“Ha. Well. Credit where credit is due. I do appreciate a capable liar. And you were right. On several points. And by now, you’ve probably realized that I don’t intend to kill you. So I’ll tell you what: you can have your deal.”
Hector’s eyes narrowed.
“I will leave,” said Ivan, “just as you asked. And I will spare all of your friends--well, the ones that I haven’t already killed, anyway. But in exchange for this generosity, you will do exactly as you promised, as well.”
Shit. He could see where this was going.
“You will lead the Sandlords out of the Golden Fort. You can do it however you like. Murder. Kidnapping. Stink bomb. Duck, duck, goose. I really don’t care, as long as you keep them occupied somewhere else for at least two days.”
He didn’t bother asking what would happen if he failed or refused, figuring Ivan was going to tell him regardless.
“Tell me something,” the Salesman said, straightening his acid-eaten tie. “What do you think is the worst way to die?”
“...I don’t really think there is one,” said Hector.
“Oh, there is. Trust me. I’m a veritable connoisseur of these things. But it’s not surprising that you don’t know. So many people overlook it. Probably because it’s so common. Everyone thinks, oh, fire is the worst. Or being eviscerated. Or listening to smooth jazz. And sure, those are all equally horrible things. But none are truly the worst.”
Hector just waited.
“The worst way to die is simply starvation. Do you know why?”
Hector shook his head.
Ivan motioned with his right hand, as if to help him explain. “It’s the hope. Starving to death is slow. It takes you a long time to accept that it is even happening. You hold onto hope for quite a while, which only serves to enhance your suffering, really. And you’re never certain when your final moment is going to arrive. Each time you begin to fall asleep, you wonder if you’ll wake up again, and even when you do, it’s not relief you feel, but dread. Until, eventually, that same hope turns on you, and you begin hoping that you won’t wake up again. Because you exist in constant agony. You only know suffering. And at that point, you even lack the physical strength required to end your own life. You’re simply waiting for it to be over. Let me tell you, that is true horror.”