Writing Contest Third Place Winner, Crimson and Gold

Written by Alan Sralik

Illustration by Madison Otten

It’s just past 3 a.m. as the guard makes his hourly lap outside the perimeter fence and hears the shattering of glass from within. He hurries forward to see the cut fence and ducks beneath it to move inside.

“Probably another of those damned eco-fiends again… The boss’ll have my head for this,” the guard mutters, suspending the darkness with his flashlight and removing his taser with his other hand. “Show yourself, I know you’re here. You’re trespassing!”

Another shattering of glass pierces the night sky, sending the guard turning to his right, his light illuminating the smashed window of the large yellow machinery and the rock lying with the shards. His finger remains steady on the taser as he approaches the massive piece of equipment.

“This place should be torn down,” a voice calls from the night. “You people are ruining the planet.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, I’ve got you now!” the guard says, whipping his taser and flashlight around the front of the cold truck only to catch a glimpse of the intruder. 

They leap over a row of steaming pipes, the crunch of the gravel beneath their footfalls fades away as another crash of glass fills the air. SMASH! CRASH! More glass rings out as the guard pushes headlong through the steam.

“You’ll never catch me, Ricky, and I’ll never stop,” the voice calls again.

“C’mere ya little insect!” Ricky says, emerging from the steam, the broken glass glinting at his feet. He raises his flashlight again, seeing the dark clothed figure between two trailers ahead. “Stop right there. Stop!”

As Ricky rushes forward his flare envelops the adolescent frame of a black hoodie, a pair of dark jeans, black fingerless gloves, and black skateboarding shoes. A navy handkerchief with a spiraling design in white covers the lower half of the boy’s face and heaves with every labored breath. Strands of sweaty light brown hair hang down over his fair face from within his hood. His cheeks are rosy from running and beads of sweat gather along his upper lip and brow. Staring back at Ricky, the boy’s frosty blue eyes hold contempt and panic before he turns and bounds through the trailers.

Ricky gains on the boy now, reaching out for his hood that dances at his fingertips. Ricky lunges, wrestling the boy’s hood in his grasp and tugging the boy toward him. The boy stumbles, falling backward, but his hand wrenches his hood free from Ricky’s authority and he regains his balance, running onward.

“I said stop. No, wait.” Ricky’s voice fills with concern, his hand outstretched to the boy, “Stop—don’t—you’ll fa—”

The grind of gravel interrupts Ricky as the boy disappears from the beam. There is no more machinery to hide behind or trailers to run between or shadows to blend into. Ricky approaches where the boy vanished, illuminating his footprints as they turn into a pair of deep scored ruts.

“Ricky… what have you done…?” he asks himself, his taser clattering to the ground as his hand falls limp. He steps forward wiping his eyes clear so his light can reveal the depths of the gold mine quarry before him.

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