(The beginning of the Mr Blank saga, which is now available to pre-order on Kindle, presented here in its earliest form. If you like pulp-style noir, then this is for you. Enjoy – OJ)

I woke up in Hell.

At least, that’s how it felt. First thing that hit me being searing heat, the kind that pokes and scratches at ya like a hungry dog. I mean, damn, I felt like I was slow roasting in an oven just in time to be served up. Turn me over buddy, I’m done.

Anyway, the heat was the first thing I felt. The second was the pain.

Now, it weren’t one of those screaming kinda pains. Nope, this was a dull pain, you know the kind. The one that ain’t making you shovel pain pills down your throat, but sure lets you know it’s there. Making sure it’s just discomforting enough for you to not sit so pretty. A slow, damp throb that jabs and pulsates under the skin. It ain’t happy with you, brother, and it’s gonna keep letting you know.

That pain, I felt everywhere. My whole body. Head to toe.

I’d soon find out just why that was.

The whole thing felt like a bad hangover, the kind you get after a few dozen whiskeys, and some tequila chasers on top of that. The pain, the heat, even the dry throat that made breathing a damn chore. Now, the thing with this kinda feel, is that you don’t want to open your eyes. You’re not ready for the world yet, but damn, if it ain’t ready for you. I felt shit, wanting to stay in this state and not see what fresh Hell I was in. Keep on dreaming, bury my head under the covers. If I don’t see it, it don’t exist.

A kid’s kinda thought. Dumb.

So, you have to be a man about this sorta thing. I had to be a man. After all, the heat’ll just get hotter and the pain would just get fresher. If I was in Hell, I wanted to open my eyes to see the Devil in front of me. Catch that red bastard dancing away and throw two fingers up at him.

I opened my eyes, and felt a whole lot better seeing a blue sky.

Didn’t like the look of the birds that floated in it, though.

Big fuckers too. Black swans swimming in the aerial sea. Circling like I was the centre of their goddamn universe. Course, I was. Once the old peepers started to focus, I saw these birds were buzzards, and they were waiting for me to do the decent thing and perish, so they could get their supper.

Sorry birdies. Not today.

But honestly? I didn’t feel too much alive. I was lying on the ground, slowly cooking, and in a world between bad times and a good rest. Opening my eyes was easy. Getting up? That would suck. I felt damn weak, and my throat wasn’t getting any more hydrated. My whole mouth was dryer than a nunnery’s sex-box, and I needed some juice to get me going. Some smack of saliva.

One problem with that though. I didn’t have a goddamn tongue to smack with.

All I had was some lump of flesh that had ambitions of being a tongue. It quivered about on the rim of my throat, desperate to do something to aid my thirst, but instead just inching. Hell, an inch would be divine right about now. It was a nothing. A nub. No flick or fine dab to its efforts. My mouth was emptier than I thought, and it weren’t getting any easier to deal with. Each breath, and I was choking, coughing back the dust that made up the air around me.

Only one thing to do. Throw myself up.

So I did. And then I literally threw up. Pathetic little retches that produced nothing but a rougher throat. Thanks body, that sure hit the spot. A sad, hacking cough that made the birds above me a little disconcerted. Fuck ’em though. I was still breathing and I’ll be damned if they pick me apart just yet.

Sure, still breathing for whatever that cost. Kneeling there, on the ground, suddenly the whole picture came to light and exposed itself to me.

Trust me, it weren’t no Rembrandt.

My hands were taped, covered in dirty bandages. But that weren’t the queer thing. That, was the fact that those bandages suggested that my fingertips were missing, save for the thumb on my right hand. Gotta give a guy something, I guess. Bandages didn’t stop there either. They stretched all the way up the black suit I was wearing, up my arm and around my chest and up my throat.

Then, all wrapped nicely around my face. Top to bottom. All that was left were two peeky holes for my eyes, and my tongueless mouth.

That was also missing a few select teeth as well, for good measure.

It was then that I started to get the feeling, that today was my lucky day.

Kept on getting better too, when I looked around and saw what lovely vista played host to me on this fine, blisterer of a day. I was in the asshole of nowhere, miles of dusty desert as far as the eye could see. Left, right, it didn’t matter. All that changed was the arrangement of cacti and rocks. This was the “fuck you” of oblivion, with just the birds, a nice little surprise and me.

A baby blue cool-box, sitting just next to me. How damned considerate.

Somebody gave a shit. Sweet.

First thing I grabbed from inside was a tall bottle of clear water. Being slightly greedy at that time, I poured it down my throat as fast as I could swallow. Of course, most went down my chest and back up again. This time, the vomit had something to show.

Fuck it, I kept drinking. I was thirsty, after all. My body was fucked, but I needed a drink like a bear needs a shit. I’d force the aqua down if needs be.

Luckily, it didn’t. Things were looking up.

After a few moments of salivating the refreshments, I checked the rest of the cooler and, Hail Mary, it was full of treasure. As well as another bottle, there was a wallet and a mobile phone. Being in the middle of a desert, the phone was worth shit. Signal was dead, and being an old school, basic kinda model, all I had was the time. No chance of Wi-Fi, heh.

The wallet was more of a pleasing sight. Stuffed full of dollar bills. Hundreds of the fuckers. I’d hit the jackpot, it seems, my lucky streak continuing. Shit, there was probably enough cash in there to bankrupt a casino, or put it through college.

But that was it. Just cold, hard cash. No cards, no ID, not even a picture of loved ones or the family dog.

Which was a bit of a shitter, as I had no goddamn clue who the Hell I was. Nothing, not even a name.

So there I was. No damn tongue, no damn fingertips, and no damn mind. Just a suit, a nice full body of bandages holding me together, a few teeth to rub against my lips and a mobile phone that didn’t work.

But Hell, I was awake now, and the birds had given up on me as their next meal. Coulda been worse. Not to mention the wallet full of cash and spare bottle of water.

Relatively speaking, things were looking up.

 

(Wrapped Up In Nothing is available to pre-order on Kindle before release on July 18th.)

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