We ran down the prison-like dormitory hallway, under the surveillance cameras, past the security guards, and nearly shattered the glass doors. We meant to be quiet, but running for dear life can be loud.
We jumped over the mud and leapt behind the high grass and slid down the red clay to the trail that wrapped around the lake. We sprinted in the dark, nearly tripping over all the thick tree roots and scraping our faces on all the loose branches.
We heard someone scream and dropped to the ground and held our breath, still as the winter rocks surrounding our already freezing bodies.
“OH HELL NAH! YA’LL BETTA NOT BE RUNNIN ON MY SHIFT!!!”
A flashlight shone through the trees. The beam of light inched closer.
“HE SEES US!”
I tripped over Jon’s shoelace and nearly knocked us both down. My lungs were so sore from deep breathing that by the time we got to the wilderness shed, I could barely stand.
Ramsey grabbed a heavy rock and took a step toward the shed, ready to catapult it through the
WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?
THERES NO TIME MAN, LETS GOO!!!!
WITH NO FOOD?!
But it was too late, we had all started running again.
Ramsey dropped the rock… “Ahh fuck it” and darted with fury after us to a small trailhead opening that led into the dark and vast Appalachian Mountains.
We weaved in and out of trees in the pitch black until suddenly, I start falling….
Am I dead?
I heard a voice echo above me. It was Jon. He was laughing. Then I saw Ramsey stick his hand out to help me up.
I looked around. We were at the bottom of a twenty-foot embankment. Fucked, but also officially safe from Hidden Lake Academy… There was NO way they’d find us now. All we had to do was somehow find our way out of this forest. We knew if we walked straight we would hit Camp Wahsega Road… but which way was straight?
FASTFORWARD 4 HOURS
It was 1AM.
The cold was eating my bones down. The wind blew right through my jeans and frosted my thighs. My ears were frozen. Our hearts were galloping inside our chest.
Then, there were strange noises….
A baby shrieked. Someone was beating it.
Ramsey grabbed a stick. So I grabbed one too. Then the sound of animals brushing through the dry leaves all around us.
Jon and I stepped in a creek soaking our feet. Our shoes and socks were drenched. My foot went numb immediately then started tingling. It was hard to walk.
THE ROAD, I SEE IT!
Our blood boiled with excitement as we carried our bodies to the only road that existed deep in the Appalachians of Dahlonega, Georgia…
Camp Wahsega Road.
But then Jon stopped.
We looked to our right…
The “Welcome To Hidden Lake Academy” sign was only twenty feet away from us, which meant we had only made it a mile or so down the mountain…
We had a long way till safety. We were now in clear sight, back in danger. The sheriff might drive by at any moment.
Headlights gleamed ahead of us.
We jumped in the ditch that ran alongside the road and laid still. The lights flew past us. We got up and ran as far as our legs would take us.
FASTFORWARD 5 HOURS.
The sun crept her head out.
There was nothing in sight except for a deserted auto repair shop.
Shit. No ditches to jump in. There was a tin barn, so we ducked for cover.
Jon didn’t move.
He was in the middle of the street…
WHAT THE FUCK YOU DOING JON?!
“Fuck it man”, he mumbled.
The lights… are those lights?
Then came the loud siren and a blinding spotlight.
It was the Lumpkin County Sheriff.
”You boys ready to go back to school?”
They put shackles on our legs and handcuffed our wrists and chucked us in the back of the sheriff’s car. We drove a mile down the street to the station and waited in a small holding room.
Outside, the sound of a tire scraping the pebbles of the dirt parking lot was heard and headlights shone
threw the police station blinds. A heavy truck door slammed shut.
In came Scary Gary with his huge beard, trucker hat, thick flannel shirt, wrangler jeans, bloodshot eyes, and angry creased forehead.
They unshackled our feet and put us in the back of Scary Gary’s truck. He didn’t utter a word the whole drive back down Camp Wahsega road.
We made a sharp right and drove past the “Welcome To Hidden Lake Academy” sign and up the steep incline of Hidden Lake Road.
Jim Sir waited in front of the administration building as we pulled up and took us into a large empty room and made us each sit on the floor facing a different corner.
My eyes kept closing with fatigue but my heart was pounding.
Another door opened.
Somebody quietly walked in with meticulous footsteps.
DON’T YOU DARE MOVE YOUR HEADS! YOU KEEP STARING AT THE WALL!
His mysterious boots paced all around me, like he might kick me in the ribs at any second.
GET THE FUCK UP!
And so started the worst eight days of my entire life as his voice softened to a sinister, “Welcome back kiddies,” and led us down the trail to behind the Hidden Lake.