Saturday 31 August 2013

The Bridge.

By Hannah Begg.

A list of excuses flicked through her mind. 

An ill grandmother. An urgent report for work. A cousin’s engagement party.

“And you can’t make up an excuse,” Peter continued, as though reading her mind. “This is really important to me, so you have to be there.”

Dina laughed. “I’m not making up an excuse! I really might be busy that day. I’ll have to check my diary.”

“No, Dina,” Peter replied, sounding exasperated. “You’re coming. End of story.”

Dina opened her mouth to respond, then turned away and stared moodily out of the window. They continued driving along the dusty road, passing towering oak trees and old ramshackle houses.

An unexpected overseas guest. An unforeseen dash to the emergency room...

Dina suddenly became aware that the car was slowing down. It rolled to a stop by the side of the road and Peter switched off the engine; they sat in silence for several moments. Dina looked over at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. When he didn’t, she sighed loudly, and said, sarcastically, “Wow. Quick trip.”

Peter looked over at her, and she was surprised to see worry creasing his brow.

“Dina, I’m concerned.” His voice sounded hollow in the silence, broken only by the whistling of the wind outside the car. 

She turned away from him, her heart starting to race as he spoke.

“Actually, we’re all a bit concerned. You make excuses for everything these days, we barely see you anymore.”

She looked back at him and angrily responded, “What do you mean, ‘we’re all concerned’? You’ve been talking about me behind my back?”

“We’d happily say it to your face, except you’re never around,” Peter replied.

Dina scoffed. “Oh, don’t exaggerate!” she laughed. “I come out plenty of times!”

Peter traced the steering wheel with his fingers. “Monica’s house warming.”

“I had to take my mother to the dentist!” Dina exclaimed indignantly.

Peter looked across at her, skeptical. “Michael’s birthday gathering.”

Dina huffed impatiently. “What is this, a witch hunt?” Her cheeks were starting to flame. “I”m a busy person, things pop up. I do what needs to be done!”

They sat in silence for a moment. Peter said, “Are you sure that’s it?”

Dina glared at him. “What are you implying?”

Peter looked across at her and said, softly, “I think you’re afraid.”

Dina opened her mouth to respond, then turned and wrenched the car door open.

“Stop,” Peter called as Dina leapt from the car. He clambered out of the driver’s side as Dina marched away, kicking up a trail of dust as she went.

“Dina, stop!” He jogged to catch up with her. “Please, listen to me!”

She spun round to face him and he was surprised to see the sharp anger in her eyes. “How could you!” she cried. “You’re one of my closest friends! You’re one of the few people in the world who knows exactly what happened. How could you say something like that?”
She turned and continued marching down the road.

“We just want you to be happy,” he called, striding a few paces behind her. “It’s been nearly two years since the attack, and -”

“Stop, Peter!” Dina cried over her shoulder. “Just stop!” She began to run, and Peter jogged to keep up. The wind was whipping across his face, and he was squinting against the cloud of dust.

She veered off the road and, pushing through a cluster of tangled bushes, ran towards the tall iron bridge. Her feet clattered across the dry surface, sending dust and dirt tumbling through the wooden planks, cascading silently through the air before being swallowed by the river below. Breathing heavily, she leaned against the rusted barrier. Once a work of art, the bridge now stood encrusted with grime; its railings, steadily fading under the merciless sun, were a ghost of beautiful, intricately-curved iron.

Peter slowed down; the wooden planks creaked under his feet as he walked across the bridge, stopping beside Dina. They stood quietly, looking down at the river as it raced along far beneath them.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. 

Dina didn’t reply. She was looking away from him, staring down at the river, her hair being whipped across her face by the breeze.

