Miraculously, or perhaps devilishly, the door was unlocked. Had the unholy monks considered him too far gone to move? Whatever the reason Tom turned the old handle, ignoring the agony as his fingers melted into dripping rivers of skin and muscle. He pushed the rotting wooden door, something, perhaps the small voice in his head, beseeched him not to scream. Outside a faint light illuminated the darkened passage through which he had been dragged to his prison. He stumbled, falling heavily. Had his legs been torn off once more?
Shaking his head to clear the splintering nails of agony, he looked down. There, beneath his legs was a mass of hair. He tugged it, a sharp pain his scalp illustrated from where the hair had sprung. Both his hair and beard were almost three feet long. Now they tumbled long past his knees. Tom had never grown a beard before, any occasional light sprinkling of blond down on his chin scraped off with the blade he used to slaughter the pigs. How long had he been down in that damned cellar?
As he staggered up the stairs, the unremitting pain in his feet sent shards of slicing agony through his entire body. Tom shuddered, but now his mind was filled with purpose. He was going to get out of here or die trying. Part of him rejoiced at the thought of death. All this time swamped by the mire of agony had unhinged his brain. He knew that now. He also knew that whatever had been done to him not completely stripped him of every vestige of his former self. He still possessed a will. Whether he died in the next few moments, or gained his freedom, he would do it of his own volition, for to spend eternity in that dank cellar while the beasts of hell feasted on his his pain, was not something he could allow himself to consider.
Now at the top and in sight of the door, he staggered. From the immense grating in his knees he could swear a heavy and rusting blade hacked savagely at his legs. Simultaneously great heavy prongs of molten steel pierced his shoulders. Again he moved forward. If he were to dwell on it he would be in the same place as before and just as easy for the monks to return.
The old place looked as it had before. A little dusty now and obviously not as clean. Soot seemed to cling to every surface. If he had let it become that bad, the monks would have flayed him alive. He stifled at chuckle at the idea, wincing as one of his arms tore itself free. It hadn’t, of course, in fact he now realised that not a single devil had tormented him for all that time. His legs had not been ripped off a thousand times; his eyeballs had not been skewered free, and his whole body not pulverised by heavy rocks. It was the curse, or whatever had been put on him. The knowledge did not lessen the pain - it was real and not imagined. Every step, every breath brought another lance of agony to his already shattered body. Yet somehow, the knowledge gave him strength even if not stopping the tears streaming down his face at the utter, unbridled torment. He lurched forward tugging his trailing hair and beard behind him. Any clothes he might once have worn had rotted at some previous time before. Now he was naked; filthy as one of the hogs after wallowing in the small pond behind the abbey. Yet he did not feel ashamed. Any emotion of that variety had long been stripped away. Now he made for the Abbot’s cell.
They had business.