Day 13, folks, and here’s the second installment of StoryTime. Sorry for the suggestions of gore – don’t eat while reading, okay?

I’ll aim for something less icky for tomorrow. Promise!

‘Once upon a time, there …’

The knife twists again, then slices in, deeper. The trickle of blood is closer to a torrent now, but I can’t see it. I’m screaming against the hand over my mouth, straining against the solid mass holding me to it. The knife withdraws, the pressure goes, and blood pulses out. Feels like my breast is deflating, but the quiet part of my brain – the one that isn’t screaming – tells me I’m being ridiculous. Still with the stupid thoughts. Focus!

I stop the next scream before it starts. I breathe against the hand, smelling its salt-sweat, trying not to taste it. The hand releases incrementally, then disappears. The body disappears.

‘Too childish. Try again.’

That voice. I struggle to turn, the steel cutting into my wrists, blood trickling down. Great. I’ll bleed out before I get another chance. The warmth trails to cold as the blood slides down my flank and leg.

Pressure on my breast again, I flinch.

‘Stop struggling. I don’t need you light-headed from blood loss. Don’t worry, I won’t let you die until you’ve told me my story.’

The pressure returns, then a sharp stab. I bend away again, but another hand presses me still from the other side.

‘I’m packing the wound. Stop it.’

Another sensation of pressure, this one flat and even over the wound. The scritching sound of tape near my ear, and the hands fix the bandage into place.

‘Just this once, I’ll give you a moment to order your thoughts. But I can only be patient for so long.’

Shreds of stories – other people’s stories – tumble through my mind’s eye. Frantic, I grasp at thoughts and fling them away. No, he’ll know that. Not that one. Fuck, he’ll know them all. I’m going to die here. I clear my throat and try again. ‘There was a reek…’

A searing cold slices down my thigh. I allow a thin shriek out, clamp down before the hand can. I don’t need that smell on my face again. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…’

‘Shhh. You’re learning though. That’s good. I don’t want ugly. Make it beautiful.’

Cold wetness draws up the thigh, stinging the wound. Sharp alcohol fills my nose, cleansing it. Pressure, tape, and the punishment is covered. Think, think, think. Beauty. What is beautiful in any of this? Where can I find beauty?

A lancing circle of pain in my left foot. A snap, then a squelch with a metallic clank. Blinding searing pain filling my world my head tilting back voice throat torn with the screams against the hand covered in coppery blood.

‘You were taking too long. That needed punishing.’

A gobbet of flesh dangles before my pain-filled eyes. Too close, then I focus. My littlest toe. Not on my foot anymore. My eyes roll, looking backwards into my brain for the story that will appease that voice stop those hands from hurting. Don’t take too long, or it might be fingers next. Or worse. Play the game. Get writing.