Mind Your Manners
rating: +2+x

D-6721 felt the stiff collar around his neck. It made it almost impossible to crane his neck down, and reminded him of a starched collar from some trashy Victorian paperback. He could breathe just fine. His right arm felt numb, like a blood-pressure test before the “pop”. In fact, the band around his arm looked just like one. It was halfway between his shoulder and elbow, the skin was swollen red. The intercom crackled to life, from the top of the room. D-6721 stared ahead at the mirror, likely one-way.

“D-6721, describe the items on the table in front of you.”

D-6721 looked down, moving his whole torso forward. His right arm was locked into some sort of steel lunchbox-looking contraption bolted to the table that covered his elbow to an inch before his wrist. His hand was rested on a porcelain dinner plate. To the left were three forks atop a napkin. There was a butter plate above the forks. A tiny, seashell-cut piece of butter on top. A slightly serrated butter knife rested on the edge of the small butter plate. Blade pointed inwards, towards himself.

“Table settings, I think that’s the right phrase.” D-6721 noticed the vague bristle of his arm hair underneath the contraption: like a straight razor was angled the wrong way. It made him feel a bit uneasy. D-6721 noticed a small candle made of black wax, like the kind sold in a mall kiosk. It was already lit, a small puddle around the wick.

“D-6721, the device around your neck is a foundation standard shock collar. It can deliver anything from a static discharge to lethal amounts. For the sake of this experiment, the voltages administered will be restricted to non-lethal amounts.”

It wasn’t the first time he’d had one on. He braced for the incoming “test”. The metal tips at his neck hummed and then discharged. He jumped a bit in his seat, but it wasn’t as bad as he expected. No one ever was consistent with the dial. The intercom came back to life.

“Alright, test successful. Deterrents online.”

He wasn’t going anywhere with his arm clamped down. He was starting to lose even more feeling in his right arm, the sensation was fading fast. He wasn’t sure what this was all about, but he had a hunch. He heard a soft murmur over the intercom and realized he’d been absorbed by his arm. And whatever that box was.

“D-6721, do not be distressed by the proceeding event. You will feel no pain, but you may experience heavy bloodless. Foundation medical staff are on standby to make sure you do not pass out.”

Shit.

“However, this experiment is highly dependent upon your personal willpower. We will explain momentarily.”

The box started to hum like a soda fountain, and before D-6721 could panic, the vague bristling disappeared. Now, there was no sense at all.

“The severance procedure is now complete.”

“W-what the fuck?” D-6721 tried to move the deadened limb, rapidly trying to wrench it out of the box. There were flecks of blood that spat out of the end, way less than what seemed right.

“D-6721.”

He ignored them, continuing to try and remove the stump. Two rapid jolts from the collar, and he forgot about it for a moment.

“What did you do?!”

“Your right hand has been severed three centimeters before the wrist.”

“You fuckers!”

Zap. His throat clenched and spasmed. An involuntary string of spittle shot out.

“D-6721, you will be permitted to leave if you’re able to complete one simple task.”

“W-what do you want?” He was seething, but mostly in shock.

“Consume your right hand.”

D-6721 looked down at the plate. There was a small string of blood seeping out from the wrist.

“Oh God.”

D-6721 reached his left hand up, picking up the fork to the far left.

What am I doing?

Bzzt.

“That’s the salad fork.” said the man on the intercom, monotone with a hint of disapproval.

“Come on!” D-6721 was exasperated. He dropped the fork, grabbing the second one

Bzzt.

“Fish fork.”

D-6721 clenched his teeth. Process of elimination, it had to be the last one. He held it in his fist, tines down like a psycho killer’s knife.

He took in a breath, realizing there was only one way out.

D-6721 plunged the fork down into the flesh between his fingers. He felt sick, the world a bit wavy as the reality set in.

“Good job, D-6721. Did you remember to say grace?”

“N-no?”

Bzzt.

He almost let go of the fork.

“Wait, how are you holding that fork?”

“I dunno. It's a fork.” He replied, his fist shaking, idling.

“Hold it properly.” His voice was like a sitcom dad urging his son to take out the trash.

“I can’t.”

“Well why not?” he seemed angry, exasperated.

“I’m right-handed.”

Dr. Kells’ finger lifted off the intercom button with a click. He looked back over his shoulder at Technician Rhys.

“You said he was left-handed.”

“He said he was ambidextrous.”

Dr. Kells clicked the button.

“D-6721, you said you were ambidextrous.”

“Oh, yeah."

Both rooms fell silent for a moment.

"I lied.”

“God damn it, Rhys." he shouted, not taking his finger off the call button.

“Well, how was I supposed to know?” Rhys shot back, defensively covering herself with her clipboard.

D-6721 spoke up.

“You could cut off my other hand.” he said

“D-6721, that’s fucking dumb.”

“He’s gotta do it the right way.” Rhys shouted her support from behind.

“I’ll hold it with my teeth if I have to.”

“You won’t have to,” Dr. Kells sighed. “Scrub the "Feast of the Iwotan", we can’t have someone keep messing it up.”

“What does this mean for me? I still got one hand.” D-6721 asked.

“No, no, no. You don’t go back. We’ve already stretched it enough with the whole wrong fork thing. We’ll get someone else.”

D-6721 let go of the fork. It stuck into the flesh and poked out like a ship’s mast. He took his left hand and flicked the tip, watching it wobble like a vaulting pole.

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