I use the time to assess the situation. Extreme pain in my face where it hit me and my shoulders burn form my hands being bound for so long. I think my right eye is almost swollen shut, but it is hard to tell in the absence of light. I am naked except for a pair of jean shorts that are soaked in sweat and blood. I cannot move. The thing told me I owe it something. It wants what I started with. What did I start with? It said it was with me when I was a child, when all I wanted was life. Could that be what I started with? It seems to be able to read my mind.
I desperately try to remember how I got here. What was I doing before I got here? I think I worked. Maybe I had a job. What was my job? Do I have a family? I cannot remember any of these questions. The pain stabs at my brain like thousands of daggers piercing it from all directions. I did work! I helped others accomplish more. My thoughts are clearing a bit. I took a job to help others but it didn't work out. Leaders were not satisfied with results. They wanted more. They didn't care how, they only cared that I got results. Their philosophy went against my grain. But I took the job for better pay. How did I get here?
What about my family? They need me. I have a wife and a small child. They need me for my support. For my love. Surely it would understand that there are people who need me and whom I need. Where was I before this room? Why is it attacking? I don't remember being a child, but I know I wanted things. I'm sure these wants became more complex as I grew. I lick my dry lips and taste blood. Wants and needs extended beyond myself and beyond the immediate. What is my debt? I pay my debts. My thoughts start to cloud again and worse, I hear it shuffling down the dark hallway from where it disappeared earlier.
It enters the room and returns to it’s corner. The breath is heavy and yellow eyes stare at me. “Do you understand now?”
“I don’t remember anything besides here.” My voice is scratchy from thirst. “I know I was a child, but I don't remember being a child. I know I have a family.”
“Spare me the incessant babbling.” It is irritated again. “The only thing you need to understand is your debt. Once you understand I can collect.”
“I don’t know how I can understand if I can’t remember anything about my life.” It’s stare burns into my skin like a red-hot branding iron, just removed from the fire. “What is my debt? What do I owe?”
“I will have to show you,” it says begrudgingly as it moves toward me. It raises it’s craggily hands and I brace for another impact. Instead of striking me however, it places it’s hands on either side of my head. They are cold and lifeless, with a rough surface, reminiscent of dried leather gloves that were extremely wet once. “Listen,” it commands.
Immediately, a vision begins to form in my mind. I can see! I am very young and I am talking to my parents. “What is this?” I am mesmerized.
“Quiet! Just listen.”
I can see my parents and I having a discussion. We are talking about a toy. I must be five years old in the vision. The toy is a truck that I wanted for my birthday. I remember it. I did not get it as a present for my birthday and five year old me is clearly upset. I remember I wanted that truck so badly that I didn’t appreciate any of the other things people gave me.
“You remember, don't you?” it asks. “This is one of the first times.”
“I do remember.” I feel bad for the parents of five year old me because I gave them no mercy. That vision dissipated and was immediately replaced with a new one. In the new vision, I am at school, high school, and I seem to be very sullen with my best friend. I was actually angry with him because he got a car when he got his driver’s license and my parents had assured me that I was not going be so fortunate. I was very angry with them as well because I felt that I deserved a car too. I was 16 at the time.
It spoke to me through my mind, “The wants were becoming more complex, yes?”
Somehow, I answered it without speaking, “Yes.” I felt bad for my friend because I was jealous of his good fortune and I wanted the same. It strained our friendship for a bit, but we recovered. Again, the vision dissolved to be replaced with another. This one is more recent. I am having a conversation with my boss. The conversation is about performance. I recall that I was shocked because the senior leaders seemed more concerned with making money rather than quality service. Their mind set was ends over means, but I took the position with the understanding that I represent quality service.
“This is yet more complex, yes?” the thing says in my head.
“Yes, but it was not me that wanted more,” I silently defend. It releases my head and the vision shatters like a mirror on concrete.
It retreats to it’s corner. “Was it only the others who wanted more?”
“Yes. I was concerned for my constituents,” I reply.
“That is not in question,” it says, “but taking that role involved a significant compensatory increase, yes?” I can’t be sure, but it almost looks like it is smiling.
“True,” I defend, “but that was not my only motivation for taking the position.”
“But it was a motivation?”
“Yes,” I concede.
“These are some of the complexities of which I speak.” It paces, as a teacher would in front of a student. “Now you understand the debt. You admit you have wanted in the past for personal gain, yes?”
“Would you agree that you have wanted from the beginning?”
“I suppose. What did I want when I was an infant?”
“You said it yourself: Life,” it replies. “Now that you understand, I can collect.”
I can see the reflection from the blade again as it moves toward me. “I don’t understand,” I plead. “Why do I have to pay?”
“I am finished talking. It is time to collect.” It moves behind me and I feel the sharpness of the blade against my neck. With a rapid movement, my throat is slit. The last thing I feel, before being completely consumed, is hot blood flowing down my chest...
It wipes the blade clean and takes a quick survey of it’s handy work. It leaves the room, and my remains, satisfied for the moment.
I wake up screaming. The room is dark and I try to get my bearings. I search for it in the darkest corners of the room, for it must still be here. I sit up and realize that I am not bound. I am covered in a thick film, which I determine is perspiration rather than blood. It was a dream. But it felt so real. The pain was real. I shake the sleep from my mind as I struggle for an explanation. What was It? Where did It come from? What did It mean when It said that I desired personal gain in the past? I mop the sweat from my forehead with my palm and reach for the water glass on the nightstand. I muse that I have always wanted to help people. I do what I do for the betterment of others. This desire seemed of little consequence to the beast in my nightmare. It said that I have wanted from the beginning. It implied the constant was want, but the complexites of the desire matured with age.
With the cobwebs of slumber gone, I am finally back in the moment, I smile and shrug, it was simply a vivid incubus with no impact on real life. I look at the clock and it is already 5:30. Time to get ready for the meeting with my boss. I do not favorably anticipate the meeting because it will be more of the same questions of why hasn't the business increased in my territory, and descriptions of the importance of revenue to the organization. They are not concerned with the affected individuals as long as they sign the dotted line. With this feeling of dread, I make my way to the bathroom sink and start lathering my face with shaving cream. What is that? I look closer in the mirror. Where did that come from? I wipe my face with a towell so I can get a better look. On my neck, there is the faintest scar that stretches from ear to ear. I shake my head as this cannot be, but it is in this moment that I realize-that I know-I have been consumed by Greed.