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I AM MAC
I am a fugitive. My name is Mac. I am fourteen. I am built like a guy, but I am still as nimble and stealthy as the clever girl I am. I have one friend. Her name is Kimberly. She is on the run with me, too. She’s as quiet and quick as a hawk. We stay together. We plan together. We work together.
This is our life.
But this isn’t about me. It’s not about my relationship with Kim, either. We are fugitives. Therefore, the government wants us. I can’t be controlled. And I refuse to be captured.
I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Kim and I have no idea why we run. I mean, we run because we’re being chased, but from what? Yes, from the government and the hound they sent after us—I think her name is Kath. The thing is, I have no idea why they want us. I haven’t done anything illegal and neither has Kim. We’re not special or anything (unless you count being able to avoid capture from the world’s best security force). So what is it? I go over the simple things (like stated above) to hopefully help me remember how we got in this mess. It usually doesn’t do the trick, though. We need help. Badly. But we can’t trust anyone. Not very convenient, huh?
Kim and I have gotten out of tight situations. Really tight situations. Kath came close to us several times. Those are scary moments. Well, every moment on the run is a scary moment because you have to be alert and cautious 24/7. It’s not an easy job. I don’t know how to “live” anymore. Truthfully told, I miss my family and my school. However, if Kim is on my side, I can last without them.
As to where I am now? Well, like I said, I’m on the run. So my location will remain a secret—even to you. Sorry, but I did say we can’t trust anyone. But I will describe where we are to you.
It’s dark, cold, and damp. We are surrounded by a giant metal tube. An open sewer dump that empties out into a bay. It’s pretty wide to hold the both of us. I’m curled up on the side, laying my back against the cool steel. It’s late in autumn, and I can see the last of the trees losing their color. Everything is gray. And I’m not just saying that because I am in a huge, metallic pipe. The sky is gray; the buildings are gray; the water is gray. The entire atmosphere is gray. Heck, I’m even wearing gray! But that’s because it’s all I can help myself too. I can’t change the world.
“We should keep moving,” I say, looking out over the body of water. My voice resonates through the tube. Soon, footsteps echo as well, growing louder by the minute until they stop.
“No point,” Kim says. “We need to stay low for now, like we always do. Besides, we’re overdue for rest.” She stands opposite of where I sat. I’m still not looking at her, but she is casting her glance at me. For some reason, I’m not accepting the position of a conversation. I’m not talking directly to her.
Then again, she’s right. We follow a pattern—a routine, if you will. I always try to stick to one. Travel on foot for certain number of hours and then find a place to law low and rest. Today was nerve-racking like any other day. We were in the city where it was crowded as usual. A great cover to blend in. Kim wanted to find a place to eat or maybe settle in an alleyway among the homeless. I agreed and disagreed. Yes, we needed food and energy to keep moving. No, we were not going to stay public. That mistake happened once before and it nearly cost us a capture.
On that unforgettable day, Kath was hot on our tail, positioning her men to surround us. Unaware of the ambush that was about to take place, Kimberly and I kept walking into their trap. Finally, I got a really bad feeling. I know that sounds stupid, but something just didn’t seem right at all. Call me paranoid. But I’m usually right. Kim didn’t really catch on. Though, she did sense my concern. Instead, she suggested we find a place crowded with people to walk with until suspicion died down, that way no one could take us out in the open with others around. It was a good idea, but there were no ways of escape. We heard talk of a local party being hosted on a rooftop. Now, Kim and I may only be fourteen, but we look like college students. We snuck in easily and joined the event. Everything was smooth sailing. Maybe we would find a ride by the end of the night.
Of course, we were stupid at the time. Because, in this world, nothing goes the way you want it. It was night time on the roof. The stars were out. People were drinking, laughing, talking, and having fun. “Roar” by Katy Perry was playing in the background. I won’t bore you with the details of the party. Kim and I pretended to talk to each other, carrying an interesting conversation. What we were really doing was checking everyone else out. That’s when I noticed something. One of the guys had glanced at us four times. He was tall and burly like a football player. By this weird behavior, my running instincts kicked in and I started to panic. Then I noticed two more people, positioned like a triangle around us, starring in our direction too. The door manager was looking at us. No way of escape. It occurred to me then that this was a trap.
It occurred to me too late.
I mouth my suspicion succinctly to Kim. Her eyes widen and I can tell that she realizes what could happen. I remember the adrenaline pumping in my veins. We were in a trap that they had planned. Kath knew how to perfectly get us cornered. She must be here, too. I had to give her credit. But now we were in serious trouble.
And that was also when I realized how thankful I was to be Kim’s friend.
Kimberly casually walked over to the refreshments table next to the DJ. I joined her, wondering what on earth she was doing. She poured some lemonade into her cup but didn’t sip. Then I knew what was going to happen. I saw our exit. I also remember seeing the three sniffer dogs advance in on us, ready to seize.
