by Nancy Ames
He had been running for a very long time beneath
the monstrous trees, where the air was strangely
still, underwater dark and depressing but secure
because they had never invented the copter that
could handle old-growth forest.
He figured that he must be safe by now under that
luxurious roof of tangled, spreading branches and
overlapping leaves but his legs still kept up the
pace, greedy for distance but losing direction.
He wondered if it was the huge trees themselves that
were starting to spook him. There was hardly any
undergrowth here and underfoot were occasional glimpses
of naked, twisting roots breaking through the thick
carpet of dark-coloured mosses. Surely the sounds of
his labouring heart and lungs were much too loud in
the greenish atmosphere... it was almost as if the
massive trunks of living wood were giving him the silent
treatment or something...
And wasn`t there a funny tapping noise coming out of the
darkness, from somewhere behind all those trees over
there? Maybe he ought to slow down, slow down and just
stop and listen... or it might be time to hide, to find
a hole and hide and be very, very quiet. He staggered
and slumped against one of the biggest trees, gasping
painfully for breath and pressing the aching muscles of
his back into the rough, damp shield of its bark.
The runner had no plan. He used his ragged, filthy sleeve
to wipe some of the sweat away from his blinking eyes.
They had caught up with Tony, run him down and killed him,
and now the runner had no plan because Tony always said
that he "didn`t need to know". Trust no one, right?
He snarled a string of curses into the air, shattering the
oppressive stillness, and the fear crackled like ice fast-
frozen at the back of his neck. He inhaled convulsively
and his chest was filled with sharp little pains. A cramp
was starting to pinch wickedly at his left side too, but
he had to try to breathe some life back into his terrorized
He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain and was surprised
by the glittering display of yellow sparks he saw in there.
And now that damned tapping noise was bothering him again, so
how in hell could he think?
High up among the distant tree-tops, the wind sighed like a
giant`s sleeping breath, and a number of leaves floated down
through the warm, heaving air. Unthinking now, favouring the
worsening cramp in his side, the runner began to limp toward
the intermittent sounds - `tap, tap, tap-tap-tap, tap, tap` -
and some time later, when the tapping stopped for some unknown
reason, he was already moving in the direction of a faint
yellow lightening in the distance.
Author's Note: This is the introduction to a short story about a prison break that turns out to be virtual reality run by the wardens.
Posted on 06/01/2018
Copyright © 2020 Nancy Ames