A Chapter by smkrwt



“So are you going to tell me how you knew Sophia Smith’s address?” I ask harshly as soon as we’re out of sight of the travel agency. Gus stares soberly out of the car, the reflection of his eyes in the glass of the window completely flat. He answers in a single-dimensional voice.

“She was one of you. Trying to get out of this place in hope of something better. That’s probably why she rented the car. But she was committed to the institution a few weeks ago, and I was the one who had to file her case into the proper doctor’s office. Sometimes I glance through the case files, just to remind myself of the people I’m dealing with. To stop myself from feeling pity for them.”

“And does that help?”

He turns to look at me, his blue eyes almost sad. “She never really did anything wrong, other than wanting to get away. She spoke out against the government a few times, and participated in a few civil disobedience rallies when she was younger, but nothing violent. She never hurt anyone.”

He pauses for a moment, unsure if he should have told me that. “All the same,” he says, conviction present in his voice, “she broke the law in numerous ways, and needs to be punished.”

“So anyone who ever does something against the rules needs to be put away,” I say bitterly.

“If you do something wrong, you’ve got to face the consequences.”

“That isn’t what you said,” I retort calmly. I don’t want to let my emotions take hold of me, but I wasn’t going to take his blind obedience. If I could, I would make him see things from my perspective. It would only make this journey easier.

“You said if you break the law then you need to be punished,” I continue. “Being wrong and breaking the law are two entirely different things. You could obey the law, but what if the law was to kill someone of a different race or ethnicity on sight? That would be completely wrong, but you wouldn’t be breaking the law.”

He gives this some thought, but doesn’t respond.

The streets are, for the most part, empty, cars either tucked safely in garages, or parked securely at the fairgrounds, where there are guards to watch over them. I stop quickly in an alleyway to finish off my grapefruit, then throw the skin into a trash can nearby. I drive through the town, weaving expertly through the streets, almost unaware of the effort it takes to keep a steady speed. I want to race away, home, but I know I can’t. I have to remain calm, meticulously plan every move I make five steps before I take it.

Eventually I pull up to the merge lane for the highway. I quickly stop on the shoulder, adjusting Gus’s handcuffs so he can be more mobile. Maybe if he sees I reward his good behavior, he’ll keep playing along with me, until I set him free. If I do. I am still deliberating on that point; I don’t want to come to a decision prematurely.

The highway is no more than a two-way road, bisected by two parallel yellow lines that have faded to a musty gray-brown over the years. Very few people in town travel on the highway anymore because there is no where they need to go. Everything they could want for is provided by in the town and inner city. Fresh air is readily available in the clean parks that skirt the town. There are foothills to play on, small groves of trees that make do for forests, rivers, multi-purpose sports courts, and anything else comes to them by the traveling fairs.

Spring is in full sway, and I unroll the windows to let the sweet air pour into the car. Flowers are blooming along the side of the road, deciduous trees blossoming farther back, the branches swaying to and fro with the passing wind. It is so peaceful out here, like a parallel world to the city, similar, with different organisms in place of familiar ones, but never touching the forced and complacent peace of the city. This is a natural peace, uninterrupted except for the small deaths of creatures that become meals for the larger ones. But it happens, and is supposed to happen, whereas in the city any displacement of obedience is a crime, and severely punished. Our habitat there is technological, mind-numbing, and easy, but out here it’s simpler--eat, sleep, survive. Nothing to distract the creatures from what they need to do to get what they want, and a silent contract with the wild to accept their fate, but fight back as they may.

After about an hour of driving, Gus speaks again. I thought he was asleep, and maybe he had been. But now he is awake, curious and questioning.

“What am I supposed to call you?” he asks, cleverer than he appears. Asking my name might get him shot again, he knew I wouldn’t give it to him. But he did need to call me something, and he knew that if he tried to provide the title, that might also earn him another bullet.

“Lisa is fine,” I tell him, remembering the name he used for me back at the institution. It was close enough to my real name that it would be easier to answer to, but also it was not my real name, so I had no attachment to it, and the wrong use of this name would not provoke any uncontrollable emotion in me.

“You like that name?”

“I said it was fine. Why did you chose it though?” I glanced quickly at him, seeing that he had been staring at me. He looks down quickly.

“It was the first name that came to mind,” he said. “You look a little bit like a Lisa I knew once, long ago. She’s dead now.”      

Perfect. I was a dead girl this man cared about. He could fool himself but not me. I may not have had any emotional attachment to this name, but he did, and that would only make him easier to control.

“So, Lisa,” he says, readying to start another conversation. I really would like to keep quiet, but maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to have this guy talking for a little while, getting comfortable around me. “Why did we rent a car?”

“You have a tracker in your car.”

“Yeah, but so does this one,” he persists, as if he can’t figure it out himself.

I roll my eyes. “The authorities are looking for you, though. If we took your car, they would find us in an instant. They know where Sophia Smith is, though, so they won’t be monitoring her transactions as closely. By the time they realize a car was rented out in her name, and she is still in the institution, it’ll be abandoned, and we’ll be far away. With this car, we have a head start.”

I make sure to choose my words carefully as I speak. Each “we” I say, I pronounce consciously. It will make him feel like I trust him, but I won’t let the connection overpower me. I will stay remote inside, but warm and close on the outside, so he will continue to help.

