Attempt 44

February 9, 2013
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Attempt 44
June 19, 2012. 1:03A.M.
Three letters, one syllable, the only word that registered in my head.
My lungs burned, my legs were aching and sore, my throat felt raw. But I couldn’t afford to think about the pain.
All I could do was focus on the gate in front of me; the silver links so close I could see them reflecting the moonlight.
So close – if I reach my hand out I could be within an arm’s length of freedom…
I landed with a grunting sound as a guard brought me down.
“Zailah,” he – officer Lace, I recognized – muttered as he slid the familiar metal cuffs around my wrists. “This is the third time this month alone. When are you going to learn?”
“When I’m finally free from this nightmare,” I spat. “You and your brainwashed clones will never take my freedom away from me.”
“You’ll come around soon enough.” Lace pulled me to my feet and shoved me in the direction of the white take-away van I knew all too well.
I wondered if next time I could take a slower pace and hide in the trees…
Before I could start planning future escape routes, the door slammed, locking me in the dark.
I sighed and found the bench I’ve sat on so many times. I plucked a bobby pin from my hair and began expertly picking my way out of the cuffs.
Same old routine. Run, caught, locked up, released, repeat.
Always, always planning.
I hated the city – identical houses, assigned clothing, everyone doing the same thing. However, the Asylum always promised something much, much worse.
That’s what we call it. The Asylum. Technically it should be insane asylum or mental institution, right? Well apparently, activate ridiculously overdramatic dictator voice, “insisting that an individual has mental instabilities indicates a lack of open-mindedness, and therefore is something we practice in our community.” Ugh, please, tie me a noose already.

In the Asylum there are seventy-five rooms, forty-two of which I’ve been in. It contains no windows, all the rooms automatically lock from the outside, and all of the walls are blandly white. There’s a room where they keep the straight jackets, shackles, stun guns, and what look like medieval torture devices.

The van door slid open, and I hopped out, making a dirt cloud upon impact. I handed Lace my handcuffs and tracked him as he led me to the doors of the building.

Trying to run now would be stupid. This place has guards patrolling it every second of every day and night. They all know me, too. Every guard in town knows me, really. Not to sound too full of myself, but I’m kind of big news around here. Not that that’s a good thing. I’m only known as ‘the girl who’s never smart enough to stop trying to run and join the outsiders.’

Uh, do you mean freedom? Do you mean-

“Room sixty-two.”
The guard at the desk interrupted my thoughts. He gave me a hard glare as he handed Officer Lace the room key. “Welcome back, Zailah.”
I ignored him as I followed Lace out.
The thing about the Asylum is – no matter how minor or major your crime is – everyone is only allotted one week here.
“Right this way.” Officer Lace dragged me down the dim hallway I’ve been through countless times. He unlocked the door and it creaked as it swung open.
I slipped into the room without hesitation, finding myself in – surprise – a plain white cell with one flickering lantern hanging overhead.
Officer Lace slammed the door without another word.
I sat on the floor, like I always do, and began twirling the rubber band I kept around my wrist.
Sighing, I pushed my short brown hair (mandatory) away from my face.
Shifting to lay on my back, I rested my head on my arms and closed my eyes.

June 26, 9:16A.M.
“I just don’t know what we’re going to do with you, Zailah.”
I sipped my water and ignored Maci’s constant ranting.
“Maybe,” she continued, “we’ll just tie you to your bed and keep you there.”
Please, I thought.
She didn’t own me. I mean, legally, she did, but that didn’t mean she could just tell me what to do. She’s not even related to me.
“Or,” I offered, swirling my water in its cup, “you could just let me leave this horrible place. That would make everyone happy.
“Zailah, this is your home. You’re not leaving, because this is where you belong.
“But if I don’t want to be here, then why don’t they just let me go? Or kill me off?”
Maci shot me a sharp look. “Because, Zailah, that’s just not how it works.”
I hopped from the counter and crossed the kitchen in three quick strides.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Maci asked, folding her arms across her chest.
“My room.” I replied tersely as I ascended the stairs.
Maci said something else, but I’d already slammed the door behind me.
I flopped onto my bed and stared at the ceiling.
It was still daylight, so I had to wait before sneaking out. I directed my attention to my window. If I looked closely enough, I could see past all of the identical buildings and mindless people, and catch the slightest view of the fence.
All these times I’d come so close to freedom, and I’m always caught at the last second.
It’s not fair, I thought. I just want to be free. No constant monitoring, no assigned life, no endless routines. I just want to be an individual. Not like everyone else; just me.
I stared out the window, willing the sun to disappear.
Figuring I might as well get some rest, I closed my eyes and let my mind venture to that world just beyond the fence.

