Authors: E.R. Arroyo
© 2012 E.R. Arroyo
by Dustin Pierce
Model - Nicole Fancher
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in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the copyright
RENASCENCE AND OTHER POEMS,
© 1917 by Edna St. Vincent Millay
quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright
©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale
House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
you,” I whisper as I swipe the bag from Dylan’s hands under the table. Like
always, he keeps his shoulders hunched, and I wish he would sit up straight.
Around the room, everyone carries on as usual. I shovel in a few mouthfuls of
food--it’s bland to say the least.
is my favorite room in the Underage building. It’s essentially a cafeteria,
housing long tables with chairs down either side. There’s an opening between
this room and the kitchen, an exit on the far right, and another door to my
the most well-lit room in the building, and sharing meals with my friends is
one of the few things I enjoy here. Across the room, Alyssa smiles at me.
isn’t a prison but often feels like one. We live here, all of the kids under
eighteen. They teach us, feed us, give us beds. We’re the only civilized
people left in our country--maybe even the whole world--so they keep us here to
protect us. Or so they say, but I don’t believe them.
slip the bag onto my shoulder like it belongs to me as a guard passes our
table. Already pacing my breaths, I wait.
wipes his neck to brush away clippings from his haircut today. His hair looks
black but it’s hard to tell with it cropped so close to his scalp. I wonder if
it would be lighter if it grew out a little. But that isn’t an option for the
males of our colony. Options are luxuries we don’t have.
an accomplice, you know,” he says, almost too quietly.
right. For that reason, I sit by someone different almost every mealtime. I
wouldn’t want them to punish my friends for my crimes, so I acquaint with
everyone. They can’t punish them all.
enabler, really,” I say, thankful Dylan has a sense of humor. Sometimes I
forget he’s only seventeen like me. By the things he says--and the lines in
his swarthy skin when he furrows his brow--he seems years older.
can tell from Dylan’s eyes that the guard is almost at the door to my left.
“Besides.” I smile. “Who else would test your inventions?”
you have a plan?”
know the rules. The less you know the better,” I tell him.
smile at the irritation in his sonorous voice.
hear the door open, and I fly into motion. Before it shuts, I catch it with my
fingertips, lingering there to give the guard more time to put distance between
us. None of the others seems to care. They all enable me.
peek through the crack in the door lets me know the coast is clear for sixty
seconds. Exactly sixty seconds, just like every other time I’ve done this.
quietly as I can, I slip into the hall, which leads to the Underage fitness
facilities and classrooms. It’s really more like a breezeway, with
side-by-side windows and openings above each one. All of the openings have
screen coverings, save one. I creep into the shadowy corner, where the camera
can’t see me. Deep breath.
get caught. Not yet.
pull myself onto the window sill, my hands pressed cold against the blackened
glass. It’s probably below freezing out there. I balance myself on the bricks
on either side of the window and shimmy up. I can already feel cold air from
I reach the opening, I toss the bag outside, careful not to upset my balance.
I hoist myself onto the frame of the opening, and with the most acrobatic
maneuver I’m capable of, I slide through.
flip over myself and hang by my hands two stories above ground like a gymnast
on an uneven bar. Except I can’t swing out with my back against the window.
brace my legs like I’d done on the inside, and gather my strength. My hands
release, and my legs push me out into the dark night. I somersault, and right
on cue, my hands find a trusty tree limb in the darkness.
look back and see the faint light inside. I would think they’d have fixed that
window by now. It’s been the aid in my escape sixteen times.
I slide down the tree, I will my eyes to adjust. Ginny told me the moon used
to light the night here, but these days, night is pitch dark except for the
lighting around the compound borders where the guards keep watch at the fence.
raised me, though there’s no relation. She’s worked at the Underage center
since before I got here. I made the mistake of calling her “mom” once, and she
scolded me, asking where I’d even heard that word. Unlike most of the kids
here, I was born on the outside, and taken in as a refugee when I was seven. I
had a mom of my own before the world fell apart.
from a low limb, I land swiftly and assess my surroundings. Behind me is the
Underage center where I live with all the other minors. Far to the left of me
is the Women’s Center, and even farther to the right, the Men’s. In front of
me is a guarded tower with a periodic, roaming spotlight. There are towers
like it on each side of the compound. One north, one south, one east, one
west, though I can’t tell which is which.
first step falters, slipping on ice. I was right about the temperature. I
slide the pack onto my back, an arm under each strap while I glue myself to the
building’s shadow, in case the spotlights sweep in my direction.
