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4- Choices

Inside that enclosure, the were a few weapons and a couple screens. I was afraid of what those weapons could mean. If someone caught me leaving, I could be killed. I had no doubt that the soldiers would hesitate. luckily the screens were off, though I still tried to avoid getting within their camera range. I refused to touch anything. I wanted to leave no sign that I’d been in here. I wanted the leaders to think I was still in the Colony, peacefully sitting in my room, or the garden. Hopefully, I’d be far enough by tomorrow to evade recapture. Finally I looked at the barrier, praying.

My prayer was answered. There was a larger break in the wall. It was jagged, and only a little taller than I was. It was narrow, but I could probably fit through it sideways. The glass appeared to have been cleaned off the floor, and there was no sign of what caused the wreckage.There appeared to be a ledge outside. The smell of salt water floated in, and i could hear the faint chirp of birds preparing to rest. I could see the sky, touched with pink and orange. I could see the tree line in. It was about 100 yards away. Most concerning though, I could see the water. The Colony was in some kind of lake, or perhaps a bay. I would have to swim. While I knew how to swim, I only ever did laps in the pool, and that wasn’t exactly like swimming 100 yards in open water.

But I had already made up my mind. I was getting out of here, no matter what. So I approached that crack. I put my hand on the glass, one last time, turned sideways, and forced my body through the break.

The glass was sharp, and I could feeling slicing through my clothes to my skin. I knew I was bleeding, but I couldn’t stop now. I kept going. The glass was thicker than I thought, probably about three yards thick, and I was in pain from the cuts the whole time. When I finally reached the end, I was in torn and bloody clothes. There was a scratch on my face, across my cheek. Luckily it didn’t seem too deep. Stepping onto the ledge, I stared down at the water. While the air wasn’t cold per say, It was chilly. It was a little hard to tell but the trees seemed speckled with orange. That water wasn’t going to be easy to swim through, as it was definitely going to be cold. Moreover, swimming was bound to cause some of my cuts to get infected. This had to be done, though. I gathered my courage, and did something crazy.

I jumped in. My prediction about the water was correct- it was definitely cold. Regardless, I forced myself to start swimming. Headed slightly left, I forced myself through. I needed to get out of sight of the crack, or the workers or soldiers would notice me escaping. The water was getting in my eyes, and my cuts burned. Salt water in fresh wounds is not a pleasant feeling, let me tell you. I kept pushing myself to move. I felt like I had to go faster but I maintained my pace. I knew that if I sped up I’d tire myself out and drown. With that terrifying though in my mind, I swam towards that shore.

The water began to get shallower and shallower, and finally, I was able to put my feet down. I was completely exhausted as I stumbled towards the trees. Their changing colors told me that it had to be autumn. I was cold as I stepped onto the beach. The air had grown colder, and I was soaking wet. Still, I had to get off this beach. I could see a scanning light on top of that azure prison, and it would probably be turning on soon. And so I went into the woods.

The area where I entered seemed to be scattered with young trees. As I moved further I saw why. There was an abandoned house in front of me. It must’ve been someone’s vacation home or something. Realizing that there might still be things in there I could use, I moved towards it as fast as I could. The door was falling off it’s hinges, and there was evidence of different animals inside. They had probably used this place as somewhere to hibernate. It was very dirty and showed no signs of any humans. Who ever owned this place had left it behind. Despited my hopes there wasn’t much left that I could see. I noticed a door way leading out of the space I was in, which looked to be a mudroom. I went through it and saw the kitchen.

