Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Escape By Ben Scotti

I was always a light sleeper, but it didn’t really come out until the Atlantic front collapsed and became occupied territory. Hearing Mark 82’s being dropped from modified 747’s all day and night for six months then adding on the longest stream of full automatic rifles heard in battle for a solid week will have that affect on you. So it was no surprise that I woke up to the muffled sound of the S.U. Police Force busting through the main door of my apartment complex, several stories below me. I laid in my small prison sack of a bed, wide awake, starring out through the blackness across my cramped one room apartment. Watching my front door with the close intensity of a sniper closing in on his target half a mile away. My eyes slowly adjusted to the dark revealing the dirty sink over flowing with handmade pottery dishes slowly returning back to their original soft and mushy state. The arm chair against the right wall, half eaten by moths and mice with a large patch of stuffing sticking out of the left arm. The old crapy TV from the 1950’s, bunny ears freshly reattached with rotting duck tape losing its stick. And last but not least the musty wooden floor with splinters and nails standing up like daggers, couldn’t take a single step without cutting your feet up so badly you would have to have your damn foot amputated.

I listened, holding my breath to make the quiet more clear. I listened in the darkness for the thuds of steel toed combat boots jumping up the creaking stair case that was so rotten it’s a surprise it hasn’t collapsed under its own weight. Muffled through the darkness a loud thud came from deep below, soft voices were raised and more thuds followed. “One,” I whispered softly to myself.

I listened quietly for another moment until I heard a series of new thuds and muffled voices, slightly louder than those before. “Two,” I whispered a second time, and this time sat up in bed, reached down underneath my cot and pulled out my boots and pants. Slowly but hurried I pulled on my jeans, being aware of where the holes in the legs were so my sharp toes wouldn’t tear them any further. As I began lopping in the buttons and belt another series of thuds began, once again closer and clearer than those before. I managed to make out only a few words before the thuds and muffled voices ceased, but it was nothing solid enough to comprehend. “Three,” I whispered, and slipped on my left boot.

The thuds and muffled cries were growing sharper and clearer with every rising floor. By the time I was fully dressed in my ragged cloths, sitting propped against the wall on my cot, I heard them bust open a door on the sixth floor right below me. “UP!” yelled a gruff voice with a heavy accent, “UP! UP! UP!”

There was a loud crash of something being thrown to the floor with enough force that it made my cracked walls crack a little more. “Jesus Chr…” a weak and soft voice began but was cut off by another crash. Almost as quickly as the thuds had entered the apartment below they shuffled out at a very quick pace, creaking and cracking the floor boards as they went. I could hear a series of rapid thuds off to the right rising in volume until it was so clear that it sounded as though they were right next to my door. “Seven,” I said as the door suddenly burst forward, the rusted bolt shattering with a loud snap, small splints of wood flying off the wall and scattering along the floor. The door flung around in a half circle, coming to an abrupt stop as it hit the wall, the impact had so much force that the bottom hinge was ripped from the wall, leaving the door hanging awkwardly ajar.

Grey light flooded into the room, bleakly revealing the pathetic apartment’s cockroach population. A man entered the room at a full stride; he wore full black combat fatigues, insignias of rank and company stitched into a small yet visible shoulders of his heavy black jacket. He had padding on his knees and elbows like a skateboarder heading out to hit the half pipe and strapped across his chest over his jacket was a thick and heavy looking bullet proof vest. A gun was holstered on his left hip and a black looking club hooked to his right, although he didn’t have much fire power on him the man looked ready to go to war, all he needed was an excuse. “UP!” he yelled his voice booming with the abrupt force of a shotgun blast.

He was across the room in a flash, arms around my head thrusting me upward with such strength I was afraid if he let go I might go through the ceiling. Yet instead he dragged me by my neck across the small room and threw me out, head long, into the brightly light hallway. I flew across the floor, feet grazing across the wood as I went, and crashed down with a painfully loud crack into the old wooden banister just outside my door. “MOVE!” he screamed and kicked me in the ribs adding to my already immense pain. Soon I was being rolled down several flights of stairs with the help of the officers boots.

