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I wake up to a light shinin in my face.
“Hey! Get up! You and your slave friend are on trash duty.” Our floor guard walks out of the cell. This was a different wake-up call though. Usually we get the stock of a shotgun to the gut. Darkness hangs in the cell like a guest that has overstayed their welcome. The clammy slimy feelin has been here since I got here. I don’t think the sink has ever been used and the only time the toilet gets used is when someone is sick from the horrid food. I pull the cardboard feeling sheets of my bunk up to my neck and rollover.
I finally sit up. I look over at John. He was a tall muscular black man. I’m about six foot and 220 pounds and John makes me look small.
“John, wake up. Come on, man, get up,” I whisper.
He slowly gets up; his short hair slightly messed up. He rubs his eyes. It’s easy to tell that John has had a rough past. He has scars all over his body. John and I have had our share of fights. The tension between us was so obvious a blind man could see it. We didn’t care for each other. We argue sometimes and then it can lead to us fighting, but we have to deal with each other because at the end of the day we’re still cell mates. I never really talk to him that much, but I have never really cared for black people.
We both get up and walk out of our cell down the narrow hallway into the kitchen. The kitchen is small, almost like a house kitchen. I don’t see how it feeds over 500 men. It’s obvious it hasn’t been cleaned in a while. There were food stains all over the walls and the pots look like they have never been cleaned. There was blood on some of the knives. If the guards didn’t like what we cook then they would give us a cookin lesson. We look at the trash cans dreading the smell. I finally grab a few bags and so did John.
We make our way through the messy kitchen to the back door. We walk through the prison yard not saying a word to each other. Many inmates are scared to come to the prison yard. The guards will randomly beat people. I guess they get bored. Tonight the yard was empty though. All the grass is dead. Every step we take creates a small puff of dust. We finally reach the dumpster. It’s in the very back corner of the yard. There are no guard stations within a 100 yards, but we know they patrol the fence line.
John lifts the lid to the dumpster and the smell almost knocks us down. I throw my bags in there, then John did the same. He closes the lid, but we didn’t move. We just stood there. We were both thinking the same thing. I know we stood there looking at each other for at least 30 seconds. We knew we were going to escape. We both climb on to the slimy dumpster. We scramble to the fence trying to jump it. John easily clears it but he’s taller than me. The sharp barbwire caught my pants leg, ripping it at the ankle. We were both over the fence. It felt like a completely different world. We start running for the thick, dark woods.
We thought we were free. Then we saw a lantern up ahead. Must be a guard patrolling the fence line.
“STOP! I will shoot!” Yelled a guard.
I froze. I didn’t want to move, but John never quit running. I could hear him yelling and running at the guard and with one quick punch John knocks the guard out. I was in shock.
“Run Ben! Damn it, Come on!” He yelled.
I start running for the woods again. We reach the woods, but didn’t stop.
“Keep runnin; if you stop we’re dead,” John kept repeating.
It felt like we had been runnin for miles. We had to stop for a minute. We were drenched with sweat, even though it was midnight. July in Georgia is always rough.
As we rest I can’t help to think how this black man saved my life. I’ve never done anything for this man. I don’t even like him. I don’t give a damn if he dies or not. Him savin me was different though. He might not be that bad of a man, but I still don’t like him.
“Come on, we gotta keep movin”, I tell John.
There was a knife layin on the ground. I pick it up and look at John.
“Must be one a hunter left”, he said.
I put it in my pocket and we keep movin. It was a dark cloudy night. We could tell it was a full moon, but the clouds blocked all the light.
We continue to run again. We hear a sound in the distance, it was the prison siren. We both knew they were comin for us. We stumble and fell I don’t know how many times. The Georgia woods challenges us with every step. We were pretty scratched up. The woods were thick and dark.
Sweat ran down my face, then down to my beard. We can see the dim glow of the lanterns getting closer. We can hear the dogs bark and yelp. We came to a swamp. The smell was overwhelming. John pushes me in first. He shouldn’t be pushin me around, but I keep movin. We can hear the Warden yelling now.
“When I find ya’ll the guards will be happy. They haven’t fired up the chair in a while!”
He keeps yellin, but the more we run, the more his voice begins to fade.
“That was close,” I said.
“Yeah I guess,” said John.
“We should keep movin.”
We continue to wade through the swamp. We hear dogs and voices all night. I keep hearing something in the bushes. The swamp was thick and it was dark, so I didn’t even try to see what it was. It was like a never ending battle between us and the thick Georgia terrain. We tried to pass the time as we walked through the swamp.
“How long you been in prison?” I asked.
“Three. You?” He asked.
“Two. Why you in?”
“A white man accused me of stealin.”
“Nah, I didn’t even know the man. His store was 10 miles away from the one I usually go to.” He cut his eyes at me like he was waiting for a response.
“My wife and I were getting divorced and I wanted my daughter, but she wasn’t gonna let that happen,” I said.
“Yeah?” He replied.
“I came to get my daughter one afternoon and my wife called the cops and told them I was abusing her.”
“Hell no! Man I love my daughter. Thinkin about that makes me sick. Of course she won though. Damn wh*** was sleepin with every man in the courthouse.”
“Looks like we’re both in the same situation.”
“Yeah, that’s why we can’t get caught.”
POW! We heard the sound of a gunshot.
“I got ya’ll now!” yelled the Warden.
We took off, jumping out of the last part of the swamp. John started sliding back down toward the swamp. I grabbed his arm and started pulling him back up. His foot got caught on a stick, it cut it open. He let out a yell that gave me goose bumps. I knew he was hurt. I threw him on my shoulders and started runnin. I kept stumbling, but I couldn’t help it. There was a dog sprinting behind us. He knew his job was to rip us apart. He was trying to gnaw at my legs, but they were still wet from the swamp water. His teeth couldn’t penetrate and slid off. I grabbed the knife with my right hand and swung it backwards. I missed the dog, but swung again. The knife made contact; the dog barked and yelped like he was dying. I hope he was.
I kept runnin, but I had to stop. John slid off my shoulders and laid on the ground.
“Keep going,” He said.
“I’m not leavin you here,” I said.
“We’re both gonna get caught.”
“Can you run at all?”
“I think so.”
All of a sudden the Warden appeared behind us.
“Ya’ll put up a good fight,” he said as he chuckled.
“It doesn’t have to be over yet,” I say to him.
“Oh really?” asked the Warden as he placed his shotgun against a tree. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his plump face.
“I don’t give up,” I said.
“Well it looks like you and your black friend already lost,” he said.
I lunged at him, the knife in my right hand. I stabbed at his chest. He grabbed my neck with a death squeeze. I kept stabbin at him. His grip got tighter. I started to black out, but then his grip loosened and I continued to swing the knife at him. We both fell to the ground. He made one final cough for air. I brought my arm up one last time and with all my weight I came down right on his heart. The knife made contact with bone and crunched right through it. I twisted the knife knowing I had killed him. When the blade was all the way in I broke the handle off so no one would be able to get the blade out.
I could feel the warm blood seep from his chest. I was covered in it. I rollover and couldn’t help but to laugh. John grabbed the Warden’s gun.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said.
I started to sit up.
BANG! I heard a gunshot. It knocked me down.
“Run John!” I yelled.
I felt blood run out of my stomach and chest. Two guards walked up laughing. I couldn’t move.
“Good shot,” one said to the other.
“Thanks,” the other guard said while laughing.
“One down, one to go,” one guard said.
They kept laughing. I couldn’t move. I could feel my heart rate getting slower. I coughed. I spit out a little blood.
BANG! That was the last gunshot I heard.