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The Escape Tree

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Crouching in the bushes, I spot the twenty four hour guard patrol circle the Prison like a pack of hungry wolves closing in for a kill. Somehow I’ve escaped the Prison That Is Inescapable. So much planning, so much time wasted, sitting, waiting, eternity. But then, I figured it out. And now I’m on the run. I pull my stolen hoodie up over my head. Not like that will help much. I crawl forward slowly, concealing myself behind the sagebrush. My legs are scratched now. With only a flimsy pair of shorts to protect me. I had wanted to steal jeans. But those rarely get thrown away. And the fact that I had even found anything besides bright orange uniform pants had been a relief. The shoes I found: worse. Old, ragged pieces of cloth that barely stay on my feet. But I need some sort of protection.

If I can only get to the road, I’ll be out of sight of the guards. It doesn’t make any sense, but it all comes from the first generation prisoners. They had all the secrets figured out. Everything they needed to make an escape. So they got out flawlessly, but they were not prepared for the outside world. Every last one was caught and...well something happened to them. No one know what exactly. But I am positive I’m prepared. I’ve heard every story ever told here, I’ve learned every failed strategy, miscalculated move, and I’m prepared. I will be the first person to escape. And live.

I continue to make my way quietly through the underbrush. I feel like I’m forgetting something very important, but I don’t have time to think about it too long. The guard nearest me turns his back. It’s now or never. I make a mad dash for the road and leap for the ditch. I stay motionless for what feels like eternity then, slowly slither forward. Once I feel it’s safe, I sprint for the safety of the wild, rolling hills. My feet start to bleed from the irritating brush. I push the annoying hair out of my eyes just in time to see the cliff in front of me. A little too late though. My feet skid off the edge and I fall head over heels down the dusty decline. By the time I finally stop falling, I’m covered in filth and bleeding. Everywhere. I still have to keep going though. I stumble forward, eyes blinded by the dust. My hands grab onto a barbed wire fence, leaving little indents beading with blood in my palms. I fall to the ground and carefully inch under the wire. Loose dirt crumbles beneath my weight and once again send me sliding down a hill. I collide into a aspen tree, knocking the breath out of me. I roll over onto my hands and knees and retch up dirt and dust and filth. I drag myself up the tree trunk until I’m on my feet. I get a good look around for the first time. I’m in this little aspen grove and just a few yards away is a swift flowing stream. I could live here. I got water and shelter. And then I start thinking about if this is how all the past escapees have died, if maybe just maybe I overlooked the most important thing.

I weave aimlessly through the trees, soak my feet in the creek, and try not to think about the problem at hand. I sit on the rocky shore of the creek and drag leaves across the surface of the water, mesmerized by the beauty existing beneath the catastrophic game we call life. I think about everything I have learned throughout my years in Prison. I retell every story inside my head. I recite every fact ever spoken. I remember everything, except this one thought lagging behind in the deep recesses of my mind. I claw at my head as if doing so will bring the thought out. I stand up and begin pacing out of frustration. What am I forgetting? Why is it so important? My fingers caress the white, tender bark as I trace the outline of every scar it bears. So many trees here. But the trees make me feel safe. The trees are safe. The trees are safe... And just like that the dam inside my head breaks and everything floods out. The Escape Tree.
The first prisoners to try to escape set up this path for fellow prisoners to take. The Escape Tree is told to hold many secrets, but is also the key to your survival. In truth, no one knows much about the Escape Tree since no one has ever lived to truly explain it. It may even just be a myth. A false hope. An image flashes in front of my eyes. A lone cottonwood tree with huge knots and long, twisting limbs. Little cotton puffs strewn throughout the branches like a soft blanket. It’s only a drawing by another prisoner. Probably just his imagination gone wild and desperate for a glimpse of hope. But I’m wild and desperate too.

Before I know it, my feet are carrying me away from the comfort of my aspens and out into river. I’m wading up to my waist, crossing to the other side. Slipping on the muddy banks, trampling the brush, pushing aside tree boughs, running to find The Tree. After what seems like hours, I collapse onto the wet ground and slide into the stream. Here the water is gentle and low. I lay on my back in the cool water, holding back the urge to cry out in frustration and hurt. A bluejay croons a melodic song, filling my world with a tiny sliver of hope that maybe everything can still go on. Then, a small flake of snow falls from the sky. It lands on my cheek and I wait for the tingling, cold sensation that never comes. Another flake falls from the sky and brushes against my hand. In a dazed sense of confusion, I realize these are not flakes of snow like I had thought, but small, stringy, fluffy puffs of white. Of cotton.

My tired eyes latch onto a huge, lone cottonwood tree with huge knots and long limbs. White puffs float from the branches. The Escape Tree. I claw at the rocks and right myself. I drag my aching body up the side of the river. Confidence that I had finally found what I needed surged through my body filling me with warmth. I softly place my hand against the rough bark. I brush my face against it, a unfamiliar smile brightens my face. Then something shiny catches my eye. I look down. It’s a bullet casing. Fear locks in the pit of my stomach. I jump back and turn to run. A sickening crunching invades my ears. Bones. Bleached white. Everywhere I look. Bones. Bullets. Imaginary screams of the dead. I cover my ears and curl up, screaming, trying to run away. Harsh hands latch onto my wrists. It’s as if I’m dreaming. No. Reenacting the horrible deaths that happened here. My mind is telling me to struggle, to fight, to get away. My heart has no regrets, no feeling, no warmth. My body falls limp. I avert my eyes to the ground and make my world go silent. I focus on a tiny, puff of white. A false last hope.

And as the bullet shatters my skull, I know why they call this the Escape Tree.



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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

Nannette_25This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm
Love the plot. I can perfectly picture the escape of the prisoner. The only flaw is how you repeatedly begin sentences with 'I', but that's a small detail. Overall, love this story!
 
AlexanderQ replied...
Oct. 13, 2013 at 12:33 am
Thanks!!! I really appreciate you taking the time to read this!
 
AlexanderQ said...
Dec. 28, 2012 at 3:07 am
Thanks!!!!!!!
 
In_Love_with_Writing said...
Dec. 27, 2012 at 11:17 am
I really loved the darkness of the story. I'm a sucker for anything that draws me in so much that I feel like I am that main character and you did a decent enough job with that. But what really got me was that last line, especially, "the bullet shatters my skull". Perfect description that will leave the reader wanting more!
 
D.Sharp said...
Dec. 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm
Dark. But awesome.
 
AlexanderQ replied...
Dec. 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm
Thank you!
 
Eequinox said...
Dec. 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm
That was a very well written story. Good job. :)
 
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