A szökevény (novella)

The escapee (short story)


Alex Hopka and Balázs Zsigmond Horváth

Part One

A patient escaped from the insane asylum. The warden of the asylum said the nearest town was around 30 miles away so there shouldn't have been any concern from the population. Although the patient was called Jack the Ripper, there was still no need for panicking since the matter happened in the middle of the Nevada Desert. The institution's trained troops would surely gather the escapee in no time, who would be naturally tired from exhaustion and thirst.

Just in case the warden had the escape announced through the local radio station, but the mayor insisted that school be cancelled and the street be emptied. The searching troops were locked and loaded and were waiting for the final command to move in. In the meantime, Jack was wandering hopelessly in the middle of nowhere. It took him two days to see some houses on the outskirts of the town, but otherwise there was only endless seas of sand.

Jack only stopped for the morning hours to collect some energy and try to rest in the sun and continued to advance around dusk. Time seemed meaningless and there was one instance when the troops almost caught him. He was almost at his end when he noticed a small cave covered by sand on all sides apart from one. When he managed to crawl inside to hide from the sun, he heard engine noises. He took strength and tried to blend in at the darkest, black part of the cave as much as he could. Fortunately the entrance hasn't been noticed so he could continue when the sun began to set. At least he could sleep a bit until the time came.

Jack knew that if he got captured and was to taken back again, he would die. To his luck one of the houses at the edge of town was an abandoned gas station. He was happy as can be, as never before. He immediately broke the shop window of the station with a rock and climbed through it to find something to eat. After finding some scraps and leftover chocolate bars, he heard a noise not so far away. He went back to the street where he realized that he was hearing the sound of a chopper.

He started running to find a new place to hide, but he knew he couldn't go back inside the station because that would be the first place they looked for him. Clever thinking from a guy who meant to be insane. It is obvious that he was not crazy, so why was he put away? He ran until he saw the veranda of a cottage some hundred meters away.

After that he jumped over the surrounding fence and ran for the front door. He couldn't stop thinking about whose property he had broken into. What if it was an old lady's or a young couple's with kids. He didn't want to scare anyone because he was totally sure his fame got in the city earlier than he did. He peeked through one of the windows to see if anyone was at home. What he saw was terrifying. He saw a woman with a rope around her neck, standing on a chair. It was clear what she was about to do.

Jack forced the door open in order to help her and he caught her right in the nick time. He took her head from the noose and as he held her, he looked into her eyes. What he saw was beauty, freedom and hope! The woman saw the same things in Jack's eyes as well and there had begun some unexplained vibration in the room. The two unfortunate souls began to chat and the woman asked the first questions:

'Why are you wearing striped clothes? Why did they lock you away?' - she asked.

'I am a convict from the asylum on the run. Aren't you afraid?'

'I was just about to commit suicide, I am only surprised why you didn't let me hang myself.'

'You are too pretty to die today...'

'Do you have a name?'

'Tell me yours first!'

'I am Jane, now you go ahead.'

'They know me by the name of Jack the Ripper.'

'Well if you are known by the same name like that butcher from London, you must be extremely dangerous.'

'First impressions can be deceiving.'

Right at that moment there was a knock on the door.

'This is the police, open the door!'

Jack looked terrified but the woman showed him to run to the back room and then she calmly went to open the front door.

She answered the door and Jack looked out from the room to see what was happening. He didn't hear anything but when Jane came back in his direction and there were no cops around, he was relieved.

'So you are mentally unstable, I see.'

'Why haven't you given me up to them?'

'Not until you tell me everything about you.'

Jack took a heavy breath:

'I was cheated out of my company by an attorney and when they came for me to take my property away, they saw that in my sorrow I have ripped apart all the newspaper articles dealing with my case in my room. They sued me like I was about to commit wilful murder and they locked me away because only an insane man would rip newspapers in his rage.'

'That is very sad indeed, and I guess the trial was rigged.'

'You are very clever, why would a gem like you commit suicide?'

'My husband left me with nothing else, but that old gas station down the road. That idiot left me for a younger broad.'

'Please accept my condolences.'

'How long have you been wandering?'

'For about two days, come to think of it I feel very hungry, but I am not thirsty at all.'

'Poor thing, let me make you something, there is some food still in the kitchen. It is interesting that you indeed look in very good shape for a man on the run in the desert.'

After that Jane was preparing some dinner for Jack while he was sitting on the veranda looking into the moonlight. The two continued their chat while the escapee was eating.

To be continued...