For Jimmy, time was counted in the silence between each strike of the flogger, between the hollow scream of the shade, and the next thud of the leather on flesh, or whatever passed for flesh on Marlon’s body. No, not Marlon. This thing was not Marlon. Just a shadow, just an imposter, just a fraud. Jimmy had never wielded a flogger before, and in his haphazard strikes, he often struck himself in the process. The sharp sting of the leather was enough to remind him of his own gullibility, his inaction, the weakness of his love. The darkness of the prison never changed, there was no sign of dawn, or day, just the perpetual twilight of the lamps in the cavernous space. He’d lost count of the strikes several times now, but he had to be close to a thousand hits. His muscles were aching, but each time he struck the shade it would reform, look a little less like Marlon, a little less like anyone at all, and that was enough to push him onward, to keep hitting him, and if the pommel of the flogger hadn’t come loose and fallen off, he might have have never stopped. It did fall off though, and on the next swing, with his grip loosened by fatigue and sweat, the flogger flew from his hand, bounced off Marlon’s shoulder, and landed behind the cross a few yards off.
Jimmy let his arms hang for a moment, sweat dripping from him, and stared at the shade, who stared back. The look from the shade was still furious and angry, but the fear was more present now, and when Jimmy saw that, a flutter of pleasure shot through him, enough that his cock got hard, and he pulled back, tried to rein himself in, tried to figure out what he was even doing.
He was alone, aside from the shade. At some point, the Warden and the other two guards must have left him there to his own devices. He didn’t understand why they would have left him, or where they might have gone–the guards had restrained him, after all, and now he was completely unsupervised.
“Well, come on then Mr. Guard, you’re not finished already, are you?” the shade said. Like his face, it resembled Marlon’s, but was no longer quite perfect.
Jimmy looked over at the shade, and scowled at him. “Why did you call me that?”
The shade laughed at him, and the rush of anger in his chest, running all the way up the back of his spine, and then down to his cock and balls, confused him. He didn’t like feeling confused, he didn’t like this…this prisoner laughing at him. He should punish him, beat him, fuck him, torture him–
Jimmy shook his head, the intrusive thoughts nearly overwhelming him. He gripped his head in his hands, felt just how large they were on his face, pulled them away and looked down. This was wrong–his arms were wrong. Jimmy had never been a muscular kid, just a low effort twink really, but the forearms he was staring down at were bulging with muscle, as were the biceps, and they were hairy, and this wasn’t his body, it couldn’t be his.
“You’re one of them now,” the shade said, “You might as well just accept it. No one gets out of this prison–no one other than Shadow, I suppose, but that was an exception, I think. I wanted to drain you myself, but we can’t always get what we want. Knowing that you’re trapped here, same as me though, I can live with that, mostly.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jimmy said, his voice gruff and deeper. Was that from the shouts and hollers he could remember leaving his throat while he’d been wielding the flogger, or was it really different? There was no mirror anywhere that he could see, but running his hands over his face, feeling the stubble verging on beard, the angular jaw beneath that, the heavy brow, the short cropped hair, he could feel what he would see well enough. “I don’t…want to hurt you, I just wanted him back, but you…you took him from me, and–”
“I did. I took him from you. You want vengeance. Come on then, let’s get this over with.”
Jimmy did want to hurt him, badly. Wanted to flay him until he no longer looked human, until he was just a quivering pile of shadow, shapeless, something they could throw in a cage and forget about until it acted up again, and then they’d beat it again, over and over, until…
The thought faded away. The pain was the point. The torture was the purpose. That’s what his thoughts were telling him, but he still had enough of himself there to question it, push back against it. He didn’t see where that would lead, didn’t know what that would get him. Certainly not satisfaction or justice. The shade was saying these things, goading him on, but for all his projected confidence, the shade was terrified. Jimmy could smell it on him, and while part of him was hungry for that fear, he also found it curious. He stepped closer, looking at the shade now, at how Marlon’s face was still there, but a bit off, no longer symmetrical, no longer perfect. But still his, still the young man Jimmy had loved. He took the shade’s face in his hands, leaned in and kissed him on the lips, tenderly at first, then pushing his tongue in like he always had with Marlon. For a moment, the shade reciprocated, and then turned his face away. “What are you doing? Why would you do that?”
