I was running.
Or, I was trying to run. My legs were sluggish and I stumbled every few steps. But I had to keep going. They were right behind me!
It got harder to see as I ran deeper into the dark forest. I glanced down and was able to just barely make out the tangle of leaves and branches around my feet. Maybe that was why I kept tripping. But why wouldn't my legs work right? Had they managed to drug me with something, before? Every time I took a step, my legs felt heavy and awkward. I tried to raise them higher to make it easier to move, but it wasn't working right.
I cast an anxious look over my shoulder and saw the burly man, still chasing me.
I quickly turned my attention back in front of me, but before I could focus, I slammed into something solid as a brick wall.
I realized it was a person, when I felt hands gripping my arms, both to steady and stop me.
"No!" I screamed. "I won't go back!" I flailed around wildly, trying to free myself, unable to think of anything else to do.
I struggled uselessly against the unyielding grasp as the other man caught up and took hold of me too.
A few seconds later, another figure appeared in my vision. As he got closer, I saw that it was Wescott, holding a syringe.
I fought with all my might against the two men holding me, but they managed to completely immobilize me as Wescott stuck my arm with the needle.
"NO!" I screamed again.
I sat up in the dark room, panting and sweating with the blanket twisted around me, tightly.
It took a minute to convince myself that it was only a dream. It felt so real!
I was still in bed. I hadn't even attempted to escape yet.
And then I mentally kicked myself for falling asleep. Tonight was the night I had to get away. I couldn't afford to be sleeping!
But I guess I'd been so tired, I couldn't help dozing off.
The previous two nights, I'd managed to fall into a restless sleep. And just like tonight, I woke up, terrified from some awful nightmare.
At least this one wasn't as horrendous as the last few. Those had been about what was supposed to happen to me, if I couldn't escape.
I hadn't even been able to close my eyes after that, so I'd gone to take a long bath until I could calm down.
As I was sitting in the tub, the second night in a row, I realized that I must have been in here for over an hour, the night before and no one even checked on me.
So, either they weren't paying attention or they didn't care that I stayed in the bathroom for so long. After all, I did sleep a little. And it's not like I was supposed to be running anymore laps.
When I realized that, I made sure I stayed in the bathroom for at least two hours. It was hard to be sure since the only clock I had access to was in the bedroom. But I knew it had been close to that.
If things continued the same way tonight, I should have plenty of time to at least get out of the building before anyone suspected that I wasn't in the bathroom any longer.
After that...well, I wasn't sure about afterward, but I'd always been pretty good at thinking on my feet. Besides, I couldn't afford to worry about that yet. If I had any hope of getting out of here, I had to go now.
Glancing at the clock, I noticed that it was barely after one in the morning. So at least I hadn't been out very long.
I unwrapped the blanket from around myself and threw my legs over the side of the bed. Clutching my flashlight in my hand, I made my way to the bathroom and hoped that either they weren't watching me closely, or that the picture on the camera, at night, wasn't very clear. Otherwise they might wonder why I'd suddenly grown so padded around the middle.
I guessed that I would have to climb down from wherever the vent let out, so I'd tied the top sheet from my bedding around my waist, to bring with me.
I'd also, snuck an extra pair of clothes into the bathroom when I was getting changed into my pajamas and made sure to leave the ones I had on, on the floor next to my shoes. I was bound to get pretty dirty while I was up there, and attracting any kind of attention, once I was out of here, wasn't something I wanted to do, so I was doubling up on my clothes for this.
I closed the door and wished, more than ever, that it locked. I stood there for a minute, wondering if I ought to wait a little bit to see if they'd start checking on me, tonight. If they caught me in the middle of this, it would all be for nothing and I'd be stuck. Forever. I wouldn't get another shot like this.
I waited, trying to stay calm and hearing nothing but my own pulse in my ears.
You have to do this now! I ordered myself before took a deep breath and went over to change my clothes.
After I was dressed, I listened again.
But the silence might be bad for me, too. If there wasn't some noise, they might hear what I was doing.
Remembering that the last two nights, the water had been running, I turned the faucet on. It didn't sound nearly loud enough to me, but I supposed it would have to do.
I went over to the toilet and took the lid off the tank in back, to retrieve my little tool.
Gross, I know, but at least it had been an effective hiding spot.
Once I had the tool in hand, I put the radio, I'd requested, on the floor, and grabbed the table from underneath - the very sturdy and well-made table, thanks to Wescott's apparent inability to have anything inexpensive in this place.
I positioned the table, under the vent, carefully climbed onto it, and smiled when I had to hunch over because I was too tall. I would be able to get up into the vent with hardly any real effort.
