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Betrayal

The room was so dark. I couldn’t even see my arm stretched out next to me as I lay curled on my side on the cold floor. In the back of my mind, there was a voice screaming at me to get up and run but I couldn’t move. There was a fire burning in my chest and my legs felt like the bones had been removed. I could feel blood drying on the remaining tatters of my shirt. My head felt like it was surrounded by a dense fog; I couldn’t remember how I’d even gotten to this room. I think I was dragged but I can’t remember why. The only sound I could hear was the quiet gasps of breath I was managing; how long before my lungs stopped working? The pain. It was just too much. Never, never had I felt this much pain. Flashes of old injuries skirted through my cloudy mind: a broken arm from falling out of a tree, slipping down a small cliff and hitting my head. But the echoes of pain from the memories cannot even compete with the sheer agony my broken body was experiencing now.

I lay there, shivering and waiting, praying for the anguish to cease, for my lungs to stop pumping so I could escape this darkness I was caught in. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recognized the sound of a door opening and the barely-there pad of footsteps approaching.
“Kaila,” a voice whispered, taunting my muddled mind with familiarity. My natural instinct was to turn towards the sound. Just barely shifting my body weight made me moan.
“Kaila,” the voice whispered again, closer. This time, I fought the pain and lifted my head to see who was calling my name.
There he stood. Though I had known him all my life, the boy standing before me was a stranger to me. His unruly ebony-colored locks lay confined with a leather string at the base of his neck and the stormy gray eyes that used to regard me with warmth and amusement now looked like they’d been molded out of steel. Even the way he stood was different; no longer did he lounge about comfortably but he stood tall and straight like a soldier at attention. Seeing him like that, after all this time, shook something within me. That’s when I remembered.
“Joel,” I whispered, “why?”
He laughed, a cruel choking sound I’d never heard him make before.
“Because, Kaila, now I can have what I’ve always wanted: freedom,” he replied haughtily, “You could have had that too, if you hadn’t been so stupid.”
Mustering up my strength, I glared at him. “I’d rather be stupid, as you say, and die as myself than live with your ‘freedom’ and die as a slave of the Representatives!” I spat.
“Now, now Kaila, that’s not a nice thing to say,” he scolded, shaking his head, “you’ll pay for that, you know.”
I closed my eyes, wincing at the memories of the things the Representatives have already done to me. I didn’t care. Anything was worth escaping them. Anything.
“You could still change your mind, Kaila,” Joel said to me, his eyes almost like the ones of the friend I had once known, urging me to join him yet again.
I shook my head, ignoring the pain that built up behind my eyes.
“Fine,” he said, his eyes steel once again, “have it your way.”
He marched over to me, yanking me up to my knees. Agony ripped through my limbs, protesting my new position. My cuts oozed fresh blood where the scabs had torn. Muscles that had quieted now raged in anger; fire raced from my heart. Air now came in gasping gulps as I tried to stay conscious.
“Poor Kaila,” Joel taunted as he glared down at me, “she’s hurting. I can fix that.”
He strode back to his spot by the door and I had the vague realization that a satchel of arrows hung across his back. Joel turned around and brought the bow in his hand up in the proper hunter’s stance, the loaded arrow pointed straight at me.
“Joel,” I whispered, “You don’t have to do this.”
“Begging does not become you, Kaila,” he replied, his eyes glinting.
“I’m not begging,” I gasped, “I’m reminding.”
A slight flash of confusion ran across Joel’s gaze as he truly looked at me for the first time; me, the girl he’s known all his life, and not the body of a traitor he’s been told to dispose of. The tip of the bow tilted down just a tad. Now was my chance to tell him or without a doubt, I would die at his hand.
“Joel,” I murmured, “please, don’t do this.”
“You’re not making this any easier, Kaila,” he replied through gritted teeth as he stretched the bowstring taut again, “I have to do this!”
“Please, Joel, I lo-“
But it was too late. I heard the twang of the arrow as it left the bow and felt the impact as it hit me in the chest. I’m not sure what truly killed me, the arrow or my heart shattering because of the words I wasn’t allowed to say.



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