“I loved him. You were part of him, so I…think I would have loved you too, and you were part of him, and I think, you love me a little too, or a part of me. If I hurt you, if you lose…his face, then he’ll be gone, forever.” He used one thick hand to bring the shade’s face back over, so it faced him. “I would never want to hurt him, and so, I don’t think I want to hurt you either.”
He kissed the shade again, and he resisted for a moment, and then relented, pushing back, just like Marlon would have, Jimmy coming closer and pressing his cock against the shade’s own, feeling them throb together, when a hand landed on his shoulder and hauled him away. Jimmy lurched around and found himself facing the Warden, his face furious, and he laid a heavy slap across Jimmy’s face. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, guard?”
“I–I’m not–” another slap, this one hard enough to send him stumbling back a couple of steps, cheek red and stinging. He licked his lips, and tasted a bit of blood from where a ring on the Warden’s finger had bit into his flesh.
“Apparently I was too optimistic in leaving you unsupervised. You seemed to be coming along so nicely. Pick up the whip, and punish that fucking shade, guard.”
The thoughts in his head grew more intense, almost a scream, the hatred behind them heating up his chest like a furnace. He nearly grabbed the whip, desperate to push it out of him, away from him, at anyone else. If he held onto it all, surely it would kill him, he would catch flame and burn to a cinder. He resisted though, he didn’t want to hurt anyone, especially not that last bit of Marlon that still remained, not that, anything but that. The fever broke after a moment, and he could see with mostly clear eyes again. The Warden seethed, picked up the whip himself, but instead of turning it on the shade, he cracked it across Jimmy’s chest, raising a red welt and a line of blood down one hairy pec and part of his belly. He shouted in pain, spun around in time for the next strike to land across his back, and he screamed in agony.
“I have no patience for guards who will not do their duty down here. If you won’t wield the whip, then you’ll be under it, do you understand?”
The Warden came up to him, and shoved the handle into his hand. “Use it. Punish the thing, it deserves it, you know it does.”
Jimmy turned to face the shade again, the anger welling up, even more powerful, washing so much away with it. He closed his eyes, and cracked it across the shade’s body, leaving a deep gash down the front that took a moment to heal entirely. It hurt though. It hurt just as much as when the whip had been turned on him, he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t keep doing this. He would be here forever. All around him, he could hear the screams of men being tortured, the laughs and moans and grunts of the guards thrilling in it. He raised the whip again, then tossed it to the side and rushed forward, grabbing at the restraints holding the shade to the cross. They were simple buckles, unsecured with locks thankfully, and he got one arm free before the Warden grabbed him and dragged him back, throwing him to the floor. That was enough for the shade to phase out, sliding free of the rest in a matter of moments, before the Warden could grab his light. The shade was gone into the darkness, and Jimmy chuckled.
“You fucking–do you have any idea how fucking valuable those are down here!” the Warden shouted, rolling Jimmy over onto his back. “Flesh–flesh can only take so much, but those things, we can beat them, over and over, and they always come back, fresh and vibrant–and the screams!” He spit in Jimmy’s face, and his hands wrapped around his neck, closing tight, “You’ll be in a cage then, you’ll be my personal punching bag from now on, you’ll regret this for the rest of your life, you’ll–”
That was the last thing that Jimmy heard, before the darkness shrouded him, and he was gone.
At first, he thought he’d been choked out. He was awake, though, and the darkness around him wasn’t a void–it was textured, and there, a short distance from him, was the shade. “He loved you, you know. I loved you too, both of you, shade and man,” he said. “You freed me, I freed you. We’re even.”
The darkness opened up underneath him, and Jimmy landed on the pavement below hard enough to knock the wind from his lungs. He rolled over onto his back and there the shade was, standing over him. The look in his eyes was pure hunger, desire, lust. Then he was gone, and Jimmy was left in a strange alley, alone. From the look of the sky, it was just past twilight. Not dawn though–evening from where the remains of the sun glinted in the windows over him. He tried to stand up, but the exhaustion overwhelmed him at last. The pavement didn’t make for comfortable sleep, but he passed out all the same, unprepared for the Pigtown hangover that awaited him the next morning.