There are roads that wind in loops, strangling my soul, killing my sense of purpose. I watch as the wind whips the fields, the grain and the barley into rushing patterns. Behind me, the buzzing of a rattly old engine. It stutters as it passes along the winding country road. I hear footsteps, then suddenly they break into a run. I turn and look back at the hedge behind me, and there I see the proctor slip through the gap in the hedge. He saw me… somehow he saw me!
He is almost upon me as I manage to gather my wits about me finally and jump off of the old log to dash down the hill, through the long crops. Seeds torn from heads cover me, and I’m soaked from the morning dew that had lain heavy on the heads of morning worshiping crops.
Soaked, heavy laiden with the damp, my legs like rocks, my movements laboured, my whole being feels clumsy as if I am in one of those dreams in which I can’t run. Its like running in sleep and being wrapped up in a straight jacket of blankets. I fall and roll, and tumble down the hill, cutting an awkward gash in the field, until I find my feet again by luck, and run with backward glance to the proctor.
He looms behind me like a shadow, like death, like the holy spirit, like the cloak of oblivion upon the shoulder blades of a skeleton, come to take me back to the feezing building to lock me in a class. I can not stand the thought of that. At the bottom I leap over a fence through trees and bracken, and over an old damn that lies crumbling and broken. Stepping stones provide just enough footfalls for me to get to the other side. I leap from the dam across the flowing torrent of water, hit the first stone, at an awkward angle, but I cannot keep my balance, tumble sideways and I am in the water, dragged under by strong currents, I do all I can to struggle and keep my head from striking the rocks. Great hands wrap themselves about me and tug at me upwards,while the water fills my lungs, tearing at them like sharp shards of ice.
I am dragged me up onto the rocks, where I lie still, unbreathing, fading away. Strong arms push the water from my lungs so I choke, while I drift at the edge of conscousness. I feel him carrying me back up the hill and bundling me up into a car as it speeds along a winding road and past the school. Right turn. Left turn. Up a long straight road. To the hospital? I resist waking up. Resist it, for all the trouble I’ve caused will get me ten of the best lashes the principal could offer me. The car stops, I’m rushed out. Bundled into the hospital and placed on a trolley that’s wheeled around. Wheels creek. All is quiet. I suuccumb to the will to let myself go. Darkness takes me. Nothingness takes me. I return to the place from which I came.
* * *
I wake up. Silently I climb out of bed and look out the window. The lights of the guardposts round the city dance around the darkness just out of town. Having escaped from the school I had nowhere to go but back there. Nothing for hundreds of miles except towns and villages, all fortified and impossible to get into. Certaintly I would have been caught trying. Now here in hospital, I have half a chance, of slipping out into the streets of the city, to disappear amoungs the Proles. You’d think I’d planned it that way. Actually I did.
By Gregory Alter