5 PM. That’s what I reckoned; I lost my watch ages ago in the national park. It was starting to get cold, I noticed, but I didn’t have any sweaters. Sean didn’t seem to notice any of the weather conditions and walked with us quickly. He had assured us that the fields didn’t have any guards during the night, because most of them were patrolling the housing area, so the crops would be like ripe fruit, ready for the picking. At least that’s what I hoped. We walked very quickly, although I could already see that there were no guards in the distance.
The previous hours had been filled with us walking around with Sean, going to different houses of people that Sean knew. We wanted them to know what we were going to do, so they could help get everyone out of the settlement when the time came. We soon reached the fields, and I turned to Sean for what to do.
“So what you want to do is to burn the field, to provide a distraction away for the soldiers.” Sean said. I nodded. He continued speaking.
“I think you should start in the farthest corner of the field. It’s not far from here, and it will take a lot of time before it’s seen, so a lot of the field would already be burned and it’ll be harder to extinguish the fire.”
Man, this guy knows how to make evil plans. “Alright,” I said as we started walking towards one of the corners. “Let’s do it then. Anne, do we have any firewood to make this a bit easier?”
“Of course not. Do you expect me to be carrying firewood in my bag?”
“Okay, I’m sorry, that was a stupid question. With or without firewood we’ll be able to do it. Where’s the matches?” Anne handed me the box, and I opened it. There were three matchsticks left. I groaned. Three tries and we’re out.
“Well, I’m not exactly the best person at lighting matches here.” I said. “And we only have three matchsticks left. Who wants the honor of lighting this field ablaze?”
“Fine, I’ll do it.” Sean said. I handed the matchbox over and Sean quickly lit it up and put it on one of the plants growing there. The fire started expanding.
“We have two more matches. Let’s use one more at the other corner.”
“No,” Anne said, “I don’t think we should. Let’s get back to the housing area and so we can be ready to send people out.”
“No need.” Sean said. “We have the people back there for that. Starting another fire will make this faster, however.” I gave a sigh in relief. Thank you Sean for being here. At least I don’t have to make the choices by myself.
I looked around cautiously. It would do us no good to suddenly find that there were guards coming to get us. Even the skilled escapees in me and Anne would find it hard getting away in an open field like this.
And perhaps this would be the last time my worst fears were realized.
“Isn’t that a guard I see over there?” I said to Sean and Anne, pointing to the corner. There certainly was a man there, but I couldn’t make out who he was.
“Quick. Get back out. There might be time before we’re seen yet.” My hopes fell when the guard started striding towards us.
“Anne! Get over to Toby and tell him right now to bomb that damned fence!” I shouted. Sean had already started running and I quickly followed, while Anne shouted “Fine!” and went to the other direction. I cursed silently. If Toby and the rest didn’t come to our rescue soon, we were doomed. My legs ached. We were cycling and running so much that they felt worn out, but I knew that I had to go. A shout broke out from the soldier (seems to happen all the time). “Fire, fire!” the soldier was shouting. At least the plan was working.
“Where are we gonna go?” I shouted to Sean. but he wouldn’t reply. I groaned but kept on running, following him. The obvious place would be to go back to the alleyways, and quickly get everyone out. We disappeared into one of the alleyways, and we paused there. We saw soldiers rushing past with buckets of water. I chuckled. Buckets of water weren’t going to help. The last time I saw the fire had already spread.
“So where’s your grenade?” Sean asked.
“I sent Anne to get my friends. They’re going to bomb it soon, probably.”
“It’s gotta happen soon, or otherwise they’re going to round all of us up and find out who did it. If they manage to catch us we’re pretty much dead.”
I groaned. No use in stating the obvious. “They’ll do bomb it soon.” I said stubbornly. “Trust me.” Sean was already walking away. One of the people we talked to earlier emerged from a house and came to Sean.
“How’s it going?”
“We just burned the fields, but we have to wait until the fence is breached.”
Suddenly a voice came from the loudspeaker.
“Everyone must report to Settlement Center. Everyone must report to Settlement Center.”
I nearly choked on my own spit. What? They had enough guards to both cope with both the fire and to have everyone report? Damn. We had underestimated this. Damn. Damn. Damn. What am I gonna do?
Then came the explosion.
“What…was that.” Sean said quietly.
“It’s us!” I said cheerfully.
Perhaps being cheerful was a priviledge for the wrong time. Even more soldiers started racing, and this time towards the place of explosion. I cursed. Why haven’t we thought that the explosion would bring the soldiers toward that place? I cursed again and again.
