Dig. Dig. Dig.
The movements of the trowel – touch, push, lever, lift, deposit, return, had long since become repetitive and unthinking. Every movement sent fresh waves of agony through his aching muscles. He had learned to ignore the pain.
He worked as quietly as he could. There was no way to fully muffle the scrape of the trowel, but he did his best. He was deep in the hole, surrounded by only dirt. His shoulders were hunched, his knees locked from holding his crouched position.
He worked in blackness. No lights illuminated his digging, and he wouldn’t have dared risk calling attention to his activity. He had learned to make his way by touch in the darkness.
Dig. Dig. Dig.
Every few trowel scoops, he had to pause to pack down the dirt. He couldn’t risk the walls collapsing. He could be trapped or buried.
He calculated that he had a few more hours of digging before the sun would rise and he would have to pause his efforts. There was no watch on his wrist, but he had learned to listen well to his internal clock. Before sunrise, the man would leave the hole, but he would return with the darkness each following night.
He worked mechanically. This was not his first day of digging, not the second, not the third, not the tenth. Each day increased the risk, the chance his nighttime activity might be discovered. Yet he dug still; he had no other option.
Between scrapes of the trowel, he listened to the silence. Even a single footfall could spell disaster, discovery, the death of what little hope he had left. All he had was hope. His mind was blank but his senses were on high alert.
Dig. Dig. Scratch.
He paused. Lowering the trowel and its load, he probed with questing fingers. Beyond
the initial layer of dirt, they found open space. His heart rate quickened. Widening the hole carefully, he felt sharp pricks on his fingers. He snapped off a few thin blades, rolling them to mush in his hand.
With this new discovery, he threw caution aside. With both the trowel and his free hand, he dug at the hole, widening it until he could squeeze his head and shoulders through to the other side.
The man pulled himself through and was finally able to stand straight. His feet crunched softly as he strode through the dry grass.
The man didn’t spare a glimpse back towards the tall metal fences, the barbed wire and blocky buildings of the prison. His mind was already far ahead as he considered the hike to the nearest town, hitching a ride back home, and the sight of his child, one last time, before the man vanished deep into the wilderness.