Nadine moved quickly though the woods, while trying not to make a sound, a task made simultaneously easier and more difficult by the dark moonlit sky. She would be more hidden from sight from human eyes, yes, but with the silence of night, every crack of a twig beneath her feet seemed to be magnified ten times. The officers would probably already be after her. If the Lord above was watching out for her though, like her mom always said, then maybe, just maybe, they wouldn't know she was missing until morning. But then again, her mother's instance on clinging to an outlawed religion was what got her into this situation in the first place.
It still amazed Nadine how quickly things had changed. She remembered as a child going to church with her mom. At first, it was an ornate building. Then a storefront. Next, as numbers dwindled, either due to capture or as a matter of self interest, they moved to a house, and finally they went underground. But then even that wasn't enough. Her entire group had been sent to a work camp. But tonight she escaped.
She continued to run, and dreamed of safety, but her hopes were dashed when she heard barking in the distance. She could hear a stream ahead, but the splashing would only alert the dog. She could run, but... where? The hope she felt just a few hours ago was fading. It was only a matter of time now, and she resigned herself to her fate. The dog soon ran up to her, followed closely behind by an officer she hadn't seen before.
"Don't scream. I want to help you."
Nadine stayed silent, if only to avoid attracting even more attention. He spoke again.
"I know what you're thinking, but you've got to trust me. It's that or I let you continue on. I won't alert the others."
Nadine tentatively looked up and saw something in this man's eyes that she'd never seen in an officer's before. Was it... kindness?
He handed her a shawl. "Cover up with this and follow me."
Her heart began beating even more wildly. Did she dare trust him? Not fully trusting either offer from this strange man, Nadine decided to follow him back. She feared that if she accepted his offer to continue on, he'd shoot her down the second she turned her back. She followed him in silence, until finally they approached a house.
He walked in and motioned her to follow. He called to his wife. "Honey, I have another one."
The woman walked over to her husband. "Is she injured?"
"I don't think so." He turned to Nadine. "Anything injured?"
Nadine bit her lip, afraid to speak.
The woman smiled at her. "It's okay honey. We want to help. Are you injured?"
Nadine shook her head.
The woman pulled walked over to the couch, motioning for her to sit. "You see, we're undercover workers. We want to help. We never did believe in abolishing religion, and we thought the best way to combat the opposition was to blend in."
The man joined in telling the story. "I hacked into one of the government's computers and gave myself and my wife a new identity. I applied for a job as a guard. Then, whenever the sirens go off, notifying us of an escape, I try to be the first one to find the escapee."
Nadine looked up, questions in her eyes.
"It's okay. You can ask questions."
"Don't they find out that you take people to your home?"
"I keep everyone well hidden for a few days. Make sure the others think there's no hope. Then, I help everyone escape to real freedom. You see, I still have contacts in the Safe Haven states, where religion is still allowed."
Nadine's eyes grew wide with excitement. Could it be true? She stuttered a bit, still confused. "But if you've been hired as an officer..."
The man nodded in understanding. "I can see why you're confused. You see, to the other officers, I'm the enemy. They just don't know it yet, because I blend in. But to you? To you my dear, Iím your rescuer."
The man shook his head. "I'm not an officer. Call me Sam."
For the first time that night, Nadine smiled. For the first time in years, she felt... safe.
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