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The Escape

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Heart racing, he darted through the shadows of the city lights. His legs, aching from the chase, pushed him further into the darkness. Panting slightly and hidden by the night, he paused; ears straining against the white noise of the city around him. His breathing slowed, his body stood still, the keen sense of hearing he had once relied so much upon searching desperately for one noise, for one sound, one call in the midst of a thousand voices. Eyes closed in concentration, he followed the noise – head turning as his focus shifted. Then, as if by request, the cries of his pursuers rose out of the crowd. Spiralling above the great shapes around him, the shouts of frantic men danced through the streets. His eyes snapped open, alert and afraid, and he pushed on.
This was the Big Smoke. This place was strange to him. Here, trees were cold and hard; they towered above the dusty streets and held glowing flowers in their outstretched branches. These trees did not move, they were unaffected by the wind, and the cruel light that they cast exposed all. No body was left to hide, no circumstance left a mystery; the light left its surroundings naked – bare and rigid amidst the moving mass. Their silence unsettled him. Back home, living off the land, the trees were alive. They danced with the wind in the summer breeze and gave shelter and relief to the weary. The trees there stood tall and strong - great branches reaching out towards one another, the heart of the Australian bush. Outside these city limits, the trees could whisper.
A small whimper left the lips of the escapee. He was alone and he was afraid. His family, his heart remembered, were dead. His soul mate and his only son were gone - victim to the brutality and ignorance of the city mind. He had not witnessed their deaths, their final moments on the sunbaked earth, but he had heard them. A single shot had rung through the valley, one bullet to kill mother and child, one bullet to tear apart a family. Instinct took control, the will to survive dominated his mind, and he had run. Heart breaking with each stride, the familiar world crumbling behind him, he pounded on until, shaking from head to foot, he had found himself in the Big Smoke.
He did not belong here - amongst the crowds, the cursing city urchins, the fallen women, the dirt and the smoke. The sullen line of buildings and the ceaseless tramp of feet, the white noise of the city. Here there was no life. No rivers, with their turbid sweeping flood; no outback grasses, waving like fields of summer grain; no wind, no seasons, no flowers, no life. Here, this place, this was not his Australia.
He had to hide; he had to leave this place of darkness, to escape his pursuers. He knew, by instinct, that they would not stop until he was dead. They had killed his family, they had forced him out of his home, and they must complete the ‘set’. Slowly, those still walking the streets of the Big Smoke would notice him, huddled in the shadow of a towering building. He did not blend well with the insipid city folk.
Muscles rippled as he advanced, his piercing black eyes darting from side to side. He moved quickly, forcefully and with purpose, and, despite his light physique, his flurried limbs, he moved with grace. Accustomed to his body, he stood perfectly balanced – body and mind were as one. As predicted, the startled cries of onlookers pushed him further, faster. The faces of the Big Smoke falling together now, a blur, his only focus the stretch of road before him. One, two, three, four; legs forcing him forward, closer to freedom, further from his past. The road beneath his bare feet turned to earth; the silent, cold ‘trees’ began to live, to laugh, to whisper and dance - their glowing orbs of light became the luminescent moon, the bright guiding star, the bringer of night. As he ran he heard not the shouted order, heard not the screams of haste, but the Kookaburra’s laugh, the shearer’s chorus, the silver chiming of the bell-birds on the range. He was home and he was free.
A thundering CRACK pierced through the darkness and as he fell, as he came crashing to the dusty road, his eyes shut tight - holding on to the memory, to the smell of home and the land. The bullet had hit home, his dart for freedom cut short. He had not seen the rifle, nor heard the faint ‘click’ of the trigger; his senses had focused only on his race for freedom and escape. The monsters had won, this was his home, his land, his bush, and he had lost the fight. His heart fluttered, aching still for the illusions of freedom, and with a great sigh, stilled. His gasping breathes were no more, his fight for survival faded, and as the hunters gathered, his brushy tail twitched, the earthy red hues dulled in the moon light, and the untamed life of a fox left his eyes.



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