“They’re locked away,” he said quietly, looking down at the rushing water as it bubbled and sloshed over hidden rocks and branches. “They can’t hurt you. You’re free to continue living your life.” He paused before speaking again. “Sometimes, it seems like you’re still trapped... I don’t think you’re moving forward.” He waited for her to speak, but she continued looking away from him. The sound of the churning river echoed throughout the deep valley; high above, birds screeched as they swooped from tree to tree, chasing one another. In the distance, a truck rumbled along the dirt road, a cloud of dust billowing out behind it. Peter took a breath, and murmured, “I just think -”

“Peter,” Dina suddenly cried, spinning round to face him. He looked and saw tears pricking her eyes. “You have no idea what it’s like!” Her voice shook with emotion. “I had my freedom ripped from my fingers! I had to struggle for every breath!” She began to sob. “Do you know what it’s like to wonder if you’ll ever see the light of day again? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be completely helpless?” Her hands were trembling as she wiped the tears from her face. “I can’t just - just pretend everything is normal again! Things will never be normal.” She buried her face in her hands; Peter stepped forward and gathered her in his arms, hugging her tightly as she sobbed.

“I don’t...” she tried to speak, hiccuping and wiping her eyes against his shirt. “I don’t want...”

“It’s okay,” he murmured against the top of her head, holding her close. “You went through hell. But you escaped. You don’t have to be scared anymore.”

Pushing away from him, she looked up into his face; he saw anger flash across her eyes.

“Don’t tell me how to feel!” she cried.

She turned away, leaning against the iron barrier again, looking out towards the river. 

Taking a slow breath, she said quietly, “Sometimes, it feels like I didn’t really escape.”

Peter stood beside her, his hands resting on the barrier. “Just give it time,” he said. 

Dina let out a heavy sigh. The iron railing felt cold and solid beneath her skin. Taking a sudden breath, she hoisted herself up so she was sitting on the railing. Carefully positioning her hands, she spun her legs around, so they were dangling over the edge; she felt a wave of panic swoop through her stomach as the empty air dropped away beneath her feet, the water rumbling along far below.

“Dina,” Peter cried. “What are you -”

With a sudden movement, she pushed forwards. 

Lunging towards her, Peter’s scream echoed throughout the valley as Dina fell into the air. 

Eyes closed, the wind was roaring in her ears; her arms were outstretched, her dress billowing out behind her.

Peter watched in horror as Dina disappeared beneath the surface of the rushing river. Turning, he ran from the bridge, racing towards the edge of the river, tripping as he fought his way through thick vines and hidden roots. Yelling out Dina’s name, he desperately scanned the river’s bubbling surface until he spotted her, struggling for breath as the water sloshed around her face. Throwing himself into the water, he fought against the icy current, gasping for breath, wrenching vines and branches out of his way as he swam closer. His hand closed around her arm, and he dragged her from the clutches of a twisted tree branch, pulling her towards the riverbank. 

Spluttering for breath, they both collapsed on the ground, breathing hard. Dina began coughing, her body shaking under her wet clothes. 

Pressing his face against the cold ground, his chest heaving with exhaustion, Peter suddenly heard Dina laughing.

Pushing away from the ground, he sat up, struggling for breath. Dina was hunched over, her matted hair covering her face; her eyes met his and she smiled broadly.

“Why - why are you laughing?” Peter choked.

She pushed her hair from her face. “I did it,” she cried, reaching out for Peter’s hand and squeezing it. “I’m free.” 

Sighing heavily, he pulled her close and hugged her. They sat shivering by the water’s edge; Dina’s laughter, broken by sobs of exhaustion, echoed throughout the valley as the river hurtled past behind them.

He kissed the top of her head. Smiling, he whispered, “You did it."

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Conroy’s Shuffle

By David Allsopp.

When Conroy first regained consciousness it felt like someone was playing the bongos inside his skull. The throbbing sensation was so powerful it took a few moments before any thought was possible. Opening his eyes, he found his vision was blurred – like trying to look through a fogged-up window. He had to fight to keep his eyes open.

Conroy looked around, trying to get his bearings. On an instinctual level he knew he was somewhere indoors; it was a still darkness with vague shafts of light at regular intervals. The only sound he could register was a soft ringing in his right ear. As his vision started to focus, Conroy could make out what looked like rows of wooden benches in front of him, with something large hanging on the wall at the far end of the room.

The Prison Chapel. He should know it well enough by now; he was here at least twice a day.

But what happened? It was so hard to think, let alone remember. All Conroy could manage to piece together right now was the fact that he was in the Chapel, he was lying on the ground and his head hurt. Why couldn’t he focus on anything?

Taking a moment, he reached a hand up towards his head to feel if anything was broken. As soon as he made contact the throbbing sensation intensified – the drums playing in his head temporarily kicking into overdrive.

