The room is dark. I can see only the yellow of it’s reptile-like eyes as it stares at me from the corner of the room. I am wearing only a pair of shorts, which is good because the room is stifling hot. “What do you want?” I yell. I can hear it breathe. It is a heavy, labored sound.
“I think you know,” it answers in a gravelly voice. “I want what you started with.”
I realize my hands are bound behind me and my ankles are tied to the legs of the hard wooden chair. I can barely move. It walks behind me so I can no longer see it’s outline. “I don't have anything left.” I try to remember how I got here.
It grunts and I can feel it’s breath on the back of my neck. “You are trying to remember how it started. What brought us together.” It returns to it’s corner and I can see the slits of it’s eyes again. “Why you need me to finish this.”
“I don’t need you,” I give in half-hearted response. I continue trying to process information. My wrists hurt and I can’t feel my hands because the circulation is cut off. “Who are you, and what do you want with me? What do I need to finish?” It seems both familiar and foreign to me.
“You know the answers to both of those questions,” it appears to be enjoying the verbal parry. “My question of you is whether you are going to give me what you owe, or if you are going to make me take it from you?”
Sweat rolls down my face and stings my eyes as I try to focus on it's details in the corner. In the shadows, I can barely make out it's charcoal-colored face, which is ridden with scars from numerous past encounters. “When have we met?” I ask in effort to identify it.
“You have known me your whole life,” it explains as it takes a step toward me, eyes burrowing deep into mine. “I have taken many forms.”
My shoulders burn from being bound, “Please loosen the rope around my wrists,” I ask.
“In due time. I think first we should discuss an agreement.”
“Agreement about what?” The pain is excruciating.
“Payment,” it snorts. “I want what you started with.”
“What did I start with?”
“Quit with the diversions! You know what I want, what you owe! I am here to collect!” it bellows.
It rushes at me. I can see reflection from the dagger in it’s hand. I turn my head in effort to avoid the blow. It makes contact on the right side of my face with its fist. “I don’t know what I started with.” I can feel it’s acrid breath on my face as it stares at me. “No matter how much you beat me, I won’t know what I started with.”
It goes back to its corner. “This may take longer that I thought. I was with you at the beginning. Your wants were different then.”
“At the beginning of what?” I taste blood at the corner of my mouth.
“The debt cannot be paid if you do not understand.” It sounds agitated. “Perhaps I should loosen your bindings?”
“That would help.” It rushes. Another fist to the right side. Blood flows freely from my nose. It mixes with sweat on my chest. “Stop!” I yell.
It stares at me from inches away. I can see some of the definition of the deep gouges that traverse it’s face. “Are we finished with the games? Are you ready to discuss an agreement?”
Perhaps a different tactic would give me a clue, “When was the beginning?” I spit blood. “What were my wants then?”
It grunts. “The beginning was the beginning. Your wants were simple.” Once again, it retreats to it’s corner. “Do you understand now?”
“Tell me more.”
“You did not understand all the complexities at the beginning.” It’s voice softens. “You simply wanted life.”
“At the beginning?” I believe I am starting to understand. “When I was a child?”
“Yes.” It sounds relieved that it is finally getting through to me.
“And then what happened? How are we connected?” I try to use a soothing voice despite the burning pain.
“You started to realize there was more.” It sounds as if it is resolved to tell the story. “Life itself was no longer enough. I knew you then, and you knew me.”
“How did I know you? Where did we meet?”
“You and I are the same. We have known each other from the point where desire deviated from instinct.” It is playing with the dagger. I can see flashes of reflection as the blade catches what little light there is in the room.
“Why don’t I remember you?” Maybe it looked different when I was younger.
It snorts, “Of course I looked different then. So did you.” It sounds agitated again. “Do you understand now?”
I thought for a moment, trying to put the puzzle pieces together. It is difficult to think beyond the pain. I am trying to recall what wants I had when I was a child. It rolls it's eyes. “I wanted life when I was a baby, right?”
“Correct!” It stops fidgeting. “Then you progressed beyond only basic survival. You began to want things. I was with you at the beginning.”
“My parents gave me things,” I tried to understand. More drops of blood to my chest.
“Correct! But you were not satisfied.” It stares at me from the corner. “You always wanted more. People always want more. They want more for themselves and they want more from each other.”
“Why are other people’s wants my concern?” I try to make the connection.
“They are part of you. They are part of me.” It plays with the knife again. “We both have an interest in others’ desires. Maybe you need some time to figure it out.” It leaves the room through a doorway I had not noticed before.