Immediately, I began searching for any type of canned food. Some of the cabinets were falling off and those ones were stripped clean by visiting scavengers. One closed cabinet held a trash can with an unused trash bag. I grabbed it. I didn’t know if I might need it to carry things. It was also larger than I expected, so I might also be able to use it as some kind of sleeping bag. I continued to rummage. I sighed in relief when I opened one cabinet to find a three cans of soup, and a couple small cans with beans and corn. I had food. I threw all of them in the trash bag. I opened a small drawer above the cabinets and found a can opener. I seemed to be lucky for now. Another drawer had a half empty box of matches, that also went into the bag. And finally I found two bottles of water in a drawer in the otherwise empty fridge. That would get me through a few days. Finding nothing else in the kitchen, I moved on. I passed through the dining room and the family room. There was nothing useful in either room. I saw the front door, which was across from a closet and some stairs. I started with the closet. There was only one thing in it, and that was a chewed up coat. It was a little big for me, but I figured that would be a good thing.

I decided to go up the stairs. There might be clothes, and maybe some shoes up there. There was only two rooms up there I went into the one on the right. It had a bunk bed, a closet, and a door leading into the bathroom. What caught my eye was the wooden baseball bat on the floor. A weapon. It was heavy, and it would probably be tiring to carry after a few days, but I needed a way to defend myself. There was nothing I could use in the bathroom, but I did find a child’s backpack in the closet, which I transferred everything, including the trash bag to. I moved into the other room.

It was a master bedroom. I checked the closet, but it was empty. I moved onto the dresser drawers beside each bed. One dresser was empty. The other had two different socks, which I grabbed. Finally I went into the bathroom. It was mostly empty but I found two useful things. One vanity had some nail polish and a couple earrings, but more importantly, it had shoe laces. I hadn’t found any rope, and this was probably as close as I’d get. The other vanity had a small pocket knife in one drawer. It was rusty, and probably dull, but it was a knife nonetheless.

As much as I wanted to rest here, I knew I shouldn’t. I had to keep moving, someone would figure out I was gone by tomorrow morning, and I didn’t know if they’d search for me. I was too close to the Colony. I took a moment to put on the socks, hoping to limit the blisters I’d inevitably get, put on the backpack, grabbed my bat and left.

At the end of the house’s driveway there was a small two lane road. I stopped to figure out which way to go. If I went right, I’d spend more time skirting the coast closest to the Colony. That meant I had to go left. I gather myself up and began to walk. I had to walk around a lot of fallen branches and some potholes. The blood from my cuts had started to stop. The smaller wounds felt a bit better, but there were still larger wounds that hurt. I did my best not to think about the pain, and instead decided to figure out a plan.

This road had to lead somewhere, and the presence of the house, and several other driveways I had passed, meant there were people in this area once. With that being the case, it was possible that there was a town nearby. If I kept following this road, I might find it. The sun had set, but there was still a little light, though it was disappearing quickly. It also appeared that tonight was a full moon. That would hopefully help me see the road. Inevitably, I’d still be unable to see some things, and I’d probably be stumbling along, falling every once in a while. But I had to keep going.

The last traces of daylight faded away. I didn’t know what time it was, but I think I’d been walking for an hour or so. With only the moon trickling through the trees, I walked briskly down the dark road which led inland. And I kept walking. I tripped on some branches, and a couple times I fell after getting my foot stuck in potholes. My hands were skinned from the pavement. But I pressed on.

It was about two hours later when I finally saw what I had hoped for. I had walked past abandoned houses, and finally I saw a neighborhood ahead. It was on the inland side of the road. I began to cry.

But it wasn’t relief that made me cry. It was recognition. I picked up my pace and when I reached it I was heartbroken. There was a park and the back entrance to the neighborhood. It had two swings, and a little playground. I could hear laughter as I passed. I began to feel as though I was being watched, but i quickly forgot about the feeling. As I was wandered down the street, I could hear friendly voices calling out. Kids were riding their bikes together, and people were relaxing on their porches. I turned down a street close to the front entrance. It was Summer Pine Way. There was Old Mr. Nick, waving at me. And Connor out playing catch with his dad. Mrs. McMillan was loading all her family into the big van they had. And then there it was.