“Oh,” is all he says, then falls back into silence. I let the music of the wind fill my ears, the vibrant colors take hold of my eyes and flower aromas fill me. I’m content, and could drive on for at least another twelve hours without stopping. But we will need to fill up on gas eventually. I snack on the dried foods I bought at the market fair, but Gus will need to eat eventually to, though I don’t want him taking any of my food. I drive on down the road, looking for small stops along the way--a gas station or restaurant that we could remain inconspicuous in.

“Lisa,” Gus says quietly, like a child speaking timidly to an adult they hardly know.


“When we were at the fair, and you were eating…” he pauses, waiting for permission to continue.

“Go on,” I grant, wondering what he will say.

“Well, there were a lot of people listening to our conversation. I answered you easily, but you knew that I knew you were no good at making things up. And I tried to use that against you.”

“I know you did.”

“I know you know. My question is--why haven’t you punished me yet?”

“Do you want me to shoot you then?” I throw at him. Let him fumble for a few minutes, perhaps he’ll stop asking questions that have no answers.

“No. I’m just dreading what you might do to me later on.” He sounds frightened.

I sigh, tired with him. “I won’t hurt you for now. But don’t let that make you think that you can keep getting away with s**t. Don’t try anything that might make me want to kill you. Maybe I’ll decide to pay you back for that little trick of yours later.”

He swallows. “Why?”

“My motives are my own. Don’t try to figure them out. Just shut up.” I drive on, leaving the conversation at that, hoping he won’t prod any further.

When the tank is nearly empty, and the warning light is blinking on the dash, out of the blue, on the side of the road, comes a small diner and gas fill-up station. I pull quietly into the small parking lot, stopping in front of one of the gas tanks. It is four o’clock, before the dinner rush hour will begin, but I doubt this place gets much business anyway. I take Gus’s hands out of the cuffs, and he rubs his wrists sorely, glad to be free from the metal restraints. I make sure he sees me place the gun in my pocket again before we get out, so he won’t try anything funny. But I have a feeling that by this time, Gus knows not to do anything stupid.

As we step out of the car, a teenager comes out to fill up the gas tank. I hand him forty dollars and tell him to come and get me if I owe him more. Fill it all the way up. We walk into the diner, the windows open, too warm for the heater to be on, but to cool for the A.C. either.

A tiny waitress leads us to a secluded table. There are four or five other families here, but none of them really notice us as we sit down and order. Gus gets a large soda and I just ask for water. I won’t drink it, but it will keep the restaurant happy if I have something in front of me.

For dinner, Gus gets a steak and baked potato, and I can see that he’s ravenous. I order a small plate of pasta alfredo, but I plan to take it out in a box for Gus for later. I can’t have him starving while he’s on my hands, and I won’t dare eat any of this. I pick at it with my fork though, so hopefully they’ll think I’ve eaten some.

I already have the pasta in a Styrofoam box, Gus just finishing of his steak and soda, when the TV above the bar counter switches to a news station with broadcast on for the five o’clock news. I tense as I hear the reporter’s words, about and escaped patient from the institution in one of the towns, and how she took a guard with her as hostage.

“Lisa,” Gus says. Our eyes meet, and we know we have to leave.

“She should be considered armed and dangerous…” the broadcaster continues, and Gus and I are already standing, Gus shoving the last few slices of meat into his mouth.

“Hurry up,” I growl at him under my breath. He whines, still hungry.

Our pictures flash onto the screen, and it’s the worst moment because we are just walking out to the car, standing in the center of the diner so everyone can see us. They’re frozen, stiff with disbelief, and all it takes if for a child to raise his finger and whisper “Mommy” before everyone reacts.

The mother screams as I whip out my gun, other gasps popping up from around the crowd. The bartender is clutching a phone tightly to his ear, speaking quickly into the receiver. I shoot at the mouthpiece, and there’s another scream.

“What the f**k is going on out there?” someone shouts from the kitchen out back. There’s a loud clanging, and a tall, heavyset man in a white apron comes out toting a large shot gun. His eyes sweep the scene before resting on me, and I aim my pistol and shoot at the butt of the shot gun, clipping the man’s fist as well. I grab onto Gus’s wrist and drag him back out to the car, throwing him into the passenger seat and gunning the engine without a second thought. I tear away from the gas pump, and throw a twenty dollar bill out the window onto the ground to pay for our meal. I know it doesn’t really matter--what’s one more crime if you’re a criminal on the run anyway? But it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do it, even if it didn’t matter.

It’s getting darker as I speed down the highway, pinpricks of light speckling the indigo sky, the day’s clouds no more than bruises on the flat expanse of the firmament.

“Get your seat belt on,” I order Gus. He fumbles, fingers coated in a slick layer of sweat from fear, but eventually he clicks the metal piece into place. I fume silently about our luck, but I don’t let any of my anger reach Gus.

He falls asleep soon, with nothing better to do, nothing to look at outside the window with everything turned into nothing more than a black blur passing us by. I turn on the radio to a news station so I can listen to the updates on my case. It’s two and a half hours before anyone even reaches the diner, and it will be longer before they can investigate thoroughly. So I still have the upper hand, but my cards a wearing thin. I need to keep them closer, and use them better.

© 2011 smkrwt

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Added on March 30, 2011
Last Updated on March 30, 2011
Tags: escape, asylum, prison, guard, ward, dystopia, city, car chase, theft, drive, convict, crime



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