Quickly taking his hand away, the throbbing started to diminish once more and his mind again started to clear. He was in the Chapel. What time was it? It was too dark to be his morning patrol, so it must be in the early evening before the end of his shift.

Conroy eased himself up from the floor with difficulty. His coordination felt foggy, as if the signals were getting crossed during transmission from his brain. With great effort he managed to crawl across the floor to the nearest pew, clasping onto it as he took a deep breath and tried to focus his memory.

It had been just before the evening count, and the prisoners were supposed to be making their way back to their cell blocks. There were always a few stragglers, so Conroy would wait in the yard and then walk back to the blocks after the last of them had gone through the gates.

He remembered walking towards East Block as per usual when he thought he saw something moving in the shrubs next to the Chapel. He paused next to a fence and waited for a minute. Nothing seemed to move, so he just dismissed it as a result of his imagination and the fading daylight.

But just as Conroy started to walk again he saw the shadowy outline of a man appear from behind the shrubs and quickly dart into the Chapel. Conroy rushed over to investigate, and as soon as he walked through the door he tripped and fell to the floor. The last thing he could remember was turning to see two prisoners reaching for him, one swinging something directly at his head.

It was an escape attempt.

A prison break. Next to a riot, it was the second worst thing a guard could encounter, and this one was going to be his fault. Conroy knew he’d made a rookie mistake by charging into the Chapel without calling it in on his radio, and if his head wasn’t already pounding he’d kick himself. He hadn’t been sure what he saw, and that doubt should have told him to call it in, but instead he just went in there like an idiot and was now paying the price for it.

He knew he’d probably lose his job over this. It wasn’t his first mistake, and he was already on the Warden’s bad side. Emma would absolutely kill him when she found out. The baby was due in a couple of months and they couldn’t afford to have him to lose another job.

Conroy had to shake himself out of it. He could worry about the repercussions later; right now he had to get his head back into the moment and figure things out.

The prisoners. He only saw them for a moment, but he thought he’d recognised Stark as the one who tripped him, and the one who’d hit him looked vaguely like Rosetti. Were there only two of them? Conroy had no way of knowing for sure.

His radio! Where was it?

Conroy pulled himself up against the pew and looked around the Chapel. The radio lay on the ground not far from the door, smashed; circuitry hanging out as if it had been disembowelled.

Conroy tried to shout, but could barely make out the sound of his own voice over the constant ringing in his ear. Tentatively touching the side of his face, a trickle of blood was working its way down towards his chin. Not a good sign.

Well, if the radio was dead, and yelling wasn’t going to work, he’d have to make a run for it to the nearest guard station and get the alert out as soon as possible. Vasquez should still be stationed around the gate to East Block, so that’s where he’d go.

Conroy tried to run towards the Chapel door, but instead found himself face-down on the floor. His body still didn’t want to work properly. This wasn’t going to be easy…

Pushing himself back up onto his hands and knees, Conroy crawled his way over to the door. Using the door handle for leverage he managed to pull himself up onto his feet. It took a few moments to gather what was left of his strength. If he felt this drained from just crossing the room, how was he going to make it across to the gate?

He knew his job was on the line. If he could get to the gate and alert the other guards then the prisoners might not get very far. Conroy didn’t know if the prisoners were using a tunnel, cutting through the fences, or using some other means of escape. Right now it didn’t matter; he just had to make it to that gate.

Conroy pushed the door open and stumbled out into the yard, leaning against the wall of the Chapel for support. It was dark now, but he knew that East Block was around the corner to the right. Gathering what strength he could muster he started to shuffle awkwardly in that direction. Slowly moving one foot in front of the other, each step came like that of a child learning to walk, with unsteady legs feeling like they could collapse beneath him at any moment.

He thought of Emma and what she’d say if she were there. As annoyed as she’d be at his mistakes, he knew she’d want him to do everything he could to make up for them. Emma always believed in him, even when he himself didn’t. She’d tell him he could do it. Eighty metres wasn’t very far, and it was just one leg in front of the other.

He kept moving, shuffling from one foot to the other – momentum now kicking-in and propelling him onwards.

Left then right. Left then right. All he had to do was keep moving.

