Altered State – Part Ten

forest with purple flowers in spring

I wasn’t ready. Kate said they wouldn’t hurt me if I get caught, but I didn’t believe that. I tried, though—it seemed inevitable that no matter how hard I tried to escape they’d get me somehow. I had to believe I’d be okay.

“Don’t forget to change your number when you get home,” said Doctor Wilson. “I don’t care if your parents say no, smash your phone if you have to.”

I rolled my eyes. “That sounds a little dramatic.”

“It’s not.” Karen walked up and handed me Tonya’s backpack. “It’ll be harder for them to reach you if you change your number.” I took the backpack from Karen and she smiled sadly. “I guess this is it.”

“I guess it is,” I agreed.

She hesitated before quickly enveloping me into a hug. “I’m so sorry for everything. You didn’t deserve any of this.”

I squeezed her a little tighter. “Neither did you.”

“You don’t know what I did to end up here,” she chuckled before letting me go. “Be safe out there, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

Doctor Wilson cleared his throat next to us and extended his hand. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Eva. If only it were under different circumstances.”

I pushed his hand away to hug him around the middle and he froze. I don’t think he’s hugged many people.

“You might want to start wrapping things up,” said Tonya. She was looking out one of the windows that faced the front street.

“Why?” asked Kate.

“A van just pulled up outside.”

“Shit.” Doctor Wilson grabbed me by the backpack and pulled me towards one of the back windows. “You’ll have to jump.” He opened the window and lifted me up, essentially tossing me out.

I tried yelling for Kate–we hadn’t had time to say goodbye.

As I was falling I could hear her shout, “Be careful!”

I landed with a thud. From the ground I could hear someone banging loudly on the door, and some shouting. My head felt a little dizzy, even though the window wasn’t very high. It was probably the height of two Doctor Wilsons. The shouting upstairs continued and I wasted no time in kicking off Tanya’s heels. I started towards a large patch of trees, just big enough to give me cover.

“Is that her?” I heard someone ask. I didn’t look back; instead I focused on trying not to run into any trees. Somewhere behind me a gun went off and my heart sank. I wasn’t sure what they were shooting at but I didn’t have time to think about it—instead I focused on the sticks and rocks digging into my feet with each step.

I felt bad for all of them, but especially Tanya. She didn’t even have to be there, our plan was doomed from the start. Who were we to think we could trick them? They probably knew Tanya was here this whole time; they just wanted us to believe we were safe.

There was another gunshot, this time a little closer. Maybe they actually were shooting at me. I took a sudden turn, hoping it would throw them off. The forest was eerily quiet, not even the birds were chirping. That probably made the sound of me thrashing through the bushes even louder.

My stamina was running low and I knew I couldn’t keep this pace forever. Luckily I came across a large pile of logs where I could hide for a bit. I ducked behind them, trying to catch my breath. I wasn’t sure if people were behind me or not, my heart was beating so loud I couldn’t hear much else.

“We lost track of her.”

I froze and stopped breathing.

Another man answered the first. “She can’t be too far, the bitch just spent weeks not being able to walk. Keep going.”

They continued off in the opposite direction but I didn’t dare move; I could hear a few other men walk by, but thankfully none of them noticed me. Slowly the sound of birds came back and the forest sounded wild again. I took a water bottle out of the backpack and started chugging.

The forest smelled clean, it was much different from the sterile lab. That was when I realized that I hadn’t been outside in a very long time—if I looked up I could see a sliver of blue sky between the trees. It would’ve been a nice day if I weren’t running for my life. All things considered, I had to admit that it felt nice to stretch my legs again, and even nicer to know I could still run. Fuck those guys, I ran track for years.

Through the sounds of the forest I could hear what sounded like cars passing by on a road. A car horn confirmed this and I put the water bottle back in my backpack before slowly making my way out of the trees.


Photo by Hubert Van den Borre


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