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He wouldn’t say he’s afraid – more like a weird combination of resigned to his impending doom, and actively looking forward to it. He’s long lost count of all the times he’s wished he was dead, rather than locked up in the company of his own thoughts and self-loathing; this creature he can’t put a name to, it might truly be the answer to his prayers – the cold, unfeeling depths of the universe finally taking pity on him, sending their emissary to put an end to his misery once and for all.

(Most people would say that ending up as a meal for some nameless alien creature is rather an unpleasant way to go, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s far preferable to slowly being eaten alive by his own resentment and regrets.)

If the creature expected him to scream or put up a fight, then it’s in for disappointment; all he does is wriggle a little, testing the strength of the silky, sticky thread he’s wrapped in, marvelling at how soft yet resistant it feels on his limbs. He can hardly peek out of the cocoon the creature spun all around him, but there doesn’t seem to be much to be seen anyway; it’s as if they’re floating outside time and space, untethered, yet crawling their way towards a fixed point, somewhere (somewhen?).

At length, the creature touches ground; he can feel its huge limbs moving under him as it plods its way through what sounds like rubble, or debris of some kind. Eventually, they stop, and two of the creature’s long arms (legs?) reach out to untie him from its back, and carefully deposit him onto the ground.

“There we are, spindly human,” a booming, somewhat distorted voice makes itself heard above him, and it takes him longer than it probably should to realise what an odd coincidence this is – not only is the creature familiar with his species, but it also appears to be fluent in his language. “Now you stay put, while I go and fetch my Master. You wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, would you?”

Oh. So that’s why the creature didn’t devour him straight away – he’s to be someone else’s treat, perhaps some kind of offering, even. Well, it doesn’t make that much difference to him; he just lies there, the silken thread binding him a welcome change from the cold metal chains he can still feel biting into his wrists.

(Will this mysterious Master creature appreciate the taste of his meat, or is he as unsavoury as he is abhorrent to his fellow Martians? I’m sorry, I tried my best, he thinks to himself, his forehead pressed against what feels like floor tiles of some kind.)

“I specifically told you I didn’t want to be disturbed, Patrick,” a voice echoes down what he can only assume is a stairwell, followed by a set of (human-like?) footsteps. Funny how much it sounds like – never mind, he clamps down on that train of thought, swallowing a bout of hysterical laughter at the mere suggestion. Just make it quick, the voices in his head chip in, almost as an afterthought. I’m just – so tired.

“And what on Mars is this? Patrick, if you’ve been creeping into the Happiness Inc. headquarters again –”

“It’s a Christmas present for you, Master.”

He can hear the smile in the creature’s voice, and the more twisted part of his brain is vaguely flattered that he’s been considered appetising enough to serve as a present.

(But then again, the whole situation has already started to play tricks on his mind, as he can swear he recognises that other creature’s voice; it’s a voice he will never be able to forget, not if he’s doomed to live infinite lives across all of time and space.)

He still doesn’t react, as someone paws at the threads clinging all over every available surface of his body. “My Shareholders,” Colin cries out all of a sudden – and it is Colin all right, incredulous surprise written all over the beautiful, much missed lines of his face. “David!”

Everything turns into a damp and distant blur as he finally breaks down and starts sobbing, like a frightened little child would do. He’s only partially aware of the creature stepping in and cutting through his ties; then he’s being gathered into Colin’s warm, welcoming arms – I’m dead, I must be, there’s no other reasonable explanation for any of it – and if this is a dream, then it’s the sweetest, cruellest one he’s ever had.

(Perhaps if he holds his breath long enough, then he’ll never wake up again.)