Originally written in December of 2010…
He knew he had broken the rules, but he didn’t care. He knew that he was being led to a jail cell in shackles because of the choice that he had made. He understood that execution was the consequence for being outside the Quarantine Zone. As miserable as his life had been inside the Zone, he felt the risk of death was worth the attempt of sneaking outside those boundaries.
Carson was born in the Zone. His parents had been born in the Zone. His whole life, no one ever questioned why they were there or why they were constantly guarded by armed men in protective suits. He knew that questions led to punishment. At least, that’s what he had always been told. He’d never witnessed any sort of punishment. The fear of it seemed to be enough to keep his family and neighbors in line. But in his mind, Carson questioned a lot of things.
Why were they under quarantine in the Zone? Had they all been infected with some sort of disease? If that was the case, it couldn’t be that bad. He never remembered experiencing any symptoms. He never remembered hearing about anyone else with strange symptoms either. So if there was a disease, what was the real reason that these people were all confined to the Zone?
Carson had just turned 17 when he decided to step outside the limits of the Zone. It took him a while to figure out where and how he would escape, but he knew the couldn’t just sit by and let unseen powers continue to dictate how he would live. He couldn’t allow himself to be contained with no explanation. The kids he had grown up with may have been content to repeat their parents’ lives, but Carson just couldn’t do it anymore.
The night Carson dug under the fence was just like every other night in the Zone. It was quiet. He had gone off to his bedroom, allowing his parents to believe that he had drifted to sleep peacefully. Once he knew everyone in the Zone was unconscious, he left his home. He had spent weeks learning the soldiers’ patterns and routines. They were nothing if not predictable. The night guard followed the same patrol routes as the day shift, so Carson knew where he could go to avoid detection.
Digging under the security fence wasn’t too difficult either. He just need to use his mother’s garden spade to make a space just large enough for him to slide under the chain link that barely extended under the surface of the ground. He knew that eventually the hole under the fence would be found. He knew that at some point the soldiers would begin searching for whoever breached security. He just didn’t know they would begin looking so soon.
Carson had maybe a half day’s head start on the guards. Around sunrise, one of the soldiers noticed the mound of dirt by the part of the fence where Carson had escaped. From there, they tracked Carson like hunters searching for a wounded animal. He wasn’t too hard to find.
As he sat in his cell, chained to a wall, he wondered what would become of him. He didn’t get any answers to his questions in his short time outside the Zone. He never encountered another human being. He simply ran and then was caught. Carson had never known of anyone actually being punished for breaking rules in the Zone, but now he would experience the truth of it firsthand.
He wondered if others would look at him and begin questioning the Zone themselves? Or would they just see him as a cautionary tale? Would he become a true story of what happens when you test the limits of the Zone?