The First Door:

Denver, over protests that mostly catch in my throat, charges through the left door. I stand in the near dark for a moment, grieving for my brother and deciding what to do next. I can’t hear anything. I’m keyed up enough to feel sick. I open the door and walk into complete blackness. The door clicks closed behind me and I stupidly take a step forward. My foot hits something solid. I trip and lurch forward, landing hard on my side. I get my arms beneath me and orient myself to Denver, who is laying on the floor.

I try to get up on my knees, but all of my muscles seize at once. I feel my bladder let go and fall forward again, this time on my face. I try to get up again, but my arms aren’t cooperating.

The room lights up. I see Denver, out cold, laying beside me and several pairs of shoes.

“Two for one!”

I try to get a better look at the room, to assess just how fucked we are, but a boot makes hard contact with my side.

“Stay down, partner, it’s easier that way.”

I close my eyes to focus on breathing. Something cold on the back of my neck gives momentary relief.

“Let’s do this one first. The other’s going to take a while.”

“Do you just want to leave the big one here? We’ve got enough for tonight.”

“Are you kidding me? We lost the fucking election because of shit like that. How can you be a blood cult without blood?”

“You’re right. May G’huun forgive me.”

“Just hope they don’t ask for yours next. The young one wants to be a senator next.”

“I don’t know if there’s enough for a ritual that big.”

They break into braying laughs.

“They keep showing up, don’t they?”

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