Day in the Life
...I hit the ground, sending up an explosion of mud and water. The 5 metre drop from the fence felt like nothing - I've done it so many times before that I don't even feel afraid to push myself off. But I can't stay here for long - the guard will definitely have found the cell of mine to be empty by now. They probably have me on spy satellite, but the delay (a few minutes, due to the new bandwidth regulations) should give me chance to make break for it as long as I keep moving. The searchlight on the machine gun tower can't see through the trees, it's mainly for inside the camp, so I should be all right for the moment. But once they let loose The Hunter I'll need to be out of here - it can track me faster than anything through a forest. I run off into the gloomy depths of the forest, pushing branches like demons' fingers away from my face. I trip and fall, sliding through the bog, but the adrenalin stops me from feeling any pain, I just get up and keep running. My bandaged knee, fresh from the break, keeps hurting a little but I ignore it. I know that I will receive a great deal more pain if I'm caught.
For a while I just walk. It must be nearly 1 am now, but I haven't looked at a watch for years, since they brought me in here. I know that the guards come round to check no one has killed themselves in the night at 2 or 3, because I get woken up by them banging on the bars. If we don't move, they assume we've held our breath or poisoned ourselves, and send us off to the kitchen. Last night's dead is tomorrow's breakfast for us prisoners, and if there aren't enough dead prisoners, the guards are very good at providing some. They took Lenny next door last night - he only screamed for a while, before the door slammed. The guards get their food flown in, along with the other supplies every day. The sound of the flyer, sweeping overhead feels like a hammer on my skull - they make sure we're all in the exercise yard when it comes. I think they like to see us suffer.
I bet if I got my hands on one of the flyers I could get out of here - my days as a pilot have taught me enough. But the security on them is so tight, and since we're all in the exercise yard anyway, I'd have no chance. You might think I could fake being ill and get out of exercise, but it doesn't work like that. People sometimes get forced to walk round the circle with a broken leg, because the "welfare laws" say we have to walk one kilometre a day. They made some guy with dehydration do it once, and he collapsed. For the guards, this is extreme sub ordination and an excuse to use the baton and the taser that they are all issued. He was beaten worse than I've ever seen here.. and I haven't seen him since. Chances are I ate some of him.
I keep pressing on. This place looks identical, with gnarled trees and mouldy creepers, which hang before me like rotten curtains. Inevitably, it'll take me about an hour to get through the swamp. I could go faster, but at the far end of it there are bear traps, and I saw what they did to the last guy who got caught in one of them during his escape. Huge steel teeth digging 2 inches into his leg were the least of his worries. No, slow and steady has a slightly larger chance of winning this race.
Bloodcurdling howls behind me indicate that The Hunter is loose. They like to give me a bit of a head start, so that The Hunter will be angrier when he reaches me. He stalks escapees through the woods, before bringing them in when they least expect it. He has always managed to be one step ahead of anyone - so far, he has caught everyone who made it over the fence, without ever being seen. We just hear his howl behind us, hear some rustling bushes, and then either a tranq' dart or a knockout blow on the spine. Next thing anyone knows, we wake up in the infirmary. There is wild speculation as to what he looks like and what species he is but no one has yet been able to confirm or deny anything.
We can talk to the other prisoners, but if we talk over 15 decibels it sets off the alarm, and the cell walls become electrified. This is because we are usually leaning against them to talk quietly to the next-door neighbour. To talk to anyone further away we have to use relay messages - this takes a while, but it works, as long as no one is asleep. But it's too hard to sleep these days, because if we nod off and the guards come in, we're breakfast for sure. Insomnia is no longer a hindrance, it's a lifesaver.
I have an added weapon to try and take out The Hunter though - a pistol I stole from the guard. He was stupid to have come in to my cell when I faked being sick - I guess he just wanted to watch something amusing. Once I had got rid of him it was easy to slip out the door, and I was across the yard and up the wall. They plastered Razor wire on top of that thing like it was going out of fashion - enough to tear anyone apart. I managed to get across without too much trouble though, so they shouldn't be able to work out exactly which wall I went over straight away. One guy I knew left a drop of blood on the wire, so they knew where he was. They were angry that night, so they napalmed a whole load of the forest.
