Torment Online - Jeremy Bishop Page 0,1

“My orders...were to assassinate President Misha Alexandrov.” His captor walked in front of him again. He held the knife in one hand and a mini-tape recorder in the other. He clicked the stop button on the recorder. “Thank you.”

“Please don’t kill me,” Brenton said, followed by a guttural sob.

The masked man surged forward with the knife, swiping it down, tearing through sinews. Brenton screamed. “Don’t kill me! God, please, don’t kill me!”

He sobbed and shook as the man stepped back. Brenton’s vision narrowed as he stared at the stone floor. The knife fell at his feet.

“I am a man of my word,” said his captor, allowing his Russian accent to tinge his voice for the first time.

“You are free to go.”

Brenton saw the booted feet of the man pivot and walk from the cell, leaving the door open behind him.

Brenton sobbed. Spit from his mouth rolled onto his beard and froze to the thickly crusted surface. He fell from the chair to his knees, looking at his freed hands, numb and incomplete—but free. Sobs turned to laughs as Brenton picked up the knife and his detached fingers. If he packed them in ice, maybe they could be reattached?

Loud chopping rotor blades shook the cell, building in pitch as they sliced through the arctic air. Brenton stumbled out of the cell, through a short hallway and into the brightness of a clear day, the sun striking a gleaming white, foot thick, layer of snow. A black helicopter lifted up and peeled away from a cleared helipad. As it flew away, the helo dove down and disappeared below a precipice.

Page 8

Brenton rubbed his eyes, trying desperately to focus them in the harsh light and absolute cold that crystallized the moisture around his eyes. Then he saw it...the edge of the precipice upon which his cell—a stone shanty attached to a small log cabin—stood. There were no trees. No rocks. No life.

Brenton spun around, scanning his surroundings. He saw the same thing in every direction. He’d been marooned on the top of some stone spire in the middle of nowhere.

He clenched his fists and felt a wash of pain from the bloody stumps where his two fingers used to be.

He looked at the hand, at the empty ring finger, and refused to give up. He ran for the edge, pushing his bare feet through the snow, one pain-filled step at a time. Reaching the precipice, Brenton fell to his knees and clenched his hands in the snow. The cliff descended at least one hundred feet and ended with a line of boulders and jagged edges. He won his freedom from the cell, but he was more of a prisoner than ever.

He would die here.

Alone.

Brenton screamed at the sky, his voice raw and wet. He screamed and screamed, pouring out his anguish to the world. When only his distant echo responded, Brenton held his head in his hands and wept quietly for several minutes, then found his voice. “Christ.” The word, meant as a curse, opened his eyes.

He hadn’t thought about God since childhood. But now, with nothing left but pain and despair, who else was there to listen to him?

“Are you there?”

Brenton looked at the sky. Soft cumulus clouds drifted over the barren plains, their shadows casting a deep purple shade on the flawless sheet of snow. Holding his breath, he listened for a reply. Surely, if there were a God, he would reply now.

God didn’t speak.

The only sound came from the gentle touchdown of snowflakes landing on the ground—like quiet flicks of static. In that quiet, Brenton found some kind of peace, perhaps supernatural, perhaps a primal connection with nature. His logic said that a man facing death had no choice but to make peace with his past, accept it for what it was, but he couldn’t help wondering if he felt something more.

He turned his eyes up again. “If you’re really there, God, Allah, whoever you are, I don’t want to freeze to death! I don’t want to starve!”

His voice echoed again, bouncing off the distant cliffs and returning faded and distorted. “Please! Get me down from—”

A pop and shift of snow beneath his knees drew his attention down. Before he could realize what the line slicing across the snow beneath him represented, it slipped away and fell, taking his body with it. As he descended through the frigid air, Brenton didn’t scream, he simply mouthed a final request, “Let me see her again.”

Then his body struck the rocks below. Bones