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Drip, drip, drip. The cell was horrible it was dark, damp, cramped, grubby and it smelled. The smell was revolting it was the smell of the rotting dead. Words cannot describe how putrid it was. As if it wasn’t enough that they made jokes about us dying every time we saw them, they had to waft the smell of our loved ones rotting over us 24/7.
I’d been here one week now. One week of utter hell. I’d been caught trying to get out of the county. I should have known it would be a mistake to try to escape. If I could change anything about my life it would have been to not make the decision to leave. That decision got Grace killed. She’d been taken to the chambers the first day we were here. I will remember until my dying day the look of utter terror on her face as she was chosen. The look was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Her husband Joe had volunteered to be killed instead but the guards wouldn’t take any of it. Grace had been chosen so grace had to die. All I had managed to do by trying to escape the county was shorten all of our lives. I knew that I’d cut Grace’s far too short she had been only. I know this sounds bad, but in a way I sort of envied her. She wasn’t stuck in this cell now watching all of her loved ones being taken off to be killed; she would never have to suffer that kind of pain. She was free - You know you’re in trouble when you envy the dead.
I couldn’t help but be drastically depressed I was even angry with myself for being depressed I should be thankful I was still alive, I still had hope, I still had Lucas. (Lucas was my husband, we’d know each other for 20 years, and we’d been in love for 19 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.)
I just couldn’t help envying the dead and going crazy like a mouse in a box. One thing I know about mice is, mice shouldn’t be kept in boxes they’re designed to be free. Once they are in the box they lose control. The box owner is in control, they can either, be nice and set the mice free or they can torture the mouse. Unfortunately I was a mouse whose box owner had chosen to torture it slowly and painfully.
I the distance I could hear the bell. The bell had been nicknamed the bell of death by us prisoners. It was the bell they rang twice a day every day to signify time for the guard to come and chose people to be put in the chambers. I could hear the guards entering our corridor. A guard would choose 5 people from each cell to be chosen there was no order to it you were either chosen or you weren’t.
In my cell there was around 30 people I knew most people by name now but the only other detail I knew was who they had cried for when the person was chosen. There were only a few people I knew properly, they were the people who had been caught with us. There was Mum, Dad (both gripping each other tightly,) Greg from the corner shop by my house (he had hidden with us in the warehouse where we used to hide,) Grace’s husband Joe (who was still clutching Grace’s favourite necklace as tears slid like rain drops silently down his face) and Lucas, I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to him.
The guards we’re outside our cell now, they would chose the 5 of us who would be executed and we were to just simply walk of the cell with them. No time for goodbye, just simply walk towards death.
The guard outside our cell started to point at the people who were to die. They pointed at a lady who I only knew as Maggie. She was about 50 and had tears stained into the dirt of her face. She was shaking slightly but as she stood she smiled and said “I welcome death you have no hold over me, you’ll be doing me a favour, I’ll see my family again.” At this anger shot across the guard’s face. He didn’t utter a word he simply pulled out his gun aimed and fired. No remorse played on his face, he wasn’t even angry anymore his face was as expressionless as if it had been set in stone and been weathered for 100s of years. All we could do was turn and stare as Maggie’s body crumpled and fell to the ground. As we stared at the body, I noticed the ghost of her last smile still etched on to her still face.
The next two chosen we’re people who I didn’t know that well, they had only arrived the day before and from what I had gathered they we’re the last two surviving members of their family. There was also a woman who had arrived two days before and was the first to go to the chambers from their family. There would be a lot of screaming and sobbing tonight, the first was always the hardest to process.
The last person they chose made me scream “NO!” they had chosen my Lucas. My brain had got stuck and jammed. I couldn’t process anything all I could do was sob “no, no, no” over and over in my head I was too shocked for words. I sank to the floor shaking my head repeatedly as if trying to rid myself of a bad dream. I couldn’t believe it I had refused to believe it would happen until now. I had hoped for some miracle that we could escape before this happened.
I saw a flash of something over the guard’s face I’m not sure what it was I could have been pity, sorrow, remorse or a mix of the 3 but played with his face as I watched and he struggled to set his face back to stone. He couldn’t quite manage it. It gave me and idea.
On the pretence of getting up to give Lucas hug I walked closer to the door, closer to the guard and Lucas. “Step away” his voice was ruff and shook slightly but I didn’t deter me it just encouraged me giving me more of the hope I’d been missing. As I reached the door, and the guard, I didn’t hesitate I lunged. I punched his face and kneaded his groin before he knew what was happening by the time he did it was too late he could only try to protect himself as punch after punch went flying into him. It wasn’t just me now it was all of the people in the cell, they were kicking, punching and trying to damage as much of him as possible. Luckily Mum had the sense to clamp his mouth shut with the help from Dad before his screaming started. By the time we’d finished he looked more like a plum than person. I felt a pang of guilt but it was nothing compared to the relief of being one step closer to freedom.
When you let mice out of a box something amazing happens they don’t hang around waiting to be put back the box. Nor do they take the obvious escape route. Mice find any small safe place and hide and wait. That’s what I chose to do. It would have been silly to just try to walk out of here there are too many guard and not enough hidey holes no we had to plan this.