The throbbing in his head was getting more intense with each step. His vision was starting to blur once more, and blood was dripping down the length of his arm. Conroy’s entire body was in revolt against him now, and he knew he was running on an empty tank.

He just had to push through the pain and keep going.

Rounding the corner, Conroy could now see the guard’s post outside the gate to East Block. A figure he recognised as Vasquez slowly turned towards him.

Just a few more steps. That’s all he needed; just a few more and it would be done.

Vasquez shone his flashlight in Conroy’s direction, like a lighthouse on a rocky shore sending a bright beacon out into the night.

Conroy lurched forward, and with his last iota of strength tried to shout out to Vasquez, not knowing if any sound came out as he lost all sense of control and fell to the ground.

The gravel felt as soft as a cloud.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Escape from Candy Crush

by Sarah Harvey

Mia sat at her desk and sighed at the mountain of paperwork in front of her. She was so bored. She got up to make a coffee and stared playing Candy Crush on her phone as she waited for the water to boil. Her colleague, Harper, walked into the kitchen sucking on a lollipop. She frowned at Mia.
‘You should be careful of that game, Mia.’ Harper warned. It’s highly addictive.’
‘I’m just having a coffee break,’ explained Mia, not looking up from her phone. ‘I’m just stuck on level 99...’
‘Well just don’t let Mr Rogers see you playing it. He hates it when Katie sits at reception and does it.’
‘Sure, sure. Hey I don’t think I want a coffee now. I’m going outside to get some lunch and some sun instead. Want anything?’
‘I’m fine. Got a lollipop to suck on...’

Outside in the sun Mia ate some fruit and continued in vain to complete the Candy Crush level that she was on. The sun was warm and made her sleepy. Before long, she had dozed off...

Then she woke to the sound of a scream. Startled, she got up and looked around, but saw no one and the yard was deserted. What was going on? Suddenly, Katie, the young receptionist, raced out of Mia’s building in a blind panic.
‘Help! Help me someone! Please!’
Mia rushed over to her. ‘Katie? What’s wrong? Where is everyone?’  Katie’s eyes flooded with tears.
‘I can’t get off! I’m stuck!’ She grabbed Mia’s shirt and pulled it towards her, pleading in an urgent whisper: ‘Help me, Mia, please!’
‘What do you mean “Can’t get off?” I don’t understand.’
‘I can't get off this level! I’ve got no more lives!’ Katie was beside herself with grief.
‘No more lives?’  
‘Look out!’ Before Mia knew what was happening, Katie grabbed her arm and pulled her a few metres to her left. An orange-striped boulder crashed in front of them and made a hole in the concrete pavement the size of a crater. Seconds later, a booming voice echoed around them:
‘Oh my God!’ Katie screamed. ‘I have to do the level again!’ Katie ran off in tears and disappeared into the dust. Mia coughed and looked up in complete bewilderment at the huge rock now parked in front of her. She thought it best to move on too, and quickly.

As Mia scampered along, she was plagued by what seemed to be a countless number of flying coloured balls; blue ones, read ones, green ones, yellow ones, striped ones, and multi-coloured ones – all different shapes and sizes. Hundreds flew past her as she ran and then simply exploded in above her head. A hypnotic tune played over and over in her head, and a deep voice occasionally cried: ‘TASTY!’, ‘SWEET!’, and ‘DIVINE!’ every now and then. Eventually she stumbled across a slippery tiled surface that she had not seen before. The tiles glistened, and everything was very quiet. There was a middle-aged man stuck in between two of the tiles. Mia recognised him immediately.
‘Mr Rogers? Is that you?’
The man looked up, startled. ‘Oh Mia, it’s only you. How are you? Have you finished marking up that document I gave you this morning?’
‘Oh, I um...’
‘Oh, silly me, of course you haven’t. You’re here with me, in the game.’
‘In - the - the - game?’
‘Yes. Blasted Candy Crush. I knew the minute my daughter got me onto it there would be no escape.’ Mr Rogers wriggled around. He tried to push himself out from between the tiles. He looked very uncomfortable.
‘Are you stuck, Mr Rogers?’
Mr Rogers laughed hysterically. ‘Stuck? Hah! That’s an understatement and a half. I’ve been on this level for 167 days!’
‘But there must be a way off. Can’t I help you? Can’t I give you a life or something?’
‘Oh you can’t give me a life unless we’re Face book friends, and that would be against our work company policy. No, I’m afraid it’s too late for me...’ And with that, Mr Rogers slipped and disappeared between the two tiles. Mia gasped and covered her mouth. She took a moment and then staggered on, determined to continue on through the obstacles before her.

