Sixteen years, twenty nine days, and seven hours ago, I came to a certain point in my life.
In my dark corner, huddled under the cement staircase, I could hear them coming. My breath was as ragged and loose as a torn drum cover, and the adrenaline pouring through my veins didn't help calm my painful breathing. My hands were tightly clenched in a thin, cold sweat around the small dagger in hand. The white tile underneath was so shiny with lacquer that I could see the hazy reflection of the fluorescent light overhead. No other shapes were seen in the reflection, not even me.
I listened painfully through throbbing ears as the muffled, collective sound of footsteps grew louder and louder. They were getting closer by the second. I tried to catch my breath again, but I lost it through the desert of my throat.
Sixteen years, twenty nine days, and six hours ago, I had been told to run for my life.
The footsteps only grew louder, even though they had been trained to keep silent. I kept gulping in hurried, bleach-smelling breaths to calm my heartbeat. My body seemed to reject every attempt, as if I were supposed to stay in this miserable, fearful state. I prayed my fear would pass quickly.
There was a sharp, echoing clang as one of their long metal spears collided with the metal handrail of the staircase. It was so close, so sudden. My heart pounced at my rib cage and thudded loudly in my chest. I knew I didn't have much time left, but I was waiting. I couldn't leave until he got here.
Sixteen years, twenty nine days, and five hours ago, I was given this dagger.
I glanced at it again through my now throbbing eyes, and traced its familiar pattern mentally. Such a simple thing; I'd seen it a million times before, but never in my own hands. Never with the blade stained black with new blood. Never with the fear that I would have to use it in order to survive.
They fell silent on the staircase above me, and even the clang of the handrail against metal had died away as if it had never happened. With a thick cold sweat passing over me, I realized that they would be able to hear my ragged breathing. They'd know.
I winced at my own stupidity, and angled myself on the toes of my leather boots to run. I was posed to sprint straight for the exit door to my right, beside the end of the staircase. My body screamed in protest of moving so much. It felt like forever that I stayed in that stance, waiting, praying, wishing that he was just here already. Why wasn't he here yet? Had they gotten him too?
The dagger gripped so painfully in my hand clinked metallically with one of my copper bracelets. That one little sound, so innocent and meaningless, was my catalyst.
They heard it.
Harsh, gasping snarls roared from the staircase, and they continued their run to find me. Several spears bumped and rang into the handrail, and the sound was like a warning bell to my frightened ears.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed off the ground with the toe of my bloodstained boot and ran. My sight was set solely on the metal door with a thin line of sunlight peering underneath it. I had four yards to go, four yards to beat them to the door.
One was at the bottom of the stairwell a split second before me.
He had a shaven head, his skin the color of dried blood and mud. Huge, angry red scars carved their way from his temples to his chin, and I recognized him immediately because of this: Truann.
My gaze was shaky now, and I glanced from Truann to the door, gauging time and distance. It was very clear to me, by the time that Truann turned to face me with his spear in hand, that I was not going to make it to the doorway.
I sucked in a deep breath and shoved my heel into the ground to stop. A sharp sense of falling overtook me as I fell onto the slick white tile underneath, sliding helplessly up to Truann.
Truann grinned down at me, raising his spear ceremoniously above his head for the killing strike.
My dagger. I thought sluggishly, remembering the bloodstained weapon in hand. It was gone, somewhere out of my hand. I looked around wildly to see that it had skittered yards away, leaving tiny blood pools where it had bounced off the ground.
I looked back at Truann just in time for him to bring the spear down right through my heart.
Sixteen years, twenty nine days, and eight hours ago, I died.