by Myles Abroad
Decisions can be hard to make
She should have known better but since the day she met Jan she had started to question all she had been taught. She glanced over the wall again. In the moonlight she could see the rope ended a long way from the ground. They could drop from it but they would never reach it if they changed their minds.
Jan nudged her and glanced at his watch.
"Come on, Sanya. They'll soon notice we're gone."
She hesitated and glanced back at the compound, her home, the only place she knew. It had given her succor, solace and, she thought love. She had trusted the Elders and they had poured praise on her.
Sanya had risen as a master of the combat art, Sung-Gee, representing her district in the monthly challenge bouts. Six months ago she faced Jan. They had matched each other in round after round, dancing, ducking striking and feinting. It ended with her lying on the mat, bloodied and breathless. The chamber had gone silent and then a steady clap began. Jan pulled her up from the mat and held her hand up as cheers resounded.
Since then, they met regularly with the pretext to spar but there was more to it. Not long after they met, he had asked her a simple question.
"Do you ever wander what's beyond the walls, Sanya?"
"Not really. It's the Wild. It's not a place for us."
He smiled. "That's what we've been told, but what if it's more than that?"
"The elders would say."
He had left the question hanging as they parted ways. After that, she started to pay attention more. When she was pulling her watch in a guard tower, she would stare at the endless expanse of trees and listen to bird calls and the chatter and shrieks of whatever inhabited that forbidden landscape. Despite the fear she felt, there was a glimmer of... something building in her soul: a need to know, to explore.
More questions had followed. Each time, she walked away pondering the answers she didn't have.
"Are we the only ones?" The elders always said they were the only colony, but were they?
"Is the Wild as dangerous as the Elders say?" They said we would never survive. Fear had always gripped her heart when they described how a banshee would rip out their throats, or how the powerful claws of a poka could dismember them.
"Why do the Elders discourage us from going out there?" It's for our safety, of course... Or is it? Why shouldn't we explore?
Then a month ago, rumors were rife about someone who had gone missing. It was the first time she had seen a patrol of elders leave the compound. From the guard tower she watched as they disappeared into the forest.
Two days later Jan came to find her. He looked troubled.
"They found him, Sanya."
"You know... the guy that went over the wall."
He had her attention now. "They actually found him or just pieces of him."
He looked around and then shook his head. "That's just it. He was fine. I saw him being pulled into the detention center. He was walking and fighting the Elders. It looked like he didn't want to come back."
"I don't get it. The Elders always say was can go if we want."
"Yea, but they always explain why we shouldn't and nobody ever does."
"But this is great, Jan. We can ask him about the Wild when he has served his punishment."
A grim expression drifted across his face. "I don't think we'll ever see him again, Sanya."
The escapee was never seen again and the Elders denied any knowledge of him. This had cemented their resolve to leave the compound, an idea that had been growing, fueled by their dwindling trust of the leadership.
Security was light inside the compound. Who would ever want to leave? Every two hours there was a head count taken in the dorm. That night, after the night watch left, Sanya quietly snuck out of the dorm and met Jan at the base of the wall. They had scaled it easily and now they were on the cusp of a decision that would change their lives, forever.
Sanya, looked back at the compound one last time and quelled her doubts. She climbed down the rope, hung for a moment and then dropped to the forest floor. There was no turning back.