The Fox and the Pigeon hole Chapter 1
By M T M
The monotonous crunching of leaves is hypnotic as Lance meanders through the sunlit forest. A crushing hopelessness numbs his heart and makes it thump relentlessly against his sweating chest, as if at any moment it will burst. The splash of a bird diving into a mossy pool jolts his senses, but the skinny brown haired boy looking back at him in the rippling water looks wild and untamed. His brown eyes bloodshot and his face smeared with dirt and blood. Looking around nervously he moves on. They must be coming; after all he has nowhere to run to. Even if he did it would be nigh impossible to escape from their clutches. With their advanced technology and blind support from the wealthy, the governments rule is absolute and unthreatened.
Just thinking of the oppressive forces of the government allows Lances rage and pain spill out into his mind, which is still fresh with the recent horrors he has faced. Flashing in front of his eyes like a strip of film he remembers it exactly:
The helicopters had been a surprise for everyone but they didn’t bring feelings of happiness. Anytime the government has decided to intervene in their small village it can only bring fear and anxiety, on this particular occasion the helicopters dropped a number of packages into the cobbled town square. Hunger overriding caution everyone had torn into them, and consume anything they found. Small packages of food and cans of water where seemingly absorbed by the throng of people, courtesy had long since been forgotten and the fear soon abated, leaving everyone pleasantly fed. Some wrapped the remaining food to store and bring back to their families.
Lance had arrived late that day, rushing back after the initial fright of the helicopters to find his sister and mother laden with packages and running joyously towards him, but his caution wasn’t so easily forgotten and he inspected the food thoroughly, much to their amusement. At that moment, he remembers clearly the first man fall into the dirt, the first scream. With a pounding heart he watched helplessly as one by one the people in the square began to drop like flies. The blessing of the food turning into a curse, crying mothers, fathers, children orphaned in front of his eyes. Then his own mother, crying out and grabbing his arm franticly. She was dead before her head hit the floor. And his sister, cradling her in his arms he cried like a baby as her life left her in turn. The few who had survived had lost everything, but it wasn’t over.
Dawn had been his friend for as long as he could remember, they often found themselves together and had grown close over the last years. She had supported him through the death of his father and they always found time to be together, in their small copse of concealed bushes and flowers they had many conversations. About life, the government, fantasies of what life must be like elsewhere and how they would live without constant fear. As comforting as those talks had been, the government still lives above everybody like a black cloud, an ominous presence. After Lance’s father had been killed in a farming accident he was left alone to look after his sister and mother. Forced to grow up too quickly and assume his responsibilities Lance was strong willed and defiant, not that that could save anyone.
The helicopters returned and officers streamed into the streets, Lance narrowly escaped to pursue his one hope. Dawn hadn’t been in the square, she was the one thing that drove him. Sprinting past St. Anthony’s, the boy’s school, and rows of now deserted houses. He turned into the thin alleyway that wound its way all the way from the village hall to the farms in the south. Ignoring his aching legs he didn’t stop until he was in the towering shadow of the sanctuary, a safe haven and communal space to house the archives in its two tall towers. Dawn should be here, “Dawn” He had shouted. Continuing down the Alleyway he saw her kneeling down, immediately fearing the worst he ran towards her. But she was not dying, she was comforting a crippled old man as he fell to the floor, soothing him and crying. “Dawn”
“Shh,” She snapped, “He’s trying to say something” But the man was wheezing and his voice was barely audible. Upon seeing Lance he cried out and groped at him, taking his hand Lance leaned closer to make out what he was saying. “Lance?” He breathed. Lance nodded, dismissing the fact that they had never spoken before. “Go” The man jerked his head back at the long building behind him and then with a final effort “Basement... Tunnel, There’s a poster of a- woman. Escape” He breathed falling back into the mud “Escape” But his eyes were blank and his arm flopped down to his side. Turning around Lance almost fell over. Dawn was struggling against a large hulking man in a green uniform. He overpowered her and turned back towards him. Smirking, the officer drew a long knife from his belt and held it towards Dawns throat. “Where are the others?” He asked calmly, as if they were having a gentle chat. Lance said nothing, and the knife was pressed harder. “Run” Cried Dawn, but the officer put his hand over her mouth; he wore leather gloves and boots.
With a moment’s hesitation he remembered that he did have a way out and with a guilty look at Dawn’s large, petrified eyes and her dirty brown hair he pelted into the house. Leaping over the farmers body. Finding the basement door in a terrified second he ran down and slammed the door shut behind him, just catching a glance of the man’s boots at the top of the stairs. Looking around he found a dented filing cabinet next to the door and pushed it sideways just as the officer crashed into the door behind him. Thrown forward Lance found a dirty poster in front of him, of a beautiful woman covered in flowers. Tearing through it he found a spacious passage ahead and ran down it just as the door broke free of its hinges. And he didn’t stop running, not even when the passage narrowed and sloped downwards, the pitch darkness began to make him feel trapped and looking back he saw the faint outline of the poster, illuminated by the light behind it but otherwise intact. He could make it, he could run forever if he had to. He went on for what felt like hours, slowing to a walk, he suddenly found the tunnel flooded with golden light, small candles had been placed at intervals in small niches of the dirt wall. In one he found a small knife with a black handle, in another a small string pouch.
That passage led Lance to the forest beyond the hills south of Collen, his village. He has been wandering south ever since and now sits against a large tree, asleep. The leaves rustling above him and the faint trickle of a stream do nothing to interrupt his slumber. Far away, a plume of smoke rises over the hills clear against the orange of the setting sun, signalling the end of Lance’s village and along with it: Everything he ever cared for.