Prologue (The Escape)

Through the eerie winter night the sirens screamed; piercing the silence that had once enveloped the land. Abominable luminescent search lights penetrated through the blackness of the winter's eve. I felt myself slip into some sort of lucid state, my bare, scarred feet coming down hard upon the cobblestone pathway that was laced with a thin layer of ice. The cold air was sharp against my skin, pricking it carelessly with each brisk gust. I wondered where I was or what I was doing. It was only when the sounds of obscene curses rang out behind me as the entrance to the institute swung open, a flood of orderlies pouring out in pursuit of me, that I realized I had even been running. And very fast for that matter. Before me the massive front gates quickly approached, taunting me as they closed slowly.

Lockdown.

The hollow of my chest echoed with the pounding of my heavy heart. My lungs shallow. Some kind of madness pushing me forward along the traitorous path. At last my foot falls ceased as I came to a stop in front of the blockade, hesitating for the first time since I had been freed from my cell. The glory of freedom lain out before me, and yet I could not move. I dared not turn and face the Hell from whence I emerged. I only desired to yearn for the promise within my grasp, within my site. Suddenly, whatever conscious cast aside, I inhaled deeply and thrust myself forward. The metal locks of the gate grazing my side as my thin, sickly frame slipped through the small opening. I cried out, arms jutting out in front of me as I weakly came toppling on to the ground. Behind me, the gates loudly slammed to a close, every gear turning and clicking in perfect clockwork until the estate was sealed away, with me on the opposite side. I laughed. It was a horse, sickening sound, but I did.

Pulling myself to a painful stand, I knew it wouldn't be long before the wardens would find someway to retrieve me. With a hazy glance I observed the thick forest before me. Two years I had been keep locked away from this world, knowing nothing but darkness; darkness and insanity.

And so I ran, never once looking back. Freedom, my soul and body ached for. Freedom at last, at last, at last.

-o-

Behind me, all traces vanished as a soft snow began to fall. Onward I trekked, not caring much for where I was or where I was going. Only allowing my mind to follow the path placed before my eyes. Mechanically, I placed each foot in front of the other. The right disappearing into the inches of snow collected from the many winter days that had passed, and then the left. The right and then the left. Right and left. Right. Left. Aching, I desired to stop, but it seemed impossible.

Soon my body had become heavy with the water of the melted flakes that clung to my frigid frame. I couldn't feel the cold, having gone numb, but the weight bore on me and eventually my limbs found their way to resisting my force. I took rest upon the trunk of a tree. Although wary, I somehow found it in me to wittiness my own self. I couldn't help but wince at first glance. Even through the hazy darkness of night, I knew I wasn't what I once was. Whatever that may have been.

My body was riddled with wounds. Arms, chest, legs; I couldn't even aspire to imagine what my face had endured. The inflamed skin that bellowed infection reached out to me though the lack of light. The dried blood following closely behind, for there was plenty of it. It stained the bandages that hung loosely about my wrists and torso, and decorated my dull uniform. It was matted in the ends of my pale blonde hair that tumbled down my shoulders in a disarray of knots, stopping just above a particular mark that read G1M646. Could it have all been my own, this blood? Surely not, I would have been dead long before this moment.

A tremble reverberated though my veins, shaking me violently as a dull ringing sounded in my ears, subtly growing louder, corrupting my thoughts. I thanked it silently, but knew such graciousness wouldn't last for long. I straightened myself, and found a strange sense washing over me. The feeling of eyes. Not only eyes, but eyes watching me. Cold, calculating, familiar.

A sudden noise came from within the forest, starting me with a jolt. I did not think to pause for a moment, only began running once more; emerging myself deeper and deeper in the white woods, as if somehow I could run forever. Forever in this world of unfamiliar darkness. Tearing the strips of cloth that dangled from my limps, I begged for my feet to not fail me, but to lead me on until I could no longer bear it.

-o-

Hours could have passed, days even. Beneath the dense canopy granted by the alpine trees and the storm that seemed as if it would rage on endlessly, the vacancy of daylight made time almost irrelevant. The cloak of everlasting night hid me in its apathetic embrace, but regardless I knew I was alone.

I tried to make friends with the shrubs, or the flowers I imagined would be there during the warmer seasons. The animals I knew that would be watching me from afar. I simply did not want feel so somber. So lonesome. Not because I particularly enjoyed company, because at the root of it all, I really didn't, but rather because I don't desire to think for myself. Or think at all.

