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Hidden City, Part Two
Sirens blared above me. There was no time to try anything now. I yanked the handcuffs as hard as I could. They grew tighter and tighter around my wrists, until I thought that they would sever my hands completely off. I could feel the gashes in my skin at the edge of the shackles, but I tugged harder still. The pain was unbearable, and the sirens were unceasing. I was afraid that someone would come and find me before I got a chance to see Felix.
All of a sudden, the metal cuffs snapped and fell to the ground. The pressure of my resistance was just too much for them.
I didn’t waste any time in scrambling through the window. Silently I hurried down the hallway glancing at each door number one by one. Finally I found 658: the room my brother and I slept in. One other person, Basil, stayed in that room with us, but he was usually a sound sleeper. The door opened without a sound.
“Felix?” I tiptoed to the mat my brother slept on. A tiny lump was curled up in the center of it.
I dropped to my knees and shook the lump. “Felix. Felix, wake up.”
The figure stretched and yawned. “Victor? Victor!” Felix threw his skinny arms around my neck and pressed his face against my chest. “I was so scared! I thought they had gotten you!”
I grabbed his arms and sat him back down. “Felix, listen,” I whispered. “You need to be quiet. We have to go now.”
Felix wasn’t listening. Instead, he was staring at my hands. “What happened to your wrists?” I guess they looked worse than I thought.
“Don’t worry about it. Felix, we need to go.”
I pulled him to his feet. “Away,” I answered. “Come now. No more questions.”
“Are you just going to leave us?” A voice came from the corner. “Me and everyone else?” Basil was awake. That was not something I had counted on.
Not like I had a plan anyway.
“No. I mean, yes. I mean, I have to leave, and I’m taking Felix with me.”
“And you’re just leaving us to die?”
This hurt me. I didn’t want to leave Basil, but I had to. I only had a little time, and he was weak. I knelt next to him.
“I’ll send help. I swear to you. I’ll get you out. I’ll get everyone out. I promise. But I have to leave now, and I can’t leave my brother.”
“Who will help?” Basil whispered. “Where will you go? There’s nowhere to go. No one to help. We’re all alone.”
“No,” I objected, laying my hand on his shoulder. “We are not alone. I know it. I’ll find someone. I’ll get you out of here.”
Basil hesitated, then nodded. “Go,” he said. “They’re looking for you.”
I smiled. “Thank you, Basil.” I stood up and walked over to the doorway where Felix waited for me, tears in his eyes. “Come on,” I whispered to him, grabbing his hand and dragging him down the hallway. The sirens grew louder as we neared the outside.
When we reached the window, I could hear the pounding of shoes on concrete. It abruptly stopped right on the other side of the wall.
“Did he escape? Did you find him?”
“No, but chances are he didn’t escape either. He’s still in the city.” Two guards, discussing me. I held my breath. “This is his building, and this window is where he was caught sneaking in. We also found his handcuffs. If he’s in this building, he has to come out sometime, and we have all exits blocked.”
“He got the cuffs off?” The guard sounded astounded.
“Yep. Tricky character, this one. But we’ve got him cornered.”
“You’re sure he’s in there?”
“No doubt in my mind.”
I thought for a second. Picking up a large rock, I turned to Felix. My voice was hardly even a whisper. “Listen. When the guard leaves, go out the window and escape. Use the hole to the outside. If I’m not out a few minutes after you, or if they follow you, I want you to run. Just run as fast as you can and as far as you can. If you find other people outside, tell them about the city and get help for everyone else. Do you understand?”
Felix’s face was streaked with tears. “But, Victor-“
“Do you understand?” I repeated, more sternly this time.
Felix nodded silently and went to stand by the window to be ready. I straightened up and focused on a window on the other side of the room. I aimed, wound up, and threw the rock as hard as I could against the window. The glass shattered, shards scattering everywhere. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Felix clamber through the window. That meant the guards were gone. I ran and nearly jumped out the window after Felix.
