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Into the Rainbow

by Nick Allen

The searchlight sweeps by and John and I rush over to the fence, crouching as we do. He gives me a leg-up, whispers ‘good luck mate’, and disappears into the darkness, leaving me three and a half minutes to get over before the light returns.

A couple have made it this year already, but those who don’t are invariably shot. They are not supposed to be, but a kind of ‘mob mentality’ overcomes our guards and they see a chance to use their guns, see some real action.

I check my watch; I still have two full minutes left as I near the top and begin to taste freedom. Then, despite all my care, I snag my leg on the barbed wire, releasing warm blood onto my skin. I’m caught and starting to panic. I tug my leg as hard as I can and fight back a cry of pain as I free it.

I still have time on my side as I reach for the uppermost wire, but catch my sleeve and drop my bag. Mercifully it sticks to the barbs a couple of feet below me. I want to leave it behind, and for a few precious seconds I agonize over what to do, but I know I must retrieve it. For it contains my change of clothes, some food the lads managed to scrape together, and the papers that Geordie prepared for me. Without those I’m finished.

So reluctantly I retrace my steps, but miss my footing and slip down onto a hundred barbs. I’m like a fly in a web now, and every movement tangles me more. There’s a knife in my bag that I can use to cut myself free and eventually I manage to get it, start working on the snags, not daring to check my watch.

Then I see the circle of light moving towards me. If only it would pass over me, a moment’s inattention from the guards is all I ask and I will have time enough to get free. I hold my breath as it illuminates my body, and silently cheer when it moves on. But then it stops... returns. I hear shouting.

I look into the light, hoping the guard will see my face, see that I’m an ordinary man who just wants to go home, not a bad man, not someone who should be executed. The light is so bright that it should hurt, but it doesn’t, and at that moment I remember that white light is made up from the mixing of all the colours of the rainbow.

Then I see them, the most vivid colours ever. Blues and greens with depth I didn’t know existed, indigos and violets with breathtaking purity and a yellow that’s simply sublime.

I feel a thud on my arm, and a second on my leg but there is no pain. I’m not afraid now, just in awe of these natural wonders, witnessing something truly beautiful.

I’m flying free as a bird.

Copyright © 2009 by Nick Allen

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