I'm nearing the edge of the swamp now, and the tree cover is breaking up. I noticed a bear trap already and stuck a twig in it: if I know this prison, it'll be linked to a sensor. They'll tell The Hunter by radio to check it out, so it should buy me some time. I hope I get further than I did last time I got out. I've heard that after the end of the forest there's a desert, but after that, no one has ever got that far. The Hunter has got them all.
Another howl, and this time it's close. I guess he's on to me. I climb a decaying old tree to see if I can watch him go by - he's sure to catch me now. I should have gone faster, and not got so complacent. But since I'm going to get caught anyway, it'd be worth it if I could just get a glimpse of the stranger.
The wait seems to last like eternity - maybe he's lost me. Perhaps I should have a rest - after all, I haven't slept in ages. But no. I've got to keep going or the satellite video feed will let them catch up with me - and The Hunter is still out there somewhere. I feel for my gun beside me so that I can get down the tree and carry on. But it's not there.
But surely, I left it right beside me? It would be a pretty stupid thing to loose the only thing I have on my side. But sure enough, it's not there. It could have fallen out the tree, I suppose, so I lean over to see if it's on the swampy forest floor. I can't see it, but before I can lean back into the tree and ponder my next move, I hear a paralysing scream behind me, in the tree. The Hunter has been there all along, but I didn't notice him. A sudden kick behind me and I'm falling. I would feel like an idiot, but I'm too busy plunging like an insignificant leaf from the tree.
With a sound like a wave breaking onto a marsh, I hit the swampy forest floor. Pain floods through my veins like a tsunami. I try to turn over, despite my body's best wishes, but through the red mist over my eyes I can't see any thing anyway. I suddenly hear the very distinctive sound of the pistol I stole being cocked - a Klick-ching which seems to spell the end for me. But then I hear The Hunter grunt a little and after a short swishing of air, like a boomerang returning to its owner, a large metal object hits me square in the forehead. I have no time to ponder the irony of being knocked unconscious with the gun I stole, because my thoughts have drifted away and all is peaceful black.
I am woken by a sharp blow to my face. A guard stands over at me, his dead eyes staring at me through the gas mask that they all wear. I try to move my legs but I am strapped to a piece of marble. I know it well - this is not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
They begin by bringing in a machine which emits a note at high pitch. This can't be heard, but it gives you a splitting headache after a while. I try to ignore it, but I know that it can't be done, so as I watch them bring in a black steel box with a huge amplifier I resign myself to struggling uselessly at my bonds.
The guards have finished setting up the machine, and with a cold glance in my direction, one of them flips a switch. I feel the sound dancing around in my ears, taunting me by not being heard but still being felt. Two guards have stayed in the room to keep an eye on me, but I'm sure the rest will be watching the spectacle from a security camera.
My headache is starting to become unbearable now. The guards don't have any smile that we can see, but I know that he is really enjoying watching me suffer. I strain a bit more at my bonds, and feel the metafibre wire cutting a little deeper into my flesh. I'll never get out of this without a cutter.
The torture goes on for a while. I can't even hear anything normal now, only the drone in my head of the invisible sound. And then..
It's over. The guard has flipped the switch, and although my headache doesn't go away, I can hear things again. Unfortunately, the thing that I do hear is the unclipping of the guard's baton from his belt. A few more guards join me, and one of them pulls out a set of mini shears and deftly cuts the metafibres. As the bonds snap free, a blast from one of the guards' tasers hits me in the arm, sending shockwaves running through my body like a group of rioters, destroying all that they come across. I roll slowly off the slab, hitting the duracrete floor with a thud, and slowly look up to meet a guard's boot planted in my neck. I have been through all this before, and I know that even if I can stand up the door will be locked. They'll probably beat me up for another hour or so, and then I'll black out. Normally I wake up back in my cell again, nursing my bruises.
