Calum ran what seemed like as fast as was humanly possible away from the building, but they were still catching up. He had been spying, but they’d found him, and killed his partner, Dan. Now he was next in line, unless he could get back over that wall. That would take luck as well as skill, because they would know what he was trying to do. It was insanely difficult to get over at the best of times, never mind now, when they would have heightened security.

He kept running, and he could see a line of trees in the distance. Great – he might be able to lose them in there. He probably wouldn’t, but it was his best shot, so he was willing to take it.

Reaching the trees, they were closer than ever, and his chances were steadily diminishing. Nevertheless, he managed to put on a burst of speed to dodge through the large oak trunks, never giving up hope. He had reasons to return – especially now his partner was dead and he had a son to return to. Also, he needed to tell the Institute that Dan had died. On second thoughts, he should tell Dan’s family; the Institute probably weren’t very good at things like that.

“Cal, over here!” An urgent hiss coming from the left alerted him, and he skidded to a halt behind a tree. Looking further, he could see Andrew hiding in a tree. He wasn’t just on the tree, he was actually in the tree trunk itself. It was hollow, but small.

“How are we going to fit in there??” Calum whispered anxiously.

“You’ll have to, it’s the best hiding place here.” Andrew hurriedly motioned for Calum to get in, and he wasted no time climbing up the tree. He started to slide in, but then he saw them on the horizon, and tried to get out again.

“They’re here, Drew.” He had a tone of finality, and Andrew knew it was fruitless trying to persuade him to stay, but he tried anyway.

“Cal, you can’t! I’m trying to save you here!” Andrew was desperately trying to pull him back down, but Calum was adamant.

“They’ve seen me, and we’re both going to get killed if I stay. I’m going to distract them, and you’re going to get out of here.” Andrew opened his mouth in protest, but Calum cut him off. “No, don’t start talking, just listen. Tell… If Ben ever comes here, protect him, ok?  Don’t do anything stupid. You’re the same age as him, for crying out loud. Now, do one thing for me Drew. Live.” With that, Calum pulled himself out of the tree and started running. He ran not only for his life, but for Andrew’s.

The last thing he saw was Andrew bolting like a terrified deer in the other direction, and he smiled, making sure he didn’t look in that direction so he wouldn’t alert them to his presence. Then shots rang out, and Calum felt a searing pain in his lower back, before collapsing. He hoped Andrew hadn’t been seen, and couldn’t see him now. He wished him a long and happy life. He hoped one day Andrew would meet Ben.

Then the pain clouded his thoughts to such an extent that he couldn’t think of anything but the fact that he would never see them again. Then it was just the pain. It was so overwhelming it destroyed all other thoughts. In one final act of defiance, he broke through the pain and wished he could have lived longer – to be there for Ben. 

That was his last thought before everything went black.

By Claire McLeod

Photo by Phoebe Strafford on Unsplash

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