionally, it's orange. I like the orange flavor better, but I can't tell the voices that I don't like strawberry. They don't know. I can't expect them to know, can I? Not if I don't tell them.

I don't ever eat. Never. My jaw doesn't work and neither does my neck. By that, I mean I can't hold my head up by myself. The voices prop my head up with something both firm and soft at the same time. A pillow, I think. One of those curved ones maybe, a "cervical support pillow" to fit around my limp neck, like a donut with a single bite taken out of it.

I couldn't eat a donut. I'd choke and die. I should have starved by now, because I can't eat. I ought to have starved a long time ago. In fact, for what was probably a long time, I waited for that to happen, but it never did.

It's the voices, the voices and the hands. The itching I sometimes feel in the lower left of my belly, that deep, deep, maddening itching. I think the voices must be feeding me through a tube. A "PEG" tube, perhaps, a little shunt that bypasses the mouth and throat and shoots calories and nutrients in liquid form directly into my stomach.

My digestion, at least, still works perfectly. It has become my clock and my calendar, and I am glad of it. I have four and sometimes five bowel movements a day. Or, to be more precise, within what I estimate to be each twenty-four hour period. I hear the voices and I feel the hands, cleaning and changing me, and I know that time has passed. After the fourth or fifth repetition of this process, I know another day had passed. I can see neither dark nor light, but my body still keeps the time unbidden, for as long as I care to count it.

How many days have I been here, wherever here is, how many days without number, days measured in the rhythmic progression of shit? How many days to make a year, and how many years to make a decade, and how many decades to make an eternity? How long has it been?

I don't know. I don't dare to hazard a guess. If I ever did that, I might begin to ask myself how many days more I'll be here, wherever here is. And I couldn't bear to ask myself that.

I'd like to scratch that itch, the one in my belly. It is a real annoyance. My hands, like my eyes and tongue, are missing, but I could still use my stumps if only my elbows would work. But they don't. It's not paralysis, not a function of a disrupted spine, I've decided. It's like my neck and my knees too, the major ligaments have been severed. The limbs flop and twitch, but purposeful movement is impossible. I'm bound fast by my unbound sinews.

There's a certain irony in that, I think. No doubt it was meant that way.

I'm not sure where I am, and I'm not sure who I am. I doubt I would recognize my own face in a glass, if I could see it. With my eyes gone and my mouth a despoiled and empty cave and my useless jaw hanging to my breastbone, I doubt I look much like I once must have.

I do have an idea who I used to be, but I have no way to inform the voices of what I know, or think I know. I can't speak, and even if I could, all I could convey to these voices that trill in their own soft and lilting unknown language are the simple facts of who I am now.

"Change". "Bed". "Bath". "Tube"

Would I tell the voices, if I could, what has happened to me? How it happened, what it was like, why it happened?

No. I'd be ashamed to confess it. The process of transformation was, I remember, trying. The pace was steady and efficient, and no moment of my time was wasted. Throughout the procedure, my overall health was safeguarded and my pain was managed, I was satisfactorily medicated, protected from infection, and anesthetized. My consciousness was courted, my input and advice on the work in progress was courteously encouraged. Yet still I protested, despite all the precautions and considerations; I screamed and I wept and I pleaded and I begged incessantly, on and on, until I no longer retained the wherewithal to do so. I did not give a very good account of myself, I'm afraid, and this I would never confess to anyone, even if I still could.

How many days have I been here, wherever here is? How many hours and days have I been here, trussed by my destroyed limbs and masked by my grotesquely distorted face and imprisoned by my utter dependency on the voices that keep me alive whether I want them to or not?

How many days, one might ask instead, if one totaled up all the punitive hours I myself ordered and laid them end to end, did I dare to keep HIM trussed and masked and imprisoned?

And once that tally is told, I wonder, and once I too have spent an equal number of hours and days trapped in my own useless flesh - when the balance of days is balanced, will he come back, paid in full at last, and release me from this sentence?

Can I hope to count on point for point retribution?

I'm so afraid that I cannot.

One of the voices is near me now, quiet, lulling. Hands on me, gentle, fingers on my slack cheeks, my head slightly tilted, turned. A slight pressure, a careful entry; the soft swabbing of my dry, empty, perennially open mouth.

Strawberry. Again.

Oh - dear Lord - how I wish I could tell them that I prefer the orange.