By Jamie Burns
She walked along the damp tunnel, her bare feet moving swiftly against the cold cement. The wind blew through the tunnel and right through the thin night gown she had been given. She knew that if not for all the adrenaline running through her she would feel frozen, but right now all she could feel was her heart pounding through her whole body.
She had nothing; no coat, no shoes, no means to tell how much time had passed. It felt like hours but really it was less than ten minutes. Less than ten minutes for her to change her life, less than ten minutes to either get her life back or end it for good.
The tunnel went on and on. She was finally nearing the end when in the distance she heard the dogs barking inside the tunnel behind her. She quickened her pace. Then she could hear men’s voices in the tunnel, yelling out indecipherable commands and information to each other. She ran through puddles and sludge praying that her feet wouldn’t find any glass. Then, a burst of fresh clean air blew across her face, she had made it out of the tunnel. But it was of little relief since she was still a mile from the fence line. She sprinted toward it even though her lungs were already on fire. Dawn was on the horizon and if she could at least make it to the fence she might have a chance.
She had been locked in that room so long that running felt freeing mentally but excruciating physically. Once able to run for hours without feeling tired, now she was spent after fifteen minutes. She was a shadow of what she once was and they had done that to her. They had taken all her detail away, all of her dimension and complexity. She hated them for that, she ran even harder.
The loud, clear barking of dogs filled the field telling her they had made it out of the tunnel. Their men would be behind them shortly. She ran and tried miserably not to wonder if the dogs would tear her apart before the men could shoot her.
She had covered the expanse of the clearing and reached the wooded area that came before the fence line. She was only a short way in when she ran straight through a patch of thorn bushes. She could push through a few scrapes on her legs but it was the ones that buried themselves deep into the bottom of her feet that made her fall to the ground. Rolling a few times before hitting a tree. She scrambled up next to the trunk and frantically pulled the thorns from her feet.
The low growl of a dog reverberated through the forest. They had caught up, and the first was now stopped just ten yards away. It’s head low to the ground and the fur on its back standing on end, the snarling dog’s two companions fell in line behind it. After making it this far, coming so close, to die with nothing but a tiny hope. It was all she had left. Even with so little of it, she had to try. Maybe she was close enough. She clapped her hands together, interlaced her fingers and closed her eyes to concentrate, but nothing happened.
She opened her eyes. The dogs were now starting their slow approach. With her last shred of hope fading, she looked in the direction of the fence line and there as the first light of morning brightened the sky was a gleaming silver fence post. Without a second thought, she pushed herself away from the tree and sprinted for the post. Overjoyed to find the fence line had no fence to speak of. If she could just cross that line…
From the moment she started running the dogs closed the distance quickly. She was sure she could feel their hot breath on the back of her legs. She extended her stride and pushed her body to its breaking point. As she did her best to jump over the brambles at the fence line, one of the dogs knocked her to the ground. They both tumbled and rolled but by the time she stopped the beast was over the top of her, teeth bared and snarling. Terror overtook her for the split second before she realized they were over the line.
She slammed her hands together in front of her in the space between her and the beast looming above. The blue surge of energy that shot from her hands manifested itself as a double-edged sword that glided smoothly up through the beast. Its snarl faded to confusion, then it was gone. She tossed it aside and popped up to her feet. The other two dogs split apart trying to encircle her. She pulled her hands apart but the energy stayed, the sword splitting in two so she wielded one in each hand. She felt her energy returning, the burn in her lungs and legs dissipating. Her energy filled her with more rage. Her natural state only reminded her of all they had taken from her.
The remaining dogs jumped at her almost simultaneously, the one behind her moving only seconds after the one in front. She stepped sideways and raised her hand over her head then swiftly back down, slicing off the heads of both beasts in one fluid motion.
It sounded like the men were now closing the distance. All she wanted was to get out, to get free. Now standing at the edge of her own hell, her prison over the last five years with the men that tortured her approaching a place where she was the one with the power her feelings shifted. Did she want freedom? Or did she really want revenge? Inside the scared girl that had spent years there told her to leave then. But with the energy that coursed through her, the rage filled warrior she was supposed to become told her to stay. So she stayed, broken and angry she was intoxicated with her own power and intoxication leads to bad judgement.
She moved farther away from the fence line but still within view to lure them to her. The four men stopped when they saw the dogs, dead on the ground and exchanged looks with one another. They spotted her, no blue energy coming from her hands just a slight, barefoot girl in a dirty, thin nightgown. Like the dogs they were, they too spread out to surround her.
The man in front of her held out a hand. “27, why don’t you come back now and save us the trouble of dragging you back.”
“That’s not my name.” She said under her breath.
“You don’t have a name.” His voice dripping with disdain.
The men closed in around her, and she tried to track them all in her peripheral vision but lost one behind her. That was the first moment she wished she had listen to the scared little girl that said leave. It was too late now. She steeled herself and looked up and meet the gaze of the man in front.
“I might not have a name, but in a moment, you won’t have a head.”
His smug look faltered for a moment and she focused the energy back to her hands, the blue light illuminating the forest around them. All the men took a step back as the dual swords formed. The leader tried to keep his composure but every tiny waver in his confidence made her giddy with pleasure.
“You really think you can win you worthless piece of garbage?” He spat at her.
At the words, she jumped high into the air toward him, twice as high as she had been able to jump within the fence line. Calling her garbage was the last thing he ever did. She landed in a crouch on the ground in front of him and his blood ran down the edge of her blue blade. The gasps from the other men were like music to her. She stood to her full height which was still half as tall as the man she had just decapitated. Turning to the next man she ran at him, closing the gap quickly. When a pain like nothing she had known coursed through her body radiating from her chest. She started to fall toward the man and her blades flickered out, once again defenseless. She stumbled forward and to her surprise, the man caught her. Her legs went limp and he lowered her slowly in his arms. She felt a warmth spreading over her as her energy diminished. The man held her as her warm blood covered both of them before staining the earth below. The man across from them still had his gun raised and a smile on his face. She looked to the face of the man holding her and thought how she might have hated him the least. But he was still one of them. Through the blood that filled her mouth she choked out. “Do...don’t touch me.”
He lay her on the ground and stood over her. “You should have just come back with us.” He looked surprisingly sad. The other two men joined him looking over her.
Hatred consumed her heart giving her a last surge of energy. “Death first,” she spat and a blue pulse coursed out of her body. The ripple filled the forest and she was finally free.