"Do you believe in God?"
Cassie stared down the barrel of a .45, fear making her lungs constrict and her palms sweat. The barricaded room held the hum of muffled whimpers and sobs, and stank of everyone's collective despair.
The gunman's cold, steel-gray eyes burned into Cassie's with disturbing intensity, the dead light in them somewhere between crazed and calculating, and she knew her life balanced on the blade of that double-edged question.
The atmosphere had managed to become even tenser as the gunman's inquiry hung above the hostages' heads like a thunder cloud. All the air seemed to have been sucked from the room as Cassie's answer was breathlessly awaited.
Cassie could feel her heart pounding, throbbing through her body like the beat of a war drum. The blood rushing in her ears almost drowned the sound of her own harsh breathing. Almost.
Cassie didn't want to die.
But neither could she deny her faith.
To answer yes was to pull the trigger of the gun herself. To answer no was to go against everything she believed in and become a coward, a fake, and a traitor to herself and to God.
No, she wouldn't deny the truth, she wouldn't deny God.
Cassie drew herself up, resolve solidifying in her as she stared back into the cold, metal eyes. Her faith was strong, and it flooded her with confidence and the ability to keep her muscles from shaking like leaves in the wind. To answer the age-old question, yes, she was willing to die for what she believed in.
She would die.
The gunman's merciless eyes narrowed, his finger tightening on the trigger.
"Do you believe in God?" he repeated slowly, arm steady, unwavering and unforgiving.
Cassie breathed in. Her voice was loud and clear, her answer echoing in the tense room, pumped with faith and acceptance and a strength that could not be shattered by a bullet.
In her heart she knew it was right, and the gunman's narrowing steel eyes didn't put fear in her heart. She didn't look away or close her eyes; she let her gaze bore into him
And Cassie pulled the trigger.