"Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it."

- Mark Twain

Chapter One

Nathan's eyes felt heavy and he couldn't bring himself to open them. It wasn't like there would be anything worth seeing if he did anyway. He had seen the view that was in front of him, had been seeing it for hours or days or however long this torment had lasted, and he knew its every detail by heart. The flat, bleak walls, the muted colours, the metal piping that ran through concrete, and the table that was laden with shining silver objects. Or they used to be silver. Now they were all a dark shade of red.

A sharp pain blossomed in his side and his body flinched unconsciously. As his muscles flexed in a futile attempt to get away a second wave of pain swept through him, this one from the inside. His every muscle and tendon felt like fire. Wounds that had only partially closed up all broke open at the movement and sent stabbing needles through his skin. The skin around his wrists and ankles that was already rubbed raw tore even worse and he could feel blood as it dripped down onto his face and shoulders.

He could feel every single inch of his body for the first time in over a decade, and there was nothing he could feel but pain.

"Don't go slipping away on me, Nathan," the voice taunted and a sharp slap across the face momentarily cleared the fogginess in his brain. "No, you're not cutting out yet. We're not finished here. There's still so much more fun to be had."

Nathan could smell it before he felt it; heat. The acrid tang of hot metal was heavy in the air and then it came to rest against his bare chest. A strangled scream leapt from him, muffled beyond recognition in the gag secured in his mouth. He had given up trying to be strong so long ago. For a while he had bit his tongue and swallowed back the agony trying to escape him, but that time had passed. There was no point in even trying anymore. He had no pride left.

Now, he was just waiting for the last blow that would finally, finally take him away from this hell.

The searing metal had lifted from his chest and moved to his stomach, burning its way through a gaping wound that was already there, still trailing hot blood down his waist. Even though they were closed, lights flashed behind Nathan's eyes and he felt a strange lightness. This was it; it was nearly the end.

He had always thought that before a man died, he would see his life flash before his eyes. He wanted to see better times and better places. His little bungalow, his mother, his favourite lookout above the beach, Audrey Parker. He was bitterly disappointed when his memory only went back until the beginning of the end.