The room was filled with the heat of a million suns. Each wall was covered with glass that reflected the heat and made it even more unbearable. We all lie on the floor, grimacing in pain. The people outside celebrate, no doubt the Christmas festivities. The music played from somewhere in the building, and we can all see the people clapping and marching in place outside its walls.

I turn to see my friend, lying alone in a discarded heap against one of the locked doors. At least her soul would be free, if not her body. Would the rest of us end up that way.

“This is the end I'm afraid,” one person said, almost in a moan as he tried to roll over on his blanket to get comfortable. “Will this torture ever, ever cease?”

I knew it wouldn't. I'd been trapped in this chamber for many years now, watching familiar faces come and go, leaving with boundless energy, returning drained and pale. We'd stayed out long past our determined exploration period. we all knew socializing was a crime here, and yet we couldn't help ourselves.

No lights were on in the black room. All we heard was the hearts beating, the varying levels of rattled breaths, and murmurs reverberating off the lonely ceiling. Another tune began to play, and I watched in horror as the festival goers outside turned to face the building, singing gleefully, their mouths opened wide in discussing exultation. They weren't celebrating because it was Christmas. No. They were celebrating our impending demise. The heat would soon dry up our bones and spirits. With no water, all we could do was lie there... and die.

One by one, a life would be snuffed out. The room would go quieter by the hour, as each soul's body had reached its end. When would mine come. Could I be free? Would I, truly? Knowing some of my friends were still trapped here made my heart ache, and even though they were lying just feet away, some sleeping, some moaning in agony, I felt the loneliest I'd ever been.

The festival goers began dancing in place to the Christmas music. The melodies made me sick. They played in soothing merriment, almost like a bouncing, bustling mother, tending to each one of her charges, hoping to sooth away our nightmares.

“There, there now.” I could almost hear the music saying to all of us. “It will be over soon. Just breathe.”

I wanted to close my eyes. I wanted to breathe no more. I could no longer bear the sounds of struggle. My heart couldn't take the pain. The wails and groans that occasionally escaped far away corners of the room made me shudder. Not being able to move or help the wounded dried up my spirits faster than the awful heat.

Outside, it began to rain. Fresh, crystal clear droplets tapped playfully on the panes of glass surrounding us, joining in rhythm with the songs that played for the dancers, who were now tilting their heads back, catching raindrops on their tongue like a blessed elixir from the heavens. They turned satisfied, dripping faces on us, smiles wide and wild, some toothless, some with tongues almost thrashing at the air. Their dancing forms almost seemed to spell out a message. “Welcome. Welcome to planet Earth. Hope you enjoy your stay.”

Thank you for visiting. be safe and healthy. Warmest regards, Elena Waverly