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Ben Fordham was a misfit destined to die in the gutters of L.A. until he found himself in a seedy bar trying to cadge a drink from an odd looking little fellow who claimed to be the best tattoo artist who ever lived. The next morning Fordham woke up with a beauty of a hang over, a beauty of a tattoo on his left forearm, and a beauty of a problem. He found himself chained to the slimy wall of a torch-lit dungeon with the threatening sound of soldiers’ measured tread coming toward him--and his problems were just beginning.
Ben Fordham opened his eyes and didn’t like what he saw. There seemed to be a damp slimy stone wall a couple of yards in front of him and he knew that wasn’t right. A flickery yellow light from somewhere out of his line of sight made the slimy ooze reflect back like the trail a snail leaves on a sidewalk. A steady sound of dripping water came from somewhere. He had awakened in some pretty strange places over the last several weeks, but this was the worst. His head felt like it was being squeezed in a vice and his stomach felt as slimy and gross as the wall looked, but he didn’t see any spiders or snakes--real or alcoholic--and he was thankful for that.
Life had not done well by Benjamin Fordham recently. It had never done all that well by him, but of late it had been more cruel than usual. Over the last several months he had lost his wife, his job, and a small piece of his skull. The job and the piece of his skull he felt he could live without, although having the left front side of his skull just above the hairline crunched with a framing hammer had come pretty close to taking his life.
Ben squeezed his eyes shut so hard he began to see phosphene spots then opened them again. He was disappointed to discover that the nasty looking wall was still there. There was also a musty mildewed smell he hadn’t noticed at first.
This is some nightmare. He was familiar with nightmares of such a place. In those he was always chained up waiting for something horrible to come and get him. He tried to comfort himself with the thought that he would wake up pretty soon, but somehow his mind just wasn’t buying it. He had dreamed like this since he was a kid, especially after having gotten in the middle of some fight and been read the riot act by his father. That usually came after his mother had patched him up so he wouldn’t bleed on the rug.
Ben tried to turn his head to ease the pain in his neck, but found he could not move. The vice squeezing his head wasn’t all hangover. Something else was there. Something real.
OK Ben. Time to wake up. This is entirely too real.
A drop of cold water dripped down the back of his neck. The shock of it made him jump and the thought that the water was similar to what he could see oozing down the other wall made his stomach rebel. He gagged, but nothing came up.
The jumping away from the cold drip told him something else too. This wasn’t a nightmare. He was chained up in some sort of dungeon with slimy wet walls, just like from his nightmares.
Panic grabbed his insides and he thrashed against his restraints like a trapped wild animal. Only the tightness of his bonds saved him from hurting himself. Sturdy leather bands held his thick wrists and broad forearms to the chair arms. There were straps across his chest, around his forehead, across his shins, and around his ankles. He could move his eyes and hump his hips up and down, but that was all.