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will you bite the hand that feeds

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Dusk, and the world lies before you, a mesh of dark pine and hazy fog.

It's been raining. The smell of gasoline clashes with trampled undergrowth at your feet. There are no animals; not from the forest, anyway.

Your name is irrelevant. Your purpose lies ahead of you, so you walk. You are cognizant of the crunching beneath your feet, your breath always a little too loud in your ears. You need new shoes. You've needed them for quite some time, but there's never been enough time or money. Your clothes are in a similar state of disrepair.

This information is irrelevant to your task, so you think of it no more.

Walking ahead, you're able to distinguish a new sound. Voices cut through the thick silence, along with the rumble of motors and a harsh cry that could be human or beast. Fear slows your pace. You don't want to run into that thing, whatever it is.

Stop when the tree line starts to thin. There are lights, beams shining all around you, flashing in the distance as you flit between the cover of trees, catching glimpses of men and women who look a lot like you, and other men dressed in thin, body-fitting suits, dark as the night sky, armed with flashlights and nightsticks. Some of them are on guard, and some are shepherding the unluckier ones into trucks.

And you understand, slowing down to watch. You'll be stopped in a heartbeat with those same searchlights, with bare hands and bullets, dogs with teeth. They will tear you apart to see what makes you tick beneath flesh and sinew.

You're a weak specimen, spindly-limbed and wiry. You know you can't outrun those men, and you'll never stand a chance against the dogs. But maybe you can lose them in the river.

All of a sudden, the baying starts up. One of the lights falls upon you, and your adrenaline kicks in. You've stood still for too long.

Start to run, clumsy with panic. The undergrowth becomes a blur. You blunder though, earning cuts on your bare skin and a growing stitch in your chest for the trouble.

Won't make it. Have to try.

Sound grows nearer. Barking turns to snarling. Humans shouting to each other.

They're right behind you. Maybe. You could look, but that would cost you.

Can't afford it.

Run. Hurts to breathe, you're so scared.

Almost there. Breath of the dog against your naked ankle and you feel your heart stop, just a second or two. There's a drop right here that leads to a river, coming up in front of you and all you have to do now is—jump—

Hold your breath.

Rolling down the murky chasm, helpless under gravity's whim. The dogs wail after, unable to follow.

Wait until everything stops. Sore all over, breathing raggedly, covered in mud. Safe, but only just. You want to lie here forever, but you know that's not possible.

You are just a boy, and you must run.