The sunlight is bleak along the driving prairie, still wind-beaten and sparse. Here and there a creeping, crooked branch claws out of the crisp snow towards the sky; however, desolation seems to be the dominant tenor of this frigid wasteland, hovering within the very air. The snow stretches in the east and west for endless miles, and the north is just as bleak and hopeless. Up north there is nothing but snow and suffering. The whistling of the wind, for miles is heard, but besides this, there is silence—stifling, crisp, and complete. Every season is silent to the calls of passing fowl or to the creaking clatter of tired branches, to the friendly calls of a fellow human or the ominous howl of a wolf. No animals, no vivid green, no life. South contains the tree-line, just below the hazy horizon. It is the only substantial life for miles, and miles within these conifers and pines, the animals hide and skulk softly, knowing danger is always near.

Fighting for all of its life—its fading, worthless life—one small sprig, ravaged by the icy wind and pummeled by the weather within the icy plain, braces itself against the evanescent rays of the burning sun; it still holds to its spindly, spidery roots when wind gusts. It is seemingly isolated where it stands, stretching and straining for life anyways. It is glad: the sky is clear and the snow is light today. The sprig is warm in this light; it is secure in its roots and serene in its seclusion. There is hope today. If a half lifeless sprig could smile, this one would.

A foot falls upon it, burying it beneath the snow—the cold, lifeless snow. It will be dead soon, as the snow it has so long resisted creeps into the wooden core and grips it with its leeching cold. It is only a matter of time, passing with each breath of wind, before an inevitable death arrives. Stuck in the icy snow the plant lies imbedded in its grave. It still strives to live, for it is born to live. Plants do not think, they do not feel; but they do live. If this half lifeless sprig could think and feel, it would scream with pain and frustration. But it does not. It is silent as it vainly tries to claw back up to the surface and survive another year of ice and snow, flood and sun.The man who left the print and unknowingly killed the plant is still running across the same driving, endless prairie, below the same bleak sun, above the same exhausted earth. His laborious, rapid footfalls crash through the thin layer of ice that conceals the snow. Sometimes they hit the solid, frozen soil; other times they simply strike more snow, sinking into a small ditch. Sometimes he catches his breath, but mostly he loses it, as it lingers behind his chapped face and sweat-soaked brow. He needs to rest, but he knows that this would mean death. He must live, and to live he must escape, and to escape he must run, no matter how long or hard the road may be, no matter how much pain compels him to sit and sleep, no matter how close to death his tormenting trials take him. He must survive.

The tree line in the distance has become his destination for now. He will be safe there—hidden and secure. He may even find warmth and food, shelter and peace; he may even find a future. He channels all of his draining energy into his distant destination, into this distant hope of evergreens and conifers. Never swaying his head to the desolation of the three sides around him—north, east and west—, his eyes long for that wall of green.

His cuts and scratches pain him and burn red in the dry, bitter air. His lungs scream and struggle with every breath. Straining and slowing, his legs pound up and down, up and down; and his ankles swivel and stretch, growing raw and blistered in his shoddy shoes. His head pounds, and an echo in it reverberates ceaselessly: "live, live, live. Get to the trees, the tress." His heart quakes beneath his breast in a seizure of activity. His ribs are sore. He is pushing himself to the brink. He needs to stop.

So he does. He collapses into the snow, sweat pouring down his red, chapped face. His legs crash, his face crashes, and his whole body drops into the crisp ice, tossing flecks up to the sky. He keeps crawling though. No rest will come for many miles; he has kept his promise. Like a snake scraping its way along the ground, he lurches and writhes toward the trees. It is still too slow. He will not make it like this.

"No!" He screams "I must not stop! I must get up!"

He slaps his face with a fury and makes a savage cry, forcing himself to stand. His knees buckle: he falls for the second time.

"Never!" He cries.

With superhuman strength he pushes himself to his knees, then to his feet, legs unsteady and quaking all the while. He begins to walk forward slowly and forcefully. His breathing is contrived from gasps and chokes; his steps are plodding lurches. But, in any case, he keeps moving, he keeps pushing—he keeps trying to hold on. As his breath fades, he forces its return. As his feet falter, he forces their stability. As the method and means to his life begin to die, he holds on to hope, he holds on to the future.

The sunlight is bleak along the driving prairie, still wind-beaten and sparse, still endless and dreary. He feels alone, but he knows that in reality, they will be there soon. There is nothing that can stop them. There is no way to escape them. And he knows that there is no life beyond the present: the future is uncertain and bleak when faced with the reprisals of the past, and God? God can do nothing. The man's life, drawn through the filth of humanity—witness to every vice and every sadistic act of selfish supremacy—, has taught him that God only helps those who help themselves. The men in control have killed Him. They had no more use for miracles. They had no more use for hope, or love, or selflessness. In essence, they had no more use for God, so they killed him, and he has remained dead.

