The wall-size screen was blank. White. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
A bead of sweat dripped down my nose, making the skin itch. I didn’t scratch it. My hands stayed on the chair arms, purposely open. Unlike the door behind me.I wasn’t alone in the too-large room. There was the sound of cloth shifting. Breathing. I kept my eyes forward.The screen turned black. Flashed bright. Color. Picture. Tristan.My hands shook from the effort it took not to clench the arm rest.The camera was set in the wall across from him. I couldn’t see his face because he looked down. Down at the button in front of him. Big. Red. Deadly.Or not.And that was the evil of it. Hope. They let you hope.The intercom was clear. “Mr. Donhoe, please press the button.”He shook his head, his hair flopping.“Now, Mr. Donhoe.”He raised his hand. It trembled. So did mine. He set two fingers against the button’s surface. Tristan pushed with his whole weight.It made a soft click when he removed his hand, popping back into place. The noise rung inside my ears.We both looked up at the same time, our eyes meeting, but not. We were frozen. Time was frozen. And then came the sound.The sound of one of the doors unlocking.The door on the left started to rise. My eyelid twitched, begging, pleading for me to close my eyes. I kept watching, waiting.Tristan’s eyes grew big. Then he looked down at his feet, his knees jerking, popping, trying to move. Metal straps made that impossible.My lips parted with a sucking sound. “No.”The word was lost amidst the whirring, as of a giant drill. It screamed through the speakers, first echoing off the walls, then the inside of my skull.The source of the noise appeared through the doorway; a long piece of metal, sharpened to a point, spinning, rotating, headed for Tristan’s face. Right between the eyes.I was on my feet, not remembering when I stood.Tristan tried to move again as the death weapon inched closer. Again. An inch. Again. An inch. Again.My mouth was open and something was pouring out, but it couldn’t be heard for the racket.Tristan crouched, putting his hands over his ears.The whirring stopped. The entire machine stopped. My screaming stopped, the last notes dying in the air. Tristan looked up. I moved closer. I felt that small flicker inside me. Hope.The metal bit dropped lower, relining itself with Tristan’s face. The buzzing split my heart in two.My hands hit the screen, the material stinging my palms. I hit it again. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. “No. No, no, no. Nononono.”The picture cracked under my fingers, splitting the metal rod into two segments.I paused, staring at the thin line, comprehending what it meant. And then, I balled my hands into fists.The cracks distorted the image, changing shapes into mere colors. I could hear the contraption getting closer. Closer to Tristan. My fist broke through.I pulled at the edges of the hole, ignoring the glass cutting into my skin. It didn’t matter. Someone grabbed my shoulder. That didn’t matter either.At least until they tried to pull me away. There wasn’t time for that.I brought my hand back, the last shard I had pulled away tight between my fingers. I didn’t hear the scream or cry of pain, just saw the blood that spurted all over my body.My hands were too slow. I brought my foot up, kicking the glass inwards. Tristan sat on the other side, covering his eyes. I thrust my head through, my shoulders, clawing my way to him. I fell onto the floor and crawled.Time was moving too fast. The machine was moving too fast. But I was moving too fast too. I slide between my little baby brother and the deadly point. He peeked between his fingers, his lips forming around my name.Black. Everything went black. And it still is.