Behind the Door: June, A Good Death

Pole couldn’t move his arms and legs. Fear took the strength from all of them, leaving him completely helpless. He knew, of course, that one response to fear was freeze, but it didn’t make it better while he was experiencing it. When his captors dumped him on the ground, it took moments before he could pull himself even up to his hands and knees. Before he could do so on his own, one guard pulled him up the last few inches, but at least when they let go, he finally had enough stability to not simply flop to the ground again.

“Now,” a dark and authoritative voice said. “You will tell me where your friends are hiding.”

His arms trembled again, but they didn’t fail. He said nothing, which was the best he could do. Really, he was proud of himself for even that. The last time he’d felt anything close to this level of fear, he’d begun talking immediately. Of course, that time he’d had nothing to stop him from sharing. He’d owed no allegiance to the people he was betraying, but given he wasn’t used to caring about anyone, it was strange to know he could keep silent for any reason at all.

“Tell me where your friends are hiding,” the voice repeated, and Pole finally looked up to see who was making the threats.

It was Lord Kelroc himself, large and solid and looming taller than even the public addresses could possibly have made him seem. Terror landed in the bottom of Pole’s stomach. If he did not tell him what Kelroc wanted to know, he would die. He knew that the way anyone who had grown up in this area of space knew it. But if he told Kelroc what he wanted to know, then Pole’s friends would die.

And he had friends. For the first time in his life, he had friends. He had people he cared about, people he owed, people he wanted to protect. Pole would not tell Kelroc anything. He would not say a word. He was going to die.

The fear bled away as he made that decision. Terror faded in his stomach, strength returned to his limbs, and he found each breath coming easy and strong. He was going to die, but he was okay with it. His friends would survive their mission. They would get what they needed to make a better strike against Kelroc’s iron grip on the galaxy. With his silence, perhaps he would even save lives of strangers who would otherwise die at the dictator’s command.

It was a better death than he’d thought he would get. A better death than he deserved.

“Tell me,” Kelroc insisted, and Pole said nothing. He’d like to make some declaration, to tell them he would never do that, but it was alright. He was doing more than he’d ever have expected from himself to keep silent in the first place. Speaking now, even intending to refuse, he might reveal something that would put his friends in danger. After all, he was no hero. But he could do this much.

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by | Jun 27, 2024