Down the spiraling staircase I went, floor by floor, tumbling head over heels the whole way down. Every time I found myself with a brief second to stand on my feet the hard end of a boot would kick me up in the ribs and send me crashing back down, how I went down all seven flights without snapping my neck or breaking my back I’ll never know but by the end I felt as though I had broken everything. When I hit the bottom of the staircase I was hauled to my feet and pushed on forward at an impatient walk. Yet after a seven flight tumble my head was spinning and my body was throbbing, and being forced up and made to walk only made things spin faster. “DAMN YOU SWINE! MOVE!” the officer behind me yelled, I could feel him winding up for either a kick or a punch and was tensing my body up, counting down the seconds before the inevitable strike, crippling my hurt body.

“I got him,” A man suddenly rushed up beside me and put his arm around my waist cutting off the officer. I could tell by the grumbled curses that he wasn’t happy, yet left us alone anyways and went off to harass another one of my neighbors, kicking the poor man in the groin and dragging him along by the roots of his hair.

“Thanks,” I said, the world slowly steadying back into its normal pace, “Hey don’t I know you?”

“Yeah,” he replied, a small welcoming grin appearing on his haggard face “I live one floor down from you, the names Rob, Rob Titus, your Aidan right?”

“Aidan Moore, at your service,” I said returning his smile. I had seen Rob a few times around the complex but we’d never spoken to one another until now.

They pushed us out into the large courtyard out in front of the apartment complex. The courtyard had once been a beautiful place to sit on a hot summer’s day with a book in hand. The kind of place where the shade was always just right, where the flowers would grow freely in natural garden beds, and where a child’s playful laughter was always present. Now though the courtyard was a mere shadow of its formal self. Brown discolored grass engulfed everything, the trees had turned black and whatever leaves were left were clumps of dangling ash. The once abundant flowerbeds were now black and grey smudges of earth that looked like scorch marks left by a fire breathing dragon. The only thing that still had its color was a statue of a bronze horse in a running stance in the middle of the courtyard. Still running along a beautiful field that was never there to begin with.

They hustled us out into the courtyard and lined us all up against the outer wall of our apartment building. There were about twenty of us as far as I could tell in my still slightly dazed state, all men, all young and able, in other words a potential threat to our captors. With my back against the wall I found myself starring out into the depths of the compound. Off in the distance I could see the other apartment buildings, ragged, grey, and beaten, standing in the dimming moonlight like hedge stones. Farther along the compound I could see the perimeter fences and the watch towers. Big hulking metallic things laced in enough barbwire to give the entire teenage nation a brand new set of braces. Glistening black 7.62 mm PT machine gun, freshly oiled and loaded, almost as eagerly ready to kill as the man handling it. I could see it all as I had been seeing it for months, the only thing I couldn’t see in the darkness were the bodies that I feared I was about to join.

The first shot that rang out came as such a surprise it made me jump and yelp out, bringing me completely out of my dazed state from the staircase tumble. I turned my head left where the shot had come from; I had turned just in time to see the officer fire off his second round. He held up his handgun, a silver looking thing with a black grip, it looked brand new and I did not recognize the make. He held up the pistol to the forehead of a young looking kid in his late teens, long blond hair, pale skin, very thin. The kid looked very solemn, very calm, not the expression you expect to see when a man’s about to die.

The bullet went between his eyes, a neat round red dot placed perfectly on the center of his eye brow line. The bullet went through on a straight upward angle, passing through the skull and brain matter like a knife through butter. Then burst through the back of his skull with enough force to kill anyone that could have been standing behind him. His skull cracked open like an egg and made a sound like the pop of an air soft gun being fired at a thin metal wall. The brains, the skull, and all the muck in-between splattered against the bare concrete wall with a loud slap like a thick wet sponge against the counter top. The dark grey wall turned a deep chunky color of red and black that spread out and oozed its way down to the floor, where it would meet the crumpled lifeless body that was once its owner. The smell of blood and gunpowder was strong and hot, almost overpowering. A salty sour stench punching into my nostrils with enough force to make my stomach convulse and have me gag.

