“Is it safe?”


“Is what safe?”


“Is it safe?”


“What? No. Yes. It’s safe, very safe. It’s so safe, you wouldn’t believe it”


“Is it safe?”


A pause. I struggled in the chair, the leather binds strained against my wrists and ankles, my head angled back, the searing white of an angle poise lamp blinding me. I swallowed hard.


“Is it safe?” Bertram stood over me with the dentist’s probe in his gloved hand. I tried to read his expression, but it was blank, unfeeling, like a doll.


“Yes! No. No, it’s not safe. It’s not safe at all”


There was a flicker of emotion of Bertram’s eyes, almost disappointment.


“Is it SAFE?”


“No. It’s not safe. NOT SAFE! Not safe at all. Really, really not safe. If you thought it was safe you need to get yourself over to ‘not safe, which is where it is. It’s not safe”


Bertram held the sharp end of the probe up to his face and picked an imaginary piece of dirt off it with his latex-gloved hand.


“Not safe? You sure?”


“Uh-huh. Yes. Not safe”


He nodded slowly, sighed and then placed his hand on my forehead and forced my jaw open. I struggled, moaning and kicking uselessly against the straps.


He kissed me and turned to the studio audience…


“Is the RIGHT ANSWER!!!”


The audience whooped and cheered, a sting of upbeat music played and glitter fell from the ceiling.


“It’s NOT safe! The correct answer was ‘strongbox’. Brian, you’re won the Ford Ka!!”


Two women in sparkly leotards came on and undid the straps and lead me from the dentist’s chair. The host shook my hands and put his arm around my shoulders.


“How are you feeling, Bri?”


“Over the moon, Al. Can’t believe it. I’ve had a brilliant day”


“A day that’s going to end with you driving home in the new Ford Ka!!”


The background set parted revealing a shiny red car. A blonde dolly bird was waving in the driving seat.


Al turned to me, his blinding white Hollywood smile a beacon of happiness and bonhomie. “Here’s the keys!”


He took my right hand and pushed the key into my palm. I winced and Al gripped my wrist tighter and pushed the key deeper into my skin. I made to grab him with my left arm but was held back by the two assistants.


“Al! JESUS! Ow! Stop! It hurts, man..!


“Oh, it hurts, man!” Al’s face curled into a mask of mocking hatred. “Is it safe, Brian? Is it SAFE??”


The key punctured my skin and blood began oozing up. I tried to kick out but I couldn’t move my legs.


I screamed as Brian twisted the key in deeper, my palm slippery with blood.




“Back with us, are we?”


I woke to find the face of my questioner staring down at me. My palm throbbed with agony. I tried to move my hand, but the straps on the dentist’s chair held me firm.


I angled my head as far as I could see and saw a dentist’s probe sticking out of my hand.


“Now, shall we start again, Mr Reeves?”


The questioner leant over and turned on an electric kettle on a table by the chair. The element began clicking and cracking as it super-heated the water.


“Is it safe?”


“No. It’s not safe”




“Its not safe”. I smiled. “It’s ‘strongbox’….”


The questioner’s face set. He nodded to a unseen lackey.


“Do it”


The kettle clicked off. I began laughing. And I couldn’t stop. An empty, desperate laugh that echoed off the walls of the cell.