When I landed, I didn’t see him. He must’ve followed my instructions. I picked myself up and ran as fast as I could toward my escape. I squeezed through the gap in the rock. Felix was waiting for me on the other side, his shoulders slumped and head down. I drew him into a huge hug. His tears soaked into my Uniform and I tightened my hold on him. “Everything’s going to be okay,” I lied. “I promise.”
“I found them!” a voice called in the darkness. A spotlight settled on us, and I could hear footsteps running toward the wall.
I grabbed Felix’s hand and started to run. I didn’t know where we were running to. I just knew that we had to run.
Dozens of guards followed us through the darkness which was occasionally illuminated by a spotlight or two. They were directed by the Ambassadors, whose voices were loud and angry through speakers.
“Don’t let them escape!”
“Bring them back here now!”
“Kill them! Kill them!”
Their harsh commands rang in my ears, only fueling my speed. Felix kept up well beside me; he didn’t lag behind at all. I could be proud of him later.
I could feel the hot breath of the guards on my neck, but I could’ve been imagining it. My legs started to feel like rubber as I ran through the tall grass of the field. That I wasn’t imagining. Just as I thought that my legs would give out and we’d be caught, the shouts subsided. I could no longer hear the hammering of footsteps behind me. Had we lost them? Had they given up? I decided to find out.
When I turned around, I could see the guards, but they weren’t chasing us. Instead, they were running back toward the city. What were they running from? I couldn’t see anything frightening, other than them.
“Why are they running away?” Felix asked, shocked.
“I don’t know…” I answered. “Let’s find out.”
Felix gave me a confused look and I smiled. I took a couple of steps forward and suddenly it appeared. A city. A normal city. No stone wall surrounding it. I looked at the closest billboard. No messages. I turned back to see Felix’s reaction, only to find that he’d disappeared… along with our old city and the guards. I rushed forward, and everything reappeared again.
“Where did you go?” Felix asked anxiously. “You just vanished!”
I grabbed his hand and pulled him forward. “You have to see this.”
We took a couple of steps and the normal city was before us. Felix’s mouth dropped. “Where…? How…?”
“It’s the forcefield. They made it so that we couldn’t see the outside world… and that that outside world couldn’t see us.” I turned Felix around to where the old city was supposed to be, but wasn’t.
His confusion soon turned to rage as he started to understand the situation he had be in. “We were this far from people, from civilization, and we were forced to endure that torture because we thought that we couldn’t do anything about it?! I feel so stupid!”
“Felix, stop,” I said. “We need to get help for everyone else still stuck in there.” I started walking toward the city and Felix followed heatedly.
We entered the first building we came across: a one-story information center with flowers in every window. The woman at the desk was elderly, and she jumped out of her chair when we walked in.
I guess we were quite a sight. Our dirty, gray, jumpsuit Uniforms, the patches of hair missing from our heads, our scrawny figures. We’d stand out in any crowd.
The woman immediately started to ask questions, her expression caring and concerned. Everything burst out of me. I told her about our parents, about the city, and about how we escaped. I explained about the Countdowns, the Ambassadors, and the Testings. I tried my best to tell her about the technology, tried to make it not sound like I was crazy. I mean, it’s a little hard to believe that a concentration camp-like prison is just down the road from this happy little place.
The woman was particularly concerned about my wrists and insisted that she take me to the hospital. I agreed, too exhausted to object. At the hospital, I relayed my tale to the people there as well. Felix interjected bits of information when he could.
The people seemed to believe us. That surprised me, considering how impossible the situation seemed, even to me.
A kind nurse treated my wrists and wrapped them up, telling me that everything would be okay.
“How do you know that?” I asked her.
The nurse smiled. “I just do,” she replied. Then she stood up and walked away, leaving me with my thoughts.
Felix ran up to me and started jumping up and down beside my bed. “Guess what I just heard!” he said excitedly.
I smiled. I was glad to see Felix so happy. “What, buddy?”
“I just heard people talking about the city. They said that they’d do anything to save the rest of the people! They said that they’d even invade it themselves if they had to!” Felix beamed from ear to ear.
I processed what I just heard. They’d do anything to save them. Anything. I smiled and laid my head down on my pillow. They’d be free. We’d be free.
I closed my eyes. We’re free, I thought, finally realizing.