I watched that one lone boy fell down in a heap on the wet concrete like a sack of nails dropped from a seven story window, and I could not watch anymore. Turning my head I looked out again across the compound to the gates and the guard towers. Just past those gates was freedom I guess you could say, the kind the freedom you’d have to fight in the mud and the shit for if you wanted to call it your own. Where I could die just as easily as I could in here, where I’d probably be living worse and starving more and more in here. Yet somehow it still seemed like a better choice, cause at least out there, there is a chance of something more than just counting the days till you die.

The low rolling rumble of the thunder boomed overhead in the dark night sky, heavy thick rain drops followed and soon my rugged and worn cloths had changed to a darker shade of their original color. I looked up briefly to see if I could still see the moon, but all I could see was blackness and the vague outline of the clouds As the rain poured down, as the thunder boomed from above and the lighting started to crack showing quick snap shot glimpses of the landscape, I counted the shots until the smoking barrel was steaming in front of my face. “Any last words?” the S.U. officers asked in an angered tone. I said nothing, I stood, closed my eyes and waited for my end to come.


The gun was empty, like the dramatic punch line to an over done action movie, the gun clicked empty. My heart gave an abrupt kick, skipping a beat in over joyful relief. My breath escaped my throat like a vacuum of air being sucked out into space. For that brief moment I was the happiest sorry son of a bitch on the face of the planet, but the feeling didn’t last long. Cursing in a foreign language I did not understand the officer slid out the empty cartridge. It was a long thin black thing that if looked at on a certain angle could be easily mistaken for an oddly shaped candy bar.

As he reached into his back pocket, retracting a fresh clip, a new slick, black candy bar he suddenly stopped dead in his swift military motion, and looked up. It was as though he could sense it; see it barreling out of the heavens on a direct crash course with his full body frame yet he was already too late. His body abruptly jolted upward, his arms flailed out and around as though they were desperately trying to escape the very joints that kept them attached and alive. His eyes bulged out of his skull and turned red until they burst like small berries. His tongue stuck out and squirmed back and forth with the same excited rapid motion of a dog wagging its tail happily, soon blood began to pour out of his mouth at a near vomiting pace and the tongue was reduced from a waggle to a twitch. Around him his three brothers in arms jolted and dance in unison with the lead man, if there was music playing somewhere it would have been the show of a lifetime, all it would need was something good to drink.

It all happened in an instant; all four of them were fried and dead in under from a bolt of lightning of all things. The only thing that kept me and the two other remaining men alive was the slab of concrete we stood on, separating us from the wet gravel the now dead officers roasted in. The word lucky doesn’t begin to express how I felt standing there starring dumb founded at the charred and twitching corpses beneath me, the very same bodies that no less than a minute ago held my life in their hands with as much care as that of a five year old holding a magnifying glass to an ant colony on a sunny day. My heart swelled with the heavy and solid beat of life in my chest, pounding like a young reckless couple in a homemade porno.

I was suddenly being pulled forward off the concert slab and rushed into damp darkness of the night. “Come on man,” a familiar voice spoke into my ear at an unsteady rate, “If you want to keep that heart of yours beating you got to move with me man, I can’t do all the leg work for ya.”

I looked up at Rob’s dripping wet face, he looked as pale and as shaken up as I was, he had his hand against my back and was rushing me onward at a near jogging pace. In front of me was the third member of our little runaway party, a kid about eighteen or nineteen years old, “Wrong place, wrong time,” I thought.

Fully out of the shock of surviving a moment too close for words instinct took over and I was running off with the adrenalin high of a man desperately trying to escape. My senses were sharpened; I could hear the conversations of the guards in their towers and at their posts, talking of women and sports, passing cigarettes between one another. I could see the wiring of booby traps and fencing laid to make any escape deadly. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought that somewhere in the past ten minutes I had been bitten by a radioactive spider. It was like I had superpowers and could do damn near anything, but it was only the intense adrenaline coursing through my veins, driving a terrified man on his way through hell and foreboding doom.

We dove into a muddy patch of bushes fifty yards from the main gates, taking refuge among the barren stubbly dead twigs, bright flood lights passing overhead in waves, ignoring us and passing us off as part of the bush. I counted seven guards, two in each watch tower and three walking back and forth along the ground, all armed with AK-47’s and watching the darkness around them intently, looking for an excuse to use their service rifles. “How do you guys want to do this?” the kid whispered to Rob and I.

