Author's Note: So this is kind of part of a longer piece, but given that I'm never going to write the rest of the story down, it's also a standalone. Therefore you are free to read whatever you like into it.

The only thing I will say is that they're not in space. I said 'shuttle' because I wanted a general-ish word, and 'vehicle' sounded weird in the context. I wasn't sure where to put it, so it went in sci-fi.


It was stifling in the shuttle, and neither of them was quite sure whether it was actual heat or claustrophobia. One sat in the corner farthest away from the doors, holding his head in his hands the best he could with his wrists bound together. The other became increasingly restless.

He sat still in the opposite corner, by the door. After a while he tugged out the cross he was wearing inside his jacket and looked at it, turning it in his hand for while, before letting it fall. He stood up and walked the full length of the shuttle, then back to his seat several times, before finally stopping in front of the prisoner.

He stood and stared down at him. After a few minutes, the prisoner looked up, peering out from between his hands and his fringe.

"Did you want something?" he said.

"How old are you?" said the guard.

The prisoner took his hands away from his face. "Older than I look." The guard nodded slowly, then turned and walked back to the doors.

A few more minutes passed. "I'm twenty." said the prisoner. The guard nodded again.

"Yes." he said. "You do look younger."

"I know." said the prisoner. "People keep telling me that."

The guard sat down again, but stood up after a few seconds, and paced up and down the shuttle again. He stood facing the door for a moment, then looked over his shoulder at the prisoner.

"Are you scared?" he said. The prisoner turned to look at him.

"Why do you ask?" the guard shrugged. "A little. I suppose. What about you?"

"Me?" he said, taken aback. "Why would I be scared?"

The prisoner shrugged. His handcuffs jingled. "You seem scared. Have you done this before?"

"We... don't take many prisoners." said the guard.

"I know you don't. Neither do we." he said.

The guard sat down again and stared intently at the opposite wall. There was silence for a few minutes. "If I were you," he said eventually. "I'd be more scared."

"Well, you're not me."

"Especially because you're going to hell." he turned to face the prisoner. The prisoner stared back, and for a moment they made eye contact, and for a moment it was almost a competition to see who'd look away first, but then they both turned away, almost at the same instant.

"Yes," said the prisoner. "If you like."

"I'm serious! said the guard.

"I know." said the prisoner.

"And you are."

"I know."

"I'd be scared." the guard leaned back against the wall.

"I don't believe in hell," said the prisoner at length. "And everyone dies. I'd rather not do it this way, but these things happen."

The sound of the engines that they'd become rather used to changed pitch. They both started, then realised they were slowing down. "I think we're there." said the prisoner.

The guard stood up. "We do have to do this."

"I know you do." said the prisoner, climbing to his feet with some difficulty.

The shuttle stopped, so abruptly that they were both almost thrown to the ground. One steadied himself with his hands; the other was thankful that the wall behind him stopped his fall.

After a moment, the guard slid the door open. Light streamed in from outside, dazzling them both for a moment. "We do have to do it." he said.

"I know." said the prisoner, walking down towards the doors. "You said."

He paused for a moment before climbing down to the ground.

"May God have mercy on you." said the guard.

"Thank you." said the prisoner. "Thanks." Then he stepped down into the light.

The guard watched him go. His fingers brushed the cross around his neck. "We have to do it." he said quietly.


Well?