It's Time

It’s time
To make a move
I’ve got
So much to prove
I can’t
Inhale this air
Must go
While I still care

It’s time
I’ve got to go
To where
No one can know
Maybe for you
If… if
You’ll help me to

It’s time…

At the sound of Kate’s voice outside my cell I quietly drop to the floor and move to the bars. A steady rhythm of rumbling snores from the bottom bunk, with the odd unintelligible muttering mixed in for good measure, let me know that Terry is lost in a world of his own but I keep my words low anyway. You really can’t be too careful in here.

“Good evening senorita,” I say with a smile that doesn’t quite reach my eyes.

“Hey Manny,” she replies, her forehead crinkling with concern, “how are you holding up?”

“I need to get out of here,” I tell her casually, studying her face for a reaction. It’s time to start planting the seeds in the earth and seeing what decides to grow. “This place is killing me, you know?”

Kate is silent for a moment as she regards me with a carefully neutral expression. It’s hard to catch any indication of what might be going on in her head and this piss poor lighting isn’t making things any easier. I try not to hold my breath while I wait for her response.

“I understand Manny, I really do,” she says slowly. “But you know what they say: if you do the crime, you do the time.”

“The only problem with that little slice of wisdom pie is that I didn’t do the damned crime.”

“Tell it to the judge,” she counters with a weak laugh.

“Well I’m in here now so I guess that didn’t work out so bloody hot.”

“Don’t get short with me,” Kate snaps back and my soul shrivels another inch. I’ve thrown this seed on barren land. I don’t know if I can recover from this mistake. But then, more gently, she adds, “I’m on your side, remember? This isn’t Olsen you’re talking to.”

“I know, I’m sorry.” The only sound to be heard for a few long seconds come from Terry’s bunk. “It’s just… I guess this place is really getting to me lately. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

“Well I’ve got some news that might cheer you up,” she says, turning to lean her back against the bars next to me, the fabric of her uniform brushing my fingertips. Her eyes scan the walkway across from us before she lets her head loll to the side and suddenly our eyes are inches apart. “Ana has herself a new roommate, name’s Nevada. She’s got more attitude than Olson before he gets his coffee in the morning.”

“Oh yeah?” I focus on the words, not the lips they come from. I listen to what she’s telling me and ignore the faint scent of mint that accompanies her message. I do not think about how foul I must smell to her, how lowly she must really think of this caged animal before her.

“Yeah, and to say those two are not getting along is putting it mildly,” she whispers, a brief twinkle appearing in her eye. “I’m going to have to keep a close eye on them or they just might claw each other’s eyes out.”

“I guess there’s no way of putting them in separate cells?” I ask, trying to keep the hope from my voice.

“Nah, we’re full up right now and there’s no way the warden would allow a mixed cell. It would be a publicity nightmare if anything went wrong – which, of course, it would.”

“Right, of course.” I rest my forehead against the cold bars and consider my options. How long can I really expect Ana to keep me a secret from Nevada if they’re battling for the dominant position of their cage? Can I really keep avoiding running into her when these walls keep us all pinned in so tightly? I need out. I need out now. “You don’t really think that I belong in here, do you? I’m not like the others, you know that.”

“Manny, I’m real sorry I have to say this,” she says, her eyes letting me know she means every word, “but you’re all in here because you were found guilty in a court of law. If I don’t believe in the justice system then I’m living a lie in here enforcing its decisions. You may be one of the nicest criminals I’ve ever encountered in here, but you’re still a criminal.”

I close my eyes and let it sink in. I try to convince myself that escape is still possible without her help, that it just means a little more planning, a little more time. But I don’t have any more time. And if I’m stuck doing this alone then I better get moving. If I die in the attempt it’ll still be better than living in here.

I say a prayer, asking for forgiveness from a God who can’t possibly be listening, and open my eyes. Kate is still leaning against the bars, pity in her eyes.

“Kate, I’m real sorry too,” I tell her, blinking at the sudden arrival of tears. Her lips part to ask me what I mean but the words never stood a chance.

I reach through the bars with both hands, my right grabbing hold of the back of her neck while my left clamps down on her mouth. Her eyes go wide but she doesn’t struggle and she doesn’t try to scream.

“Give me your keys,” I whisper, feeling like all of the moisture in my mouth is escaping through my eyes. She shakes her head no and I tighten my grip on her neck. “Please, Kate. I have to go.”

Before she can reply Terry appears at my side, scaring the hell out of the both of us. Without a word he squeezes a thick hand through the bars and plucks the keys from Kate’s waist. He’s not foolish enough to paw her up but she still is unable to suppress a shiver of revulsion. He steps around me, holding the keys tight together so they don’t jangle, and studies them in the weak light.

“Save us some time by telling me which one,” he says softly. He turns his gaze to me and adds, “Manny will take his hand off your mouth and if you have any sense at all you won’t scream for help. We are desperate men and we are asking for your help. But if you get in the way you will be responsible for the pain we bring down on you. Understand?”

Sweat begins to run a sprint down the length of my spine as Kate nods her head. I can’t decide whether or not Terry’s presence is going to help or totally screw things up. This is insanity. We’ll never make it.

But I’ll be damned if it’s not too late to turn back now.

“It’s the fifth from the right,” she whispers after I take my hand away. “But you won’t get ten feet of fresh air before a tower guard puts a bullet in you both.”

“That’s where you come in,” I reply, hardly believing the words tumbling out of my mouth as Terry fits the key gently into the lock. “You get to be our escort. Head us towards the infirmary first, tell anyone we meet that we need medical attention, and then we’ll figure out a route from there. Let’s go.”

It’s time
To make a move
Oh Lord
I had to choose
Though death
May lay in wait
It’s time
For our escape

The End

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