Day 379th, Early Sunday morning.
North Brostral Prison, Scotland.
Once again I woke up to the dreadful dream of me sitting next to the corpse of my secretary and wiping blood off her neckline. A minute or two were enough for my racing heart beats to get back to their normal pace. Walking across the dusty floor smelling of stale food from last night, I reached ‘the once used to be – white colored wash basin’ at the corner. I stared at my dark grey eyes in the broken mirror like every other day. Unlike past mornings, today they held hope and survival other than the usual guilt lurking inside. I turned around to glance at my jail inmate once, for tomorrow I would not be with him. Either I was going to be transferred to the south camp if caught trying to escape or I shall be free to do what I had been planning to since past year, provided everything works out well.
Jail guard Mr. Basbug picked up his bag full of keys after unlocking my prison door and let me outside followed by banging of the door behind. Should I smile at him for it might be our last meeting? I let that thought go as soon as I remember him spitting in my food plate the other night. “They tell me you are writing a novel, huh?” he asked with a fake air of knowledge about literature. “You shall have my story soon” I replied without looking straight at him. “Hmm” came out the words along with some heavy air rushing out of his big nostrils, as he walked towards the South end. It meant it was 6 O’ clock sharp for he was known for nothing but his punctuality.
I joined the queue of seven other odd inmates being hurled towards the direction of Kitchen. ‘Kitchen’ because first thing – we held a record of good behavior in past one year and second thing – for obvious reason that we could cook. Clanging sound of huge pendulum striking the archaic wall clock welcomed us into the kitchen. Hands were scratched and backs were stretched as soon as handcuffs were removed and orders were thrown at us by the newly appointed kitchen head. He replaced the old one who got suspended few months back over charges of smuggling drugs in and outside North Brostral, although most believed it was someone else. And inside prison, you can always differentiate new guards from the old ones from the false belief they hold that they are supposed to shout at prisoners from time to time. Oddly today he was joined by Mr. Telson, a senior guard at North Brostral as he screamed “Today you are doing the meat Mr. Writer, you got that?” and put a knife and red meat pieces in the surprisingly clean stainless steel plate in front of me. I moved my head suggesting my obedience and fear for him.
Half an hour later, a familiar sound of pendulum striking the bell of that old clock caught my ears and I looked towards the back door of the kitchen. Mr. basbug came in as if he was waiting outside for the bell to be struck and once again I admired his punctuality. “Ahh you bastards, now throw the aprons down and get in the line”. His hoarse voice overtook the clamor of striking knives and steel plates as they were slowed down to come to a halt. It took seven seconds for me to shove 4 meat pieces into my mouth and seven more to rush across the back door about to be closed by one of the prison inmates. Several expressions of surprise and abuses hurled at me from behind rang my ears. I simply kept running till I came to the end near the water tank.
Now. Now three ways waited in front of me. Two on the right leading towards ground and training camp which means I’ll be caught in not more than a minute and a slope towards left which they secretly called an escape to outside or an egress window. I thanked my decision to take up writing which had allowed me to visit convicts from all the floors and know most routes in return. Without wasting a second I ran across the slope. From behind I could hear the screams of “Catch him!” and “towards the water tank he ran” crawling fast like a venomous snake on my trail. North Camp prison was not particularly known for flaws in the security procedures, but I suddenly gathered enough confidence that my perfectly laid out plan would put blame on the security framework of the prison for a man with conviction of a brutal murder could escape from it in daylight.
I slowed down my speed in order to keep them wondering which way I took. The slope held a misleading sign of ‘way toward officers’ cabin’ not removed for past two years. I was pretty sure; it would send them in the wrong direction thinking I’ll certainly go for one of the paths on right. It would give me approximately five minutes essential for me to walk through the damp dungeon walls of this slope. So I marched ahead.
With every single step taken, air breathed more of humidity and the clothes stuck more to my skin with the sweat dripping off it. If that wasn’t enough, meat pieces in mouth released a bitter pungent taste of it down my throat as I held it tight between the jaws. Turns after turns, I walked through the darkness attempting not to stamp the lizards and rats occasionally crawling across the wet floor.
It must have been some time before some fresh air filled my lungs and my half opened eyes looked out for hope. A ray of light slowly started creeping in and so did the sound of footsteps from behind. They had realized I had taken this route and it meant I was closer to my capture or my escape whatever waited for me ahead. Sticking to the plan I kept my pace same and moved ahead. My tongue was bathing in saliva and oil oozing from the meat and I wondered for how many days that taste would linger in my mouth. My thought was thumped by a bright flash of sunlight displaying an exit out of that Prison. 379 days was what it had taken me to see it. And see what?
An escape into the Village? A jungle? A Valley? No, an escape route leading straight into the sea, a deep blue ocean that tossed mammoth waves laughing at me and my helplessness.
Five minutes were over already and prison guards were closer than before as indicated by their storming footsteps. Looking across the ocean, I took a deep breath and dived straight into water.
It took them not more than half a minute to be standing at the edge of the slope and screaming out in frustration, “Where the hell did he go? Jumped into water?”.
“Shortens our work Basbug, let the bastard be eaten alive by crocodiles” answered the familiar voice of Mr Telson. “Basbug, you go back and inform them to look out for him at the other two gates again.” I’ll wait here and see if I can spot him swimming out” he ordered. Basbug followed the same and marched back in the direction of water tank.
A minute later it was followed by Telson throwing three stones into water down the edge where he was standing. Bubbles came in rushing as the stones plunged inside water and I let go off the wall I had been holding for so long. Staying underwater, I had not feared for anything more than letting go off the meat pieces in my mouth, not even crocodiles. Because meat pieces were my only escape pass.
Taking my head out, my hands searched desperately for the edge and were held by Telson’s waiting desperately at the edge. I threw the meat pieces out and took as much air in as I could. I was breathing of freedom for the first time since morning. Telson checked the stuff hidden inside meat twice and spoke, “Look behind for the boat, fisherman will take you to the land. Make sure you hide in well. He will take you to Edwell to whom you shall hand over the meat” I turned around to spot a small boat approaching and thanked him.
“And Mr Writer,” said Telson before leaving me out there, “Do complete your story. Just make sure you change my name”.
I smiled for the first time in months and said, “I will Telson. I will.”