Where was God when the fires licked the sky for forty days and forty nights, as madness reigned and order vanished out of space and time? Where was God when death fell from the sky, as malice incarnate promised reform and retribution? Where was God when the clouds came and blotted out the sun? Where was He when invisible currents of radiation snuffed out lives like an angel of death—innocents, martyrs and killers alike? Was he there when the snow fell and did not cease? Was He there when the women screeched as their children were snatched away? While their skin was burning? While their lives were crumbling—while the earth was in rampant decay?

No, we had killed him. But the man still believed in miracles, and he needs one today.

Racing on towards the tree line, he holds on to hope, holding on to life. He is still walking—heart racing, eyes and ears searching for that one sound: the sound of them. He has escaped his prison, but he has not escaped them. He can not escape them. They are coming. They will be there soon. Yet he hears no sound, simply the wind and his own anguished work of footfalls and breathing. There air is still silent, but he knows they will stop him, he knows they will soon see him. He knows he has to run.

The man breaks into a desperate sprint, saliva hanging out of his panting, screaming mouth. His chest renews its racking labor, heaving in and out, keeping time with his hoarse, choking breath, as sweat keeps pouring and saliva keeps hanging and falling from his lips, as his legs stumble along the icy, scraping snow, going back and fourth with irregular contortions. He coughs. His lungs are going to burst, crying out to him to stop; but his head keeps telling him to make for the trees. "Run! Run! Run!" he thinks, as his blood seems to boil and his vessels seem to burst. "Run! Run! Run!"

After a few minutes, the man falls for the third time; he crashes and skids through the snow, cutting himself along the fractured crust. He lies there still and stares up at the sky, panting and moaning softly. The clouds have come again to hide the bleak sun and darken the plain. They billow and morph into strange shapes, blotting out the grey sky, covering the windswept prairie with ominous shadows. The folds of their darkness grow and spread like a tied at sea, drowning the man in shadow. The man's own vision begins to darken. His breathing slows, his heartbeat lags, his life wavers. Shadows cover his glassy eyes, and invisible pins drag his eyelids shut. He struggles to keep them open, but they are too heavy. Drivel rolls down the man's chin from his open mouth, and mucus freezes in his nostrils. He ceases his laments, as the energy to do so is sapped away in fatigue and frigid folly. His breath, still hoarse and choking, wavers and slows; his skin becomes paler and his thoughts rest on the sheer foolishness of his act. So foolish.

"Escape? Ha! Only a fool could be so hopeful, so idiotic, so lost. Only a fool could be so doomed!" He sarcastically thinks, as his mind fades away into gloomy shadows.

Are they his dying thoughts? These sarcastic taunts, the final products that shall ever be his own, a cynical jeer? Will he die mocking hope, the only thing he has left to live for? From within the ditch of his fall, as the darkness closes in, he can feel the cold leech into his dying body. He can feel the thoughts laughing and the snow rising.

"Idiot," he thinks. "You never had a damn chance!" The hands of fate close in around his neck in a final strangle. He can hear them coming...

"Never!" He cries, energy reemerging. "Never!" He flips on his belly and begins to drag himself along the snow, each ounce seeming to weigh like a pound. He cries, tears streaming down his ruddy, frost-bitten cheeks. He is close to the tree line, but he can hear them coming. He knows that they will find him now. He knows that hope is hopeless, but he holds on. He goes from dragging to crawling, energy dim but slowly rising for a final fight. He coughs. He stands. He must run. He must live.

The propellers close in, tearing through the air, ripping through his future, beckoning from his past like the spinning, slicing scythe of the Grim Reaper. The helicopters are nearing and nearing. He labors on, running with a frantic yet resolute charge. He is almost there. He is almost at the trees.

He runs, chest heaving, face sweating, mouth crying, legs pumping like pistons. They are closing in, even as he nears the forest. Step by step, pull by pull, breath by breath, he nearly reaches the trees. With effortless travel the helicopters race faster and faster, a dozen yards at a time, directly at their target. He has nearly clawed his way to freedom, but even now they can take everything away. They are at him, ready to clip him to bloody bits. With titanic energy he makes a leap at the forest, diving with all he has left, in perfectly determined form. With a soft bend of the controls, the helicopter begins to dive at the man, lashing him with harsh whips of air. He can feel the revolving blades nearer and nearer as he falls through the palpitating currents.

He lands with his head in the snow, his feet within the tree line. The copter flies back to whence it came—back to the strife, and terror, and death, back to the tragedies of human progress, back to its domain of desolation and desperation. Yet the man has made it. He must still fend for himself until something better presents itself, distancing himself from the past he has known; and time will not pass easily or securely. He must still struggle to survive, but he is safe for now. There is a brief reprieve before reprisal will return.

And as his tears trail down his chapped cheeks into the shadowed snow of the tree-line, the man struggles to his knees. As clouds settle over the driving prairie, the man breaks down and prays: "Thank you."