I bent down and picked up the guard’s fallen gun and I picked up his keys. I looked around at the others “we need to plan this” I told them. I was surprised about how gruff my voice sounded but a week in this place and I should be surprised to have a voice at all. “We can’t just run, we’d be dead before we smelt fresh air” I pause to think how we were going to get out of here. It seemed like an impossible task. Like being faced with a solid ice wall and only having a candle to burn it with. “Well first things first we need to hide him” I indicated the guard “we don’t want to be caught before we even have a plan. Who knows what they’ll do to us. I think that 5 of us should join the line for the chamber but they should have the keys and gun. So when people start moving into the chamber they can shoot the guards, run and unlock the gate for the others. I think we should leave this cell open and when we have a good diversion the people left should make a run for it.”
“But won’t people notice the gun shoots” it was Sam that spoke up, he was only 8 but he was one of the bravest people I knew. Only he and his Mum were left from his family.
“No that’s the brilliance of it “chimed in Lucas “all of the other guard would think it was one of us making a brake and getting shot” he smiled at me warmly. “All we have to do is to decide who does what. I don’t mind being in the outer group so long as you come with me” he looked at me and his smile transferred to his eyes causing little crinkles to appear around them
“Deal” I replied without considering “who else want to come with us?” 4 hands went up. Sam, Joe a man called Harry who I’d had a few conversations with he had two children. Millie and Jack. Also Greg and Dad put up their hand. “ well since there are only 5 people supposed to go I think that Sam should stay behind” it wasn’t really for that reason I thought he should stay behind it was because he was only 8 and I couldn’t bear to see him get into any trouble with the guards.
We all looked at the gun “any volunteers?” I said wistfully. Of Corse there were none who would want to kill anybody willingly. So I picked up the gun without a word and hid it in my sock. If it had to be me I wasn’t going to look it any more that I had to.
We set off along the corridor then the 5 of us then carefully shutting the cell behind us. Leaving the others to hide the body and wait.
We joined to que of other prisoners just 3 cells down and waited to. I couldn’t keep still adrenaline was coursing through my body making me unable to keep still I kept having to check my pocket for the keys and remind myself there was a gun in my shoe, I didn’t dare touch it. Of course I wasn’t the only nervous person in the que; actually I don’t think there was a person who wasn’t nervous in the que. Of course I had a different reason to be nervous
The line slowly made its procession towards the chamber. I couldn’t breathe I tried not to think about what I had to do but it’s all that was going through my mind, I felt sick with worry, what if this went wrong what would they do to me. A million gruesome thoughts crossed though my mind, they could kill me any way they wanted nobody could do anything to stop them.
I could see the outside now. I could smell the fresh air. I could hear the birds in the distance. The sight smell and noise seamed to wrap around me with the new heat I could feel of the outside summer. It gave me strength and made me lift my head. It gave me hope; if I was going to die I wasn’t going to sit around waiting I was going to go out fighting. I’d gone too far to back put now between us we’d killed one of them. We didn’t know his name or anything about him like mice our survival instincts had taken over. They would never let us live for that.
I walked into the light with a new confidence I was ready. It wasn’t worth thinking about I could save the lives of around 100 people if I just shot two people. But somehow I still had a sick nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I could see the men I had to kill now they we’re either side of the doors of the chamber. Getting ready to open it. I through the keys to Lucas and drew the gun. A few of the people around me screamed but I walked passed them to get a better aim. The people’s scrams had caught the guard’s attention and they turned to look. As they saw me the colour drained from their faces. They were left as pale as ghost in a storm.
All I had to do was pull the trigger, but the harder I tried to do it the harder it seemed to pull. I couldn’t shake the image of a boy like Sam from my head. Did the guards have families, was I making a child like Sam world crash and burn like mine had when the guard had pointed out Lucas. I tried to pull the trigger repeatedly but my joints were frozen. I couldn’t move them.
One of the guards smiled and drew his own gun he pointed it directly at Lucas. I heard the shot, but still didn’t believe it had happened. I looked up at the guard as his body crumpled to the ground his blood pooling around him. It had been quick, quicker than I had thought it would be. As I turned to the other guard he tried to run but he was dead before I had made the conscious decision to pull the trigger. I felt the shot escape the gun pulling at my arm. I watched it fly thought the air in slow-motion. I saw it imbed its self in the guard’s skull. I saw the blood spray meters around him. Farther than he would fall. His knees buckled under his body and he hit the floor dead.
I stood shocked as Lucas ran to unlock the main gate to our freedom. The crowd all surged forward as they realised what was happening. Lucas had to force his way through the crowd to reach me. All this while I stood transfixed with the guards bodies. I couldn’t believe I had caused this. Lucas didn’t pause he scooped me up in his arms and ran with me to freedom, with the members of our cell running closely behind us. As we ran I turned my head so I could still stare at the death I had created. I didn’t even register the relief when we ran out of the gates. I just saw the bodies ever where I looked.
I can’t remember how long we ran for. I just remember the guard’s faces, staring at me blankly with the light and life gone for their eyes and death and dark replacing it. We found an abandoned warehouse after running for most of the day and night. The group made the decision to stay the night there until we found a more suitable place. The place wasn’t much it was cold and had no lighting, but it was a vast improvement to the dark cell. If I could only stop seeing the guards in every corner the lights from our fires didn’t reach. After a while I noticed that Joe and Greg weren’t there. I asked Lucas where they were, he told me “they’re outside burying Grace’s necklace and Maggie’s shoe. It’s all they have of them and they want to say goodbye.” At this I silently walked outside to where Joe and Greg stood round a small hole in the ground. They weren’t saying anything but I could see silent tears still washing down Joe’s face as he stared at the last piece of Grace he had. I joined them at their silent memorial and I mourned. I didn’t morn for Grace and Maggie though I mourned for the guard’s and their families. Even though I had escaped it seemed I had left my sanity behind.