The ground was cold dirt and rocks under his numb toes. Cole locked terrified eyes with Ira, the two standing within arms length away from each other.
Human soldiers stood surrounding them, their commanders before them in the front row. A fire blazed next to them, making Cole feel dizzy from the light dancing around them.
Ira chewed on his bottom lip nervously, wrapping his arms around his bare chest in a vain attempt at warming up.
A soldier walked through the group carrying a large crate and dropped it next to the boys, causing the two to startle.
Casually he pulled out two knives, setting them down on the crate, “This is a survival test.”
Cole bit his lip, his heart in his throat as he reached for a knife.
Ira looked at him in disbelief, his eyes welling up, "I can't." He mouthed to Cole, his lips tinting purple from the cold.
Rubbing his eyes with the palm of his hand, Cole struggled to hold back the tears. He knew what would happen to them both if neither of them did anything. He'd rather be killed than go through the torture again.
"Pick it up." He said to Ira, nodding to the knife, "Just pick it up."
Sniffling loudly, Ira picked up the other knife and held it out before him. He turned to Cole, his eyes red from crying. Cole held his knife tightly in front of himself, waiting for the order.
A commander barked at them to begin, and the group of soldiers began placing their bets. Yelling at who they wanted to win to make a move.
Ira shook his head, "I can't." He mouthed again.
Lunging forward, Cole tackled Ira to the ground knocking the knife from both their hands, "You have too," He whispered in his ear, "You have to try."
"I can't kill you." Ira cried, struggling against Cole's hands on his throat.
Cole leaned in, "Just like training, but be loud." He hissed, giving Ira a look before loosing his grip a bit.
Catching on, Ira placed both hands on Cole's chest and pushed him. He screamed as he sat up, punching Cole across the face and knocked him to the ground. The two struggled against each other, screaming above the grown men yelling at them. Screaming in hopes someone else would hear them and possibly save them.
Ira rolled Cole onto his back and punched at his face, his throat raw as he shouted anything and everything coming to his mind.
"I hate it here! I hate this!" He shouted, punching Cole until his hand missed and hit dirt. Cole headbutted him in the nose, causing a spray of blood to squirt from Ira's nostril.
Ira's hands instinctively clamped over his face, giving Cole the chance to throw him. Ira fell, the heat from the fire warming the back of his neck.
"Kill! Kill! Kill!"
Cole crawled to Ira, his left eye nearly swollen shut from Ira's punches. He wiped the blood from his other eye, and climbed to his feet towering over his friend.
Ira rocked back and forth in agony, struggling to make the pain go away so he could continue to fight. He couldn't breath in through his nose any longer, and the blood pooling in his mouth made his stomach turn.
Cole kicked him in the side, "Get up!" He yelled, "Get up!"
Ira crawled around the side of the fire, trying to distance himself to give him a chance at recovering some. He pushed himself up onto his knees, blood dripping from his face onto the ground before him.
The soldiers were stomping now, waiting for Cole to find his knife and finish Ira off. The sound made the hairs stand up on the back of Cole's neck. He moved towards Ira, hoping something would happen to end their fight, anything.
Ira looked up as Cole stepped before him, and tackled his legs. The two fell, Cole's head hitting the ground with a loud thump. He shouted in pain and grabbed a hand full of dirt next to him, shoving it in Ira's face. As he rubbed the dirt in Ira's eyes, an intense pain shot up his hand. He reeled back clutching at his hand as Ira screamed turning away.
"My eyes!!" Ira shrieked, clawing at his face.
Cole scrambled away in terror. His hand burned something fierce, the skin peeling away from his palm. Laying near Ira's withering body was a smoldering orange ember from the fire.
"Get some them some water." The commander from before called out, making a few of the soldiers groan in disappointment, "That's an order!"
Cole watched with horror as the commander and another soldier held Ira down to pour water over his burns. His best friend screaming in excruciating pain until he abruptly stopped and was silent.
His eyes watering up at the scene, Cole pressed his fingers into his own injury. He bit his lip and continued to dig at his injury, until the feeling of wanting to cry stopped, and the pain was all he could feel.