Careful not to let any of the screws fall, I loosened the vent and placed it quietly on the sink before setting the screws down on top of it and pocketing the tiny tool that served as my screwdriver.
I really wished there was some way that I could put everything back, so they'd have no idea how I got out, but I guessed that wasn't possible if I actually wanted to leave.
After I had my hands free of everything but my tiny flashlight, I stood up and peeked into the vent.
Shining the light down the dark tunnel didn't tell me much, but at least it didn't seem like the opening got any smaller.
I was about to pull myself up when it occurred to me that I didn't know if I'd cried out while I was asleep. What if they heard me say I wasn't going back? Would they guess what I was up to even though they didn't think it was possible? What if they were waiting for me as soon as I got outside?
I took another deep breath and shook my head.
No, if they suspected anything, they'd have come in here already. It had to have been fifteen minutes, since I got out of bed.
I put the flashlight between my teeth to free up my hands, and couldn't help smiling again. Wescott thought he was being so smart, giving me a lightweight, tiny flashlight that was literally only good for giving off light, as opposed to one that could be used as a weapon. This little one was absolutely perfect for my purpose.
Standing on the table, I was high enough to get good grip and hoist myself up into the ceiling, easily. I was grateful that it was sturdy, rather than that cheap paneling stuff that some ceilings were made out of.
I started crawling down the vent, careful to keep my shoes in the air, as much as possible, so they wouldn't make noise and alert anyone that I was up here.
Even with the light, I couldn't see more than maybe a foot in front of me. Twice, I nearly smacked into the wall of the vent, because I didn't notice that the direction had changed.
It was so hard not to rush as I turned the fourth corner. I felt like I'd been up here for at least ten minutes, weaving my way through the maze. And if I'd been in the bathroom for almost twenty, that was a half hour already.
How long would it take them to realize I wasn't there and come after me? An hour? Two, maybe?
What if it took me another twenty minutes just to get out of the building? I might only have about a ten minute head start before they came looking for me. It wouldn't be enough!
Stop it! I scolded myself. It couldn't take that long, and they'd have to first figure out how I got out of the room and then where I got out of the building.
I'd have time to at least get to the highway or something.
I tried not to think about how easily they might find me on the highway if I didn't manage to hitchhike or something.
After another minute of crawling, I turned a corner and nearly squealed with delight. I could see moonlight!
I crawled over to the opening, noticing that there was a cover I was going to have to figure out how to open.
There were no screws in this grate, like the one in the bathroom had. I got closer and peeked outside, the best I could. It looked like it was on a hinge. Maybe if I kicked it on the opposite side, it would swing open.
But what if someone heard the noise?
I pressed my face against the grate to assess the ground, below.
I didn't see anyone, from up here. Of course, they just might not be in my line of vision...
But no, it looked like this was the side of the building. Somewhere they might put the garbage. It doubted it was really a hot spot for guard duty.
I suppose this was the best I could expect. I didn't know where any other openings would be or how long it would take me to get to them. And at least this one was in a potentially deserted area.
I wriggled around, grateful that I wasn't claustrophobic, and positioned my feet in the right spot.
Please don't let it be locked from the outside, I begged as I gave it a light kick. It moved a little, but didn't open.
I kicked it a little harder and felt it give way a tiny bit. I smiled, realizing that it really wasn't locked. I just had to work on it a little at a time.
Very grateful for the rubber on my shoes, muting the sound of impact, I kicked it again and again until I felt like it was just about there.
Squirming back around, I tried it with my hands and only had to put a little pressure on it before it swung open.
I tried not to get too excited as I peeked out of the now-clear opening. I wasn't there yet.
I was right. There wasn't anyone in this area. But there was also a corner, uncomfortably close, for my taste. Someone could easily come around it and I'd have no idea until they appeared.
Oh well. I'd come this far. At least they wouldn't be expecting me either and I'd have the advantage.
I was right about the height, too. The building was only one story, but it was a fancy building and the vent was up pretty high. The sheet might get me almost half-way down, though. I could jump from there.
I began tying the sheet to the hinge of the grate, keeping an eye out for any patrolling guards.
Once I tightened the sheet enough, I took one last look around the still silent ground below.
Satisfied that this was the best situation I could hope for, I clung to the grate as I got my legs out of the vent. Transferring my grip to the sheet, I shimmied down the building, very thankful that I'd spent so much time, working out my arms.
When I reached the end of the sheet, I was still higher than I'd like to be, but it was still much better than having no sheet at all.
I took a deep breath, before I jumped the rest of the way, allowing myself to roll when I hit the ground so I wouldn't break anything.
Standing up, I brushed myself off and was just about to jump in the bushes, to the left, while I figured out my next move, when someone, all in black, came around the corner, making me freeze up.
I was running.