I hope this letter reaches you. I have paid the messenger the last of my cigarettes and several other things I dare not mention, in the hopes that my words might find your eyes. I fear my own may never gaze into them again.
What you suspected is true, and I am deeply sorry for doubting you — this camp is little more than a slaughterhouse. They have cast us into a pit, they battled us against each other for their amusement, and they have made it known that only half of those who remain will make it out alive.
We are so young — each of us is only 15. We have done everything they asked of us. And I have seen them, one by one or in clusters, all the others, gone, dead, drifting to the earth like cherry blossoms. They bring in fresh meat all the time, and they churn through it at a terrifying rate — I’ve seen hundreds, thousands of faces come and go — mauled and twisted, pressed into servitude, and, finally, cast aside.
A group of us had made a pact to hang together, to survive. The Evercore. We joked we would drink whiskey at the launch of 20th edition. Sixteen of us have made it this long, and we thought we were safe.
But they have made their intentions clear mother. Nothing is safe here. Not Scathe Zombies. Not Regeneration. Not even your face.
They shot Goblin King yesterday. They just dragged him — the King! — out in the street like a stray dog and put a bullet in the back of his head. They left him in the dirt with his crown over his broken nose to rot and be eaten by vermin. I’ve seen it many times, and I had even become used to it, but I feel a new dread. The dread I first felt when I saw Sedge Troll lying facedown in the mud. We had all joked about how he was invincible. When I saw him there, I thought, “This is my year — this is the year I go.”
Life has been hard since then, but there was a natural rhythm to it. I am beaten and broken (well, not broken. I was never broken. I have seen others here broken — they’d always vanish shortly after — but not me.) by the other prisoners on a daily basis. Every year I’m further outclassed and humiliated. Every two years, I’m reprinted anyway. You know I am tough. You know, no matter how bad things get, I attack for two.
The stories have helped, too. Telling all the little bears — so many bears, mother! — about when the King wore Gauntlets of Might, and he used to show us the calluses on his knuckles from it. He used to thump against the cinderblock wall of our cell and joke about playing the war drums, and I’d tell stories about Granite Gargoyle and Grey Ogre splitting up and crossing the Raging River, about the time we all climbed on the wall to dodge the Chaos Orb, or about the time Thicket Basilisk proved he was better than Cockatrice.
They’re just stories now, and when I go, they will be lost. Just like all the other bears that came before me. I guess I should be grateful. Most of those other bears didn’t get reprinted once.
I should feel glad of my long life, but I’m not. I wanted to be Evercore. I wanted these days, grim as they are, to last forever.
People tell me to trust in God, but even that seems hopeless. They’ve pulled him out of bed now, and they’re trying to shove him in a van.
You were always good to me. I am sorry I will never return to your hand again.