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80 years. That’s the amount of time everyone is given to live in Zalora. The second you are born, your clock starts ticking. There are few ways to get more time added to your life, but there are thousands of ways to have time taken away. My mom passed away when I had 71 years left. If she hadn’t had any of her time taken away, she would’ve still had 36 years left. If you are born in Zalora you are stuck here. There is no safe way out. My mother tried to run away from here, when she discovered she was pregnant with me. When they caught her, they punished her, by taking away 10 years of her life. She lost a huge part of her life, trying to give me a better one. After her death, I was put in an orphanage. I never met my father, and I never want to. From what my mother told me, he was a terrible person. I wouldn't be surprised if they had already taken all of his time away. I have 23 years left, but if I never made any mistakes, I would’ve had 64.
After my mother's death, I felt like I had nothing to live for. I decided to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I started small, by stealing things every now and then. But security cameras are a real b****, and I ended up losing 7 years total from all the times I stole. After I lost those 7 years, I thought, why not lose them all. I don’t want to be here anyway. So I started breaking all the laws of Zalora. The worst thing I’ve done is break some girls arm. I lost 12 years for that. Can you believe that? 12 years, for accidentally breaking some chicks arm. I guess it wasn’t really an accident though. I mean, I didn’t mean to break her arm, but I was doing my best to beat the s*** out of her. This happened 4 years ago. I had 68 years left. She was talking about how my mom “deserved” it and how she was a terrible person. I couldn’t let that slide. After that incident, the amount of time I had left kept going down.
I was sitting in my room at the orphanage one day, talking Max, my best friend since I was young. Max was also in the orphanage. His parents both died in a car accident when he still had 78 years left. Him and I were technically the same age, he had 64 years left, because he's never lost any.
Looking him directly in the eyes, I said, “Ya wanna know what my mom’s last words to me were?”
Looking up at me, curiously, he said, “yeah, what was it?”
“Fallen, you gotta get the hell outta this place. I love you,” I told him, playing with a loose thread on my pants.
He broke eye contact, silently, he looked down at his hands. The room fell silent for a few seconds, then he looked up at me and smiled a little, “Your mom was a smart lady.”
I gave him a small smile back, “Yeah, she was the best.,” I sat and thought for a minute before speaking up, “We should leave.”
“Huh? Like, leave Zalora?” he said with a bit of confusion in his voice. I could tell by the look on his face that he wanted to leave with me.
“Max, listen to me. We could leave today. We could run away from this horrible place and start a new life. We wouldn’t have to die when our time is up! We wouldn’t want to die. It’s what your parents would’ve wanted for you. Please Max, trust me.”
Quietly, he said, “Okay, I trust you.”
The next day, we woke ourselves up early. Max and I, drowsy and exhausted, packed our bags. I mostly brought clothes and food, but I also brought the necklace my mom used to wear every single day. Max also brought clothes and food, but he threw in a box of matches too. That was Max’s favorite thing, matches. He always lights them and sees how long he can leave them lit, before it starts burning his hand too much. When the clock read 6:30am, Max and I headed out. Sneaking out of the orphanage was easy. It definitely wasn’t the first time Max and I had snuck out. This was the first time we weren’t coming back though. We had a room on the first floor, so we just hopped out the window, and headed out on our journey.
We headed down a gravel road, not to far from the orphanage. Max and I didn’t say much for the first 10ish minutes. Glancing over at me, Max, calmly and quietly, spoke up, “We need a plan.”
“You’re right. What do ya think we should do?”
“Hmm, I’ve got an idea, but I don’t know how well it’ll work. It’s a lil risky.” He said, looking down at his shoes.
I smiled, “I like taking risks,” I looked over at him, “let’s hear it.”
He stopped walking and started digging through his bag. He took out a map of Zalora and a red marker.
“Alright, so we are here,” he said, pointing about a mile south of where the orphanage is, “and this is where we want to go. It’s about 20 miles from here. If we go around the Tanger river, and behind the Jancel pudding factory, we should be able to get outta Zalora without getting caught. There is a field behind the factory, about a mile long. After the field, we’re out of Zalora. Once we cross over the Zalora border, our clocks would be frozen, and there would be no way for them to ever bring us back!”
“Max, you’re a genius! Let’s do it.” I said, excitedly, giving him a big hug.
We walked for about 3 hours, when we finally reached the Tanger river. The water, shallow and clear, glistened in the morning light. I looked over at Max and saw that he was already looking at me. As soon as our eyes met, he looked away, hoping I hadn’t seen him staring.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Wh-what? What’s beautiful? The water? Yeah, the water is really pretty.” He said, nervously.
“Are you all right Max?” I said, chuckling a little.
“Yeah, hah, let's go.” He said, blushing.
Max and I walked for about 2 more hours, then we decided to take a break. We found an abandoned park, and stopped there. We sat on the rusted blue swing set. Max opened his bag and took out two bags of rainbow goldfish. Looking over at me, he extended his arm and handed me a bag of them.
“Hell yeah,” I said grabbing the bag of goldfish.
Max laughed at me, and I started laughing too. The day I got to the orphanage, Max and I bonded over rainbow goldfish. We agreed that they were the best snack EVER invented, and that's how our friendship started. We stayed at the park for almost 3 hours, talking, laughing, and snacking on goldfish. Eventually, we decided it was time to leave, and we started walking. We headed toward the old Jancer pudding factory. As we got closer, we started feeling creeped out. There was an old story that the kids in the orphanage would tell. They said that people from the government had a secret lab in there. Where they would take the people who tried to run away. It was said that if they caught you and took you there, they would test on you, like you are some sort of lab rat. When Max and I got closer to the building, we could see an open field, that disappeared out of Zalora.
“You nervous?” He asked
“Just a little.”
He reached out and grabbed my hand, “On the count of three, let's run for it.”
“Wait, I think they have cameras set up on the outside of the factory.” I said, pointing up towards the roof of the building.
“Holy s***, you’re right. Maybe the myth is true?”
“Stop,” I said hitting his arm, “it’s probably just so they can make sure no weirdos are sneaking in and getting free pudding.”
Laughing at me, he said, “you’re probably right, can we go now?”
Right as I was about to respond to him, we heard something heading our way. I put my finger over my mouth, and looked over at Max. We were as quiet as we could be and I could hear what sounded like a car, getting closer to us. We looked all around us, but couldn’t see anything. Until Max yelled at the top of his lungs.
“S***, THEY FOUND US WE GOTTA GO! NOW!” He grabbed my arm and we started running as fast as we could towards the empty field. I took a quick look over my shoulder, to see 4 or 5 cars, following us. We ran, and kept running, trying to get out of their sight, but we couldn’t seem to shake them. We were almost out of Zalora’s border, and once we were out, there would be no way for them to get us. Out of nowhere, Max stopped running.
“FALLEN, KEEP RUNNING! DON’T WAIT FOR ME!” he yelled, as he squatted down and started unzipping his backpack, “I’VE GOT AN IDEA!”
I did as he said, and I kept running. I felt nervous as I thought about what might happen to him. I kept looking behind me to see if he was coming, but everytime I looked back, he was still digging through his bag. The next time I looked back I saw Max, hands shaking, take the matches out of his bag. He threw one towards the cars, and the field bursted into flames. Max started running towards me, through the dense smoke that filled the air. The cars stopped when they got to the fire, which was growing rapidly, and burning as bright as the sun. Then I did it. I crossed the border. I was free. Not too long after I crossed, so did Max. I immediately broke into tears of joy, and threw myself into his arms. We fell to the ground and laughed, and shed tears of joy, as we watched the fire in the field burn. We were free.