Finally, on the level that Mia had been stuck on in the kitchen at work, she saw Harper, who was perched up on a floating striped candy. Harper was doing some paperwork, and still sucking on a lollipop.
‘Harper!’ Mia called over to her. ‘What are you doing here? Give me a hand will you?’ Harper looked over at Mia and glared at her.
‘I warned you, Mia. There’s no escape from this game once you start it...’
‘Oh, shut-up and help me get through this level!’ Mia barked as she slid her way across the jelly-covered candies.  
‘Well alright,’ Harper snapped back. ‘There’s no need to be snippy.’ Harper pulled the lollipop out of her mouth and held it in front of Mia. As she did, the lollipop grew, and grew, and grew.
‘Is that – a Lollipop Hammer?’ Mia asked.
‘Sure is.’ Harper started to smash the jelly tiles around her with the lollipop. With each whack, the tiles shattered on impact and the coloured ground beneath them began to rumble and shake. Mia was losing her balance.
‘I’m smashing the jelly and locked candies on this level for you,’ Harper said calmly above the noise. ‘I’m only going to do this for you once and then you’re on your own in the next level. I’m not going to rescue you again. Understood?’ Mia nodded. ‘Now if I was you, I’d take off before all these candies disappear underneath us and you have to start all over again...’   

Mia started to run... and run and run and run and run and run and run and run and run and run...

‘Mia? Mia! Wake up! You’ve been out here of an hour - Mr Rogers is looking for you!’
‘Wha-? Where am I? Harper?’
‘Did you even get any lunch? Or have you been sitting here playing that stupid Candy Crush game the whole time?’
‘Uh, sorry, I must have dozed off...’
‘Well hurry up.’ Harper turned and walked away. Mia rubbed her eyes and looked down at her phone.  She smiled.

Wonderful! Level completed...'

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Escape from District 77

by Wai Chim.

**Author's note: When I first started what I considered to be "serious writing", I penned scenes and situations from the second person. There were overladen with adjectives and adverbs, but I thought they were bloody brilliant. :-P This is a throwback to my youthful idealism.**

Breath ragged, heart pounding in your ears, you race down the narrow corridor, your fingertips trailing along the grubby walls as your anchor.

There are voices coming from behind. They’re close, you realise and you try to pick up the pace, resisting the urge to glance over your shoulder to figure just how close they really could be.

Keep moving. No time to think.

The putrid stench of guts and decay assaults your sensibilities. You’ve always known the sewer would be a decrepit and awful place, but you’d never really given it that much thought. Maybe you should have before you made this plan. Before you’d scuttled down into them, letting the slime glide across your body as you slithered on your stomach and into the network of filth below.

Keep moving. Just a few more turns.

Your brain was still working, that was a relief. Running through the mental layout you’d practised for so many months. It was like breathing, masticating or shitting now – all second nature. Your mind is sharp and able, ready to tackle the next step. Just another turn, a shimmy up the pipe and through the metal grate.


If only your body would keep up.

You’d never realised how much your joints ached from just the sheer task of running. Mind you, there hadn’t been anywhere to really run to. When you had last been free to run, you were just a child frolicking in the fields, the wind whipping through your soft brown locks as your chubby little fingers combed through the coarse wheat crops your father had painstakingly planted.

They were the last living plants you had ever touched.

The sky had exploded all around you. For days it snowed, a toxic tinged grey.

The wheat crops died, along with almost every other living thing on Earth. Birds fell out of the sky. Animals drank the rancid waters and crumpled to their knees. Insects flipped on their backs, twitching their last. The final hints of civilisation burrowed underground. Mum and Dad took you into a bunker that was stacked from floor to ceiling with unmarked tins. For weeks, you holed up between the scalloped silver walls they created.

Then the Invasion.