June 27, 2012. 12:08A.M.
My eyes flickered, and I rolled out of bed as soon as my eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
I slid into my sneakers and gently lifted the window. Grabbing my backpack, I swung one leg over the windowsill, then the other, and hopped down. I landed softly on the grass just six feet below.
The neighborhood kids call the house Ghost Manor. The front gate is completely covered in bright yellow police tape, and the door is boarded over. The windows are nailed shut, too. The only thing the missed is the back door. Geniuses.
It’s a ridiculously easy walk from my house, about a mile away. Nobody dares to enter it.
However, I’m a little different.
I stalked around to the back of the house and gave the door a shove. It opened easily, and I crossed the threshold, pushing the door back in place behind me. I skillfully found the lantern on the floor and used it to light my way.
“Jace?” I called softly.
“Hey, Zay,” Jace greeted as she appeared faintly in front of me, her white dress dragging gracefully on the floor.
“Hey,” I echoed. Sometimes I really wished I could hug her. She was the only friend I had, after all, and she meant a lot to me.
“Try to escape again?” She flashed me a sideways smile.
“Tried being the keyword,” I answered, “I can never actually succeed.”
“Just be happy they don’t shoot anymore,” Jace reminded me.
“Yeah,” I shrugged. I guess that is a good thing. Ever since the reaction the government got when Jace’s brother shot her down six years ago, they prohibited using that method on a resister.
Regardless, Jace seemed pretty happy, considering what’d happened. She was fifteen when he shot her, so she remained the age that I am now. I’d first found her here eight months ago, after hearing her story. Since then, we’d become best friends.
“So… More planning?” Jace guessed.
“Yeah, and editing.” I sighed and dropped my backpack to the floor.
“Your technique is all wrong,” Jace told me, “you can’t just sprint off like that. They’ll always catch you.”
“I’ve figured that out,” I informed her.
“Listen,” she hissed with a suddenly low voice, “if you use my plan, with just a little revision, you could make it.”
“How close did you get?” I asked.
“I was right at the fence, but I forgot it was electric. I got shocked, and while I was recovering… Well, you know.”
“Right.” I chewed my lip for a second. “So the first thing I’ll need to do is turn off the fence.”
“Then you’ll need to come up with your bases. The fence is closer if you leave from here, but the breaker is about half a mile the other way, so you’d have to stop there on your way.”
“How long will it be until they realize that the fence has been powered off?”
“Well,” she paused briefly, “if you turn just the fence off, they’ll never know. There are symbols and colors for each button and switch. I think the fence is a blue button, if I remember correctly.”
“Well, since you know all this stuff, can’t you just come with?” I asked. “You can still be free, Jace.”
“Zay, as much as I’d love to, I can’t,” she sighed, only looking half as sad as she sounded.
“But, what if I need you?” What if something goes wrong?”
“I can’t,” she insisted, “this is my home. And maybe someday, I’ll be able to help others, just like I helped you.”
It felt like hours before the silence between us was broken.
“Okay, first, let’s map out your bases.” Jace clapped her hands once and tugged by backpack. “Then we’ll plan out your exact path.”
We planned, and disagreed, and laughed until early dawn peeked over the horizon, and I had to head home before Maci woke up.

July 8, 2012. 11:53P.M.
I pulled on my boots and laced them tight. Standing slowly, I slipped my backpack – filled with four water bottles, six granola bars, a pack of matches, a roll of gauze, antibacterial wipes, Band-Aids, some canned food, two flashlights, a can opener, and an extra set of clothes – over my shoulder. It was heavy, but I was strong.
I looked around my room. Not a lot to see – or miss. We weren’t allowed to have anything that might make us different or happy.
But I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Tonight, I would be the next person to escape this place.
I hopped out the window and took a different path. I veered just a little off of my regular track, heading for the breaker box.
I pulled my jacket tighter around myself.
Eventually, I came across a small, vacant building. I picked the lock on the door and stepped inside.
I turned on my flashlight and quickly located the fuse box. I picked the padlock and swung it open. I found a blue button, took a deep breath, and pushed it.
Locking everything back up in my wake, I headed to Jace’s.
“Okay,” Jace cooed once I got there, “how’re you feeling?”
“I don’t know, Jace. How is a person who is about to go against everything she’s been told and probably not even live through it supposed to feel?”
She frowned at me. Then a smile crept across her face, lighting her gray eyes.
“Come on!” She exclaimed. “This is so going to work. You’re going to make it. You’re going to avenge us both.”
“What if that was the wrong button though? I’ll be fried.”
“Chill, Zay.”
I took a deep breath.
"Jace," I pleaded, " please come with me. I can't do this alone."
She put a gentle hand on my shoulder, though I couldn't even feel it. "You can do this, Zay." She whispered. "I believe in you."
Then she dropped her hand. "But if you don't go now, you won't make it."
I sighed, and reluctantly turned toward the door. I glanced back to see her smile brightly, then disappear.
"Goodbye, Jace," I whispered. Then I opened the door and was pulled out into the unforgiving night.

I slinked undetected through the first nine bases I'd mapped out with Jace. Now only four stops rested between me and freedom.
I did a 360, checking for guards. Then I stayed low as I made my way to bases ten and eleven.
I peered from behind the tree, holding my breath. Six guards stood at the fence. However, they stood in a cluster, only "guarding" one section of the fence.
Smart, I thought, all I have to do is cross further down.
Then I felt a hard hand on my shoulder.
"Nice try," Officer Lace sneered.
Not this time.
I acted purely out of instinct, swinging my leg high. I heard a grotesque crunching sound
I dashed for the fence. I made sure to run at just that right angle, away from the guards.
I reached my hand out to grab the fence, preparing for the electrocution that would end my life.
As my hand came into contact with the cool metal, I began climbing. I made it to the top, swung my legs over. . .
My feet hit solid ground on the other side of the fence.
I was sure the guards were staring in awe. Only twelve other people in history had successfully escaped.
Make that thirteen.
I turned and ran, finally free.

July 9, 2012. 7:54A.M.
Daylight took over, and I kept walking. I guess I'd never really thought about what would happened after I jumped the fence. I definitely did expect this though.
It was a tiny little community. There were children playing, teenagers talking, adults creating. Everyone just doing what they pleased, living their lives freely.
"Hi!" A girl about my age sprang on me. "I'm Unity. Welcome home."

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

justkiddinguniversity said...
Feb. 14, 2013 at 11:10 pm
YOU ARE AN AMAZING WRITER! I loved your story and I think you're creativity is awesome! Keep up the awesome work! 
ZailahDash replied...
Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm
Thanks so much, I'm glad you liked it!
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