Alzena was out of breath but she kept on running. Once she crossed the border she knew the Freedom Protectors would not follow her there. South of the border was a desert. Abandoned. Empty. Lifeless. She was on the verge of collapsing but she had to continue. She lost track of how long she’d been on the run. Soon she’d be out of Elutheria for good and she’d finally be safe.

To understand a little bit of how this all happened, you need to understand a few things about Elutheria, the land of freedom. This was a land that had been plagued by wars between the different sects of society, and after hundreds of years, peace had finally come. No more fighting.

For this peace to be maintained certain laws were invoked. Clothes were outlawed, they were much too controversial. Everyone lived in solar powered pods, shaped like small submarines. All were the same size. If people could have bigger pods, or alter their pods, conflict would arise. People worked but not for pay. The government of Elutheria gave everyone a monthly allowance. Jobs with salaries caused too much conflict, someone always earned more than someone else and that had to be avoided. Food in Elutheria was all 100% man made, not a single animal or plant was to be killed for food. Religion was banned, so too was music. If you wanted to change something about your appearance you had to apply to the government for permission. The government would then determine if those changes could be deemed offensive. Once they were not offensive, you would get your licence to alter. These laws may seem strict but the people of Elutheria didn’t seem to mind. They went about their days like a colony of ants- following the straight line, never straying. The people of Elutheria never felt more freedom. The government said the laws were necessary to allow everyone to live freely and they had no reason to believe otherwise. People who broke the laws were called “freedom offenders.” And all freedom offenders were killed.

Alzena was one of those happy citizens. She was born after all the wars. This Elutheria with all the laws was all she knew. She never questioned anything about her homeland. She knew what the world was like before she was born. Now there was peace and freedom. Alzena believed in everything Elutheria stood for, until it happened. Alzena was out in the main city, when one of the news drones passed displaying a message from the government, “Saving more than 100 tokens per month is now banned- studies show too much saving leads to financial disparity between persons,” read the message. “That’s so unfair, why must I save less to make people who don’t feel better,” said Alzena. Suddenly, Alzena felt all eyes on her.

She looked around and saw other glaring at her. “Freedom offender!” a man cried. “Freedom offender!” more people screamed. Alzena couldn’t believe that she was being accused of being a freedom offender. She was taught that freedom offenders were evil people who wanted to bring war to Elutheria again. How could such an innocent statement be so destructive? Alzena knew she had to leave Elutheria immediately or else she would be killed. She rushed back to her pod and quickly gathered some personal items in a satchel- a blanket, her government tokens, some food. She heard the sirens of the freedom protectors approaching. She snuck out her back door and ran. She had to leave Elutheria and head south to the desert. Although her chance of surviving there was slim, it was better than if she stayed. The freedom protectors wouldn’t venture into the desert. It was too dangerous.

The journey to the south was a long one. Alzena had to go around the main city if she wanted to go unnoticed. Alzena ran through the country side. Every time she paused she heard sirens faintly in the background. She knew she had to keep going. A few hours had passed and Alzena realised she didn’t hear the sirens for some time. She thought she had lost them. she slowed down and decided to take a break. Alzena had been on the run entire day. She went in a diner, in the country side. The country side was much quieter than the busy city so she felt safe. “No one here probably knows about the incident yet,” she thought to herself. While waiting for her food, she noticed a news report on the screen. “Freedom protectors are looking for this woman, if you see her contact the authorities immediately,” and then her picture came on the screen. “I heard she said that she wished there was a divide between rich and poor again,” gossiped a woman in the diner to her friends. “My friend was there, and he said that she said the world was better when we were divided,” speculated another. “The real story is that she was trying to incite another war,” responded another man. Alzena knew she had to leave immediately. She slid out the diner and was on the run again.

Her journey took her to another town. Drones were flying around, displaying her picture. She had to change her appearance or else she’d be recognised in no time. She hid behind a building until night fell and then she broke into a hair salon. She stole some dye and a pair of scissors and transformed her long, black locks to a short red bob. She continued her run for days. She spent the nights running and the days hiding. Run. Eat. Hide. Repeat. Alzena lost track of the days. She was just focussed on heading south without being caught. As she settled down in her hiding spot for the day, she thought to herself “How much longer can I do this?”

“No! Please! Don’t!” Alzena begged as the freedom protectors dragged her through the city. Her hands were bound and they used electric sticks to shock her into compliance. They slammed her against a wall. The Wall, located on the highest point of the city for everyone to see, was where all freedom offenders were killed. They turned Alzena to face the executioner. Aim! The executioner lined up the perfect shot. He placed his hand on the trigger. Fire!

Alzena woke up, gasping for air. It was a nightmare. Offender! Alzena heard a loud cry. She heard the sirens in the distance. She was found. She sprung up and ran. People tried to restrain her but she tried her best to fight them off. The crowd continued to fight her. “Please, don’t” she pleaded, “I just wanted to know why I couldn’t do what I want with my tokens…was that so wrong?” she asked. A few people in the crowd paused. She could tell that they were thinking about what she said, but the cries continued and the people who seemed to momentarily consider Alzena’s plea quickly reverted. Alzena had to fight them off, it was clear they were not going to help her. Eventually she made it through the crowd. She took off. She knew she had to make it to the desert today or else they would kill her.

Soon she was running through southern Elutheria. She was so close to the border, close to freedom. “Stop right there Alzena! We are prepared to shoot!” cautioned the freedom protectors. They had been on her heels for a while now. Darts started flying, grazing Alzena but never really striking her. She was almost there. “Keep pushing!” she told herself, “Don’t look back.”

The voices of the freedom protectors grew fainter. They were slowing down. She was getting too close to the border and they didn’t dare venture so far. She slowed down her pace, she was so close to the desert, so close to freedom. Alzena pushed through the thick bushes at the border until finally, she was there. She looked around and saw nothing-no trees, no building, no freedom protectors, just wide expanse of empty barren land. Alzena fell to her knees and began to cry. No longer would she be forced to accept things she didn’t believe. No longer would she have to live in fear. She was free. Then, then a strange feeling took over. Elutheria was all she ever knew. Without those rules, Alzena realise she didn’t know who she was or what she believed. Yes, she was finally free, but she realised she didn’t know how to live with that freedom.

Posted by Hillary Muddeen