Counting Cuts

“Seventy-five,” the dark man said, his voice a smooth whisper. “We can stop any time you like, you know.” He lifted the bloodied knife from my arm. As with every previous cut, he wiped the blade clean with a black cloth.

“Oh,” I replied through clenched teeth. “But we’re just getting started. There’s still space on my right bicep, I believe.”

“Right you are,” the torturer said. The knife lifted and slid across that fresh canvas, bringing another streak of fresh fire in my mind. “Seventy-six.”

“I can’t help but wonder what you gain from all this,” I said. My words may have been punctuated with more gasps than that, but I’m going to pretend I was tougher than that.

“There are little joys in the art.” Wipe. Slice. Burning. “And, of course, eventually you will tell us what we need to know.”

“I am – seventy-eight! – more than happy to tell you what you need to know.” I tried to smile easily, but I am sure it was merely a grimace. “We just seem to have a disagreement on – seventy-nine! – what that is.” It may have been my imagination, but the dark man seemed slightly put out that I was beating him to the counts.

“For example,” I continued. “I feel like I could give you very good instructions – eighty! – on how precisely you all can go to hell.”