The invaders came in droves, waves of shiny black pods touching down on the toxic wasteland. They pulled everyone out of the safety of their bunkers. Some were killed, others shrivelled up from the shock of their own terror. And those that survived, did so from the sheer force of human will alone; they were locked up in tiny 7 by 7 foot cells to live out the remainder of their days.

And for twenty years, that was all you knew. For two decades, you lived on a diet of watery stock and a head full of dreams. Dreams of the outside. Reveries and fantasies. Of Escape.

No more distractions. Almost there.

You push aside the stale memories in favour of the taste of freedom, so close you could lap it up. Just around the next corner. The angry voices are even closer now. A clambering shot and a metal ding as a bullet ricochets off the wall in front of you. You grunt loudly, resisting the urge to scream as you hunch forward and pump your legs in a crouching run.

You don’t want to die. Despite everything that’s happened, despite every bit of happiness that has been sucked out of your being, leaving you bone dry – you don’t want to die.

The door is just ahead of you. It’s made from solid steel and you can tell that it’s tightly wedged into the jamb; the turn knob in its centre is rusted over from lack of use. Impenetrable. That’s how the others had described it. The few that have attempted escape before never made it beyond the egress. You chew your lip, thinking briefly of your fallen comrades, as you approach.

No distractions. No turning back.

Another bullet whizzes by, close to your ear as your hands close around the wheel. You throw your weight into it and you turn.


The word pops into your head, foreign sounding but clear. And you realise that every fibre in your being is yearning for it as you tug on the handle.

The door gives just an inch. A sliver of life giving brightness burns its way in. You push with all your might.

The shouting behind you stops as white hot radiance fills the room. You shield your eyes and bask in the warmth as it tingles against your skin. And you tilt your face up to the sky.

Unfamiliar, but oh so bloody brilliant.

Without a moment’s further hesitation you leap out into the unknown landscape. The voices pick up again, angry yelling and colourful cursing storming towards you, but they already sound faraway. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make it more than a few steps. You’re ready for them to take you back, or to end it right here.

A slow smile tugs at the corners of your lips as you feel the dryness of the earth beneath your feet. Only one thing matters, really.