That’s when there was a loud bang, some crackling sparks, screams, and darkness. There was confusion among others. Someone powered the lights again. There was some chatter, some movement—and two missing guests.
Kim timed it perfectly. We got off that roof as soon as the lights went off. Bobbing between other members and careful not to hit one of our enemies. So, how did we get away without using the exit?
It wasn’t over yet. We didn’t “get away” just yet. Oh, and do you know how far we can jump from rooftop to rooftop? I never knew. And that moment was a good time to test my ability.
So all of the sudden, we were Spiderman. It wasn’t a clean move because I saw some figures—probably the sniffers—pointing at us. But we were well ahead of them. Kim and I kept running and leaping until we were quite a distance away. We slid down a gutter pipe and into a quiet alley. The first thing I noticed was that we were alone. Everything was darker here and quiet. The only sound was a faint drip of water from the gutter. The second thing I noticed was—
“Are you day dreaming again?”
I totally forgot I was explaining a story a while back. Sorry, I usually get so caught up in my past that I forget to live the present. “No…”
“Stop zoning out on me; I’m starting to think I’m the only one here.” Kim squats down across from me.
I sit up, scanning her face. Her blond hair waves in the gentle breeze. It’s strange how something so vibrant, so bright can exist in the gray world. I’ve always been jealous of her looks. The good, friend to friend jealously. I have flat, boring brown hair. I was shocked that one day she actually told me that she wanted my hair. That was ages ago, in the sixth grade. That life doesn’t even seem real anymore.
I remember being in first grade with her. We’ve been best friends ever since. Those simple, joyful times make me laugh now.
It reminded me of what happened next in my flash back.
…the second thing I noticed was that we were alone. It was just Kim and me. Though, I couldn’t tell for sure. I mean, it was so dark, I couldn’t see anything more than five feet in front of me.
“Let’s get out of here,” I whispered.
Kim nods and we tiptoe down the alley. The place gave me the creeps. I’ve been in some ugly parts of town, including the sewers, and nothing compares to the feeling here. The darkness, the coldness, the eerie silence. It just shouts, “LEAVE AND NEVER RETURN.”
We kept walking until we hit a street. Immediately I knew something was wrong. It was still nighttime; only one streetlamp was lit, still flickering on the road. The eerie silence and single flashes of light made the hairs of the back of my neck stand up. I expect the worst. Not because of this whole horror story setting. That would be implied if we were alone. And we were not alone.
Four—no, five men were creeping their way from the dark, shadowy streets and into the light. They were big and I couldn’t see their faces. I can’t tell if they have weapons or not. Probably, but not the lethal kind. As far as we could tell, Katherine was taking extreme measures to capture us alive. Kim and I simultaneously try to back as far away from the light, hoping that the darkness behind us would give some coverage. But there was nowhere to go.
And then she stepped out.
Was I afraid? Never. This would just be another fun time with Kim and our chaser. A simple game of tag.
“Well, well,” Katherine said.
“Ah, looks like you’ve surrounded us—again,” I shout. “Too bad it’s not a victory yet.” I tap Kim’s arm—our signal to one another to find an opening and take off. She clears her throat and confirms a location.
All we had to do then was find our moment and shoot.
“Oh, I don’t think there will be much more chasing. This little game is over.”
“We’re not done playing yet,” I say. Kim takes the lead, slowly circling Katherine. I follow, and Katherine plays perfectly. She circles the same, still rotating at a distance. We stay in the darkness of the outer rim. I take half a second to peak at where were going and then I see it. Kim takes us there and then stops. I step out into the light, keeping the conversation going. “How many times is this, anyway? I’ve lost count.”
“Enough, I would say. Where’s you’re opening? I know what you’re trying, and it’s not going to work this time. Game over, Mac.”
Sucks for her that this was all part of the plan. While moving back from the light, I say, “I don’t think so. I like to keep playing.”
I always admire Kim’s amazing ability to keep the loudest of objects silent. When I removed myself completely from the light, I glanced at our way out. A hole in the concrete. A sewage tunnel. I motion my fingers down, mouthing out the words “drop.”
“Where will you go? You’ve nowhere to hide. C’mon, Mac. Let’s get down to business.”
Kim silently lowers herself into the hole. I didn’t respond; there has been a moment too long of silence from the talk. I see Katherine’s look of confusion, probably wondering if we were still there. I guess she held off on a charge because she didn’t see where else we could have gone.
Kim is clear, and I quickly drop down myself. It smells of rotting eggs badly down here. I breathe out of my mouth, feeling around the walls for an opening. Kim takes the lead again and I follow, quickening out pace. I hear the men arguing about where we went. Their voices become distant, and our footsteps grow louder, echoing in the bend. Didn’t see that one coming, did you, Kath?