I tug at my hair, dragging my feet in the snow. Like a phantom I was, any recollection of a past that may have been my own blurred and dim. Faded. Erased. Lifeless I have become, or so it felt. A mere specimen trapped in an endless maze, the invention of a cruel observer. For they were watching, I know. They are always watching. Laughing, even now amongst the maggots he was laughing.

I caught myself abruptly as I stumbled over a divide in the forest floor. Looking up I saw that before me lay a bridge. A bridge set over a rushing river, unmoved but the perilous conditions, and illuminated faintly by a single set lamp that idly sat across the clearing. It's subtle glow seeming to pierce through the shadows of night. My long since adjusted eyes burned at the sight of it, blurring my vision, but ever so enticing its warmth grew, beckoning me forward sweetly, calling through the curtain of snow that coated the air. Weather I was weakly over come with exhaustion or truly captivated I am not quite sure, but as my bare feet, calloused and frozen, stepped warily onto the splintering, age old wood of the lonesome bridge, all of the world seemed to fade away around me.

Time stilled, my body involuntarily becoming paralyzed. The luminosity of the single street lamp began to burn even brighter, its intensity relentlessly growing until I was encased in a pure, blinding white.

Screaming rang in my ears; it was until I opened my eyes that I realized it was my own.

My body convulsed violently. Feeling as if I had just been pulled awake from a deep sleep, I hunched over, clutching my sides as a searing pain coursed through my veins. Gasping, my lungs begged for air, and my hands tore greedily at what little fabric remained on my body, every inch of my skin seeming to be alight with the feeling of one thousand flames. A heavy weight pressed down upon my chest, and I gripped the railing to keep my footing. I fought back an acidic bile rising in my throat, clutching the wooden beam so hard my palm began to bleed.

Forthwith, the world all at once came to a tranquil still. Filling my ears was the distant sound of flowing water, genital, calm. Everything was calm. Shaken, I reluctantly lifted my eyes, mind still spinning. The lantern once more held a reserved glow, as if nothing had happened.

Before me, all at once, I saw the very essence of my life pass. It was as if in that very sudden moment I was able to witness each memory like they were taking place before me once again. Each smile and each tear; pure and truthful as the promise of day. Grudges held and bitter forgiveness reconciled; the anger in lies, betrayal, and pain. I realized how much I had lived my life in wasteful self-righteous peril. But a love, lived and lost, caused my heart to ache more than any; raven-black hair, delicately tumbling down slender shoulders, soft but nevertheless fiery eyes the color of the earth gazing upon me, breaking through the fog of swirling thoughts as if nothing else mattered but her. A silhouette began to form, modestly bare, all as I once had known it, hand outstretched towards me.

"My love," Came my voice, dry and painfully horse, barely audible to even my ears. I could feel the skin of my throat breaking open, the taste of iron dancing along my tongue as blood dared to surface. Submitting to her silent call, I reached out, my fingers only inches away from her own. She was so far away, too far for comfort. Forcing my aching body further, I stretched out my arm and just as it came to where our hands would have met, the sweet tan of her skin against mine, entangled together after all of these years; she was gone.

Tumbling forward dumbly, I caught myself swiftly along the railing, the upper half of my body leaning dangerously far over the side of the bridge. Heart racing, I looked down to the waters below. Amidst the current, I found that I could see the dim reflection of a horizon in the distance. An assurance that the bonds of winter would soon be broken and from the dormant ground life would once again rise, and the promise of spring, filled with a newly found hope, would douse the land in light and wondrous creation.

I knew though, as my mind dwelled on such a beauty, that this hope was not mine to grasp. I am not welcome in this world any longer. These memories I hold are nothing but a distant wish, regardless of what measures I take, I can never relive them. Even now, if I try to escape what it is that I have done, what I have become, the ones I loved will never be who they once were in my eyes, and I to them. The place I once called home will be nothing but a fading rendition of all that I once knew to be my own. I am never to be free. Tomorrow is not mine to discern, so it is only in the frigid embrace of death that I can truly rest.

And as I lifted myself upon the ice covered railing of the bridge, looking down upon the rushing river below, never once wavering, a sudden peace came to mind. I am going to die. Never have those words sounded so sweet to me. A gush of wind whipped my hair wildly about me, my bandages at last parting from their place upon my skin, allowing themselves to dance in the air like the autumn leaves. I shut my eyes against the world for the last time, and with the smallest push I felt my body begin plunge down, down, down.