I remind myself again.
along the building seems to take an eternity. I dip across an opening and
cling to the supply building. It has heavier doors, and sturdier locks than
any that house people. Supplies are scarce--control the food, control the
, I think with a grin.
few inches put me around the corner from my target, the center tower. It’s the
tallest of the five, and it contains a spot just like the rest. It has armed
guards, too, but this is the tower I want. I hear a faint siren from the
building I’ve just departed. Soon, the sirens out here will join it, and the
spots will come out.
have to reach the base of the center tower quickly. None of the towers’
spotlights reach any other tower’s base. If I get there first, I can hide and
carry on with what I came to do.
try to take a deep breath, but it’s cold and shaky. With a sharp inhale, I
make my move, but I stop cold as my foot falls on dirt, and another foot falls
that isn’t mine. My breath catches in my throat. I crouch, my eyes scanning
every direction, waiting for more movement. Then I spot her. The only female
in the entire Guard, making a round in her patrol. These patrols are so
random, I almost forget they do them.
catches her attention and she returns the way she came. As the outdoor sirens
begin to blare, I make my move into the open, my least favorite place to be.
Thankfully, the sirens cover my cold, heavy footsteps. I’m three yards from
the tower when I see the perimeter spotlights fire up. In a moment, the one
I’m running toward will crank up, too. I hear angry shouts, heavy footfalls,
wailing sirens, and my beating heart.
. I think I
see several guards, flashlights and weapons in hand.
They would never shoot
yard and my foot catches a fallen tree limb. I stumble forward and land on my
face. My right knee aches, as do my hands. I look up, realizing I’m inches
from the tower’s corner post. Reaching forward, I grab the post and slide my
body to the underside of it, just as the spotlight above me swoops across the
branch where my foot had been.
in the shadow, I zip open the bag and pull out a jacket. I roll my eyes as a
shudder ripples through me, tiny bumps standing on my bare arms. If I’d known
there was a coat, I would certainly have put it on sooner. Thoughtful of him
to include it.
there’s a thick pair of black gloves with grooved padding on the palms. When I
slide the first one on, I’m thrilled to find it fits...like a glove. Never
understood that expression until now. Not many of our ancestors’
colloquialisms stayed with us through the war.
fits like a
glove, crafted especially for my hand, all the way
down to the very length of my pinky finger, which is normally a tad too long
for the gloves they give us when we scrub floors or pull weeds. Dylan is an
incredible craftsman. And I can’t wait to put these gloves to the test, and
even more so the gem that’s ready in my bag. Time to move.
zip the bag, strap it back on, but this time buckle a strap around my waist,
and another that comes under both arms and across my chest. They are tight,
chaos continues on the grounds as I ascend the tower post. If it was made of
metal, I could do this with my bare hands and a good pair of shoes, but it’s
wooden, ancient. And it splinters. My thin cotton pants give the least
protection, but my shoes grip well, and especially my gloves. The angles of
the post actually make it easier to scale, so perhaps a round metal one
wouldn’t be better after all. At least, that’s what I think until a splinter
wedges into my chin. I ignore it.
halfway up when I hear guards’ voices below me. I remember tripping, but force
myself not to think of the pain in my knee. Another splinter, cheek this
time. This is harder than I expected--it’s the tallest thing I’ve climbed.
I’m breathing heavier than I’d like, but I’m thankful for the pandemonium all
around as it conceals my every sound.
I reach the top and I get a backwards hold on the boards of the tower deck. Above
my fingers is a rail I’m not sure is strong enough to hold me. In the deck’s
center sits a covered room that is probably more sophisticated than the wooden
tower legs suggest. My next movements will need to be precise, and I can tell
the gloves aren’t having it.
shift my weight to my right arm, and use my teeth to pull the velcro holding my
left glove on. As the fabric releases, boots walk across the deck, probably
not two feet from my tired hand. I bite the fabric on the middle finger and
slide my left hand out. I already love these gloves, and hate what I’m about
to do. I drop the glove, hoping it won’t land on a soldier’s head. From what
I can tell, it doesn’t.