Tell A Tale in 500 Words
One Hundred Metres By Stephanie Churchill
There are exactly one hundred metres between the oak tree and the wall. Alexei has measured it. He sits on a branch of the tree now, thinking, contemplating life beyond the wall. How great it would be to walk down the street. On the way to school, he watches the other boys walking to class from the station while he sits in the back of a blacked out Bentley. Sometimes all he sees is a flash of their heads bobbing along while he looks down on them, a bird in the sky. He envies them.
None of the boys at school talk to him. Alexei suspects it’s to do with the man who waits outside whatever room he’s in. Or maybe it’s his accent.
This is the only spot on the whole estate where the cameras cannot see. He’s checked. The security guards let him hang out in the control room. His favourite guard is Glen; sometimes they play tennis together.
There is a gardener trimming hedges in the field. There’s always a gardener in sight. Alexei wonders if they’re really gardening.
He clambers down the tree. Alert to every movement, he hears the trees rustling, the sound of the earth beneath his feet, then the faint electronic sound of a camera moving, watching him. He tries to walk normally, not wanting to give away the thoughts in his head.
He sees Glen up ahead.
“Hey, little man.” Glen ruffles Alexei’s hair.
“Want to play tennis?”
“Sorry. I’m on duty. I’m off tomorrow, book me in.”
Alexei shrugs. “Okay.”
Glen whistles as he makes his way to the front gate. Alexei finds his bike, discarded on the ground by the pool. He is temporarily distracted by the water, so still and clear. He feels the urge to jump in, to bring it to life. His lean 12-year-old body dives in and water ripples to the four edges of the pool while Alexei revels in the feeling of being submerged, weightless. But not free.
His t-shirt clings to his wet body. He climbs onto the bike and rides the half mile back to the oak tree. The same gardener still in sight. Alexei cycles to the wall as fast as he can over uneven ground. It’s so high. Higher than he remembered it to be. Placing the bicycle against the wall, he climbs onto the handle bars. Even with the extra height, Alexei can’t reach the top. It’s slippery, there’s no grip. He jumps down and kicks the bike.
A vehicle can be heard in the distance. It’s Glen in a golf cart.
“What are you doing, little man?”
“Didn’t look like nothing.”
“Why are you always following me?”
Glen rubbed the back of his neck, frowning. “It’s my job.”
“What kind of a job is that?”
“Come on, I’ll give you a ride back to the house.”
Glen drove them carefully to the front door.
“Looking forward to tennis tomorrow?”
Alexei slumped away without answering him.
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