Let me give you a riddle. More of a lateral thinking problem, really.
You wake up in a room with four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. No matter how hard you try, you can’t manage to actually see that ceiling, but you still know it’s there. There are no lights, but you can still see your surroundings without any form of night vision.
There are probably a lot of answers to that one.
But in my case, the room I woke up in wasn’t anything like what I had expected. It was far from the stereotypical all-white room with tiled floors. Nor was it a pitch black room filled with ominous sounds. Rather, I found myself tied to the ceiling above a blazing inferno.
“HOLY SHIT!” I screamed.
Or at least I would have, but instead my throat poured out a ghastly rasp that sounded more akin to a wounded house cat than to a human being. From the spike of pain that erupted from my neck, I surmised my vocal chords were damaged, if not completely burnt off.
As the flames slowly burnt against me, I struggled to form coherent thoughts. I finally settled on “Why?”
I suppose what I really meant was how. I knew what happened, and I had a pretty good guess as to why.
More and more mid level supervillians have been kidnapping civilians as of late. It’s still not 100% clear where powers come from, but their general goal seems to be capturing and breeding powers for use in a gang or army type group. Whoever decided to kidnap me must not have known I had already gained my powers, and how worthless they were.
Then again, maybe they really needed a spare phone charger. That wouldn’t explain the fire, though.
Regardless, my attention was ripped away from the roaring heat before me as a robotic voice sounded from an intercom, echoing across the room, drowning out the crackling of the fire.
“Subject 74 now awake. Commence tests 45 through 52.”
“Subject!?” My mind raced. Whoever kidnapped me, they might have been after me for some other reason. Especially since they chose fire as their focus for whatever tests I was about t–no, had been undergoing.
Not really expecting an answer, I nevertheless shouted, as loud as my damaged voice could, “Who, what, and where are you?! Why and how are you doing this to me?!” I paused, and added as an afterthought, “Why haven’t these ropes burned off yet?”
I heard a sound akin to gears grinding together before catching with a harsh “CLANG!!”
A low buzz filled the room and a vaguely feminine voice that was definitely not automated answered,
“Those ropes are made of kev-weave. Some little flames won’t hurt them, though you’ll probably have quite a few scorch marks if you make it to the morning.”
“And my other questions!?” I demanded, ignoring the slight twitch at her words.
There was a slight paused, before the voice slowly responded
“Understand, I’m only telling you this out of pity.”
“Telling me what!?” I screeched, then immediately subsided into a coughing fit from the pain in my throat.
“You’re part of an experiment to…draw out certain characteristics in people. You qualified as someone who had these qualities already, but not to such an extent that this process would be useless. So, the company I work for sent out some agents with very basic incapacitation abilities, and here you are.”
I let the crackling of the flames sink into my ears before I responded in my most chilling tone,
“What kind of quality requires burning someone to death to bring out?”
“I can’t say,” the voice replied,” but I can guarantee that you’ll figure it out yourself before long.”
“Don’t leave me with that!!” I howled. “Who are you!? Where am I!? Why did this have to be me!? What did I do to deserve this!?”
The buzzing continued for about 5 seconds before it abruptly ceased
The metallic voice returned once more, monotonously dictating “test 45 is now 100% online. First trial commencing. Testing new functions. Seeking out maximum capacity in 3…2…1…begin.”
I let out a startled yelp as the flames that were already lapping at my feet began to climb higher and higher and the roar of the furnace underneath me intensified tenfold. Sure enough, the ropes held fast, but already I could feel my flesh scald, my hair burn away at the roots. I tried to scream, to protest, to cry. Even the thin, choked rasp I’d been capable of earlier was gone now. Blisters began to form, swelled to the size of grapefruit, and finally burst, sending combinations of puss and blood everywhere, before those same fluids evaporated an instant later.
My eyebrows were gone, along with large patches of skin.
“Fuck you, Jay. Thanks for visiting me in the hospital. Really the way I wanted to spend my last few days before burning to death. Recovering from burns. Asshole. I’m going to die.” I thought to myself in utter terror. My mind chained thoughts together in mere instants, panickedly stringing together one thought and another, desperate to distract from the pain with something, anything.
“I’m going to die, all alone, in a strange building, and no one will ever know. Hell, no one will even notice. It’s not as if I told everyone I was in the hospital, nor when I got out. It’s not as if I ever gave anyone a reason to ask.”
“No one will even notice I’m gone,” I thought once more.
“No one will even care,” I wheezed out through what remained of my throat.
Tears began to fall, evaporating with a sizzle I realized was similar to grease on a burger.
The thought was gruesome enough that I finally let my eyes close rather than wait out the rest of this agony.
The sizzling continued, despite my tightly shut eyelids.
I grimaced, clenched my eyes shut even further, and shook my head side to side, determined to die with a shred of dignity, unmocked by the disgusting sound of blood and tears evaporating into the air.
Finally, the flow of tears slowed to a standstill.
Still the sizzling continued.
Surprised, I allowed my now blackened eyelids to open up, revealing nothing but the white intensity of the flames.
The pain was finally starting to subside, I realized. Then I put two and two together, and bit my lower lip as I saw just how many nerves were missing from my body, along with the hunks of charred flesh dangling off my bones.
All of a sudden, the sizzling grew louder still, and I strained my neck to catch a glimpse of the source.
With that simple motion, I heard a metallic snap, and was flung forward at an angle, dangling sideways in the heart of the inferno.
Then I heard the same snap before hurtling head first into hell itself.