You escaped.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

The Institution

By Sarah Begg

She opened her eyes in darkness and silence.
Unusual, she thought. The hum of the LED light in her cell had become such a constant that the silence which now pervaded was strange.
Perhaps it was the popping death of the light that had awoken her, she with inhuman hearing. The faint white glow that lit her small chamber – that lit all the corridors and rooms she was routinely taken through – was always there, never wavering.
She closed her eyes and opened them a few times, expecting the light to return.
It did not.
Turning her head, she looked towards the door but there was only darkness there. The corridor beyond also was unlit.
A prickled warning crawled across the back of her neck and she remained absolutely still.
Experience had taught her to not do anything. They'll come back, she thought, and turn the lights on again.
They have broken you, a voice whispered through her mind. You used to long for this day.
She sat up fiercely.
Swinging out of bed she dropped from the raised platform and landed lightly on the floor with the stealth of a cat. After all the experiments they had conducted on her – injecting her body with drugs, sticking needles into her muscles and immersing her in acidic substances – she was stronger, fitter and more agile than anyone on the outside walls of the institution. Their creation, they called her. Their masterpiece.
She crept to the door and was surprised when it slid straight open. The locks, she knew, were highly advanced and unbreakable – she had tried to break out of this cell enough times to learn that. Yet being at the forefront of technology they also had the failings of most modern creations – they needed a power source.
She stepped cautiously into the dark corridor and her heart began to race.
What if this was another test? There had been so many tests she had stopped counting. Tricks and deceptions – apparently meant to train her mind, to turn her into their warrior, into their weapon. If she failed a test, whenever she made the Director unhappy, the punishments were excruciating. Even just the thought of what they would do to her if they found her outside her room now was enough to turn her insides to liquid.
But she had to push on. Test or not – she wasn't broken enough to ignore an opportunity for escape, even if the chances that this was real were slim.
Creeping down the corridor, there was no sound, no sign of anyone. She did not need light to know where the end of the corridor was – she had walked the length so many times before, often blindfolded. Yet something else was missing – at the end of the corridor in the top corner near the ceiling, there was usually a red pinprick of light signaling that all movement was being watched in the control room. Today, the red dot had vanished.
She reached the door and this one too swung open without resistance.
Beyond, in this corridor a faint light was present.
Sliding delicately into the wide space, she looked towards the light source. There, at the far end of this corridor, the staircase was lit.
She ran lightly to the stairs, her enhanced eyesight scanning the closed doors and the ceilings as she went. In this corridor also, the red dot of the all-seeing Directorate was missing.
She paused on the staircase, just outside the reach of the light. Here, security was working. The red glowing eye that never blinked guarded the stairs.
There was nothing else for it but to run.
Had anyone been watching the screens in the control room, they would have seen a dark streak flash past, so fast she was. In the upstairs corridor she paused in the shadows in the corner, holding her breath. But the alarms did not begin.
There was an open door just ahead, and soft voices were trickling out of there. There was even the sound of soft laughter – two staff members brightening their otherwise mundane work day.
As she approached the doorway, she slid to the ground and continued on crab-like, her body pressed close to the floor. She now suspected no one was watching the security cameras, as the alarms were not going off. Someone, or something, had granted her a window of opportunity.
From her floor-level view she spied the two workers in the room. They were wearing the white, sterile lab coats that all employees here wore. Surrounded by beakers and potions, their faces covered by protective goggles, in their hands they mixed concoctions of drugs that would be used to inject their test subjects. She knew that some did not survive the experiments. She could hear, from deep below in her own cell, the screaming agony of those who reacted badly to the drugs. She had even experienced her own excruciating pain when they had given her something new. But she had survived. Even strapped down to the hard metal table, her body cramping and spasming with the pain, begging them to just end it for her – still, she had survived.
She had a strong desire to kill them both. Here, right now, she had the advantage. They had bred her for this – to kill. She could easily slide in, kill the first one before they knew there was an intruder. But that second one was on the wrong side of the table, and she knew well enough that there was an emergency alarm within arms reach. She could easily kill the second one, but the chances of them pressing the alarm first were too high. She couldn't throw away her slim chance of escape.
She glided past the door easily as the workers continued to chat away.
The alarm had still not gone off, but if something was happening in the control room she knew it would only be a short matter of time before the watch resumed.
Springing lightly to her feet she began to run silently, her body still crouched low to the ground so she was below window level for the closed doors. Though it had been years since they had taken her up this far, taken her up to ground level and allowed her to see the sun, still the route was imprinted permanently in her mind.
Stairs, corridors, more stairs – she couldn't believe that no one was about, that the alarms hadn't been raised. The possibility of this being a test was almost more than she could bear, her heart pounding in her chest far more than it should.
Then the final door was in sight – the door that led outside. Running flat out like a mad woman, she threw herself at the door without thought to the locks and bolts that normally closed it.
Yet it sprang open easily and she burst out into the starry nighttime air.
There was a body at her feet – a fallen and dead security guard, but she sprang lithely over the top, not sparing it a second thought, and ran on into the night. Ahead, a dense row of trees stood in front of the electrified fence – she ran straight towards it, smelling freedom.
As she entered the treeline her nose picked up the smell of man, her ears twitched like a wolf's and she heard the inhale of breath just behind the tree to her right.
Her arm sprang out and she grabbed the neck of the man who hid there,was about to snap it when a voice shouted out.
She froze on instinct, the commanding voice impossible to ignore from her conditioning.
Yet it wasn't the voice of the Director that spoke. It was another voice – a long ago remembered voice that she now only heard in her dreams.
“Savante!” the man whispered, his voice breaking with emotion as he stepped out from the trees. Her eyes, glowing eerily in the moonlight, took him in and something in the back of her mind seemed to break a little.
“My sister – you are alive!” he stepped forwards, his arms outstretched.
She dropped her hold on the irrelevant man and focused on he who now stood before her. Brother. Though she could not remember this man, his face looked like hers. The passage of time had been so long and yet so short in the Institution, seeing time told on the face of he who had been just a child made her heart break.
And then the sirens started – the alarm, finally raised.
They took off at a run – she, her brother, and his group of renegades who had infiltrated the Institution and facilitated her escape.
They flew through the butchered hole in the electric fence and took off into the wasteland desert beyond.