As Danneron climbed the wall and the brick tore open the skin of his hands, not used to the physical labour, he tried to make sense of the situation.
He still wasn’t sure if running from RedLine was the right decision.
Maybe he could go back, maybe it wasn’t too late to proof his willingness to adapt to his normal life again.
It wasn’t even his fault things had changed, wouldn’t they understand? He didn’t know the answer.
Decisions. He’d never have to make them before in his life; RedLine had always been there to give him the next challenge, the next prompt, the next set of tasks ahead. And he’d always followed them.
Even that one day, that fatal day when he was denied boarding a bus his RedLiner told him to take.
In quick succession followed a police interrogation, a deep analysis of both his person and his family life and finally submission into a RedLine facility.
He’d stayed there for months, too scared to ask what would happen next now that they’d taken his RedLiner away from him.
He felt as if a limb had been amputated when they confiscated his apparently broken decision making device. But even without it, Danneron had understood that simply staring at the blank walls of his tiny new room wasn’t going to solve anything.
And so he had made a decision – arguably the first in his twenty-three years of life.
Because it was his first, he had no idea whether or not it was any good though.
It certainly had felt good to walk out of the abysmal place RedLine had called his new home, but his legs had soon started complaining that he’d gone on for a lot longer than he was actually built for and his tongue dried out quickly.
The whole fun of it had dried up at roughly the same speed.
For reasons he didn’t quite understand himself – possibly the fear that rejecting that glorious First Decision would mean he would never be able to make another – he had continued to run.
His friend Jasriel, at the facility, had told him there were cities beside Red. That there were people living outside of the city walls, away from the system, independent from RedLine.
At the time, Danneron had written her stories off as fairy tales, but now his whole plan, his Decision, was based upon it.
Finally, he had reached the top of the wall. The muscles in his upper arms screamed with the effort of lifting his body on the edge.
Any moment, they could give out under him and he would plummet to at least a few broken bones.
His arms shook and tears welled up in his eyes, but he persisted and finally let himself fall on top of the broad wall, where the guards on patrol would walk every night.
It wasn’t the most flattering exercise he’d ever performed, but nobody was there to watch it anyway, he thought as he gasped for air. The guards wouldn't show up for a couple more hours.
Beneath him, on the outer side of the wall, he heard bushes rustle. Voices rose up. He hadn’t heard them before, too busy with his climbing.
The only thing he’d heard were his own racing heart and shallow breaths.
Now that he laid, staring at the sky above him, there was no doubt about it though: there were voices on the other side of the wall. Loud ones, too.
Fear struck his heart again, but he got up and peered over the edge of the wall.
A crowd was quickly gathering beneath him.
People, dressed in filthy rags, their arms outstretched as if to reach for him, their eyes filled with hunger.
“You have a RedLiner?” some voice yelled. “Give us your RedLiner!”
“Help us over the wall!” a woman cried.
“We want to get into the city, help us into the city!” The voices droned and buzzed and drowned each other out until there was nothing but noise.
Danneron stared at the crowd.
Then back at the city, glowing up in the dark on the other end of the park he’d crossed earlier.
Back at the crowd again.
It was time, he knew, for his Second Decision.
He took a deep, shaky breath – and jumped.