“What’s your name kid?” Rob asked, side stepping his question.

“Names Raymond, yours?”

We introduced ourselves quickly, lots of things were on our mind, a formal introduction followed by a brief life story was no among them. “So any ideas?” I asked.

“I got one,” said Rob, “But you’re not gona like it.”

“Does it involve a distraction?”


“Well then your right I don’t like it,” Rob and Raymond chuckled at my response.

“I got one,” said Raymond, his smile fading back to his stone cold serious grim.

“What you got?” Rob turned to Raymond through the mud and rain, starring curiously at the young man.

“Down the fence a bit, near the halfway point of the two guard towers there’s a blind spot, neither tower can see that far down the line, especially at night and during a fucking thunder storm,” As if on cue thunder rolled and rumbled overhead.

“Ha,” I replied, a smug smile on my face, “The Great Escape come to life, I like it.”

“Huh?” Raymond looked at me with a confused childish look on his face, the new generation has no respect for the classics.

I quickly described the film to him, being quick about it and sticking to the key movie details. Rob joined in with me reminding me of some parts that had long since slipped my mind. Thinking of the movie brought me back to fonder times, my smug smile broadened into a full out grin. Rob shared my smile, he remembered the movie too, “Well I’m glad you two are reminiscing and bonding and all, but now that we have a plan don’t you think we should, oh, I don’t know, GO!” Raymond was eager, I didn’t blame him.

“Well do we have anything to cut the fence with,” Rob asked, his grin fading away.

“Nope,” I said, “We aren’t cutting, we’re digging.”

We waited till the spotlight shifted to the other side of the fence, crawling out of the thick mud and dead bush we stumbled through the darkness across the road to the blind spot in the fence. Our sopping wet clothes weighing us down with cakes of mud making us waddle more than run. It reminded me of when I was little and went out to play in the snow, how my parents would wrap me up in layer after layer of winter clothing. When I would go out moving was a stiffened effort, it was like moving through quicksand. Those old stiffened motions I used then to frolic in the white powder with my friends came back like second nature as I shuffled and for the fence.

We were a few yards away from the wires when the light began to shift back in our direction, “Get down!” Rob hissed.

I dove forward, arms pointing out, landing in the mud I slid into a pile so thick and high that for a brief moment I was underground, yet I had made it to the fence. Scrambling up out of the pile and putting my back to the wire I looked back to my two companions, Rob was close and crawling to me, his eyebrows furrowed in blunt determination. My sight of Raymond however was very grim. He stood on both feet in the middle of the road, frozen by the bright spotlight engulfing him. I could see the expression on his face, eyes widened, jaw slacked, shock in its truest form. He turned his aghast gaze to me and we locked eyes, those blue eyes shone out like Christmas lights through the spotlights glare, unblinking and never losing their focus, I was spell bound by them. His jaw twitched and his tongue rolled up to the tops of his teeth, he was trying to say something, but never had the chance.

The loud guttering roar of the machine ripping through the night, tearing him to pieces. The first few rounds went through his chest and for a moment it was like in the movies when a character goes down, you hear the shots but you rarely see the bullet holes, all you can see is the pained looked on their faces of being shot. Yet then the reality of what came next took hold, a level of gore that only Terantino dared to touch. They fired somewhere around a hundred rounds, maybe less, his body danced with each new bullet hole forming on his chest. His clothes were ripped from his body like cheap wt newspaper, the flesh on his chest peeled away like the folds of an orange revealing the frame of his chest cavity. Then his bones turned to dust from more lead ripping its way inward quiet literally forming a hole through and through in the center of his chest. His head was all but gone in the first few seconds, lower jaw and neck bones added in with flesh and muscles gave off the impression of a very bloody bowl. I could see his tongue moving in the blood bowl that was his neck, still wagging around just like the fried S.U. officer, trying to find the words to express how he felt about being turned into bit size bits. At one point during the hail of bullets one arm flew off to the side cracking Rob in the back, he was so shocked by what he was seeing though he barely noticed it. By the time they stopped firing and the spotlight started turning away, Raymond, a full human being barely out of his adolescence had been reduced to nothing more than a grease spot on the mud caked road.

