From the other side it all seemed so different. The surrounding land looked free and inviting, sparse of any evil barbed wire fences standing tall, trapping you and your mind forever into a dusty courtyard. Darren glanced back at the looming silhouette of the water tower he had stared at for so many hours, watching the armed guard at the top pace back and forth all day long in the Texas heat. For a few moments he stared entranced at the mass of the concrete building behind him, thinking of all the time he had spent in there, planning secretively, everything down to the last detail, and now here he was on the other side of the fences, looking back.
The low rumbling of thunder made Darren jump with a start, and he immediately snapped back into reality, realizing that every second was precious now. It was all well and good escaping, but what's the point if you get caught only a few miles down the road? Crouching down in the long grass, Darren began to army crawl his way towards the sound of the nearby river, barely able to hide his glee of being free. In all honesty though, it was his right to be free. Two and a half miserable years Darren had spent at the Robertson maximum security penitentiary just north of Abilene, Texas, and for what…a crime he never even committed. He remembered the sentencing as if it were yesterday; the cold, steely look of the judges' eyes as he heard those two fateful words; "death sentence." Just imagine the pain; being sentenced for the murder of your own family. All Darren could think was that someone had been planning this well, especially for all the evidence to point in his direction, to be caught at the scene, with the crimson blood literally dripping off of his own bare hands.
A flash of forked lightning lit up the sky for a split second as Darren made his way to the river's edge. As he lay on the overgrown bank, his arm dangled into the black water, feeling it's warmth rush through his fingers from the summer heat. In truth, Darren wasn't entirely sure where he was going. For the escape, he had planned it all down to the last detail, but for after he was out, well; he hadn't even banked on getting out in the first place. All he knew was that he had approximately four to five hours before sunrise to get as far away from here as possible. There would be searches, perhaps spanning the entire nation, television coverage, and who knew what else? Carefully, still lying low, Darren slipped into the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, letting the tide carry him away into the night.
With his fairly accurate geography skills, and his hours spent in the prison library studying maps of Texas, Darren knew that fairly soon he would hit highway 180, not too far north of here. Swimming along with the current, he was able to cover the miles fairly quickly, and his top physical condition wasn't a disadvantage either. The months he'd spent sweating away, pumping iron in the fitness centre, or sprinting around the unit had finally paid off, and he let the water wash around him, cooling him. Surprisingly, it took him little more than two hours to reach the highway. From a fair distance, Darren could see the moving lights of vehicles go rushing by in the night, and he swam to the water's edge, dragging himself onto the grassy bank, breathing heavily. Carefully, Daren pulled off his jumpsuit, shoving it into an old mailbag he'd managed to steal. Underneath he wore faded jeans, and an old grey t-shirt, and them too, he took off to dry. After they were dry enough, he put them back on and crouch-walked his way over to the highway. In his mind, Darren told himself to be calm and act normally, but still, this was going to be his first great test, getting a ride out of here. Surely no one out here, he told himself, driving at night would recognize him. After he came within three hundred yards of the highway, Darren stopped by a large Pecan tree and climbed up into the lower branches. Here, he compacted the mailbag containing his jumpsuit into the branches, taking the string from the bag, and tying it tightly to the tree, then camouflaging it as best he could. He decided it was just too unsafe to carry the bag with him, plus that orange jumpsuit looked rather noticeable to say the least. Walking confidently over to the side of the highway, hand stretched out with his thumb to the sky, Darren prayed.
Honestly, he didn't really believe in God, but if there was a one, well, He was sure as hell looking out for Darren. He could hardly believe his luck, sitting here next to some babbling old man in an old Ford pickup, heading west into the countryside. Darren nodded politely and subconsciously made conversion with the man, but in his mind, he was planning. The old man; Tim, had told Darren he could take him as far as Midland, so he was safe for at least the next few hours, and even better, it turned out the radio in Tim's car had been broken for a number of years, so the worry of hearing a newscast about himself was eliminated for now.
"Just pullin' over for some gas, kid. Back in a moment" Tim yawned, as he pulled into an old looking service station. Darren watched intently as Tim put gas into the truck, and then disappeared into the store. As soon as Tim was gone, Darren pulled open the glove box, frantically searching for anything useful. He didn't find much, and instead reached into Tim's jacket pockets. Nothing. Not one useful item that Darren could use, not even a dollar or some change that could buy him something to eat.
"Fuck." Darren punched the steering wheel, scraping his hand on something sharp. It glittered in the twilight, swinging back and forth slowly under the steering wheel, jingling slightly. "Keys! Of course…" Darren smacked his forehead. The old man had been so concentrated on talking to himself about some nonsense that he'd left the keys right in the ignition. However, there could be two sides to this. Sure, Darren could get the ride to Midland, but then what? Someone was bound to catch him in the daylight, what with his shaved head, and the fact that he had nothing, plus he'd need another ride. But if Darren took the car he could jet out of here on a full tank to wherever he pleased. Soon enough Tim would figure out what had happened, and Darren was sure that by the morning it would be all over the radio of an escapee, but what did he have to lose now? Looking back into the store through the dirty windows he saw Tim picking out snacks and gabbling away to the cashier, unaware of anything but himself.
"Okay…this is now or never." Darren thought to himself. He felt the moisture collecting in his palms as his fists clenched tightly. He was a good person, but sometimes doing the wrong thing was right, surely? Darren took one last look into the store. He sure hoped Tim wasn't too fond of his old Ford…
Darren was actually quite enjoying this. He'd been on the open road now for almost an hour, going just slightly over the speed limit with the windows down, letting the fresh morning air whip across his beaming face. As the sun rose behind him, Darren began formulating his plan for the next twenty four hours. This was how he was gonna do it, no long term plans, just making sure he got by on a day to day basis. Darren put slight pressure on the brake pedal as he entered the limits of Gail, some small hick town with nothing but a gas station and a greasy spoon diner. As he rolled past several motels he felt the need to roll up the windows and hide his face. The fear of being caught suddenly clung to his mind, trapped for a minute or two until he was completely out of the town. Being around civilization brought that fear on, so Darren decided that sticking to the country was the way to go. Minutes later, when his breathing became normal again, Darren pulled off into a little pullover, needing to relieve himself. When he had done so, Darren realized he never checked the cab of Tim's Ford for useful items. Darren looked in cautiously, and almost yelped with excitement at his find. It seemed Tim had been on his way back home, as he had a backpack full of all sorts. Climbing into the front with his find, Darren began rummaging through pulling out various things of use. He found several shirts and a pair of jeans, although perhaps a size too small, a simple penknife, an old roadmap of Texas, a box of cigars, a lighter, a baseball cap, a digital watch, and finally a shaving kit. Immediately Darren set about changing into the new clothes. He put on the jeans, an old checked shirt and a denim jacket, and slid the baseball cap over his head, pulling it low so his watery blue eyes weren't as noticeable. He put on the watch, and dropped the knife and lighter in his pocket. The rest he shoved into the backpack along with his first set of clothes.
Soon enough he was rushing across the plains again, formulating his day plan. Darren figured, with some help from the map, that he could make it to New Mexico without refilling by ten in the morning. Once out of state, he'd begin contact with the one person who might just believe him. He knew he'd got a long, hot day ahead of him, and that none of this was going to be easy, but this was his choice, he could do this. He had to do this. It was his only choice.