In a blank room, with walls the colour of schist, a boy sits, strangely upright in a hard plastic chair. The door is closed. There isn't a window. His eyes are drills, boring into the minute hand of the clock on the wall, willing it not to slide, slowly, dreadfully from the five to the six. As if the sheer strength of his willpower – or maybe it is his terror – can somehow screw that minute hand in place, exactly where it is, at 6:27, pulling time itself up to a grinding halt.
The boy chews his lip, while he waits. Every so often, muted sounds from the outside world shuffle in, heads bent, cowed by the heavy sound-proofing on the walls. The second hand of the clock whirrs in harmony with the palpitations of his heart. His fingers strike up a rhythm on the chair-leg to match. Not yet, he thinks not yet.
And so he remains for maybe a minute more.
"I can't," he says, as the minute hand maliciously fixes itself to 6:29. Perspiration beads on his forehead and slides the length of his pale face. His voice lands in the room with a thud and is extinguished by the sound-proofing. It is just as trapped as he is. He gets off the chair and paces in terse circles, eyes no longer on the clock – perhaps he cannot bear to watch – but fixed on the yellowed carpet to his feet, at the fraying laces on his shoes.
Then it strikes him. "No." The force of his voice slams against the walls. "I won't."
He kicks over the chair, opens the door and walks out.
Just like that.