He came awake with a jolt. He tried to move his head but it felt leaden. He strained to open his eyes and a pain seared through his body that made him groan with the exertion. There was a blazing inside of him, a hotness that surrounded an ache that lived, squirming in anguish. He was pinned to a chair, hands tied to the arms, legs lashed tightly to the posts and a searing wound slashed across his stomach. His vision blurred but Hanker shook it off and tried to gather himself. He blinked several times until light seeped past his eyelids and then he found his voice.
“What happened?” he croaked out. His throat was dry and coarse. “Water,” he said. He tried to move again but his body didn’t respond. He felt a warm stickiness leaking down his stomach and he gasped. He struggled to raise his head and saw a man seated at a table in front of him. The room was dimly lit but Hanker was able to make out a sink. “Water.” He moved his arms against the ropes. “Water.” Every breath cost him pain, each inhale, each exhale felt as if his guts were moving around in his stomach.
The man sat at the table, watching Hanker. Dark hair hung down over his face and Hanker saw a shock of red against his skin. When the man looked up, his eyes were ablaze and he regarded Hanker as if he were some strange fish.
They were in a kitchen; a sink was directly behind the man sitting at the table and a heavy, steel refrigerator hummed next to a counter that ran along a wall. Hanker tried again. “Water!”
“Water is the least of your worries,” he said.
“What am I doing here?” Hanker said. “Why are you doing this to me?” He ran his mind back twenty four hours. He was sitting in a bar, drinking a beer and watching the game, his third beer, maybe fourth, and then….nothing. He shook his head but stopped short with a gasp of pain when his brain banged against his skull.
He had been at the bar nearly an hour when a man took the seat next to him. Hanker had glanced at him but didn’t speak – he was doing some serious drinking and he didn’t need company for that. The man ordered a drink and when it arrived he turned to Hanker.
“Greetings, my friend,” he said and extended his hand. “My name is Champ. And I am your drinking buddy tonight. Your ‘wingman’, if you will.”
Hanker regarded the smiling man before taking his hand. “Hanker,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, sir,” Champ said.
Hanker tilted his beer and took a sip while Champ prattled on. It was the last thing he remembered. “Champ?” Hanker said. The man’s eyes slanted up at the mention of his name. “I remember you now. Champ.” The man watched him but said nothing. After a moment Hanker croaked out, “Water. Please. Water.”
Champ watched him for a moment with a hardened stare, an angry menace that Hanker could not ignore. “You want water?” his voice was like grated steel. He rose from the chair and walked over to the sink. He reached into the cabinet and pulled out a glass. He turned the tap and filled it with water, brought it over and stood in front of Hanker. “You want this?” He held the glass in front of Hanker’s face and rubbed it against his lips. The water was clear and cold. “You want this?” Champ asked again. When Hanker nodded his head, Champ threw the water in his face and laughed. He walked back around the table and went to the stove.
“What the fuck!” Hanker said. “Who are you? Why are you doing this to me?”