712 Summer Pine Way. It was a good sized house. There was some over grown gardenias out front. The front door was on the ground. It was filthy, but I knew it had been green. The garage was still closed, and the lights beside it were broken. There was a rotted fence around the house. I swallowed and walked through the front door. The entry way had light brown tile which led into the kitchen. There was a dining room beside the entrance, but the table and chairs weren’t in good condition. I went into the kitchen.

I could see Mom, humming as she stirred something in a pot. The once white countertops seemed brown. It was so empty. The pictures had fallen off the walls, and the clock no longer worked. I ran my finger tips across the island counter. My mom loved cooking. We were always trying new different meals. When she was in high school, she wanted to go to culinary school, but she decided to get her business major after taking a class about economics she liked.

I moved on. There was the family room. Our couches were in the same place, but the TV was gone and the coffee table was on its side. I saw my dad, watching the baseball game and yelling at the players. He seemed to think they could hear him. Dad loved baseball. He got a scholarship to play in college, and his team did really well his senior year. He always talked about how hard it was to be an athlete and get his engineering degree. But he did it. The pictures that had been on wall were too dirty to see, and many had fallen off. I was almost grateful. I didn’t know if I could look at those pictures.

The stairs seemed to close in on me as I made my way up. The silence in the house was oppressive. Mom and Dad’s room was a mess. But still, I saw them in bed, while Zeke and I ran into the room on Christmas morning. I remembered crawling into bed with them after having a nightmare, and holding me close to comfort me. I broken sob escaped. I didn’t know where my family was, or if they were even alive. The thought of them dying hurt me even more.

I moved out and went to Zeke’s room. It was empty, and it looked like someone had gathered things and left in a hurry. His bathroom door was open. His rug was in tatters, as was his bed. I loved Zeke, or Keke, as I called him. He was my big brother, an even though he was overprotective, he was still my best friend. I could picture him at his desk doing homework, while I was on his bed, telling him about my day.

Something occurred to me. I went to Zeke’s bottom desk drawer, and opened it. Inside, where it always was, was the smallest of our picture albums. This one was from when I was ten and Zeke was 14. It was a busy year, and we didn’t have a whole lot of pictures of the two of us. Everyone we did have was in that album. I opened it up a looked at the first picture. I remembered the day we took that picture. The whole family had come to my dance competition, and I had just gone back to them after awards where I got first. Zeke was giving me a piggy back ride to the hotel room. Mom said it was an awesome picture, so she made us smile at the camera. We were both so happy. I collapsed to the floor sobbing.

This was all so overwhelming. In less than two days, I had gone from a dancer in Colony Sector 2 to an escaped prisoner wandering on her own. I was completely alone, with no one to help me. I wasn’t equipped to survive on my own. How long would I even last? Then I head a footstep, and a click.

“Who are you, and what are you doing here?′

I turned to see a tall man in a black shirt, grey cargo pants, and combat boots. And he was pointing a hand gun at me. Behind him was a woman, dressed similarly, gun held low.

“Well?” he asked. I didn’t know who he was, and I didn’t know if it was safe to tell him everything. But I also didn’t want to die.

“I’m Lee,” I told him. It wasn’t a complete lie. My family had called me Lee as a nickname, so there was some truth to it. The man’s eyes narrowed. He took me in. My rat chewed coat, messy, slightly damp clothes. He glanced down at the bat beside me, and his jaw ticked. Suddenly the woman gasped.

“Jack! Her clothes, they’re blue,” she said in a shocked tone. At first, I was confused, as was the man. Then I realized people out here probably didn’t wear solid blue clothes head to toe. That seemed to occurred to the man, Jack, as well. They both stared at me in shock.

“How are you here?” The woman asked. “I mean, you’re not one of their soldiers. You’re not dressed in the uniform, and they know better than to come out here with out more weaponry than a bat. We wouldn’t let them survive.”