My body trembled in a series of cold spin tingling chills that came like tremors after an earthquake; I was frozen in shock and could break the spell. Suddenly a hand out of the darkness placed a heavy grip on my thigh, my reflexes jerked my right hand up and into a fist, without even realizing it I punched Rob in the chest, “God damn it,” he cursed through wheezing breath, “It’s me you son of a bitch.”

“Oh,” I said still dazed by what I just witnessed, “Sorry.”

He mumbled something under his breath then said, “Don’t worry bout it just dig.”

Digging into the loose earth my hands clawed their way through chunk after chunk of soggy dirt. Building up a pile behind me waist deep, wiggling with thick earthworms the size of a toddlers forearm. “Dig faster man, faster!” Rob was nervous, looking over his shoulder every few seconds towards Raymond’s body as he dug.

A patrol would be coming soon to take a look at the body and look for anyone else trying to escape, the thought of what they’d do when they found us made me shutter and dig a little faster. My fingers dug deep into the dirt and pulled back a mound big enough to cover my knees and stomach. Something pinched my hand and suddenly pain shot through my fingers. Pulling back on impulse and gritting my teeth to hold back a yelp, I toppled back into Rob’s side. Two full finger nails had been ripped clean off; blood was trickling down my fingers and drawing lines in my palms from the ragged black smudges of flesh that were the tops of my fingers. “Fuuucccckk!” I hissed under my breath.

“Jesus man, that’s the last thing we need,” Rob sighed angrily then turned to his side and started ripping out a piece of his worn muddy sweater, “Here man wrap this around them, it’s a bit dirty an wet, but it’ll have to do for now.”

He handed me two tiny strips of cloth about an inch wide each and somewhere around five or six inches long. Gritting my teeth against the pain I tied together the two strips and wrapped them around my fingers, putting pressure on the tips and praying that the mud on the cloth wouldn’t get the wounds infected. Holding back on my hurt hand I resorted to strongly using my left hand to dig through the slush. The hole widened out into a large wide crevice in the ground, filling up with a small puddle in the center, the gap between the fence and the earth was barely wide enough to fit one man, but it would have to do.

“You first,” Rob said pushing me forward.

“No way man, you go first,” I argued.

“No, your hurt and I’m not, you go first so in case something happens you can just get out of here before you get hurt any worse.”

“Hurt?” I said in a suppressed yell, “What the fuck do you mean hurt, I lost two finger nails, I wasn’t shot in the fucking leg, now get in that damn hole.”

“No,” Rob replied calmly as he grabbed me by the collar, “You’re going first, you have no fucking say in this.”

Rob thrust me forward, with one strong shove I was wedged between the pointy fence and the soggy ground. For a guy that had been in the camp for nearly as long as I had, being starved and beaten regularly, he still had a good deal of strength. I crawled forward, sliding through like butter thanks to my frail under feed frame.

My waist was through the wire, then my knees, my boots, and then I was free, clear out and onto the other side, mere inches into freedom land. On the other side, completely out of the compound grounds for the first time in so long that the memories from before were so faded and forgotten that they seemed like a distant dream. I looked up at the black sky, rain pelted down into my face and eyes, but I was free, “Hey!” said Rob, “Do you mind giving me a hand I think I’m stuck.”

Rob’s shirt was caught on the links in the fence, he was halfway and couldn’t move an inch more. He wiggled and kicked, and I pulled him by the collar of his jacket with all my strength but the man didn’t budge an inch. “Alright man,” I said rubbing my hands, “Your gona have to back yourself out of there and dig a little more cause right now you ain’t going nowhere.”

“Ah fuck,” he cursed, “Alright, alright, give me a little push would…”

“FREEZE!” yelled the demanding voice of an SU Officer, barreling toward us with three others at his side, guns drawn, boots sloshing through the mud, sending chunks of liquid dirt flying in all direction.

“RUN AIDAN!” Rob yelled.

“B-b-but what about…” I started trembling in terror, but Rob cut me off.

