One or the other. Sacrifices were said to be easy, I thought darkly. At first the choice was barely a choice; my freedom or her freedom. Each one had their own pedestal high enough to touch the ceiling. My friend with a tank full of something that was glowing red connected to her face and the key laying in complete stillness. The choice was easy. I had spent so much time sacrificing my life, and, for once, I did not feel the want to save her.

It was after I managed to push the poll holding the key over and the water drained away, when I noticed my friend’s condition. I remembered she was sick. Never would she survive captivity, not like I could. Her skin a sickly white and already she was supporting red whelps over her skin. She was going to die if I left her.

I planned a way to keep the key, not once touching it, and to save my friend. Maybe the key was for her, maybe it was for me, I don’t know. By the time I finally got the key safely to the side, my friend was gasping for breath. Briefly, I wandered what was wrong with her, taking moments to stare at her as she struggled for breath. I felt none of the panic I should have, no need to rush, no need to worry.

It was after I, oh so calmly, pushed her over when I felt panic set in. A door I never noticed before opened, and a man stepped in. I did not look at him, instead choosing to hold my friend tight to my chest, wishing I could do more.

“One or the other,” his voice was monotone, as if he cared not for the fact that she was dying.

“What did you do to her?” I asked, never moving my eyes from her shaking body in my arms. I noticed tiny things that I never noticed before. Like, she had a lot of freckles; her hair wasn’t really brown but a deep red that just looked brown far away. She was actually very pretty for someone her age, like a super model trying to hide behind a illness. I gently pulled off the mask, laying it to the side and stroked her surprisingly soft cheek. Her eyes flattered open, and I was met with the most stunning greenish blue eyes I’d ever seen. Where they always this breath taking? I wandered.

The man had stopped his chanting of ‘one or the other’ at that point. “We didn’t do anything to her. Surely you knew she was already sick when she got here,” he explained.

What kind of friend am I? I didn’t even notice she was sick. Not once. Sure she had left early or went missing for a while, but she always made a joke of it saying, ‘I ran away from home to discover life’s mysteries.’ I always believed her; she seemed like the type to do things spontaneously.

A pale, cold hand touching my cheek woke me from my thoughts. I looked down to see her smiling a small smile through the pain she must be feeling. “It’s true,” her voice was surprisingly clear, but low as a whisper, “I was- am sick. The disease has finally caught up with me, causing all my blood cells to start explode. I forgot what it was called, you know doctors.” here she grinned trying to lighten the mood. When I just frowned, she continued, “Half the crap they say is all big words that no normal person should know.” Her voice hitched at the end. Then she started to wheeze and cough, and I could only watch helplessly. I wasn’t a doctor, nor did I know anything close to CPR and medical aid. Her eyes went glazy, and she seemed to be looking through me, or at the space in front of me, but not at me.

Finally, with a shuddering breath, her hand fell limp, her eyes closed, and her body relaxed into mine. She was gone. Just like that, and without saying good bye. I wanted to be mad at her, scream at her for dying or at least not saying anything until now. Only, I couldn’t, and I think that’s why it hurt so much. She was my best friend; I couldn’t hate her for trying to save me of her pain.

Memories we shared flashed by my mind eye, I never noticed how painful happiness was until now. People always say ‘when you’re dying your life passes by your eyes,’ like a movie, but they never said anything about friends and loved ones having memories pass by their eyes. They, also, seem to have neglected to tell you that ‘once happy memories easily turn into bitter times at the pain of a loss.’

When I could not take anymore, when I could not hold it in anymore, I leaned over her still body so far my forehead touched her shoulder and my spin felt like it was going to break, and I cried, and I sobbed, and I howled. Wishing with all my body, spirit and mind that I could have saved her. Even if she had to sit in a hospital bed forever, at least then she would be alive.