He breathes steadily as his feet pound the corridors. The girl goes limp in his arms, but he has no time to stop. Not even with the blood oozing from a shoulder wound, cascading and painting a deluge in rouge. Another explosion erupts before the security guards behind him, blocking their passage with a barrage of the remnants of what was formerly a wall.

He sees flashes of other prisoners, some cackling madly, galloping and insane with sudden liberty, or some, like him, silent and focused on an exit, moving, looking out for the next blast.

Some fall to the attack, stumbling over collapsed chairs, then crushed under cement, but he never seems to encounter any danger himself. Perhaps the girl is a good-luck charm.

The compound's layout is inimical. By pure chance, he hits upon an exit. A weak point in an outer wall, all it needs is a good slam, and -


More upset architecture stomps onto the path before him, grumpy and adolescent. He winces. It's not safe to put the girl down, not like this. He looks around wildly, but he can already see security guards a distance away who have caught sight of him, raising their pistols and lurching across the detritus of the ruined jail.

He turns his back to them, so that the girl isn't a target. He's not sure why he feels the need to protect her. He doesn't know her.

‘Don't put her down!' someone shouts. A woman?

Sensing his target's distraction, one of the security guards takes fast aim, finger stroking the trigger like a lover's cheek, then a shot rings out-

‘Get down, you lumbering oaf!'

He obliges. Whoever this lady is, she knows what to do. She can take over from here. The bullet misses.

‘Give me your gun.'

He hands it over.

Two shots ring out. Two bodies slump to the floor.

‘Now get up... What am I, your mother? Clear this exit right now!'

'But... the girl...' he manages to input.

'She's safe! I'm here, aren't I?'

He rises slowly, lies the girl down gently and begins to carve at the wall. When the gape has reached a size deemed suitable by the mystery lady-prisoner, she shimmies through (more limber than she looks, for her age, he thinks) and calls for him to give her the girl.

He's not sure why he does. Perhaps his world has turned into a giant game of cops‘n'robbers, and he, perpetually a robber, instinctively trusts those with the same prison stripes swathed round them.

He crashes through the wall. Is the game ruined, now that he's outside the playing field? Or has it just begun...?

The End

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