As I stared up at nothing, watching as my vision grew dimmer and dimmer with every breath, I realized that the things people always said about dying weren't true. It wasn't peaceful; it wasn't serene. I wasn't passing on to a world free of sadness; I was being forcefully ripped from the only world I had ever known.
"Helena," I whimpered, clutching my sister's hand like a lifeline. Yet even the simple action of tightening my fingers around hers made me more tired.
"Shh, Cassie," she whispered, her free hand brushing my hair back from my clammy forehead. "Don't try to talk, just save your strength."
I struggled for breath, my lungs feeling tighter by the second. "I'm scared," I whispered.
"You'll be fine," reassured my sister, but I could hear the fear in her voice. She tucked the blanket around me, trying to distract herself as she lied to me. "Everything will turn out just fine, you'll see. You've been sick before, but you've always beat it. Always."
"I don't want to die," I sighed, breathing shallowly. I could feel the tightness constricting my lungs, trying to squeeze the last bit of life from my body.
"Everything will be alright," she tried to reassure me, but she couldn't feel what I could. The tightness, the approaching emptiness, the dread. "Remember our plan, Cassandra. Neither of us is going anywhere until we get away from here. That was our promise. Try to hold on to that."
"What the hell is going on here?" shouted a voice, making me flinch.
Helena reacted quickly, whirling to face the one thing that scared me almost as much as death. He stood in the room, not much taller than Helena's slender frame, but with a petrifying aura that made my heart pound faster.
"M-Master, she's my sister, and you know how s-s-sick she is. I have to stay with her," stammered Helena, casting her eyes to the ground.
"Do you think I give a damn who the little bitch is?" growled Master, his steely gray eyes flashing. "Now leave her here and get back to work. Now."
Involuntarily, my grip tightened around Helena's fingers. I wanted to let go of her hand. I wanted to save her from the beating she'd surely get for defying Master. I wanted her to go on thinking everything would be fine. Yet more than anything, I wanted her to stay with me. I didn't want to be alone.
"Please, Master," pleaded Helena, her composure breaking along with her voice. "Just let me stay with her. I'll make it up to you, however you want me to."
"That's a tempting offer," he growled, taking a step toward Helena like a predator sizing up his prey. He stood next to her, so close that even I could smell the stench of sweat and whiskey that always clung to him. Like a viper, he snared Helena by her wrist, his fingers digging into her skin. "But we both know that I don't need to do you any favors to get exactly what I want from you."
Master yanked his arm back, pulling my sister with him and wrenching her hand from my grasp. She screamed my name and kicked out at Master, her foot connecting firmly with his shin. He doubled over and let go of her for a moment. She rushed back to my side, taking my hand in both of hers.
"Cassie, I'm so sorry. For everything," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. I hadn't see her cry in years.
"It's okay," I said, managing a smile even as I saw Master standing up straight, his eyes gleaming with unconstrained rage. "Helena," I tried to choke out, tried to warn her, but it was too late. Master grabbed her by the shoulders, dragging her back to him.
"I won't leave her," screeched Helena, her voice feral, almost animalistic. She clutched my hand as he pulled her away, his arm snaked around her waist like a vicegrip. Even when Master lifted her right off the ground, she didn't let go of me. I tumbled to the ground, my arm outstretched and feeling as if it would be wrenched from the socket. The sudden change it weight knocked Master off balance, and he stumbled, dropping Helena back to the ground.
"Cassandra?" she whispered, reaching for me as coughs shook my body. I wanted to tell her everything; I wanted to thank her; I wanted to say goodbye. But I could only watch as tears rolled down her cheeks as she saw the blood that pooled at the corner of my lips.
"Enough," shouted Master. With one swift move, he brought his booted foot down on our entangled hands. I choked in pain as I felt the bones in my hand break beneath his foot. Helena whimpered, her fingers finally loosening through no effort of her own. Master reached down and grabbed Helena by the hair and dragged her to her feet. He shoved her out of the room as she still struggled, tears cascading down her face as she looked back at me. I could see the fear I felt reflected in her eyes as she opened her mouth to say something, but then she was gone, dragged out of my sight.
I lay there on the cold wood floor, struggling to breath as coughs continued to rip through my body. My vision flickered like a candle's flame, and fear lanced through my body like ice. I couldn't die like this. I wouldn't die alone, on the floor. I got to my hands and knees, watching as the floor was spattered red with every cough. I tried to get to my feet, but my legs didn't seem to obey me anymore, and I collapsed to the ground, staring up at the ceiling. There was no sudden calm, no tranquil memories of the one person I longed to see amidst all this terror. The only things I felt were the cold floor, the ice in my veins, the overpowering terror.
Despite everything, I didn't want this. The release I had sought my whole life was not death. My heart beat faster, as if trying to rip its way from that cage of ribs. I tried to breathe, but I couldn't, even as my hands groped uselessly at my throat. There was no white light, only darkness, emptiness, closing in on me from every side. I struggled to keep my eyes open, struggled to stay awake. I wouldn't let it take me. For Helena's sake, I couldn't. And then it was upon me. The emptiness was all around me, inside me, covering me. As I strove to breathe, my heart raced on, faster and faster, its thunderous pounding filling my ears. And then, all at once, there was nothing. I had never heard such silence.
[A/N: Please review and let me know what you think! I'll post more soon, hopefully, if there's any interest. Thanks for reading. ~DarkHawk.]