When I was a brat at High School, I had this recurring thought. It wasn't a dream because I was always conscious, directing what was happening. I was chained to a table, naked. Somebody – the identity varied – was beside me, laughing. He took a cleaver and cut off my arm at the elbow with one practiced sweep. When I woke up there was a tourniquet around the stump and my arm was on the kitchen table, skinned and pink. My captor grinned at me and started to chop it up, then threw it into a frying pan with garlic oil. It smelled delicious, like fresh-killed chicken, but gamier. My stump throbbed as the meat spat and crackled in the pan. When it was cooked, my captor sat in front of me and began to eat it with new potatoes and a mushroom sauce.
The next day he returned. He smiled but didn't speak. As I lay on the floor, he lowered his trousers and squatted in front of me. Started to shit. I could identify the sweetness of garlic amid the stench. I watched as it oozed on to a plate in a hot, stinking coil. When he finished, he stood over me. Held the plate in front of me. Positioned it where my arm used to be. And walked away.
The next day he did the same to my other arm. Then to my legs, my upper arms, my thighs. By this time I would be so transfixed I believed it was really happening. I would lie in my bed, motionless, concentrating on my torso, forcing myself not to feel my limbs. Sometimes, I could be paralysed like this for three or four hours, imagining my body slowly being turned to shit.
A psychoanalyst might suppose this represented self-loathing or low esteem. Far from it. Nor should it be supposed I was an unhappy child: I was rather proud of my thought game. It displayed a pleasing lack of vanity, a robust counter to the solipsism which afflicts most children. While they were expelling hormones through spot-ravaged skin or whining that they'd be better off like Kurt Cobain, I was taking self-awareness to a new level.
Self-defecatory humour, I called it.
So I wasn't unhappy, but I admit I was pretty solitary. I only had one friend, while the rest of humanity churned beneath my contempt. Mattie Stewart was the weirdest mindfuck who ever evaded a straitjacket. He was almost as intelligent as me – and don't imagine I'm being arrogant when I say that. People ask what my IQ is, but I say to them, 'does Bill Gates need to count his money?' Not an especially elegant comparison, but it conveys my point. I was the golden eagle of intelligentsia, soaring above a barely literate flock.
Mattie was borderline autistic. Fantastic memory. No conception of what to do with it. What a curse that must be, to have a wonderful brain and no imagination. It probably explained his tantrums.
"You're like Strokkur," I told him once. Strokkur was an Icelandic geyser, famous because it blew so regularly. I didn't expect him to know that.
"Well, if I'm Strokkur, you're Geysir," he replied. He didn't have the facial facility to look smug, but I knew he was. I couldn't decide whether to be infuriated by his knowledge or intrigued by his supposition. Geysir had been dormant for ninety-odd years: was that how he saw me?
"Just remember they bring it back to life every now and again by throwing carbolic soap powder into it."
"I pity the poor bastard who ever thinks that's a good idea," he said. And smiled. Strangest thing I ever saw. It wasn't a smile of amusement, not even of contentment. It seemed defensive, somehow. I didn't understand what it meant at first, but gradually I realised he was intimidated by me. I was startled by the thought. And intrigued. I knew that by the end of the day I was going to hit him.
He was bigger than me. I wasn't much of a specimen, and if he'd wanted he probably could have knocked me senseless, particularly when he was having one of his outbursts. Then, he would lash out at anyone or anything except me. I never understood why. At the very least, he could have stopped me hitting him, but he never did. He forebore it, giving a sour smile as though he was indulging me. Neither of us thought of it as bullying – it was just what we did.
And, in any case, the real battle between us was in our heads. In our minds. And there, Mattie was no pushover. We shared the prize for Latin that year, and I won English, History and French. Mattie was first in Maths, Arithmetic and Science. Three and a half each, and only Geography evaded us. We were the odd couple, and everyone kept their distance. In the void, we grew closer.
It was just after my birthday when Mattie appeared in my thought game. I was so shocked I stopped immediately and went downstairs for a coke and cake. But when I tried it later he was there again, leering at me and brandishing the cleaver.
"Don't worry, Gareth," he said, "you won't feel a thing." This was a new dimension: the captor had never spoken before.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked him.
"Because I can."
I stopped hitting Mattie for a few weeks, until he had one of his tantrums and gave me a black eye. It was accidental, but the broken nose he got in return wasn't. He lied about it to the Head to prevent me getting into trouble. An accident in a play-fight, he said.
"I don't believe him, Gareth. I'm watching you."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I liked the idea of being watched by the Head: the Golden Eagle being observed from land as it soared through the skies. I liked the idea of breaking Mattie's nose. I liked the idea of getting away with it.
"You won't feel a thing," my captor said, some nights later. He turned to face me, and it was Mattie again.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because you let me."
"No, I don't. I'm chained to the table."
