Cole locked terrified eyes with Ira, the two standing within arms length away from each other. His toes had grown numb standing on the cold dirt ground. Small jagged stones poked into the bottoms of his feet, making them ache. Human soldiers stood surrounding them, their commanders forming a row in front. 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. He shivered, his skin raising in goosebumps. A soldier walked through the group carrying a large wooden 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.” his voice held no emotion as spoke, “You will fight to the death.”
Cole bit his lip, his heart in his throat as he reached for a knife. His fingers were so cold he could barely feel the handle in his hand.
Ira looked at him in disbelief, his eyes welling up, “I can’t.” he mouthed to Cole, his lips tinting purple from the cold, “I can’t.”
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 losing 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 knocking 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. Their parents had to be out still looking for them, this would give them a chance at finding them. They were sure of it. Ira rolled Cole onto his back and punched his face, his throat raw as he shouted anything and everything coming to his mind.
“I hate it here! I hate this!” he screamed, 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 handful of dirt next to him, shoving it in Ira’s face. As he rubbed the dirt in Ira’s eyes, an intense pain stung his hand, shooting up to his wrist. 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. Lying 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. “I killed him.” Cole thought in horror, his eyes tearing up. He pressed his fingers into his own injury, “I killed my best friend.” He bit his lip and continued to dig at his injury until the feeling in his chest stopped, and the pain in his hand was all he could feel.