34 days left and I focus on only that. Jack’s breathing is quicker now and I can feel the fear rattling through his body. My calves feel like rocks having crouched for so long. I find his hand in the sliver of moonlight.
“What if we die” he whispers.
“I’d rather die together than have the mark take one of us”.
I take a step forward, I’ve been waiting for this for too long.
I watch Jack’s breath in the dark cold November air. I look back at the town where I have spent the last 15 years and 331 days…my entire life. The bakery where Jack and I would go every Sunday, the park where we played chasing and finally my home.
“I’m sorry Mama” I whimper as a single tear rolls down my cheek.
It pains me to leave all these memories behind, but I know if I want to escape the mark, I have no choice. I look Jack in his teary eyes.
We run towards the big oak tree and I pull back the branches and leaves. I feel the oar and the raft, rough against my skin. We carry it towards the lake, Jack places it on the water and we cautiously climb on. I take his hand for a moment, icy to the touch and then we begin to paddle away. Where are we going? Ultimately, I have no idea but right now I know we need to cross the lake and get past the perimeter. Anywhere would be better than this. I’m dreading what I know I have to do next, but I focus instead on the water.
The sun begins to rise and everything looks so peaceful. It’s hard to believe there are eyes everywhere. Suddenly I think I have hear a siren like noise. I push the thought to the back of my head, I’m probably hearing things. I continue paddling until I hear a noise that is far too familiar. Jack turns to me, his eyes wide with fear.
“The drones”, he says, “Becca, the siren, they know we’re gone!”
We reach the bank and scramble onto land and hide in a bush. I take out the knife I have hidden down my sock.
“Give me your wrist” I say, panic seeping into every word.
I hadn’t planed on doing this so soon, but if we don’t they will find us,
“No!” he pulls his hands behind his back.
“Jack, stop being a baby! We need to get our trackers out before they find us!”
“I’m not letting you”, his says, his eyes filling with tears.
Confusion, shock and panic pulse through by body.
“Jack we agreed we’d do this ever since we saw the red marked kids get shot, are you seriously giving up now?”
“Where are we even going? How do you know everywhere isn’t like this?
He starts to raise his voice.
“There has to be others like us, who escape. There has to be more than just our town in the world.”
I can’t believe he is going to go back. I pierce the skin on my wrist. The pain is so severe I clamp my hand over my mouth as I silently scream.
“Becca!” he yells.
“This isn’t fair Jack, we spend all of our first 16 years of life worrying about the mark, counting days. Our lives are dependent on what the leadership choses. So many people will die on their 16th birthday – why?, because the leadership choses at birth to assign them a red or green mark and then cruelly leaves them to discover their fate! And the people who get green marks? They spend the rest of their lives guilty for living and worrying for the lives of their children. “ My voice is getting dangerously loud and I realise that tears are streaming down my face.
I cut the tracker out of my wrist, blood trickles warm against my skin.
“Jack, they are coming, we need to go!” I say, desperately trying to hide how scared I feel.
“I’m not coming Becca” he says, his entire face flooding with guilt.
“Jack” I plead.
He lifts his face up and looks in my eyes.
“I’m sorry B, I still have a year and 32 days” he whispers, then he turns around and begins to run back to the water’s edge.
Defeated and hurt, my best friend walking away, leaving me forever. I look towards the mountains, I know I have to do this. I step over the perimeter and run into my new life, one step at a time.