It was darkness everywhere when K. opened his eyes. "Oh dear, how long have I been asleep?" K. cried out in confusion. Recalling that there was some urgent task that he had to accomplish before the morning, he let out sighs and grunts of resignation and asperity punctuated by twinges of misgiving. Just as he was ready to get out of bed to work, he experienced an acutely unpleasant ache, as though a balloon had exploded in his head. As K. tried to lift his right hand and rub his temples to assuage the pain, he felt such a lacerating pain coming from his right arm that his whole body twitched and cringed. Ironically, that reaction only contributed to his plight being more insufferable, since the movement of his body had been more restricted than his instinct could have accounted for. That movement forced K. to collapse in a tilted position that marginally favored his wounded arm, an involuntary arrangement of body parts that is very much like that a badly injured insect would assume. Instantly K. was drenched in sweat. From the point on his arm, pain flowed like a hot needle perforating the insides of his whole body.

It was a marvel- or insanity- that K. persisted in fighting off the pain. Endeavoring to prop himself up on his left elbow, K. fumbled about with his left hand in an attempt to grab hold of something. It wasn't anything in particular that K. had in mind of securing. It could be his distressed leather wallet, his square-paneled Tag Heuer watch, his Playboy cigarette case that his big brother secretly gave him as a birthday present, or the dog-eared picture that K. secretly took of a girl called Allyson, whom K. met in college. Each year that went by after college had been additional proof that he could never forget her. That picture was taken when their relationship was at the stage where the line between friendship and romance was steadily dissolving, where the tension of uncertainty was transforming into the bond of attachment. The picture showed a not-so-becoming portrayal of Allyson lying prostrate on the ground, wearing very disheveled hair and clothes. The snapshot was taken just when Allyson was shaken up with a hangover, as she looked up from the ground and her hand was reaching out towards the camera, with a half-offended­­, half-pleading look.

Even in his current state, that look never failed to fascinate K., who was tenderly tracing with his finger the wrinkles on Allyson's forehead and her pouted lips in that imagined picture in his hand. How many times did he reminisce by himself about the irretrievable moments they shared? Allyson and K. were introduced by their mutual friends in an ice-skating rink, an encounter which could have been a pleasant one, if not for the fact that it was supposed to be a blind date set up for them. That awkwardness led to a period of rightful silence for a few weeks, until by chance they were connected again at a party on New Year's Eve. In no time were they chatting about the most trivial subjects on phone overnight. In no time were K. allowed and accepted into Allyson's inner social circle. Although their relationship was never officially announced, everyone, including her parents, treated K. as if he was Allyson's boyfriend. Everything was going perfectly. Official or not, they were a happy couple. She was happy.

He still couldn't understand why. Why what happened had to happen. What he was certain, though, was that it all began on the day of the commencement ceremony, when they were supposed to embark on a journey together in a new and exciting chapter of their life. K. knew his life was going to change forever after that day, and indeed it was- but the direction of change was beyond what K. could have ever imagined.

It was a sultry summer day- the early afternoon sun, glinting off the rayon or satin gowns every student was wearing, was lent its full presence by the cloudless sky. K. arrived early, showed his parents around the campus, chewed the fat with a few friends, devoured a lot of punch. What a great day it was, K. recalled himself thinking then, how happy I was when the best had yet to come. Allyson. He recalled how much he looked forward to seeing her on that day. He was planning to move forward in their rather enigmatic relationship- "to seal the deal" as they say, although he wasn't sure how or what he should do.

The guest speaker was about to speak. Allyson had not shown up yet. It was not totally surprising to K. at that point, as Allyson had a track record of being late on important occasions, like on her father's birthday. After many rounds of hand-clapping and mechanical laughter at jokes, Allyson still wasn't there.

"Sorry, but she said she couldn't be with you right now." That was what her parents finally concede to tell him, as though it was out of pity, after he called her cellphone a hundred times without an answer. He called and asked every one of her friends, but they all claimed that they didn't know what was going on. He was sick of hearing "sorry". From K.'s perspective, it seemed as though Allyson had become a missing person, even though the only person to whom Allyson was apparently missing was him.

When K. was ready to confront Allyson in person, he found out that her whole family was gone. They sold their house in town and nobody could tell him where they went. Now K. had only a few more persons to add to his missing-person list.

What did K. think about all of these? He had a lot of theories. He tried a lot of things. He thought he was going crazy. But that was in the past now. At present, he was not thinking about why. He was only thinking about the only regret he had- he never told Allyson that he loved her. Perhaps that's why she left. Right now, he felt that was a rather plausible answer. He felt like having a cigarette. No, nothing less than whiskey would do.

That unstoppable train of thoughts provided the perfect distraction to K. by way of relief to his physical pain, until K. was startled again by his free-roaming hand knuckling something off to the ground. K. wasn't sure what it was, although it felt rather heavy and he expected a nasty thud on the hardwood floor of his room. Instead, all he could hear was a soft, muffled sound of something hitting a carpeted floor.

"What is going on here?" There shouldn't be anything on the left side of his bed. There should be no bedside table, chair, or anything to support the object he knocked down. There shouldn't be any carpeting in his room.

K. felt a coil of cold, intangible fear creeping up his spine like little vermin crawling under his bed sheet. He was compelled to turn over and get up, but K. recalled the horrible pain the last time he tried. As a matter of fact, the pain was coming back to him already, though in a milder, duller form. He was breathing heavily, his mouth was dry to the point that his own breath nauseated himself. It was a terrible condition he was in, no doubt, but, for better or worse, he must do something. He felt sick lying there, helpless. "There must be an explanation." His sanity was still intact, but his whole body was trembling. When he calmed down a little, the first thing he noticed was that, ever since he was not moving his right arm, the pain was much more manageable. Feeling about with his left hand around his right arm, he was startled to learn that there was something- a long and thick tubing so cold and stiff that it felt to be made of glass or metal, rather than plastic or rubber- attached very firmly onto his right forearm. "What the hell is it? It is not my room, it's not my bed, it's not my home." It was uncertain whether his rage or fear was stronger. "Where the hell am I? Who the fuck did this to me?"


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