I twist my hair into a ponytail, tucking it under my cap and lowering the brim. Then I take a final look around the room full of strangers, wondering which of them will help me escape, and which will try to kill me. There are no guarantees, no spoken rules, no insight on the unknown or unexpected, no known boundaries between me and the nineteen strangers examining one another suspiciously. Most of all, there is no time to waste. Time is highly valuable to us.
All twenty of us, including me, are chosen purposely to be in the same age group with no specific gender to follow by and are willingly to partake. The ages range from thirteen through nineteen. I “willingly” am participating for the chance to see my family again. Especially my younger brother whom I last saw when he was ten, two years younger than me at the time, and it’s been five years since then. I was taken from my mother, father, and brother when I was caught stealing a sack of red apples to feed them which instantaneously sentenced me to twenty years in this prison and I have been here ever since. Being poor always has its downsides but the greatest part about it, is the respect and love we have for each and every family member. These people I will be competing against have their own tragic tale of why they are here. I’m sure everyone in the room has something promising that they’re “willingly” risking their lives for.
The challenge is not complex when it comes to knowing how to win; whoever escapes the labyrinth in less than five minutes claims their freedom, the first one to do so receive an added bonus besides freedom. No one has ever made it out alive to know the exact details on the bonus. But that’s all going to change once I make it through the end. I have been strategizing, those who rush through it first activate the defensive mechanisms that prevent your escape, but you can’t be the last one either because the defenses can focus on you only.
The intensity of the suspenseful moment thrusts my heart to pump double time. The metal black gate opens instantly, releasing us into the scorching sun and the labyrinth. The hedge is tall and thick with a wide passage that soon narrows as people decide to go in groups of two or three. Two people die within the first minute of weaving themselves through a booby trap that fatefully was a machinegun. The more there’s weapons the closer I get to the end. Some huge male punches me in the face and departs just in that same moment. I clutch my nose from all the blood gushing out. Adrenaline courses through my veins, impeding the ache to persist. The stadium is engulfed in screams of agony and pure terror. The dirt pathway soaks up the blood pooling over bodies that unfortunately did not make it.
My ambitions push me forward as I ignore the large timer that is destined to run down till zero appears. I walk over bodies, knowing that we are all running out of time. My pace quickens as I follow behind the gunshots and screams, turning, dodging, jumping, and running over every obstacle that is in my way to freedom. Being a thief from birth teaches you to be quick with your actions. From the sizzling sun I detect something glistening silver. Immediately, I drop to the ground when a shotgun pops out to shoot a hole in my body. I craw out of the way taking notice on the lack of blood there is around here. I begin to panic. What if I took the wrong turn somewhere? I gaze up at the red numbers counting down. There’s only a minute left. My mind goes into overdrive as that minute decreases with each passing second. In front of me is a dead end. I pivot around finding another route to take.
I hear the snap of a pistol and dodge the automatic handgun in time that sends out a full loaded magazine with bullets. After dodging that automatic, I encounter a semiautomatic that fires a single shot which pierces my arm. I let out a small shriek of pain that reverberates throughout the entire stadium. Only now do I become aware of how other than my own scream everything is more or less silent. I sneak a peek up at the timer for the last time, watching as it goes down. Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight... Keep moving forward, I command myself eager to find the end to this forsaken place. Twenty-seven, twenty-six, twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three…
I nearly faint with excitement as I gaze out into an open area before me. I made it. I found the way out, a way back to my family, back to my normal not imprisoned life. I never thought I’d actually escape. I jog over naively, forgetting where I am, and what lurks within the hedges. Before I reach the white line that is engraved in the dirt floor, I trip over a string that activates the final booby trap. A shotgun with two barrels bursts out firing. My fall does not come quick enough to avoid the entire shooting but only some of it. I gasp in distress unable to stand up.