The bars were cold to the touch, as they usually were but I barely noticed. In fact, I’m not sure I noticed much of anything except the faintly lit field far below us and the towers standing tall on each side of it. And the dark woods beyond.
Where are you Dixon?
Though it was rare, we had seen enough of the escapes to know the general timeline. I couldn't put it into minutes but I could feel when the time had passed where we should see whomever it was attempting to make the escape. I expected to see my friend's silhouette earlier than I did. The anxiety was a quickly forming army inside of me, attacking my hopeful resistance to it.
“Where is he?” someone in a cell muttered next to me, voicing what we were all thinking.
“Shut-up!” someone else answered, voicing the comfort of ignorance when faced with adversity and anxiety. It was the resistance to giving words to fear.
Shit. C’mon man!
“I don’t feel good—“ someone else.
“Shut-up!” someone else.
“He’s going to make it. Just give him a second. He takes his—“
“There he is!”
There he was. Running. That little bastard was running faster than I had ever seen him run. He had said he was a track star in High School but he had never had the chance to prove it - not in the small spaces we were always held. But there he was, flying like a leopard in the darkness toward his prey.
The spot lights came fast, shining down on the field, reminding me that he was the prey in this scenario. I could hear the first bark of the hounds somewhere in the distance.
“Shit - the dogs are out!” Someone.
“No shit.” Someone else.
“All of you!” I yelled. “Just watch. It’s Dixon. He’s got this.” I wasn’t sure if I believed it, but I hoped he could somehow hear my words or feel my energy from my observation post high above him. He has to have this. For all of us.
Time slowed to a standstill like it always does when the stakes are high and when life is felt. The spotlights perused the empty spaces for a moment before attaching to his body - illuminating the shit still clinging and dripping off of him. But even from my vantage point I could see his smile. I smiled too.
It's not that we really care about the characters in the movie. Or the book. Or even the teams in the game. It's that we care about us. And we hope we can win too. In that moment, we were all Dixon. We felt everything we assumed he felt. We rooted for him because we were rooting for ourselves. We hoped for him, because we hoped for ourselves.
He weaved his way back and forth as a few shots rang out, missing badly, unless they had been aiming for dirt and grass that expressed its discomfort at being shot by jumping into the air.
“C’mon Dixon!” Someone else. There was hope in all of us. For all of us.
“He’s going to make it!” Someone else.
Sometimes it's amazing how quickly we go from despair to hope as human beings and what, or who, helps us get there.
There was nothing slowing him down. In fact, he was performing like every good running back we had ever talked about: he was getting stronger in the fourth quarter. Faster in the final minutes. Defenders were dropping like flies. The lights were having a hard time keeping up, even as the dogs appeared on the horizon, their teeth glaring in the moonlight. But, they didn't have a shot. Not at his pace.
The fence had to be only a few body lengths away. There was a tangible energy and exhilaration that embraced us all and wrapped itself around every part of my being.
He was going to make it.
And then he fell. Instantly. Crumbling like a mannequin whose strings had been cut from above. If there was a puppeteer up there, he, or she, obviously didn't give a damn about Dixon. That show was over. My soul collapsed as quickly as his body had. My hands, still clinging, somehow held me up, staring at his motionless body even as the dogs drew in on it.
Silence reigned. Anticipation was suffocating. We knew he was dead but we didn’t know it like we were about to.
And then he was on his feet again.
The silence ran away in the face of the cheers that erupted from the cells.