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You tried to fight it for as long as possible, your muscles contracting as you pulled against them. But they held onto you tightly, squeezing your arms until it hurt and left bruises in the shape of sausage fingers. As they dragged you out of the boss’ room, you looked back at him once more with pleading eyes. You would do better next time, you swore, anything for the men to not throw you in that room. The boss scoffed at you. Did you really think begging would appeal to him? He despises begging. Begging was not done in a room like that, with its soft gray carpet, reprints of famous paintings and genuine leather sofa. That was a place of business, not pleading. You had sat on that worn leather sofa many times since you were a child. When the other furniture was replaced every couple of years, that sofa remained, with its splatter of darker patches and scrapes like someone tried to hang onto it for their life. You had always wondered why. Why just that one sofa? You had to admit, it was pretty comfortable, soft but not overly so; it could easily fit four people, maybe not four people the size of the ones that held you then, probably just the two of those goons. Eventually you had gotten the courage to ask why just that one sofa. The boss told you a horror story of him killing his father on it, which is where the dark spots came from. You never believed him, not until he gave the order of your termination. As the words rolled off his tongue you saw him for what he truly was, a monster in a man’s skin. Nonetheless, you begged for your freedom. The men’s feet pounded heavily down onto the red carpeted hallway. You struggled the whole way down. The men quickened their step, they preferred to drag rather than carry. Paintings of the family flashed by, but you didn’t need to go slowly to know who the paintings were of. Joseph. Nathaniel. Matthew. Michael. Alexander. The paintings continued until the current boss. Nikkolas. You
knew them by heart; you’ve studied them since you were two, forced to really. You hated it, for if you had missed or messed one up when the boss quizzed you, he’d beat you to near unconsciousness; if you messed up enough he’d have his men throw you into solitary confinement, five hours for everyone you messed up. The longest you’d ever been in there was a week, but that was for a different reason. For the paintings, the longest was two days, when you were two years old. You were thinking and struggling and not paying attention to where the men were taking you, you just felt their fingers release your arms and the blood rush into them. Then, you were falling, but not for long. No. You were hitting something. First, your knees hit the concrete steps. They slammed into you, just below the kneecap. Before a sound could escape from between your dry, split lips, you hit another step, that time, it was your arm and ribs. Eventually, you made it to the bottom, still alive. The ground was cold beneath your body as you tried to push yourself up. The men’s laughter echoed loudly in that cold cement hallway. One of them grabbed you by your shirt and jerked you up. He let go to push you forward and you took the chance to run. Did you forget that that hallway was a dead end? That all it led to was a solid steel door which led to just a room? The room they were taking you to. Or did the step you took to the head mess with your sense of direction? Did the blood that was running down your face distort your vision? Not that it mattered, the men easily caught you, the bigger of the two tackling you to the ground. His arms encircled your waist, the force and weight of him easily took you down. Your head hit the ground hard enough to make the world blur and spin. After which you compliantly stumbled along as they pulled you towards the door. It was the solitary room that they pushed you into. Normally that was it and they’d shut the door and leave you for however long it was that your punishment was to last. But this was different, you weren’t just being punished, you were being terminated.
They followed you into the room and handcuffed your hands above your head to the wall opposite of the door. Their laughter was loud and harsh until the door slammed shut, muting them. The room looked just like you’d remembered, not that it had been long since you’d been in there. The other men had told you that it had been padded because before, when men had been taken down there for termination, they’d kill themselves by smashing their heads on the wall before the executioner could get to them. They’d smash their heads just like pumpkins, the men would repeat to you, then demonstrate by throwing a pumpkin to the ground. You’d stare at the orange guts and slowly, in your mind, they’d turn red and it’d become a real head, with its brains splattered against the tiled floor. The men would have a riot when you would runaway crying. Sometimes the men would ask you how red the padding was when the guards would finally pull you out. And being a child as you were, you would answer them truthfully. There were red splatters, the men would laugh and walk away. The next time they would ask, there were even more red spots. They would laugh and walk away again. You snapped after the time you spent a week in there. A wall and a half were red, the floor was soaked and stained your clothing and skin red when you had sat on it, and you had thought the smell would suffocate you. You asked why it was so funny and why did they want to know. Why was it always redder when you went in there? You had to wait for the men to calm down before they answered you. They terminated men down there, didn’t you know what that meant? Of course not, you were only twelve. It meant that they tortured men to death. You had spent a week laying in other men’s blood. You vomited, right there in front of the men, they never let you live it down. Every time afterwards that you came out of solitary, they would make retching sounds at you. The day of your termination the walls swam red in front of you.
