‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

A Desperate Escape


I couldn’t carry on, but I couldn’t stop. My legs were separate from my body, pushing themselves forward further and further no matter how the pain in my mind screamed at them to stop.

And then I saw it.

A door.

Double doors, to be exact.

And beyond them, I could see a great concrete car park, surrounded partially by high walls and with grey rain slicing through the dull morning sky.

It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

‘Sim!’ I croaked behind me in a sort of scream, my voice failing me, having to take a great, gasping, spluttering breath, as I crashed headfirst into the automatic doors that slid open too slowly. The receptionist had left her desk; there was no one to be seen. There were guards outside, but I was shooting darts through the air before the second set of doors had even opened, pummelling them relentlessly and without thought, hesitation or remorse. They didn’t even have time to react. As I staggered into the mild morning air, rain caressing my face, gasping for sudden breaths that deserted me, the guards still didn’t stand a chance. I was ready, and so was Simeon.

And then there was a second explosion from inside the Institution block.

This one was far, far greater than the first.

I sprinted on blindly, through the car park, crashing through the space between the walls, down the path, Simeon behind me. We were out...we were out of the Institution, and Dreamers were dying, and all the Dreamers in the country had been condemned to a fate worse than death, but we were out, and all I could feel was victory. I ran on further, relentless, unstoppable, and I could hear Simeon bellowing behind me, his voice rough with exhaustion and pain, but I still didn’t stop. I ran across the road and into the trees, stumbling over roots and tripping on branches and falling over rocks. I collapsed completely and then Simeon was right there next to me, hoisting me clumsily to my feet, and then we ran some more, and he fell, and this time we both just sank down.

I couldn’t move. I was filled with equal amounts of ecstasy and despair. I couldn’t breathe or think—my mind was spinning and raging far too fast for me to comprehend anything right now. I could scarcely remember my own name—I fought hard to even work out what we were all fighting and dying for.

I closed my eyes for several minutes, sinking back into the gentle abyss of darkness as my mind slowly calmed down. We were out. We were free. We had escaped the Institution, like no one had done for years.

We were in trouble now. I knew that much. And not to mention the number of casualties that were sustained back there. I could only hope that the explosion meant someone had let off a bomb or something. Death was better than the Operation any day. And the more destruction we created, the more headlines we made.

I only opened my eyes when I heard Simeon curse. Looking up at the green canopy of trees, I saw him out of the corner of my eye force himself into a sitting position and wipe the sweat that plastered his hair to his forehead.

‘They’re dying, aren’t they?’ he said grimly. I just nodded, too tired to speak.

Simeon managed to get to his feet, looking anxious.

‘We have to get out of here,’ he insisted. ‘Soon as they’ve finished with that lot, they’ll come looking for the escapees.’

‘I know,’ I mumbled drearily, but I didn’t have the strength to stand up.

That was when I heard running footsteps.

‘See!’ he hissed, grabbing my arm. I launched myself to my feet, staggering backwards into a tree, following blindly as he made for a densely green ditch. I dived into it along with him and we pressed ourselves into the mud, hoping and praying that whoever was out here didn’t find us.

When two people staggered along the path, however, I noticed that they were wearing prison clothes, same as us. Simeon and I exchanged eager glances as they moved along the path, looking as weary and exhausted and confused as we had been a moment ago, and I jumped up.

‘Hey,’ I called out. One of them, the girl, whipped round, closely followed by her friend. Her round, glassy eyes widened so fiercely I thought they might fall out.

‘Over here,’ I said softly, stepping forward.

We made eye contact and the girl staggered backwards. She began to laugh, almost hysterical in the fear and drama of the moment, and I could see how her face shone with tears. She leant on her knees, gasping for breath, clutching at her side, exhausted from all the running.

‘Dreamers,’ she just about choked out.

‘You escaped too?’ her friend said. He didn’t exactly look like the type built for running—he was fairly tall, but skinny too, without even a hint of muscle on his thin arms and legs, but he seemed to get his breath back much quicker than her.

‘Yeah,’ I said. Simeon appeared beside me, leaning casually against a tree. The girl got over her hysteria and stopped laughing, and no one spoke.

‘What do we do now?’ the man asked, glancing back over his shoulder as though he could see the Institution from here. When he spoke this time, I could detect a slight Mexican accent in his American. Coupled with his naturally tanned skin and dark brown hair and almost black eyes, I came to the conclusion that he probably came from across the border.

‘What happened back there?’ I asked, and we all fell serious again.

‘Someone let off a bomb,’ the man said.

‘What?’ we both cried simultaneously. ‘A bomb?’

‘Yeah,’ the girl said, her pale eyes; eyes the colour of clear water, shiny with tears. ‘I don’t know who, and I don’t know how.’

‘All the Institutions have incinerators,’ the Mexican man said, glancing at her in way of answering what had indirectly been a question. ‘They therefore tend to have some kind of gunpowder ready to light up. Seems that someone got hold of a bit too much of it.’

Simeon smiled. ‘You an expert on bombs?’

The man shook his head, but smiled wryly. ‘Not as such.’

I shrugged. ‘Seems like a cool thing to be an expert in.’ This allowed everyone a very brief laugh, which was the best remedy for the tense situation.

The man glanced at the girl. ‘Wow, first time I’ve ever been called ‘cool.’’ Again, everyone laughed, pretty much just for the sake of laughing. Whatever darkness had fallen across us today, we had still escaped the Institution. Hopefully, so had many others. Optimism was the thing that had always kept me going, so I used this positive thought like fuel, refusing to think about the negative possibilities.

‘I’m Tim,’ I announced, unusually formal, ‘and this is Simeon.’

‘Hey,’ the guy said, ‘I’m Jake.’

‘Rina,’ the girl said. She ran a hand through her hair, which was dark brown and just about reached her shoulders, cut in a spiky sort of fashion.

‘Rina?’ I repeated. ‘I’ve never heard that name.’

‘Short for Katherine...sort of,’ she said, giggling. ‘Katherine is far too ordinary and unimaginative, and when I met the Dreamers someone decided to call me Rina, so it just sort of...stuck.’

‘Rina the Dreamer,’ I mused. It almost rhymed. Once again, everyone laughed slightly, and Rina smiled sweetly, pretty much just for the sake of it, but it was enough to temporarily release the tension that hung above us like a storm cloud.

After the brief spell of chuckling, everyone fell silent once again and glanced around at each other, willing someone to take charge. Eventually, the task seemed to fall to Simeon and he stepped forward, more sincere looking than I had ever seen him, as though he carried a great burden.

‘We should get moving,’ he said.

‘Where?’ asked Jake.

He shrugged. ‘I dunno. Where do you wanna go?’

‘You decide,’ Jake said, withering a little.

‘Let’s just get away from here,’ I suggested. ‘C’mon. They’ll be looking for us. We’ll just walk...I dunno, ‘til we come to the edge of the woods or something, and then we’ll decide. Yeah?’

‘Yeah,’ everyone echoed, even Simeon, who wasn’t being nearly as talkative as usual. I glanced round at the three people standing around me, realising just how much like zombies they looked.

‘Come on, guys!’ I said boldly, allowing myself a laugh, ‘we just escaped the fucking Institution. Look a bit more alive.’

Simeon rolled his eyes in a friendly manner, Jake glared at me and Rina laughed along with me.
Well, that seemed to set the mood for the rest of the trip.