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I run as fast as I can as the world swirls past me quickly. As the crunch of dead leaves and fallen branches sounds with each move I take, I lighten my step dramatically to make the echoes lessen. I still hear the footsteps running behind me, but I’m almost positive that I’ve got a good lead. I stop running and listen. All I hear is the slight blow of the wind rustling the trees, my uneven breaths, and the paces of those chasing me.
How did I end up here? How did I end up running through the woods with the Matchers chasing at my heel? I try and rethink the events that led up to tonight, possibly the most stressful and nerve-racking night of my life.
All I did was make one mistake. One mistake that cost me an entire lifetime. All I tried to do was get my sister back from the Matcher’s hands. It seems like it would be a simple task, but it wasn’t. You see, the Matchers were hired in our town to keep watch over us. Not exactly to protect us, more to boss us around; they were almost like the president in America, except they were feared much more. They were the main authority, our leader. You had to do every single thing they said and obey their every command. If you fail to do so, you could suffer consequences ranging from a scolding to getting your fingers cut off. They were intimidating, although they looked like average citizens. In my country, they were hired in only the largest of cities, such as Yippe, where I reside.
My sister, only ten at the time, tried to take something that didn’t belong to her. In Yippe, if you took anything that wasn’t yours, it was considered stealing, no matter how little the item. My sister only wanted to pick up a small pouch she found on the ground found by the river. The only contents were two small marbles, a piece of chewing gum, some yarn, and a paperclip. Still, the Matchers found this appalling and turned her in to the nearest Station. Our home got a call saying that she stole from Yippe and could be held in a cell until her legal guardian can come and pick her up.
Things just weren’t that simple however. Even if somebody could pick her up, the cost to get her out would be fifty dollars, something my family didn’t have. And there was no legal guardian in our household. When I was eleven, my single mother fell ill and died, leaving me to care for my sister and brother. My uncle offered to take my brother off of my hands, deciding that it was best. So the only people living in the small cottage now is my sister and I. Technically, we’re living in there illegally. If there is nobody above the age of twenty-one in the house, you were supposed to go to an orphanage or a foster home. I refused to let my sister and I be held captive in some stranger’s home, so we never told anyone, besides family, about our loss. Besides, I’m almost fifteen and am pretty fit to take care of me and my sister. When the Matcher’s came to check up on us, my uncle would always be at the house, pretending to be my father.
So, with no other choice, I had to steal my sister out. All I had to do was sneak through the back door of the Station. The Matchers and policemen were sitting in chairs, not bothering to turn to the back door. I crept myself downstairs, thankfully, without anybody seeing or hearing me. I’m quite swift on my feet. There was just one cell in the basement and my sister was on the floor, crying, sniffling, banging fists of the ground.
That’s when I should have turned around. That’s when I should have known that somebody somewhere must have been watching. That’s when I should have opened the cell door, no matter the costs, to let my sister free. But I didn’t. I hesitated a moment before moving on, sensing somebody starring at me. I turned on my heel and, yes, there was a Matcher standing just a yard behind. I swallow my fear and ran to my sister’s locked door. Through the slits of the bars, I can see how terrified she looks. She calls my name, but I’m too late. The Matcher already has me by the wrist, leading me back up the steps. I scream and holler as loud as I can, but all that does is attract the attention of more Matchers.
Somehow, I manage to escape the Chinese Handcuffs they put on my fingers. A simple trick that nobody in Yippe is supposed to know except the Matchers. I pushed the cuff in, pulled, and repeated until my fingers were free. With my hands unrestricted, I untied the knot they put around my ankles. I ran a few yards before they saw me and started to chase me.
That led me to the forest. From the sand to the leaves, the ground changed in an instant. I, being faster than most middle-aged Matchers, got quite the lead. As I reached a spot I knew I was safe, I ducked behind a stump in the ground and tried to cover myself as best I could with leaves. I thought about what they could, would do to me. Something like this was not likely, especially in Yippe. The highest crime was taking something that wasn’t yours or disobeying simple orders. Sneaking into the Station and trying to free a “criminal” was worthy of the highest punishment. Death was possibly in my near future.
Their shouts and footsteps became closer and I knew I was in for it. There was no way they could not see me here, especially with the size of their group… I was right, for in fact they did find me. I was questioned and tried before getting any punishment. They asked what I was doing; I told them I was trying to free my sister. They asked me why I had to; I told them that I needed her home and I didn’t have money to get her our. They asked me why my parents didn’t come; I didn’t reply. When they repeated the question and I still didn’t answer, a small hit from a ruler was directed to my hand.
Again and again they asked the same question, and again and again I refused to reply. Finally, having no choice, they took me downstairs of the station. Although only one cell was in there, it was a spacious room. In front of my sister, they lashed me with a whip four times.
Years later, here I am in prison. My sister, who refused to give answers or speak to the Matchers in any way, was whipped to death. Grief fell upon me and I too refused to obey or listen to or speak to the Matchers. That gave me a lifetime in prison, even though I was expecting a death sentence like my sister. Yippe especially is a terrible place to live. They treat us as slaves in the 1930s, even though it’s more than a century later. That one mistake I made cost me an entire lifetime. But it was an act of braveness, a courageous act, one of great worth.
Still, it was the one mistake that I wish I could take back.