This happens, as it has done before. A little light filters in from a window twenty metres above me - they don't take any risks. The bars would be electrified, even if I could climb up there, which I can't. We should have a few hours to talk before the exercise period - I lean close to the wall and lower my voice.
"Hey. How far did you get?"
"Nearly to the end of the forest. I climbed a tree to wait for The Hunter, but he got there first and pushed me out."
"Did you see him?"
"Damn. Would have been good if you did."
"Yeah. We do know one more thing about him though."
"He's a crack shot with a gun."
"He shot you?"
"No. He threw one at me."
We sit for a while, lost in our own thoughts. It's nearly time for exercise. Another hour of watching people who can't walk any more being kicked around a yard, and being deafened by the flyer. No one knew exactly what time it was, except the guards, but you slowly stopped using the 24 hour clock and started using the prison clock. Sleep; eat last night's dead, mixed with whatever else they could find / talk / exercise / plan the next escape. That seemed to be all I had left to look forward to, unless I could get away - but no one even knows what is after the desert. We could be on an island, or underground with a fake painted sky.. but there's nothing else left to hope for. Maybe one day one of us will escape. But until then, it's just the same old routine.
I sit in the cell for a while. It's nearly exercise time, and I'm really tired from the morning's escapade. I haven't eaten or slept since the day before, I am still in plenty of pain from my beating. But as I shuffle out into the yard, wearing binders around my wrists, I realise that there are plenty of people here in worse shape than me. Someone on the far side of the exercise ring has just fallen over and is being kicked by the guards. We don't look up, because looking is not allowed during exercise hours, but we can hear the screams. Some other guards are menacingly following a person who is severely dehydrated - he looks as if he might fall over any minute.
Lenny and I take to the long walk, but we know that we have to be careful. Anyone not keeping pace with the rest of the crowd will be singled out and beaten. Either being too slow or too fast is grounds for this - so everyone just looks at the floor; a dirty duracrete grey, spattered randomly with blood; and keeps walking, watching the feet ahead of them to make sure they don't get noticed.
A piercing whine from far off in the distance heralds the arrival of the flyer. It's twin engines can be made to run almost silently, but it's useful if it can be heard so that guards can prepare for the landing, and, of course, so that they can deafen us lot. The landing pad was built right next to the exercise yard (separated by a 7 metre wall, naturally) for that purpose.
If I could look up (which I'm not allowed to) I would see a red blur on the horizon slowly get closer before rocketing over our heads at a height of about 20 metres. Because the flyer is supersonic, we get the boom of vibrating air a few seconds after it passes over. It would rise high, then slowly brake and land vertically at the landing pad (as loudly as possible). Then supplies would be unloaded, and when all else had been taken care of (such as refuelling) the new batch of prisoners would be allowed off. I know this because I vividly remember my own flight on the deafening hunk of riveted steel. I heard later that once they let the prisoners off when the refuelling was still taking place, and that a new prisoner had hijacked the fuel car and drove it into some guards. They shot him for that - I guess he'd heard what this place was like and didn't want to stay. He's talked about as if he was a sort of god nowadays - although no one ever remembers this first hand. I've talked to so many people who were told about it by a person who knew someone who was there - so whether it's true or not I don't know.
The flier whips overhead, and the sonic blast that follows almost knocks me out. I reel along with everyone else (except the guards - they have earplugs in their suits), but the guards kick the few people closest to them, and everyone stands back up and carries on walking. It's that or get hurt more - not a difficult choice.
After an hour or so of this we're herded back to our cells.
The evening meal consists of a bowl of thick brown... something pushed through a hatch in the door. It might be stew, but who knows? It's probably just re-hydrated prisoner remains. I eat as much as I can stomach and then throw the rest away. I can't take this place any more. I have to get out. Tonight.
I spend about an hour planning what I'll do. I know that the guards won't expect anything so soon after my last escape attempt. That's why it's going to work this time.
I'll wait until the guard comes for the count at just before midnight., and then I'll fake being sick. He'll probably come in when he hears that, just to watch me suffer. If he's on his own (which they usually are) I can knock him out, and then I'll just nick his gun and get out. The searchlights should be easy enough to get around, and then it's just over the fence and out into the jungle. I'll definitely get further this time. I know I will.
