Greeting Death

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Five meals later, the lock on the door clicks open again. This time, I'm facing the door, knees pulled up to my chest.

Two guards walk in, holding a pair of cuffs.

"Is it time?" I ask, looking up at faces I don't recognize. Neither one of them look even a little sympathetic. One of them nods, and I push myself up off the floor.

There's no point in hiding from what's coming. I can't run, can't escape. Not this time. At least, when I die, there's a chance Isaac and I can be together again, wherever we end up in the afterlife.

One of the guards cuff me, roughly shoving my hands behind my back.

"You don't need to be so rough," I say, glaring at him, "I'm not fighting back."

He flicks me in the back of the head, and I turn back around.

The lights in the hallway hurt my eyes. I squint until my eyes adjust, stumbling out of the room. Pulled upright, I'm shoved forward again.

Lining the hallway are more doors, silver metal reflecting every bit of the bright lights. The doors have numbers on them, painted in white. Occasionally, as we pass one, I hear someone shouting or beating on the door. I'm reminded of the basement back in Dunlap, of the infected nesting in houses.

Pushing the memory back, I concentrate on walking, on trying not to trip as I'm led down the stairwell, to the first floor. One guard walks ahead, the other still behind me, holding my hands. The receptionist behind the counter watches me, eyes more curious than anything. I recognize her as a girl I went to school with. 

The guard in front waves at her, and she presses a button on the counter. The doors slide open, cold air rushing in.

The front steps have been cleared, a metal rod sticking up from the steps. There's a loop close to the ground on the pole. Everything looks just like the first execution I saw. The front lawn is also empty; all the tents have been moved away. They have made room for people to come later.

Snow dusts the ground, lining the concrete steps.

"What day is it?" I ask as the guard pushes me down to my knees, attaching my cuffs to the loop and pole.

"Mid-December," he says, blankly. I nod, situating myself where I'm sitting on my feet, not leaning on my knees. The concrete hurts. It's not supposed to be comfortable, though.

I missed my seventeenth birthday.

"You'll wait here," the guard says, as the other one leaves to go back into the facility, "You're scheduled for the firing squad after work dismisses tonight. It's still early. Hartley says you should have to sit out in the cold for a few hours so people can see you."

I look at up him, my breath spiralling in the cold air between us.

"Can I ask you some questions?" I ask. He looks annoyed but nods. "How often did they feed me?"

"Once a day."

I do a quick count in my head. I was in that room for almost three weeks.

"Who will be in the firing squad?"

"I don't know," he says, shrugging, "It doesn't matter, as long as they do their job. Is that all?"
I bite my lip, shivering.

"Thank you. That's all," I say, and he leaves me alone.

Hours pass, and all I have to do is watch people walk back and forth to work. Some of them stop and stare, others hurry past with their heads down. One person spits at me, cursing angrily as he stomps away. If they only knew what I had been through for them, they wouldn't treat me so bad. Every time someone says something mean, I shake my head, pity filling my chest.

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