She curled herself beside the tree again, her gray dress loose on her tiny body and her hands clasped tight as she silently mouthed something. It sounded like a prayer. I listened closer as she rocked back and forth, tears springing from her eyes. “Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned. Do unto me what ye deem fit. Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned. I was weak and must atone.”
“T-talk to m… m… m-me. A-are you okay?” I asked loudly, my voice growing stronger as I shook the fence, trying to find some way to get through to her. I didn’t understand it, but for some reason I needed to hold her. I knew I needed to make things right. She was so sad… so scared… I hated it.
The girl grew still, hushed to silence, and just watched me again.
“River? Where the f**k are you?” My pop’s deep voice cut me from my trance as he called me back from deep in the forest.
I dropped my head in my hands.
Not now, not now!
Straining my head back to the girl, I rushed out, “T-tell me y-your n-n-name.” I was desperate and I glanced over my shoulder, watching Pop stomp through the edge of the forest in the distance, searching for me.
“Puh… puh… p-please… a n-name… an-an-anything…”
The chick rocked faster, her pale lips moving once again in her prayer.
“River! You have five seconds to get the f**k down here! Don’t f**kin’ test me!”
“A n-name! I’m be-be-begging you!”
The chick stopped dead still, looked up at me—no, she looked through me—her blue eyes weirdly wide, and whispered, “My name is Sin. We are all sin.”
She choked on her words, expelling a frightened whimper as she heard my pop screaming from the bottom of the hill. Ducking into the heavy bush, she scrambled away on her hands and knees, suddenly crying out loudly as though in pain again.
“No! Don’t go!” I shouted clearly to her retreating form, but it was too late. I stepped back from the fence, watching the last of her long dress disappear into the darkness of the forest. An empty, sinking feeling almost made my legs stop working, but then my eyes widened and my fingers touched my lips in shock. My speech… my speech for the first time ever was clear and without a stutter… No, don’t go…
I turned quickly, running down the hill toward my pop.
Pumping my knees higher I pushed through the tall grass, running back to my life—back to my pop and the MC; all the time wondering if I’d ever see Sin again…
…the chick with the wolf eyes.
Fifteen years later…
Run, run, just keep running…
I willed my tired legs to keep pumping. My muscles burned as though injected with venom and my bare feet were completely numb as they slammed onto the cold hard forest floor, but I would not give up… could not give up.
Breathe, run, just keep moving…
My eyes darted around the dark forest, searching for the disciples. None to be seen, but it was only a matter of time. They would soon realize I was missing. But I could not stay, could not do my pre-ordained duty to the prophet; not after what happened tonight.
My lungs burned with the severity of my sharp gasps and my chest heaved with overexertion.
Push through the pain. Run, just run.
Passing the third watchtower, unseen, I let myself feel a momentary sliver of joy—the perimeter fence was not too far away. I allowed myself the hope that I might actually get free.
Then the emergency siren wailed and I shuddered to a stop.
They know. They are coming for me.
I forced my legs to move even faster; thorns and sharp sticks jabbed into the soles of my feet. Gritting my teeth, I told myself, Do not feel pain. Do not feel pain. Think of her.
They could not find me. I could not let them find me. I knew the rules. Never leave. Never attempt to leave. But I was fleeing. I was determined to escape their wickedness once and for all.
Spotting the tall posts of the perimeter fence, my arms pumped with renewed vigor as I made the final steps of my sprint. I smashed against the rigid metal with a crash, the posts grinding at the force of my collision.
I frantically searched for a gap.
I ran along each post—no gaps, no holes… no hope.
In a panic, I fell to the ground, clawing the dry earth, tunneling, digging for freedom. My fingers raked at the hard mud—fingernails snapping, skin ripping, blood flowing—but I did not stop. I had no choice but to find a way out.
The siren wailed on, seeming to scream ever more loudly, like a countdown to my recapture. If I was found, I would be watched constantly, treated worse than ever before—I would be even more of a prisoner than I was right now.
I would rather die.
How long have I been gone? Are they close? Panicked thoughts whirled in my mind, but I kept digging.
Then I heard the dogs closing in; the barking, snarling, rabid, vicious fury of The Order’s guard dogs and my digging became more frenzied.
The disciple guards carried guns; large, semi-automatic guns. They defended this land like lions. They were brutal and they always got their prey. I would be captured and punished, just like her. Tortured for my disobedience.
Just. Like. Her.
The search hounds were louder now, harsh, heavy panting and nerve-jangling barks getting ever closer. I swallowed back the cry threatening to rip free from my throat and continued digging, burrowing, scooping, shoveling—to be free. Always yearning to be free…