I looked at her. If she was willing to kill Colony soldiers, than she probably wasn’t one of them. While I didn’t trust them yet, I decided to tell the truth. Or at least part of it. “There’s a crack in the exterior barrier. I escaped through it.”

She gaped at me. The man also looked shocked. “Wait- you mean the crack from the last attack? You managed to get through that?” His eyes narrowed again. “How did you get to the land? It’s over a 100 yards away, and the water’s cold this time of year.”

" I know. I swam,” I told him. They both looked at each other. My tears had stopped but my face definitely showed evidence of tears. They both had headlight which were aided by the moonlight falling through every window of the house. The guns lowered, but they didn’t release them. The woman stepped forward, looking thoughtful.

She seemed to be thinking about how to phrase her next question. “Why did you leave the Colony, Lee?”

“I remembered and I- I couldn’t stay there, couldn’t keep being a puppet. I needed to get out.” The words tumbled out and their expressions changed. After a strange glance passed between the two, both Jack and the Woman put their weapons away. They believed me.

“Well, Lee, we better get you out of here. If the Colony soldiers see you here it could get nasty. I’m Ella by the way. And this is Jack,” the woman said. I nodded, and struggled to my feet. I kept my backpack on and kept a tight hold on the photo album. I glanced at my bat, worried I might need it. “Sorry, but we can’t let you bring that. While we believe you, it’s better to leave it here. There’s more of us outside, and they might get defensive if you walk out with that,” Ella told me apologetically. I gave a tight nod.

“Come on. We’ll get you back to the base town,” Jack said. I waved me forward. He turned towards the door and I followed him with Ella behind me. I realized as we went down the stairs, that this was the last time I’d see my home. Tears welled up as we walked through the family room. They begin to fall as we went into the kitchen. I could taste the salty tears as well left the entry way. I turned back to look at the house one last time, choking back a sob.

Ella and Jack looked at each other, before Ella spoke carefully to me. “Lee,” she questioned, “did you know the people that lived here?” I looked at her. “Yes,” I said simply. I was trying not to breakdown again, so I couldn’t manage anymore. The two looked surprise, and once again, looked quickly at each other. Two more men jogged up.

“Jack, Ella, everything alright?” Their weapons were held low, and they looked carefully at me, assessing the danger. Jack nodded. “You can put your weapons away. She’s fine. Lee here escaped from the Colony. Said she knows the people who lived here,” he told them. The men looked shocked.

“She remembers?” the taller one on the left asked astonished. “I do,” I spoke up. The other was looking behind me at the house. “Hey, this house, isn’t it-” he started. “It is. But we need to get Lee to the base town. She seems to have some scratches that we need to look at. We’ll have to take one of you with us in the van. There’s not enough room for all of you in the other one,” Ella told him.

“Aaron,” Jack said, “You come. You’re newer that Clyde. I know he’ll be fine alone, but I’m not sure if you will. Let’s play it safe. We’ve lost enough people this week.” The taller one nodded. The shorter one, who must’ve been Clyde, told us he had to continue his perimeter check, and left.

We didn’t walk far till we came to a garage that was partially open. Jack lifted it up and inside there was a black van. I looked at the house carefully. My mom had been friends with Mrs. Todd who lived here. I tore my thoughts away from my mom. Jack climbed into the drivers seat, and Aaron went to the front passenger seat. I followed Ella into the back. The van had seven seats- four against the passenger side, and three facing them on the drivers side. I sat beside Ella on the passenger side. She lifted the seat beside here and pulled out a box with a first aid symbol on it. “I can see the one on your face, but do have any other injuries, Lee?” I know they were being helpful, but all the questions were hard to answer. So, instead of talking, I took off my jacket showed her my back. That’s where the cuts were the worst. She nodded. “Hey, Jack,” she said, “drive carefully. She’s got some pretty deep wounds, and I’ll need to take care of them.” Jack grunted. As the car began to move, Ella began taking out bandages and what not.

I had found people, people who wanted to help, and I felt safe.

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