“Forget me, now run god damn it! RUN!”

A hail of bullets fell around us, the ground popped up in little bursts; I raised my arms to shield my face as I dove for cover. I slide to the side out of the direct line of fire and rolling into a ditch. I scrambled up onto my side trying to find traction and balance in the slippery ground, I managed to prop myself up on an elbow and look back at Rob. Lying face down in the mud, his back had been turned to a beat-up bruised mess of bullets, blood, and flesh; he looked like a thanksgiving turkey after thanksgiving. “Damn it,” I whispered, fighting back the tears and concentrating on the task at hand. I started moving, not looking back for a second glance.

I wasted no more time, kicking my legs up out of the mud I jumped to my feet and started to run. “HEY YOU!” An SU Officer yelled over the gun fire through the fence, “STOP NOW OR YOU WILL BE KILLED!”

I ran, ignoring the cries and pleas coming from the gate, bullets tearing up the ground and making pockets in the air around me the guards were ignoring their own pleas as well. I ran past the watch towers and the guards screaming and shooting at me, doing my best to follow the murky outline of the road before me while keeping my balance in the loose soil. It seemed as though I was being shot at from all angles, from nearby buildings, from towering watch towers, from men lying prone shooting for my feet. Yet the bullets passed around me as though an invisible force field clung to my weak frame and I ran without getting a single scratch on me. I ran past all of it, every guard and wired fence, every threatening structure and every violent man, I ran into the thick brush of the over grown woods hoping over protruding roots and large bushes. Bullets cut down though the trees like miniature grenades, sending splinters into the mix of chaos, most bouncing off my damp cloths, some sticking into my tender exposed skin.

I ran an all out run; I ran a run inspired solidly by the dozens of blazing rifles riding up my ass. I ran until my heart felt like it had stopped, till my lungs burned with fire, till my legs went numb and wobbled around like jelly beneath me, till my arms flung side to side as though they were paralyzed. I ran and then finally I collapsed into a heaving heap of tired and burning muscles. My knees crumbled into the leaves and the roots, I sat completely exposed in the woods. I had reached my breaking point, I had no energy left to run with, nothing more to drive me forward, so I sat, waiting for the bullet that would finally let me die. But the bullet never came, I lay down on my chest with a thud, breathing heavily through my mouth I listened; there was not a single sound. No men stomping over fallen timber, no rounds being fired in my direction, there was nothing, just pure quiet. I lay there breathing hard, feeling my heart pound a small indent into the ground, I could hear gun fire still but it had grown far and distant and was only little pops and bursts floating along with the wind. My eyes were open wide looking off into the brush to my left waiting for a black boot or greased barrel to jump into my line of sight till my eyes started drooping and I drifted off into a long and much deserved sleep.

Hours later I awoke with a harsh gasp, breathing in the cold and damp morning air. Slowly I raised my head and rolled over onto my back, looking around through the green darkness I saw no S.U. Officers, I saw through exhausted eyes nothing but lush green forest sleeping silently in the night.

Standing, I took a final look around, my heart beating hard and fast, no sudden movements, no loud footsteps, no clicks of guns, nothing. The idea that I was entirely alone was surreal and seemed a little unnatural and yet it was the single most welcoming feeling I had felt in a long time. Walking off into the woods I stumbled over branches and roots, slipping on the wet and mud soaked earth until I found my way out and into a clearing. It was a huge field, stretching out like a lake through the forest reaching all the way out the snowy mountain range. Standing there in the grassy field I watched in awe as the warm sun rose up through the trees and out of the clouds turning the landscape into a collection of bright colors reminding me of a beautiful paint I had seen when I was a kid on a field trip to a museum in the city. I thought back to that moment briefly, the brilliant colors shaded perfectly to show an attempt of detail and realism to the beauty that is Mother Nature. Wasn’t until this moment standing in the woods after my escape that I realized how profound such a thing was.

I raised my arms and rolled back my head savoring the moment in my thoughts, I could feel the burning tears rolling down my cold cheeks and dripping off my chin. I marched on through the thick grass toward the mountains, planning to go past the snowy hill tops to simply see what lies on the other side.

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