I’m snapped back to the present.
“Let’s do something different,” Kim suggests.
“What do you mean, ‘different’?” I retort.
“We’re running and running and getting nowhere. What if we tried getting captured for once? Find out what all this is about? We’d have an elaborate escape—“
“Oh, and you’re confident we’d escape, are you?” I get up. Why would she think of something so stupid? “What, you think they want to tell us everything, and then they’ll be satisfied and let us go? I don’t think that’s how it works.”
“You have a better idea? Oh right, you always do. It’s called run and hide—forever.” Kim wipes the hair away from her face. “I can’t—we can’t keep doing this. It’s got to end.”
“And you think the end will be giving up and surrendering? It’s over when they win?”
“I’m not saying—!”
“Wait, shhhh!” I put my finger up to silence her, glancing outside the cave. First everything is silent. Then I hear a low hum. It keeps growing. “You hear that?”
Kim sits patiently and listens, her eyes moving upward and staring at the metal ceiling. “Helicopter?” she whispers.
Half a second of panic passes. I crouch down and motion her to move inward, away from the mouth of the tube. We both sit side by side, staring outside. The helicopter hovers right above us. I feel its vibration in the tube. Or is it just my heart? I try not to think of all the possible outcomes. We could be done in the next half minute. We trapped ourselves. The only thing we can do is sit back and pray they don’t land.
The helicopter moves forward. I inhale deeply and don’t release. Then the chopper continues towards the city, and I finally see it. It becomes smaller and smaller and the sound diminishes. I sigh, letting the air out.
“Like I said, we should keep moving,” I tell her with a smile.
She looks like she’s about to punch me but decides to hold it in. We wait two minutes before climbing out of the tube.
“How about we chase them. Sound like a change?” I say. I know something has to come down, sooner or later.
“Gotta start somewhere.” Kim shrugs. She looks at where the helicopter was heading. “Looks like they’re going for the lesser part of town. Some convenience shopping district.”
“Guess where we’re headed?”
I grab our things and we leave our ugly tube.
“First thing we do when we get there: get Katherine alone.” I tell her the plan as we walk to the nearest bus stop. “Got any change?”
She opens her pockets and pulls out some coins. “Enough.”
“Right.” I nod. As we trudge down the dirt road, I continue, “When we do that—”
“Wait,” she says, putting her arm out to stop me. “I think you just breezed over something really important: how are we supposed to get her alone? She’s always got her sniffers and hounds around 24/7. It isn’t going to be an easy trick.”
“Since when has anything we done been easy?” I give her a smirk. “Besides, if a couple of teens can elude the government for this long, I doubt getting her alone for five minutes would be harder.”
The bus pulls up to the stop. We climb aboard, emptying the money into the machine. I pick a window seat and Kim sits next to me. The bus jolts and we move. The overhead monitor says in a cool female voice, “Next stop: Downtown.”
“I guess we’re actually doing things my way,” Kim blurts out.
I’m a little shocked and confused by what she said. “What’d you mean?”
“I mean, we’re winging it.” She smiles. “Well, half-winging it.”
“Yeah, I guess you can say that.”
It’s nighttime when we arrive at the convenience store. I immediately sense the presence of spies. I look out the window and see two identical cars, black SUV’s with obvious fake license plates. Two men in each, but that’s all I can tell from the covered windows. They’re watching the place for any activity. And boy, they might just get some. I stare at Kim straight in the eyes and nod. She sighs and gets ready for our move.
The bus stops. Kim gets up and I follow, swiftly sneaking a hat and sunglasses from a sleeping passenger. I pass the glasses to Kim, and she slides them on as I put the hat on my head, lowering the cap to conceal my face. We climb off quickly and walk straight into the store in front of us.
“How many?” she whispers as we speedily walk down the aisles.
“Four. Right outside. They might have seen us walk in. we need to change and find the exits. Now.”
She sees the exit sign and points. “There.” Right next to it is the restrooms/changing rooms. Since when were both the same thing? Doesn’t matter. Focus.
Great. We have to make this quick. She says in a fast pace, “Grab what you can. Don’t be obvious. Meet in restrooms in one minute. Go.”
We split in opposite directions. I see some clothing up ahead. Grabbing what looks my size and is completely opposite of my outfit, I turn and see two of the four agents walking in from the entrance. I lower my head, pretending to file through the clothes, looking at them. They talk then nod at each other, taking off in different directions.
Where are the other two?
I grab the things from the hanger, snag a pair of reading glasses, a new hat, and dart. My minute is up and I’m at the restroom’s entrance.
I hope Kim is already inside.
