The Black Door

by Kinsey Holt

“Prisoner 520 to the interrogation room, prisoner 520 to the interrogation room.”

The overhead com goes off with a crackle of static. Footsteps begin thudding down the hall, approaching my cell. I remain seated, elbows on my knees, back hunched, head down. Father’s words still echo in my mind. Be honest. Be loyal. A man cannot be honorable without those traits.

But whoever said I wanted honor?

Boots scrape to a stop on the other side of the bars. Shadows fall over me.

“Prisoner 520, rise and do not attempt to resist,” says the lieutenant. A key turns in the lock and the cell door slides sideways.

I stay where I am, summoning only the minutest effort to lift my head and stare at them from behind my long, unkempt hair. I’ve already done the hard work of getting myself here. I’m not about to bow and scrape to a lowly lieutenant.

Two men in fatigues stride into the cell and seize me under each arm, hauling me off the hard stone bench. I let them pull me into the hallway, bright and clinical under glaring white lights.

There is a door to the right, at the end of the hall. I turn and gaze at it, the mere sight causing a visceral reaction. My stomach twists, and again, I hear the screams, pleas, and curses of the prisoners that were dragged away last night. The door is black and thick, secured with a lock. There is no returning from behind that door. I think of the lines from the old poem my father would sometimes read to me. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here…

But they are not taking me beyond the black door. The soldiers turn me to the left, to a gray door with a window in it.

A window. As if what goes on behind that door is more suitable to be disclosed.

Those who go through the black door perish – but with their honor. Those who go through the gray door go to surrender their integrity. Father would call the gray door the coward’s way out.

The lieutenant steps around us and unlocks the gray door. I am pushed inside. A desk sits before me, heavy and ponderous as the calculating stare of the balding officer on the other side of it. I don’t need to be forced into the chair, and I offer my wrists to be cuffed. Light reflects off the chain and the mirror behind the officer.

Spreading out, the soldiers prepare microphones, adjust cameras, and strap heart rate monitors on me. I sit, silently enduring. Better this than the black door.

Father would disagree. But he’s dead, so what does it matter?

Finally, they finish and exit the room. I’m alone with the old, bug-eyed officer – a man I could strangle with my bare hands if I wanted, were it not for these chains. But I let them put the chains on, and I’ve long since lost the will to fight back.

The officer picks up a file with long, spidery fingers. His eyes dart down at it, but I know he is not reading. It is all a show. He knows who I am. Everyone does. “Rhett Pierce. Son of the infamous Logan Pierce.” The bright bug eyes swivel up at me. “Says here you turned yourself in. Why? Finally seen sense? Had your fill of the rebellion?”

“I’ve had my fill of death,” I tell him simply. I’m not here to give him my life story. Only enough to protect myself against the inevitable end of my father’s futile hopes.

“I thought that you jeyu count dying for your cause a great blessing and that to spill your group’s secrets means that they will hunt you down. Indeed, the rebels we have imprisoned here have endured countless tortures and punishments, and we have yet to learn anything of consequence from them.”

“Such was what Father encouraged to keep them loyal.” I lean as far back as the cuffs will let me, wincing. The lights overhead hurt my eyes. I want my dark cell, the protection of shadows. Let this end quickly, and then free me, send me out into the world to run and hide far, far away from the jeyu and the memories and all of it. Let me live my life in peace.

“I see. Well then, what information have you brought us, Mr. Pierce, that you deem valuable enough to be your ransom?” His impassive face cannot hide the eager greed I see simmering beneath the surface.

“Only two things I know,” I say. “My father told even me very little. But what I do know is this – the location of our armory and the name of the traitor in your ranks who smuggles us weapons. That knowledge will be enough to undermine the entire rebellion. I can end this war for you, but you must promise to set me free.”

“But of course.” The officer smiles, the expression practically dripping with oil. “We are nothing if not true to our word.”

I resent the hidden jab, but not enough to fight back. My life is worth more than any silly ideal of honesty that is cooked up to keep men quiet. The rebellion is bound to collapse soon, and I don’t want to be crushed when it does. I hesitate, but only for a moment, then speak and finalize my betrayal. “Our arms cache is on Tanu. The smuggler’s name is Quin Taline, a quartermaster from the 200th shock battalion.”

The following silence is heavy. I wonder if my deeds have reached Father wherever he now rests. He would murder me if he were yet alive.

The officer’s eyes glint. “Thank you, Mr. Pierce. Thank you very much.”

I extend my chained wrists to him. “Now set me free.”

He gives a patient nod and presses a small button on his armrest. The windowed door opens, and the three soldiers return. “They will escort you.”

I stand up once my manacles are undone and turn to the door, but to my surprise, the men grip my arms. I laugh, failing somewhat to hide the fear that springs up in my heart. “There’s no need, gentlemen. I’m not going to run away from freedom.”

They don’t laugh with me. Or let go. I look into their eyes and see stone-like hardness there. Those are no windows into souls, as the poets might say. They might as well be spheres of dead glass, for all I can see in them is my own terrified face.

They march me out into the hallway. Toward the black door.

Now I fight. I thrash and struggle, trying to plant my heels, trying to tear my arms free. “No! Stop!” I twist, screaming over my shoulder. “You promised me my freedom! You gave your word!”

“Indeed I did.” Smiling, the officer steps out, his hands clasped casually behind his back. “The jeyu count death as freedom, do they not?”

I spit a curse at him and he smirks, continuing, “Besides, if a warrior of the holy rebellion can betray and lie, what worth has the promise of an infidel such as I?” He barks a hyena’s laugh.

Seeing red, I fight for all I am worth, but at the lieutenant’s call, more men jog into the hall to subdue me. The hard metal of a club cracks across the backs of my knees, felling me. A stunning blow to my jaw causes me to see stars. By the time my vision returns, I am being hauled through the open black door, and it is too late.

The door shuts behind me with a thud of finality, but it does not close on the noble fate of a rebel who remained faithful to the last. Indeed, all too apt was my comparison of that door to the gates of Dante’s hell, for now it swallows up a liar and a traitor, giving him not a private and solemn death but hiding away forever his wretched end.

Kinsey Holt

Kinsey Holt is an author of middle-grade and YA fantasy. Her mission is to bring truth, hope, and humor into the lives of her readers. When not writing, she can be found with her nose in a book, working on her blog, or snuggling a dog.

Kinsey Holt

Kinsey Holt is an author of middle-grade and YA fantasy. Her mission is to bring truth, hope, and humor into the lives of her readers. When not writing, she can be found with her nose in a book, working on her blog, or snuggling a dog.


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