As the vehicle darted farther through the city night, the faces on the outside became a mangled blur. Pink and blue neon lights reflected on the windowpane melded with my own distorted image. His voice was a distant, incoherent yet comforting familiarity, a closer rhythmic layer to the music that accompanied us.
My scholastic belongings were in the backseat. My wooden and masonite sphere lay softly next to my untied shoes. My scarf warmed my neck; the snowflakes quietly melting on my cheeks provided a tinkling sparkle of mint. No place was I more contented than next to him, warm, a safe passenger in his care.

If I focused my consciousness towards my own insides, I could almost see the curling designs of the acid travelling throughout the farthest reaches of my veins and arteries. Dripping down the insides of my eyelids and the back of my throat. Coating everything with a thin layer of oily rainbow poison, like the rain and snow dripping in randomly ordered streams down the windows of our travelling pod.

We slowed down to turn onto Michigan Avenue. The pair of proud lions guarding the Art Institute roared above us as we passed; the bustling crowds swaying on the sidewalks overwhelming. There were art students waiting for busses, business people hurriedly moving with umbrellas, groups of fur coats combined to form strange, unthinkable, screaming furry creatures that revealed waspy women as we passed them.
Families with maps racing to get back to their hotels. Newspaper vendors shivering under roofs amidst their network of paperwork. Streetwise vendors standing stoicly in doorways, seemingly unscathed by the onslaught of precipitation. A night in downtown Chicago like any other.

The rainbow poison had soaked through the last of my tissues, saturating the deepest bowels of my nervous system, taking hold of my senses in their entirety. Our pod began to make its transition into the underground. He steered right onto Randolph and then down the first of three ramps. For a second, darkness encompassed us. Then, the white light of the streetlamps glowing translucent through the falling snow was replaced with the sinister yellow glare from the lights of the underground. The bustling sidewalks full of bundled life were replaced by the stark, filthy, cracked walls of concrete that encased the underground. We turned again and began our descent down the second of three ramps.

The miserable men who toiled late night in the basements and underbellies of skyscrapers and hotels peeped out of intermittent doorways, carrying boxes and pushing carts. The few other pods on the runway were each contained little worlds, protected from the outside cold and reality of these mens' lives. Some of them housed children playing in backseats, buckled in and safe. Others held tired workpeople, smoking cigarettes, filling their closed worlds with smoke and tar. One by one they veered off in their own directions, exiting upward towards the Gold Coast, towards Navy Pier, towards Lake Street, towards Greektown; escaping the harsh necessesity of the quick and dirty route.

We were alone now. We turned once more and headed down the last of three ramps. The feel of his hand in mine was all my body touched; the rest of me felt suspended in a sea of dark space, looking.
As we travelled down the last stretch of path, we entered the realm of the sleepers. In a slightly concave niche along the hard and blank concrete wall lay a long row of 15 mattresses; a small, secluded neighborhood in homelessville. Each damp, torn mattress an individual's bed, home and world. They lay in a straight ordered line, some covered with ragged blanketness, some higher above milkcrates filled with random possessions, some occupied by sleeping or sitting people, some vacant. It was a community, a place far below the streets and the daylight where these cold and hungry dwellers were unbothered, rarely encountered, sheilded, hidden, alone, together.

The few scattered drops of rain water that had managed to seep through the cracks in the layers of thick concrete and steel above us splattered against the windsheild as we drove solemnly past the sleepers.
This was Lower Wacker Drive on a winter night. This was the underground.
I couldn't even believe what I was doing as I ran barefoot through the underbrush. My feet ran swiftly and automatically as my mind raced, flashing between lamenting the inherent concequences of my decision and reminding myself of what I was striving to attain. There is a sort of clarity that washes over you when you know you can never turn back. I had reached that point, now I would either attain my freedom or die trying.

Just as Will had described, I suddenly came upon a split tree with a broken wagon in the distance. As I rounded the corner behind the tree I stopped, caught my breath and listened. I panted and turned around, looking. Slowly they emerged from behind the brush - the solemn faces of my brethern staring back at me - filled not with terror or doubt but with pride, certainty and readiness.

Somewhere in the distance a dog barked and broke our silence. The sun would be coming up soon; they'd be looking for us. With little time wasted for introductions and the reiteration of immediate plans, we headed as a unit towards the first checkpoint. Mary had spoken of a shack to the left of the Harrison place up in Tuckersville where we could get something to eat and stay the day. We had to get a move on; if we didn't make it past the limits of Selma by morning we'd never survive.

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