50. A Ray of Hope
“Your friends have abandoned you, left you to die,” the man whispered over Blake, but the boy didn’t move. He didn’t have the energy for it, barely holding onto consciousness as it was. He vaguely felt hands on his chin, forcing his head up, but opening his eyes was too much effort. Besides, the darkness was easier, less painful.
A broken cough fought its way through him, sending shooting pain through his chest and bringing the taste of blood to his tongue.
“Gah, spoiled already. And he told me he’d send a good one… though you did get us a pretty big payout. Shame.” Blake blearily opened his eyes, but the room was still dark, still painful and shameful and bleak. Still futureless. Still powerless. Still weak. Still dying.
And it was cold. Blake thought it might be night outside, though he had no way of knowing. The stone walls and floor trapped the chill and stole his body heat. The fact that they hadn’t returned his shirt did little to help.
He didn’t know what was happening when someone grabbed his arm and pulled. Maybe they were bringing him for another show, letting someone else play with him and hear him scream. Blake knew he wouldn’t scream anymore, though, because crying took energy. He barely had the strength to breath, let alone waste oxygen on speech.
The cold got worse and worse, until he closed his eyes again and let himself drift on the waves of blackness, not dreaming because he didn’t have the desire for it. Pleasant dreams would only hurt all the more when he woke.
Only he must have dreamed without choosing it, because Blake thought he felt something rough beneath him, thought he sensed light beyond his eyelids. All he had to do was open them and… But no, hope was useless. Maybe he’d died and they were burying him. Or they were just skipping to the burying part without waiting for him to die.
A blaring horn startled him, scared him. After so many endless hours of silence, of his own screams and the laughter of those exacting them, the volume was staggering.
And it didn’t belong.
After a monumental effort, he managed to open his eyes, and Blake felt tears well up in his eyes once again. He knew this street. Finding the energy to get home wasn’t as hard as he’d thought as a sudden burst of hope lit in his chest, drowning out the pain lodged there.
The lights from the windows were like rays of hope, beckoning him forward.
Or temptation, drawing him further into hell.