She whispers fervently, fingers hooked onto the bars, half-kneeling and half-crouching. Why him?
Cloudy blue eyes regard him with intense pleading and anguish that a thousand years of mourning couldn’t even begin to compare with. And for a second, for a fraction of a second, he feels guilt. But just as quickly as it was there, it flitted away, lost in the wind and never to be felt about her or her child ever again. It wasn’t his fault, nothing ever was his fault anymore. He didn’t get to make decisions, didn’t get to say orders – he just followed them. And he followed them well.
He steps back, eyelashes lowering in dismissal? Refusal? Shame? Whatever it was, he no longer cared. Could no longer care.
Retreats, head high with non-existant pride, and places a hand on the shoulder of the young boy, trembling beside him. He hopes it’s comforting – not really sure if the boy even realizes his fate. Then pauses and reflects. Surveys the dingy hall and eyes the sequential barred doors, changing his mind. Here, where friends were rats and fellow damned, everyone knew where eventually they were all going. For some, straight to hell. And others to fire and back. He wasn’t sure which was better: to die or to die inside and live?
“Say good-bye to your mum.”
The boy turns back once and lifts his hand. He hears the faint sob tumble out of the boy’s mother and then he’s marching forward. It’s not his fault.
“Will I ever see her ‘gain mister?”
He thinks for a bit, pushing his tongue into the cheek of his mouth. He doesn’t need to lie, but sometimes they prefer the lies over the truth. In the end, he decides to give the boy a choice – a choice he failed to give to the others, already knowing the answer they’d give. “You can if you want. Or you can stay with the others.”
The boy’s shoulders seem to ease up a bit with the hope of returning to his mother but then quickly fall back down in dejection, a stabbing question piercing his mind. “How..” he lowers his gaze to the floor moving under their feet, “How come the others don’t come back then?”
“They don’t want to come back.” Simple and short, and he motions the boy to step forward into the next hallway.
They make their way through several more hallways, stairs, floors and doors, before the child tugs his arm with an innocent timidness that almost makes him choke. Five years now and he still hadn’t gotten any stronger, had he? It might even be more real to say that he’d actually gotten softer.
“Why don’t they want to?”
He swallows the lump in his throat and mentally distances himself as always. “You’ll see,” he replies, grit in his teeth and rumble under his tongue, much more harshly than he had intended. They were not friends and the boy certainly shouldn’t believe he could lean on him. He was essentially the boy’s executioner, as he was bringing the boy to a future full of suffering. Perhaps actually being an executioner would have been easier.
There’s silence for the rest of their walk, until they stop in front of red and golden doors. lights peeping from under, enticing and promising though of the two, only he knew how very well looks can be deceiving.
The door opens and an equally emotionless gaze meets his. They’ve performed this drill too many times. “The bath is ready for him.”
He nods in response and pushes the boy forward. “Blue eyes this time, correct?”
“The master said the sky was beautiful today,” the woman laughs cynically, “he wishes to taste that beauty.”
He nods again, stoic and resigned. It’s time.
The woman grabs the boy’s arm and urges him in, shutting the door behind him.
And the last thing the man sees is a small pale arm reaching back for him and pleading aqua orbs asking him why.