Fight the Tide

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short tale of escape


by Brendan Padellford


The sound tore through the forest; a low, mesmerizing moan interrupting the peaceful ebb and flow of nature. Dark and beautiful, it sounded as if something ethereal had suddenly fallen from its place of grace. Something was terribly wrong.

The man ran, sprinting forward with great speed while at the same time weaving in and out to avoid trees. The trees were tall and ominous, appearing at first glace to be something similar to redwoods, stretching up and up with no end. On a peaceful, different day, one could have easily been tempted to take a leisurely walk through the woods, staring up at the pillars of wood. Yet, like the loud moan haunting throughout the forest, something was amiss. The forest ground was perfectly still; not a trace of life could be seen. As the man ran, the color of the place seemed to run with him, but faster. He glanced backwards and felt his heart miss a beat as he realized everything behind him was grey. After a minute, the color passed him, and nature was totally void of any sign of vivacity.

He had to keep fighting. He had to keep running. He had to get away. If he stopped, he knew he would quickly and quietly be assimilated into the dull lifeless background. But the sound was so… tiring. It was almost as if it was whispering perverse lullabies into his ear, urging him to stop, lie down and give up. If he could just rest for a minute, stop and take a breath… No. He knew that if he stopped, they would find him, take him back to the Civitas and for a second time take away the one thing that mattered. And that was not acceptable.

And so the man continued to run. He ran for what seemed like centuries, not daring to even stop for a second’s rest. Just when hope was about to vanish along with the color, he saw it. It was the beginning of a vista, a vista that had absolutely no trees and angled upward, culminating in a tall cliff. The moan was also gone, replaced with the sound of what you and I know as crashing waves. More importantly, there was color; bright, vibrant color. Along with the color came relief, a thing that he hadn’t felt for eons. He stopped for a moment, closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh air. 

Once he was past the trees, the man collapsed to the ground. He knew that if the distance had been much longer, he wouldn’t have made it. Tears started to swell in his eyes; he had done the impossible. The tears gave way to silence, and the silence gave way to laughter, an emotion he had only experienced once before. He was free! The man gave out a loud cry of victory, all the numbness and apathy that had dominated his life for the past 20 years was gone, defeated in a single blow.

Despite the first thrill of triumph sinking in, the man knew he couldn’t stop yet. He had spent his whole life longing for what lay beyond the cliff, his prize, but in reality he didn’t know what it was. The man got up and started walking slowly up towards the climax of the cliff, his steps uncertain and shaky. Yes, he had escaped. But what had he escaped to? What if it was worse? What if the Curator was only trying to protect him and the others from despair, as he was told so many times? These were the questions that the man started asking himself as the doubt started creeping in. Nonetheless, the man marched on. He had done the unforgivable; there was no going back.

Nearing the edge of the cliff, the man closed his eyes and walked forward several steps. Gathering all the courage he could muster up inside of himself, he started counting to three. One…Two…Three. The man opened his eyes, and what lay before him took his breath away. For lack of a better term, what he saw was beautiful. It was, of course, the ocean. Once again, the man was driven to tears. He didn’t know anything about what lay before him, but he knew it was monumental and full of grace. The man stumbled forward, as if in a trance, and sat on the edge, staring out into the horizon. It was almost too much to take in.

The man continued looking on at the wonder before him for quite some time. He could see the outlines of giant whales, of fish, and other creatures could never have dreamed of. These creatures weren’t like the kind back at the Civitas; they were as fluid as the surrounding water, moving as if they couldn’t be still. After a while, the sunset came. This, naturally, amazed the man, as he had never seen the sun set before. Soon, the changing of the guard occurred; the moon replaced the sun. The man stood up, moved back down from the edge a few feet, and lay down. He had nothing on him self but a pair of gray paints and a gray t-shirt, and the wind was starting to pick up. This didn’t bother him though; he enjoyed the chill. It was a constant reminder of his newfound freedom, that the past was just that, past. Within minutes, he was asleep.

It didn’t last for long. Several hours later, the man came to. From the minute he opened his eyes he knew he wasn’t alone. His first instinct was to roll over, close his eyes, and try to fall back asleep as if it was all just a terrible dream. He did, in fact, try this at first. Regrettably, his self-imposed delusion was broken with the sound of a smooth, quiet voice.

“It’s powerful, isn’t it?” whispered the voice.

After a seconds pause, the man responded. “Yes…it is. Powerful, and beautiful. How could you keep such a thing hidden from us?”

This time, it was the voices turn to pause. “That isn’t an easy question to answer, my gues-“

“I’m no longer your guest, old man”stuttered the man, interrupting the voice. “And I never was. A guest stays out of his own free will, something you should know, Curator. You don’t allow anyone that privilege.”

“It’s necessary. I must do what our ancestors refused to do. The feelings that things of this sort arouse are not to be trusted; they are lies and a detriment to the collective good of all mankind. You’ve read the text. You know. Now, what I want to know is what you’re thinking. How far do you think you can get, my guest? You have no food, no water, no means of sustenance, and no control. You will surely die. The only option you have is to return to the safety and comfort of the Civitas. Your resistance if futile, and dangerous to yourself and the collective.”

The voice grew louder. “If you don’t return go back behind the line in the morning, we will find you. Either way, you are coming back. This is your last chance, return now and I will be lenient ”

The man gulped. “No. I reject you, and I reject your apathy. Come and get me if you can.”

The voice began to scream, growing louder and louder, fiercer and fiercer, and then… it was gone.

Submitted: May 20, 2010

© Copyright 2023 Brendan. All rights reserved.

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