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Masters of the Puppet

Chapter Text

Your mouth is a sea of cartilage, rabid saliva bleeds

Swallowing shredded tongue and pulverized, crunching teeth

Respirating a bolus of rusty razor blades

Asphyxiating bloody garotte, tearing your jugular vein


Your attention is diverted, and you pause the song right when it is about to end. You had received your third noise complaint of the month this morning from the neighbouring dormitory residents, but you made no bones about it. There is seemingly little you could have done anyway.

It had begun pouring heavier than the music you were blasting just a moment ago. Rain gives you a thud of nomadic delight mixed with aching shudders of nostalgia, and tugs you off the bed almost hypnotically as it beckons you to the balcony. You get up from beside your boyfriend who was lying, tangled in the white satin sheets, and walk to the balcony as you light a cherry cigarette. Surely, you thought, after recent events, the bed sheets must smell of cigarette smoke and his domineering musk.

You walk to the window of the terribly modest room where you have resided for the last two and a half years since you have arrived in Rome and look out, lost in the rare, pleasant silence of your mind.

On the accent table placed by the window, beside a sphere glass vase which housed the bouquet of roses brought to you by your prickly companion, laid carelessly your life’s most challenging and daunting task yet that you had subjected yourself to willingly – a work in progress – the second draft of your PhD dissertation. As your gaze lands on it, you feel dread run through you, but you force yourself to look through it one more time, recalling that it had to submitted next Monday for a preliminary evaluation by your supervisor. Your paper on neural hypo-reactivity to reward and loss in the ventral striatum and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex as a biomarker for antisocial behaviour is either going to create your future or destroy it forever. Perhaps to say that lack of success would “destroy it forever” was hyperbole, but in academia, mediocrity was seldom better celebrated than absolute failure. You were painfully aware of the inadequacies of your work, already looking over the title and thinking that it would be a mouthful but reasoned that such was typical in your field of research. You ruminate a little more on the lack of fMRI subjects and the possible inaccuracies in the analysis parameters. Your PhD supervisor, Dr. Cioccolata, wouldn’t think twice before hurling insults at you like he memorized it before even meeting you, like one memorizes and spews a compressed lecture ten minutes before the class is about to be dismissed. He never missed out on a chance to remind you how big of a favour he was doing by helping you and never failed to make a show of it in front of his assistant. You barely make it halfway through the draft before feeling far too tired to carry on the task and you chuck the bundle of papers carelessly back on to the table, a heavy sigh passing your lips. You turn your head to look through the window once again, having made the unspoken decision to revel in nature’s display instead.

The thunderous roars of the skies were already beginning to be pacified and the rain was now gently cascading from the roof of the dormitory house. Disappointed that it had all died down so quickly, you turn to look at a fast-asleep Prosciutto on your bed. His wet hair glistens under the 100W ceiling light of your room, making him appear almost a platinum blond. However, the sight of your handsome boyfriend quickly turns your mood sour and your thoughts grim – your mind now troubled once again – as you wonder if you will ever grow to love the man before you, even out of obligation.

How could you even continue liking someone that expects you to be on your knees at his every whim? He somehow did not seem to recognise just how merciless he could be, despite your several attempts at speaking to him about how you feel and how it is necessary to have certain boundaries even in the deepest of companionships. He was nothing short of demanding and possessive – traits which at first in your new romance you had foolishly found endearing – were now nothing more than distasteful as they turned into manipulative and vindictive.

As if the emotional turmoil of having Prosciutto as your boyfriend wasn’t burden enough, the “physical” aspect of your relationship was no kinder for you. It was as if he was incapable of looking past his own carnal desires to ensure your well-being. The possibility of such a sentiment within him hurt you deeply. Even at the sounds of your genuine pleas, he would never let up. He never seems to think that choking in bed shouldn’t be so violent that he renders you unconscious and then decides to have his way with your comatose body, because he just couldn’t hold himself back until you woke up. He wouldn’t even try to help you regain your consciousness first. On the worst of his insatiable days, he had left all four of your limbs tied to the bed posts all night, even after you had been completely exhausted and distraught, as he reasoned that he just couldn’t get enough of you and that he “wants you today unlike any other day.”

You run a hand through your disheveled hair and feel a chill run up your legs, reminding you that you were dressed in nothing but a long shirt. Being unable to stand the sight of his glowing figure any longer and being lost in the despair he brought on to you, you decided to clean up what little you could of your room without waking Prosciutto up. You picked up your dissertation and walked towards the study table placed adjacent to the bed.

As you begin pilling the plethora of research articles littering your desk, you stumble upon a little artifact that invokes curiosity, and some inexplicable notion of caution within you. You pick it up and examine it once more. It is a business card you had found in your office earlier this morning; the origin and circumstances of its appearance are still a mystery to you.

In big violet Felix Titling print, the card read: “Dr. Risotto Nero, Psy.D. Forensic Neuropsychology” followed by his e-mail address, office phone, and fax number. “Who the hell faxes in this day and age?” you thought to yourself as you dialed his office landline and slowly walked to the balcony so Prosciutto cannot hear you talk to a man, lest he throws another one of his jealous fits. You can’t have another one of his tantrums, especially tonight, because you had just bought this velvet, burgundy button-up shirt yesterday, and you literally cannot afford to have him rip it off of you, since the only way he seemed to satiate his biological needs is like a feral, ferocious beast that might plunge into a roaring rage if he doesn’t slash your garments off and get inside you instantly – for he was the wolf and you were his sheep, and he likes to fill the bedroom floor with wool.

The dial tone comes to a halt and you hear: “Hello. You have reached the office of Dr. Risotto Nero. Please leave your name, phone number, and ideal appointment time, and I will get back to you as soon as time permits. I am located at room B-3 in the Psychology wing of Sapienza University of Rome, Monday to Thursday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Please feel free to drop in to make an appointment in person, or if you have any queries. Buona Giornata.”

You knew it was going to go to voicemail. Those of his credit and position within the field rarely deigned to attend a phone call. His voice, in your opinion, sounded deep and calm, yet enthusiastic for a chance to meet the next unstable person. Just when you thought you could discreetly make an appointment; you have to wait until Prosciutto is not within earshot to make a scene. Last time you were caught talking to a fellow male classmate, Prosciutto had dragged you to the nearest parking lot and rammed you raw from behind for an hour on his white Mustang.

Risotto Nero, you thought to yourself, probably has a part time counselling job at your university. He certainly wasn’t a professor your institute has ever been previously affiliated with – you would know because you have encountered every single instructor from your university. Your previous position as research assistant, during your undergraduate years that you had taken up solely to gain experience entailed conducting an analysis of mentorship and mentorship programs offered by the university for your department and their impact on the students, under Dr. Polpo had required you to be acquainted with everyone.

You light another cherry cigarette as the rain starts pouring again, harder and faster this time, yet no thunder. You look at your sleeping “lover” who is unaware of the strain he is adding to your already stressful and hectic life. The last thing you needed was to be a slave to his urges and whims on top of being a slave to your duties to your family, your supervisor, and ultimately the capitalist corporates you would work under. You thought to yourself, there must be more to life than this cycle of duty that keeps you afloat between professional and personal life.

You look at Risotto Nero’s business card one last time as you make up your mind to drop off for a counselling appointment when you go to submit the draft of your dissertation to the sadistic Dr. Cioccolata. You continue tidying up with a single-minded determination as you hear Prosciutto stir awake.