A sudden metallic clang behind me indicates the arrival of a guard. It's too early to sneak out, so I just see what he's doing. As I listen closely at the floor, I can just make out two sets of feet falling. I suddenly realise what this means - they haven't got enough people for the food. And they're taking someone from this block. If they choose me, then I'm in trouble - I have no way of overpowering two guards.
I press myself against the wall, breathing heavily. The guards walk to my cell, push back the shield and peer in through the visor. I stare up at them, as if trying to pull a last piece of humanity from their souls, but for one reason or another, they are suddenly gone. Walking slowly to the next cell. I hear the clang as the visor is pulled back...
And the slow creak as the cell door swings open. They're taking Lenny.
"No! You can't do this!"
Faint yells come from the cell next door. The voice of Lenny. My friend.
The alarm goes off after a sound over 15 decibels - I get away from leaning on the wall, just in time. It blares in my ears, almost drowning out my friend's pitiful cries for help.
"Take Him! Across the corridor - he said he was going to kill himself tonight! Take him!"
The sound of a kick in the stomach and a wheeze cause a brief pause in the screams before Lenny manages to catch his breath:
"Please! Just don't take me! Not tonight! Not toni-"
Lenny's final screams would be heard by no human being, as the slam of a huge door and a punch sound signals the end of his proclamation. I'll miss him. But I can't dwell on his fate - I have my own problems.
I sit and shiver in my cell for another few hours, going over my plan. I know the way out of the yard so well - I'm sure I can do it almost blindfold, but there's no need to make it more difficult for myself. After all, I'll have The Hunter after me again, so I'll need to be over the wall in as much time as possible. I'm still tired from last night's escape, so I need some more rest or I'll probably be too tired to run.
As I look up to my tiny electrified window, I see that no sunlight is shining through it. This means that it's coming up to the last inspection time. I'll have to be ready.
This is it. The guard's heavy boots thump on the duracrete as he approaches my cell. I start to make the gagging sounds that I know so well - I must do them loudly, or the sound won't travel through the door.
He's heard me. I feel his boots falter as he notices the sounds I am making, and him step over to the door. He lifts the shield over the viewing port and looks in on me. I push my arm up towards the window, and generally act as if I'm about to die. The guard sees this and opens the door, obviously hoping for a good show. He turns to close the door, and before he turns back round I run full speed into him, with my elbow smashing into the small of his back. The guards have Kevlar vests, which protect them from the front, but they have nothing protecting their back. I guess the guy I tried this on last night is still in the infirmary, or else the rest of the guards would know about it and would have got some more body armour.
Like a ton of bricks, the guard hits the floor. As he struggles to get back up I sharply kick down onto his face. His chin rolls over and he is quiet. He should be unconscious for a while - long enough for me to get a decent distance away, at least. I take the guard's pistol, but nothing else - it would be too heavy to carry, and there will be a tracking bug in most of the kit. I know they don't have bugs in the gun because there's nowhere they could be concealed, but the rest of the kit is probably crawling. I drag the guard's body to the door so that I can haul his hand up to manipulate the fingerprint scanner on the door. The door accepts the print and swings aside. I drag the body out of the door and dump it onto the corridor floor, before silently slipping out the complex into the courtyard.
The searchlight sweeps lazily across the tarmac, almost as if it is not bothered about catching me. It is easy to avoid just by edging along the sides of the buildings. I creep as silently as possible to the wall, and manage to make my way there without incident. I shin up the nearby pole, watching my surroundings, before jumping, cat-like, onto the top of the wall. There's plenty of razor wire, but I manage to step over it, since I've already learnt where you should stand. I reach the edge, make sure the gun is firmly tucked into my belt, and look down at the 5 metre drop. It must be almost midnight now. I take a deep breath, and jump...
The Blood is the Life: A Frightful Halloween Quest
I wrote this quite a while ago, and it went towards my English GCSE mark. node your homework.
Thanks to both Jet-Poop and iceowl who have offered encouragement on this story.
round and round