He was burning in the sun. Smoke lifted upward from his writhing body. His face, his hands and chest, were dark red and wet like a skinned animal. Yellow blisters bubbled up all over him and then burst as the skin tore into open wounds. The pus, viscous like tomato pulp, hardened into a brown layer. The sun singed off his thick hair and scabs spread across his scalp.
Still in the shade, I pulled at my chains with all of my strength. Come on! The bolts loosened. I saw them spring up with every jerk.
He was now unrecognizable, covered in a smoldering, crackling charcoal crust. He had stopped moving. He was no longer screaming. Through the haze I could see that the door was already bathed in sunlight. I’m going to burn.
I let out a piercing cry and wrenched the chain from the wall. The metal plate shot off and hit him in the head, causing parts of his blackened face to crumble off. His body was starting to disintegrate, like a collapsing sand sculpture. I fell backward and wrestled my shackles under my butt and my legs so that my hands were at least in front of me, though still bound together by about a foot of heavy chain. I scrambled to my feet and reached for a handhold.
Behind me Paolo’s remains hissed and crackled. His ashes settled on my skin. I inhaled his smoke, held the burned taste in the back of my throat…Paolo was like an ancient statue, battered by time and the elements. You could still make out the shape of his legs, his crooked arm shielding his head. But he had stumps for hands and his face had caved in.
It’s too late.
I looked up and into the sunlight.