The night was drowning in screams, and their minds were drowning in fear.
Helplessly, the soldiers writhed within the grip of the boy, desperation percolating from their very beings as blood might gush from a severed limb. Beneath their lacerated flesh, their hearts were being crushed, their lungs squeezed of all air. Life, slowly, was being denied of them. It was a wonder any of them still had the strength to gasp, let alone scream.
He could sense their agony, their lament, almost as if it was a sixth sense. But to release them would be to subdue to a life of calamity, and the boy didn't want that. No, he told himself. He had to kill them just as Mother had instructed him to... She had told him of the torture they would force him into should he disobey, and Mother was always right.
Trying to cut out their screams, the boy clenched his fists, ignoring the salty tears that sliced through the accumulating grime and blood that layered his cheek. Hunt them as they have hunted us, Mother had told him. Kill them before they kill you. Mother only wanted the best for him - that was what she always said. She wanted him to be happy. So why, the boy wondered - the agony of the soldiers melting together with his own anguish - why did this feel so wrong? Why wasn't he happy? Mother said he should be happy if he did this, but the boy knew happiness. Wasn't happiness that beautiful, incomparable sensation that almost never touched him? Maybe he was wrong. Maybe this was happiness. Maybe it was the feeling that was painfully similar to illness, the tearing of his gut. Yes, the boy thought. That shredding, destroying emotion had to be happiness - Mother said that he would feel revenge in killing these people, and revenge and happiness were the same thing.
Mother had told him so, after all.
Suddenly, the boy was hit with realisation: the screams that pierced his ears like daggers were not of the soldiers, trapped within the grasp of his revenge. They were his own: his throat felt like fire and the soldiers were rendered incapable of speech. He shouldn't be screaming. Would Mother be disappointed in him? She had told him that he should laugh at their torment, bathe in their agony.
The boy tried to laugh; Mother was the wisest person in the world and she knew best. After all, she had told him. But even though Mother had told him to laugh, and she was always right, the boy could not laugh. He could only scream, could only wail, could only sob.
Something collided with the boy, knocking his weak and frail body to the ground. His concentration slipped, and the soldiers were released. Their bodies crumpled lifelessly to the floor, silent and unmoving. The boy tried to hope that they were dead. Mother wanted them dead, and the boy always had to obey Mother.
Struggling to his feet, the boy inspected his assailant: a tall, broad man with cold blue eyes and a diamond-encrusted blade. Instantly, the boy recognised him from Mother's stories. He was the Leader: their sworn enemy. The one who had hunted Mother down, and had tried to kill her.
The Leader was the one they really wanted to die, said Mother. He had to die above all.
Crying out, the boy caught the Leader within his grip, hearing at first his screams and then his panicked gasps as he struggled for air. The boy felt sick - maybe he was ill. He wasn't feeling right, and Mother had said this would be the greatest day of his life.
Yes, he told himself. She hadn't been wrong: he was just sick, and that was why each scream sent convulsions running through his body, why each fading heartbeat that he quenched felt like a blaze within his chest and head. That was why he was feeling terrible, the boy nodded quietly, as he finally allowed the Leader's corpse to drop the the ground, devoid of all life. It wasn't the killing that made him feel like this, it was simply the disease.
Mother had called these people diseases, though. Weren't diseases invisible, carried through the air? The boy didn't care. He knew now, that Mother hadn't been wrong, and that at least was a comfort in the midst of his own tears.