“We don’t have a choice.” I quickly told Sean. The alleyway, despite being quite large, was quickly becoming crowded by all the people coming out to get an idea of what was happening. I unzipped my bag and rolled out a banner that we had spent the previous day working on. ‘ESCAPE- YOUR FREEDOM IS HERE’ it said, and I showed it up for everyone to see. “Towards the fences!” I shouted out and started barging everyone who might be in front of me. I felt like a downright idiot but there wasn’t a choice; either be embarrassed or be dead. Or perhaps I’d still end up dead, with the job done. Or at least with the job half-done. My strides were very quick, and Sean matched it. I could feel a level of tension and uncertainty and lots of people shouted, asking for an explanation, but obviously there isn’t time to give one. I hoped that this outrageous plan was going to come out fine. Sean had assured me that nearly everyone had already been stripped of his valuable belongings and no one would hesitate if escape was available.
The crowd walked along with me. I felt safe but the artificial numerical sense of security was soon taken away. A soldier suddenly came and blocked the way. I hesitated. No ignoring that one, that’s for sure. I felt for the pistol I still had from Greyville. It would not save me from this if the soldier decided to shoot.
“Where are all of you going? Orders were to report. This is not the correct direction.” I gulped. All eyes were set on me and I knew that the idea of having a teen leading this whole thing was pretty damn outrageous.
“Well? If no one speaks, I’m gonna mow down all of you. Your lives mean nothing to me.”
I breathed in and tried to calm myself. The end’s near. There’s no avoiding that anymore. The only thing left is whether death will come with your dignity still standing or broken down. I started walking towards the soldier, and he kept his rifle aimed right at my chest.
The soldier asked, “What do you have to say?”
I didn’t get to reply. Suddenly some sound came from the distant and the soldier went down, screaming. A jeep then came in and halted right in front.
Toby was driving.
“Well, John, this isn’t the first time I rescued you.” he said cheerfully. “Hop on!”
“What? How did you…” my voice trailed off and I got on the jeep. “Quick, everyone!” I called to the others. “Make your way to the fences now. We’ll drive along.” I didn’t know if it was Toby’s plan or not, but we can’t just leave them right here. “Quick.” I repeated. “Get moving now! Run!” With that the people started racing towards the fences and Toby (who I never knew could drive) drove along with them at a dangerous speed. Two or three soldiers were seen but then Toby used one of his hands to pick up his gun and shoot near them, and they ran off pretty quickly.
Anne asked me, “So what was happening?”
“I thought I was gonna die. The soldier was gonna mow us all down if none of us answered his questions.”
“Well, pretty lucky that Toby finally got that grenade to work. He must’ve threw it at the fence at least four times before it exploded. We got this jeep from a frightened soldier who we pretty much just tied up somewhere.”
I didn’t say anything more. Soon, the people were already at the fences and looked at the breach a bit confusingly.
“Where are we supposed to go?” one of them called to us.
“Head towards the coast.” Isaac shouted. “Estina is still free. Find a way to get there. Or else disappear into the countryside.”
“We have to wait until all of them’s passed through.” Sophie said. “Or the soldiers will come and get them.”
“Fine then.” Toby replied. He parked the car where it was and after that we watched as the people, albeit hesitantly, walked out of the fences to their freedom. A lot actually came to us to thank us and we smiled back. Sean came and shook my hand, but didn’t say anything. He then walked away. He was one of the last people to walk out.
“That wasn’t too hard.” Toby said, smiling.
“Easy for you to say.” I said. “I nearly died back in here. Alright, how about we get going too-”Once again my voice found cause to trail off. Just at the right moment, a group of soldiers step forward. Toby stepped right on, but his hand accidentally slipped and pushed the gear down and the car went zooming backwards.
“Oh damn.” The soldiers started shooting at us and I ducked as low as I could. Damnit, Toby, don’t let us down now!
“Don’t worry, the soldier said this was bulletproof!”
“Why the hell is it bulletproof if the top’s open?”
“It was made on the command of the Great Leader, he said!” Toby started driving while trying to duck as low as he could and the result was a mess. The car twisted and turned in weird directions but finally Toby managed to get to an open road and started driving at full speed. I clutched at the seat while bullets ran near us. Toby then proceeded to zigzag along and I felt the urge to vomit. Oh god damnit.
“Toby, get us out of here.”
The soldiers continued to pelt us with bullets. Toby continued driving until we reached the entrance and without even looking at the soldiers guarding it simply crashed right out of the gate.
We were free.