Up close, guns sound more like cannons. It's overwhelming, all these cannons going off at once. I slam my hands over my ears to shield them. Something hot is sprayed across me, I open my eyes enough to see red spattering across my torso. I taste blood. Its not my own.

He screams. He screams and lurches back against his chair like he's been tied to it. The executioners bark orders, the canonfire stops and two men advance with shining bayonets.

He keeps screaming, clutching a limp red dog in his arms.

Oh God. He's bleeding and he can't bleed. He's got hemophilia, don't they know that? He can't -those screams!- he can't be bleeding like that.

Papa is lying on the ground. The men are all dead except for Alexei, who isn't really a man yet.

The women are sobbing, cowering on the floor. Mama is openly wailing, one of the executioners notices and aims his gun.

I selfishly wish Alexei would stop screaming.

The cannon silences Mama.

One of the bayonet's are plunged into Alexi's chest. They stab him over and over. I look away. He quakes each time a blade is rammed into him and a short cry is forced from his lips. A pool of red is beginning to slide down his arms and collect on the floor beneath him.

A command is barked, and the assault stops. For an instant, there is no noise but the terrified tears of the floored women. I look up.

Alexei nods his head up, and manages to gurgle. The eyes of the executioners get very wide. Is that fear behind them? Alexei releases his grip on the dog in his lap, it flops lamely to the floor like a sponge. He tries to stand, but the gushing from his chest convinces him otherwise. He stares at the executioners wide eyes.

Somebody mumbles something about the boy being cursed, or blessed, or somehow supernaturally endowed. By all rights he should be dead as his Papa right now.

One frightened bayonet wielder lunges forwards with a cry and embeds the blade in his throat.

I dissolve afresh into tears, unable to sneek any more glances at the gruesome scene. There is a lump of grief which I'm sure must be a stab wound itself in my own chest. Could they not be done quickly and spare at least our hearts? I curl into myself and let terror spin me into a tight silk ball of tears.

He slumps, hardly recognizable as the Tzarevich, into his chair. His face is a mask of red but for his eyes that are staring white and blue beams of horror into the executioners.

Another cannon. The bullet grazes his head, causing it to rock awkwardly to the side. Does he live still?

The man who had resigned himself to giving orders steps forth, shoving aside the useless gunman. His own weapon is hardly leveled with Alexei's head when he shoots a hole clear through the center of it.

My only brother dies sitting on a chair three feet away from me.

There are no words to describe the feelings when we are ordered to stand again.

Screams and wails, sopranos this time, are beginning to reverberate off the stone walls again.

And for the first time in my life, I am envious of my little brother.