I take one last look at the store as a whole. I’ve lost sight of the agents. Swallowing, I duck into the bathrooms. Few women are inside, some trying on outfits on the left while others relieving themselves on the right. I walk into the chamber on the left, pick the closest closet door, lock it, and then strip myself of my gray clothing. I hastily pull on the new clothes, ripping the tags off. Then I walk out a completely different girl.
I don’t see Kim.
I walk into the bathroom to check. As I’m there, I look at myself in the mirror.
I don’t recognize myself.
It’s not the clothing that’s unfamiliar. It’s my face. I haven’t seen my reflection in a long while. I’ve changed. I’m not the fourteen-year-old I once was. I’ve been changed. I’m a rock. A rock that has been thrown a million times and never once getting a chunk taken off. I’ve been scraped on every side, but I’m still a whole. I realize I’m an entirely different person. I’m not being chased for me. I wasn’t born this way. I’m not Mac.
Who am I?
I turn and reach my hands out to grip a collar, another person’s hand gripping my shoulder. Not offensively, defensively. It’s Kim.
“Where were you?” I hiss.
“In the bathroom, like I told you,” she retorts. I see that she chose an outfit completely not suited to her personality.
“Nice outfit,” I tell her.
She frowns, giving me a hair pin. I tie my hair put as tightly as I can. Then I put on the baseball cap and glasses. She keeps her sunglasses on and puts a giant fancy hat on.
“Are you going to a horserace in the sun? It’s like nine o’clock at night; what’s with the sunglasses?”
“Hey it the first thing I saw!” she yells. “Ugh, we don’t have time to argue. What’s the play now?”
“Two of them came in a little more than a minute ago. They split up, I’m guessing starting outside and snaking the aisles inward right now. They’ve probably contacted Kath right now. She could be here in five minutes.”
“Where are the other two?”
“I don’t know. They might be at the exits.”
Kim bites her lips. “Whatever happens tonight is happening to-night. This is it, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I guess it is.”
I lower my hat. “Ready?”
We leave the restroom, she heads to exit and I move to the store. I see the agents. One of them is noticeably tall, towering over the clothes racks. The other has tattoos all over her arms. They both have buzz cuts and wear black clothing. I glance back at Kim. She draws me towards her.
“I don’t see them, which worries me,” she says.
“Let’s get out of this store.”
“I saw stairs going up from the office,” I say. “There has to be another private exit.”
Kim takes another look out the doors. “Yeah, looks like there’s some stairs coming from the top.
We wait for the agents to not look our way before striding off to the main office. The lights are off and the door is locked. I snatch a pin, poke around the lock, and it clicks. She quickly close the door behind us. I nod towards the stairs.
As we walk up, I can’t help but wonder what might happen in the next few minutes. It could be another time when we slip away, in case Kim changes her mind. Then again, I’d have to think of some way we could get out of here clean in a matter of seconds. Not that we haven’t done that before, it’s just that I don’t know if I can do it again under the circumstances. I agree with Kim. We need to end this now. I can’t keep running and hiding the rest of my life. We can’t keep doing this. I want to know what’s been going on.
“I’ll check the door,” Kim whispers to me.
I shake my head. Then I realize how this is going down. Oh God. We screwed up.
Kim walks out the door and down the stair before I can stop her. “NO!” I shout after her. The door closes and I run up to open it again. I bust out, look down, and see Kim running towards the woods. The four agents catch her before she can leap over the fence. I hear her shouts and screams, see her struggle against them. It’s useless. I know she knows that. I don’t want her to think that I abandoned her because I knew she would be caught.
And then a chilling voice says, “Well, well,” and I jump from where I stand. I land hard on the pavement; a sharp pain runs from my ankle up. I struggle up and try to get away. Then other agents come from the sides. I stop. I can’t outrun them. I can’t fight them. I can’t do anything.
They drag Kim over. Katherine walks towards me. Everyone surrounded me. Kim stopped struggling and just stood there. The agents gripped her tightly to the point of where she can’t even move a muscle.
Of all the things I need to know, I can’t think of how to translate them. It’s like nothing matters now. It all boiled down to this. I didn’t know I would be in this position this morning. I’ve always been afraid about when this day would come. And I failed. I’ve lost.
I say one word. “Why?”
“Don’t you get it?” She takes several drastic steps towards me, smiling like I’m her success. “How many kids can do what you’ve done over these last months? Not even a trained agent could elude us for more than a week or two.
“But you. Oh, how I’ve always wanted this to come.”
“Who am I?” I shout.
“No,” Katherine says tersely. “Wrong question.”
I stare at her, confused. How could that be a wrong question? “Then tell me what I should be asking.”
“What are you?”
“You honestly think you’re real name is Mac? It’s M. A. C.”
“The hell does that—?”
“You are MAC: Most Advanced Computer. And you were the biggest success in militarized stealth.”