As your head throbbed and blood dripped down your face you wondered what it was you did exactly that pushed the boss to this decision. You’d done so many things the boss disapproved of – not being able to correctly identify the past bosses; refusing to shoot a cat and kill a man. There were others – more than one animal, more than one man you refused to kill every time and weren’t able to watch be killed. You tried to wipe the blood away before it rolled into your mouth but your hands were chained. Pulling at them did nothing but cause them to dig into your white flesh and for blood to roll down your arms. You knew screaming would do nothing so you didn’t bother, not like you did when you were two, screaming until your throat was raw and you coughed up blood. No. After a few times of that you knew better. No one was ever going to hear you and if they did, they wouldn’t help you. All of the other men who worked for the boss despised you. They thought you were weak and undeserving of the attention the boss gave to you. You wouldn’t ever be a man. In a way, they were correct, twenty-two is hardly a man. The guards left you for two days, not that you knew that. You drifted in and out of consciousness, your arms had stopped feeling funny after a while, the blood having drained from them and not restored immediately. The two days above, for the men, went by like you had never existed. The boss went about his business like he was not thoroughly planning your death. The ideas that flitted through his mind were horrid. Slowly burning you. Peeling your skin off. Taking you to the brink then bringing you back, over and over again. But I won’t torture you anymore with all of the ideas. After the two days just one guard walked into the room. Even though he towered over you, you glared at him, the blood made you appear more menacing, although the guard still just laughed at you. That was all he had come to do. Despite what you knew about the sound proofing, you screamed, that time it was a word. A single word that bounced off the closed door and fell to the blood stained floor. “Bastard.”
Nine days. Even when you were in there for a week, the guards gave you water, but not this time. No . You were allowed nothing, they didn’t need you to survive, they wanted you to die. After nine days the boss finally came down to see you, to dish out your final punishment. The door swung open and the dim light of the single bulb that hung outside of the room, made you flinch away. Your legs moved slowly as you pulled them to your chest, they limply fell to the side of you, too weak for the muscles to stay contracted. Your head lazily swung out from behind your arm to see who it was. The boss’ silhouette stood against the doorway, his shoulders taking up most of it, his arms were crossed. Your mouth opened but nothing came out, the only result was that your lips split and slowly bled. The boss said something but it was hard for you to concentrate. He asked if you knew why. Your thoughts started to move but quickly slowed, there was nothing, you were being reduced to a primitive state. The boss took your silence as a no. It was because you had caused Madaline’s death. His poor, sweet, innocent daughter’s death. If you had just killed the man you were supposed to, Madaline would still be alive and you wouldn’t have to be terminated. You remember that day. Don’t you? Even in your dehydrated state. The sound of the gun has echoed in your head ever since, the loud booming that was like a firework. The heart pounding fear that it was you who had been shot as you checked yourself. Then the heart stopping realization as you looked up and saw Madaline laying on the ground underneath the swaying swing. As your feet pounded against the paved path that led to the swings, you saw the man you were supposed to have killed two days before, running. Madaline was softly crying, hurting too much to cry and scream loudly. You held her body in your arms, she felt as light as a newborn. Her blood squeezed itself between your fingers as you tried to
cover the hole in her chest; it slicked them, making them slip over each other. Her face started to blur as your own tears fell. She was five. The boss was able to let everything else slide, but not this. Not his beloved only daughter. He looks at you now, his face in a sneer, he spits at your feet before leaves. As the door shuts you use all the energy you have left to scream. It is wordless, blood filled and painful. The pain makes my heart hurt as I wait in the corner. The blood that drips from your mouth as you lean forward blends into the old stains. The room is nothing but an old blood bath. I wish I could take you now, but I know your soul wouldn’t come willingly, you feel you deserve this for causing Madaline’s death, for not seeing that as the reason why. It is only a few moments that we have to wait for the boss to come back. He looks at you. Your arms chained above your head, which you hang in your shame and guilt. Your knees are under you so you are kneeling, the typical shamed position. “Raise your head.” His voice is hard and authoritive, one of the reasons he is boss and you are but a lackey. You look at him, your body shaking, if you were hydrated enough you’d be crying. “I don’t regret raising you." He raises the gun to your forehead. "I only regret the way I raised you.” Before you see nothing but red, you see the tears in his eyes. No longer is he a monster, he is just a grieving father. The boss drops the gun and leaves, not closing the door behind himself. I gather your soul into my arms and take you the way to Madaline.
*I’ll have cookies on Wednesday.
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