"No, you aren't." I looked down, and found that I was free. I stared at him in confusement. "Do you want to leave?" he said.
I had a hard-on so rigid it was painful. This, too, was a new element of my thought game, one of which I was both ashamed and gratified. It was a mindfuck, it was sensational. I shook my head, and my cock throbbed even harder.
"Thought not. C'mere. Give me your arm." I advanced and held out my hand.
I remembered none of the detail of that thought game, but for weeks I was transfixed by every emotion it wrought. It was like staring into the sun, an image so intense you couldn't actually see it, but the memory of which was etched in your brain forever. I stayed off school the next day, too exhausted to move. My arm ached, my head was filled with the smell of my own cooked flesh, and I felt a longing, deep inside, for something, I didn't know what. It was an ache, an emptiness that needed to be filled.
I was banned from going near Mattie a few weeks later, after I shaved off his eyebrows and hair. He didn't seem to mind, but his parents were furious, and so were mine, and if I hadn't been the most intelligent pupil in the history of St George's School I'd have been expelled. I should have been: a line should have been drawn. As it was, the golden eagle was threatened by a sparrow and told to be nice. And the golden eagle looked down and realised its strength came from not being nice. I smiled, apologised and phoned Mattie that evening.
"You okay?" he said.
"Yeah, must be cold."
"Listen, can you come round. I need to speak to you."
"Best not. We'll get into trouble."
"Nine o'clock tomorrow morning. It's double English, won't be missing anything."
I played the thought game that night. Played it in a way it had never been played. I was trembling as I fell asleep, around three a.m.
We sat in the kitchen the next morning, golden and bald eagles. I laughed and ruffled his non-existent hair.
"Don't do that," he said.
"No, I just don't like being made a fool of."
"How could I make a fool of you, cleverest guy in the whole school."
"Apart from you."
He rolled his eyes, which was as dramatic as his facial expressions got. Mattie was irritated, and it was showing. It all seemed so improbable. It all seemed so inevitable. I smiled but didn't speak. My cock was hard.
I was scared.
I was ready.
I told him about the thought game. Every detail, ever instinct. Every moment, emotion. I told him about his role, his starring role, what he did to me. Everything he did to me. All the time, I could see his temper bubbling, even beneath the blankness of his face. He had no way of releasing his emotions quietly, which was why they exploded so often. I pressed on. I pressed on. I pressed on.
"Shut the fuck up!" he shouted. His face was still a mask of blandness, but his fury was evident in the twitchiness of his body movements. His hands were clawing over and over, his left leg dancing on the spot. I loved it. So did he.
"You're loving it," I said.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because you let me."
I once saw him laugh, and that was disconcerting. It was nothing compared to the contortions of his face now, as he struggled to define his emotions. His eyebrow lifted, his cheek throbbed. He was pale, his eyes bright.
"You're a cunt," he said.
It wasn't the response I expected. Or wanted. I hit him. And hit him again. And harder. And harder.
"What did you call me?" I screamed, over and over. "What did you call me?"
He did nothing. He didn't stop me. Didn't retaliate. He let me. He let me. I slipped into a trance I recognised from the thought game. I lost myself. Or no, my self lost the outside world. Mattie was slumped on the kitchen floor, his face bloodied, body spasming, eyes pleading.
It was the pleading eyes that did it.
I grabbed a bread knife and knelt beside him. Hit him a couple of times to pacify him. Then stripped his trousers and pants off. His little, limp cock lay there, hairless and lifeless.
"Call me a cunt, would you?"
I sliced it off, balls and all. Blood spumed out of him as he convulsed on the floor. For a second, I panicked, but it was too late for doubts.
"Who's the cunt now?" His eyes were rolling backwards as he began to drift out of consciousness. His cock was much heavier than I expected, filling my hand, hot and dripping blood. I looked at the wound its removal had made, gaping and red, turned the cock in my hand, lowered it towards the wound and pressed it hard, deep, full inside him. He groaned, but scarcely moved, his cock impaled inside him.
"There you are," I said, trying to scratch an itch on my nose without getting blood on it. "I've made you famous, Mattie. First bastard who ever managed to fuck himself."
I think he was drowning in his own blood at that point. His breath sounded like a bath emptying. His eyes were already gone. I felt a pang of loss that my friend had left me. The first man who ever fucked himself.
I wanted to be second.
About the author:
Tom Conoboy is Scottish but now lives in England, where he works in local government. Over the years he has vacillated between playing the guitar and writing stories. Somewhat late in life he realised he was least bad at writing, and since the middle of 2005 he has been writing and submitting seriously.
In the past eight months Tom Conoboy has been placed in competitions at Mad Hatter's Review, JBWB and Bright Lights Multimedia. He has also appeared in around twenty ezines and journals, including Defenestration, Reflection�s Edge, Eclectica and Prose Toad.
© 2011 Word Riot