Erasmo Cruz sits in the dark, half-conscious, desperately trying to hold on to any one of the thoughts flickering through his ruptured head. There are many of them, but they prove to be elusive and slippery. After a few moments of squinting into the darkness, he finally manages to capture one. Once he sees what the thought is, though, he wants to throw it back with the others, like a puny fish that isn’t worth the effort to gut and clean. It is a useless thought, more of a question really, that won’t help a goddamn thing. But it is the only thought he has been able to extract from the morass in his head, and he is now forced to consider it:

How the fuck did I end up here?

Erasmo shifts his body in the chair, feeling the ropes dig into his chest and shinbones. The back of his head is wet and misshapen, and it throbs so hard it feels as if a crazed animal is trying to escape from his skull.

The sound of gentle scraping whispers behind him. He jerks his head, his eyes frantically searching the dark for whatever may be lurking in its black belly. Sweat drips into his right pupil. It should sting, but he feels nothing.

“Who’s there?”

The only response to his question is a powerful gust of wind that shakes the walls of whatever makeshift prison he’s in, and the faraway rustle of branches and leaves shivering against each other.

Erasmo clenches his eyelids and forces himself to breathe. He can’t panic. He has to think. But his head still hurts so bad, between whatever he got hit with and all the…

Another faint, slow scraping sound, this time directly in front of him.

“Please!” he screams. “This is a mistake!”

No response, not even the wind this time.

He can no longer prevent his body from shaking. And if he doesn’t keep his shit together, Erasmo knows he will soon begin screaming incoherently into the darkness, as the urge to do so is now compelling and powerful.

He takes a deep, slow breath and tries to remember.

It had been so dark in the parking lot, and he hadn’t been able get a clear look. It could have been anybody. Anybody at all.

Just please not him.

Erasmo inhales a lungful of stale air. As his body trembles, his thoughts turn to the ad, the ridiculous fucking ad, which he knows in his bones is the answer to the question still ricocheting through his bloody, misshapen head.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1