A/N: Wrote this a LONG time ago. Used to have it on my DeviantART account before I deactivated it and decided to post it here. Enjoy.

The Trackers and the Runaway

Four men tracked him down that night, searching from dusk to nearly dawn. They found him kneeling under the large oak tree right outside the town's church, his eyes closed and hands folded, murmuring a silent prayer. He had known that they would eventually find him; there was no place to hide. And a sudden urge to make peace with God weighed heavily on his conscience. After all, he'd reached the end and it was now or never.

He had run for all it was worth when the woman screamed and her father came charging through the door like a provoked bull. He'd darted out the back door and dashed, as fast as his scrawny legs could take him, through Brenson Manor. Instead of following the cobblestone pathway that led to the main road, he'd gone into the 200-acre cornfield that belonged to the neighboring farmer and crouched below the body-length stalks, listening to the sound of barking hounds. Knowing that trackers had been summoned.

He panicked when the barking got louder and hauled himself further into the field, having no idea which way he was going or on what side of the property he would end up on once he reached the edge. He simply told himself to run. Even when his legs grew sore and his lungs felt as if they were about to burst, he kept going.

When he came to the edge of the field, he found himself at a clearing. To his left was a row of trees standing in front of a nearly dried-up creek. He decided to follow it, hoping against hope that the trackers' hounds wouldn't emerge from the cornfield any time soon. They no doubt had his scent by now.

The question that ate at him was: Where was he going to go? Leaving town was out of the question; he had no money, and burdening his aunt to take care of him and risk being associated with crime was unthinkable. There was no place to hide in Georgetown, Mississippi. Not for a negro. Eyes were always watching, people were always waiting for a chance to point their fingers and convict. As soon as the news was out that a colored boy was on the run from the law, it wouldn't just be the law on his tail. Every respectable man, old lady, and child would be looking around the bend or outside their window, expecting at any moment to see a ragged, dirt-covered black boy sprinting down the road.

Eventually it became pointless to keep running. Everywhere he could possibly go was dangerous, and hiding was impossible. Within the next six or so hours after fleeing Brenson Manor, over half the town was looking for him. The outskirts were bordered by police men, all given strict orders to take into custody any juvenile negro they laid eyes on. So the boy went bravely down the main road, shuffling his tired, calloused feet, and came up to the town church. The doors were locked, so he went over to the tall oak tree located in front of it and knelt beneath it to pray.

About an hour later, the trackers found him.

There were four of them, two of them holding back snarling hounds. "That's him," one of them said. They all approached him, surprised that he didn't make a single move to get up and run.

They surrounded him. One of them, a thin man with a black mustache and blue eyes, thought something was funny and began to laugh. Not long after, the others joined in. Finally, the one who had said "That's him"—a man with tousled blond hair and a long nose—spoke again: "Well, would ya look at this. The nigger's sayin' a little prayer." And then he kicked the boy in the stomach, bringing him face-down into the grass. The man was wearing steel-tipped boots that made the boy feel as though his entrails had been shoved to his backbone.

The man with the mustache bent down and leaned in closer to him. He took a whiff and feigned a gag. "Whew doggy!" he said. "I've heard tell they didn't bathe, but damn!"

"What'd you expect?" a third man—one with unkept curly hair and bad teeth—put in. "They ain't no better'n hogs. They eat like 'em, sleep like 'em... I tell ya, it's a shame they got rights now."

"To hell with rights!" the blond retorted. He grabbed the colored boy by the top of his shirt and yanked him to his feet, and then unwound a rope hooked to his belt—a rope that had a noose at the end of it. He waved it at the boy for a moment, smiling menacingly, before throwing the noose over one of the lower branches of the oak tree.

While he fastened the loop around the boy's head, the fourth tracker—who'd said nothing—pulled the boy's hands behind his back and tied them with a cord.

The boy closed his eyes. They were moist but he refused to let tears fall. He knew that if he cried the trackers would only laugh and mock him more. And he had his dignity. If anything, he still had that.

The four trackers all grabbed a hold of the other end of the rope and together, they pulled. The boy's feet rose off the ground. The tracker with the mustache wound the rope around the trunk of the tree and knotted it. Once it was secure, they all let go.

The boy's face turned upward. His eyes bulged. He opened his mouth and let out a choked gasp, spittle trickling down his chin. And then he gagged and died.

The trackers stayed at the tree for a while, admiring their work. The blond chuckled, made jokes, and swung the body back and forth. The one with the mustache put his hands on his hips and nodded, smiling. The other two spoke to each other about the good deed they'd done.

It was almost dawn—almost Sunday morning. Within the next hour these four men would be in the church they were standing near, praising God and listening to a preacher talk about being holy.

An eternity passed before the sun came up.