Captive! by L. Lisa Lawrence

Early morning mist rising from the ground enveloped the shoddy encampment beneath the gray November sky.   It would rain soon, he could feel it in his bones and smell it on the air.  The ground still hadn’t dried out from the last storm and he was tired of having wet, muddy feet.  At least it hadn’t snowed yet; that was true misery in these conditions.

Tomas stretched, joyful for the brief moments of fresh air as he wandered around the exercise yard, turning his face toward where he believed the sun to be hiding behind the clouds.  He stopped to gaze longingly through the well fortified fence at the meadows and forest beyond.  He was jolted out of his daydream by the snarling dog on the other side.  He turned away and went back to join the others.  He hated that dog.

“They say that the fence is there to protect us, but I don’t believe it.” He lamented to another resident of the encampment. Jake nodded in agreement and whispered “Something is not right here.” One always had to whisper, as loud declarations drew unwanted attention.  Sometimes, one didn’t even need to be loud nor draw attention to themselves to be drug away by their captors, never to be seen or heard from again.

The exercise yard was required by a rule, treaty or some other such thing they didn’t understand.  Whatever it was, wasn’t enough.  There was not enough room, not enough to do and not enough time before they were again forced into their dark, crowded quarters where many became ill in the dreadful conditions.  There was always plenty of food, but it was poor quality and combined with the lack of exercise it made everyone heavy, weak and lethargic.  There were rumors that the food was drugged.

Jenny ran across the yard towards them breathless and agitated, “I have news from “The Sparrow” she cried.  Tomas and Jake looked at her in silent reprimand for creating a scene and drawing attention to them.  Such actions were dangerous.  Being removed was not the only penalty one could have inflicted upon them for being seen as creating a disturbance  They had seen others maimed in unspeakable ways.  They silently shepherded her to the water fount where they could pretend to drink whilst speaking and where gathering would not attract unwanted attention.

“Now, Quietly, tell us what he had to say Jenny.”  Embarrassed by her outburst and putting the others in danger, Jenny scratched at the ground, keeping her eyes down and said, “The sparrow says that the number of encampments is growing and that the conditions in some are even worse than ours.”

Tomas looked at Jenny, disappointed in her news.  “Is that all he had to say?” he prodded.  Everyone knew there were other encampments, some smaller, others resembling large industrial complexes, but they had received no reports as to what went on inside them. “No.”, she said, becoming quite somber and looking him straight in the eyes.  “They are preparing for something, something terrible. At all of the camps, including ours.  They appear to be moving equipment, weapons or maybe something worse.”  Jake paled at the news.  He had suspected for some time that things weren’t going to end well for them.  “Even worse,” she continued.  “Whatever is going on is going to happen three days from now.”

“The Sparrow” showed up mysteriously a few months prior bringing news of the outside world.  They didn’t trust him at first, thinking he was spying on them for the captors, but he was very careful to make certain that he was never seen, and was usually quite nervous.  He seemed to harbor very real hatred of the captors and what they stood for.  Eventually he gained the trust of the captives, for the most part.

“We don’t have much time then.” Jake announced to the others who gave him one of those looks as if to say, “Now tell us something we don’t know”  They were all on edge. Unaffected by the icy stares being directed at him, he implored Tomas.  “We need to meet with The Sparrow’s contacts, NOW.  We don’t have any more time to decide if we trust them or not.” While they no longer wondered what side he was on, they did wonder what his motive for helping them was, and what price they’d have to pay for their freedom should they attain it.

“So be it.” pronounced Tomas, “Set up the meeting for first light tomorrow.”  He had seen The Sparrow’s hooded associates from a distance once. He didn’t like the looks of them, but at this point, they were the only chance to survive what was to come; and he had no idea what that was.

Jenny slipped away from the group to pass the word on to the sparrow who had been hiding in the trees, upwind from the dog.  “We have to do something about that damn dog.” Jenny muttered to herself.  At least he and their captors would be occupied at first light, giving them a few moments to relay the plan that would hopefully save, rather than doom them all.

Two days later, just before the sun rose over the Eastern horizon,They lay in wait, huddled together for warmth as their breath froze and condensed in the bitter cold air.  Tomas stayed in position as Jake and Jenny exited the building and slipped into the dark shadows of the exercise yard thanks to The Sparrows associates disabling the locks.  “Those sneaky bastards did it!” Tomas proclaimed.  Most of the encampment followed them out and took shelter on the other side of the building, out of sight.

Suddenly chaos erupted from inside the building as if it was being torn apart.  Bodies smashed into walls and a window was broken.  The captors, thankfully only two, one looking ridiculous wearing nothing but his underwear and cowboy boots, rushed out with guns at the ready, expecting the worst.  And that dog, that damn, snarly, growling dog with his ugly frothy mouth and crazy yellow eyes barking his fool head off and baring his teeth. 

“NOW!” Tomas cried as they entered the gate and headed to the disturbance in the building. Jake, jumping out of the shadows, threw himself at the gate after they ran in preventing it from latching behind them.  They hadn’t noticed. 

Jenny looked to the woods for signs of their reinforcements; if they didn’t show up now, all would be lost.  The snarling dog body slammed the gate, forcing his way inside and knocking Jake on to the ground with his throat exposed to the sharp canine teeth.  The dog’s body tensed and he shifted his weight to his haunches ready to leap.  Jenny froze, helpless, knowing that no matter what happened to Jake, their plan would only succeed if everyone held their positions and stuck to the plan.  She couldn’t bear to watch.

Everyone stopped for just a moment in response to an eerie sound emanating from the edge of the clearing.  The trees began to shake and then appeared to erupt.  What looked to be leaves on branches, weren’t.  Hundreds of hooded crows rose from the branches, they descended upon the dog mid leap, knocking him away from Jake and to the ground.  They pummeled him with their wings and bodies, clawed at his fur and ears with their sharp talons and tried to peck out his eyes.  Finally, he was able to shake them off and run to the river, whining and yelping, hoping that his tormentors would not follow him into the icy water. Jenny morbidly laughed at the sight if it.  She always hated that dog.

On The Sparrow’s signal, those who remained in the building to create the ruse charged their captors as they entered, knocking them to the ground and trampling their bodies as they fled through the narrow doorway. Most made it out alive and uninjured across the yard and out of the gates to blessed freedom.

Tomas observed the scene as the humans lay stunned and bruised in a pile of feathers and shit while waves of turkeys gleefully flapped their way into the safety of the woods.

He stood on the stunned farmer’s chest and peered into his eyes as if to say, “You shouldn’t have underestimated us, we are after all descended from dinosaurs.”