Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2019 finalist, Alexander Lozano! Alexander finished 45h grade this past school year. The story he submitted is called “Run” 

I woke up in my dust filled room half awake and half asleep. I could see the dim morning sunlight coming through my window and hear the faint sound of my brother flipping the pages of his 1998 Fantastic Four comic book. My name is James Freeman, and I am 16 years old. I live with my family, my brother Josh, my mom, my dad, and my pet gerbil named Bob in an abandoned Boeing 747 during a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. The war had started two years prior when a Russian spy released secret government files onto the internet. The president, who was known for his strategies, declared war and put a $50,000,000 bounty on the spy’s head. The U.S. needed more soldiers, and I had been wanting to enroll for boot camp.

My mom stood up and, in an infuriated tone, announced, “You are not going to enroll into the army! Nobody in this family will!” I disagreed, so that night I’d planned to escape.

When the clock struck six, my family gathered around the table and we had dinner—microwavable ramen noodles with spicy shrimp. When my mom called me to the front of the plane, I didn’t expect much, but when I walked into the cockpit, I was met with the aroma of ramen noodles mixed with a blast of steam. We all sat down and started eating. My brother couldn’t handle the shrimp, so he took it out. After I was excused from the dinner table, I went to my room located in the plane’s back aisles. The first thing I did was look for the nearest exits and noticed that there were two exits in my room. I planned to leave at midnight because if my calculations were right, then by the time I got to the facility it would be opening. At around eleven o’ clock I started packing my things. I packed lightly because it would be a long journey. All I packed was a book, water, camping food, and Bob. I usually carried Bob in his cage, but the cage didn’t fit in my backpack, so I used the packaging from the ramen noodles we had for dinner and used some toilet paper to cushion him.
At midnight I stealthily snuck out the door. I decided to go out the exit on the right because I was pretty sure that way led to the boot camp. I didn’t usually go out of the house because my mom said I would get shot, so when I opened the door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All the trees that were surrounding my house the day we arrived two years ago were going down in flames. I realized this had to be the result of a bomb. I scanned around outside the plane and surely enough, I spotted the remains of a bomb. I knew that if I wanted to go to boot camp, I would have to run through the fire. As fast as I could, I ran through that forest because my life depended on it. I was sweating, but I couldn’t stop running because of the raging fire trailing behind me. That was the most scared I ever felt in my life. I dared not look back, as I thought the fire would absorb me like soil absorbing water—I would be gone without a trace. After gruesome hours of traveling through the forests and cornfields, I finally reached a cleared-out path. Then, out of nowhere, an old man, wearing shaggy blue jeans and a red leather jacket, pushed me into the shadows and whispered that he would help me get to the facility. I said that I didn’t need help getting to the camp, but he insisted. After a couple minutes debating, I finally agreed to let him take me to the camp. I trusted him. Halfway to the facility I wondered why there was just an old man waiting in the forest. I asked him, but I heard no response, so I just assumed that he didn’t hear me. I started to get suspicious, but I didn’t think about it too much.

We got very close to the facility, and I said that I could walk from there. He asked if I could point to the facility, and I pointed to a large brick building about ten yards in front of us. He started to explain that the building I was pointing to was an abandoned factory that used to make clothing but was run down when the war started. He said raccoons now live there all year long. He told me that the real facility was 17 miles down a hill. I was extremely disappointed that it was so far away. I trusted him, so I sighed heavily and prepared for a long journey. The man, with a mischievous look on his face (might have just been my imagination) said if we hurried, we would make it at sunup, but I explained that we couldn’t run 17 miles in 30 minutes. Then he walked into the forest and emerged a couple seconds later with something I didn’t even know existed anymore. He walked out pulling with him an orange Harley Davidson motorcycle. I asked him where he got it, and he said that he owned it before the war started. He pulled out a helmet and gave it to me. I asked him where his helmet was, and he said he didn’t have one. He told me to hop on and I did. I was overjoyed, but also very confused on why an old man would come out of nowhere and offer me a ride. I couldn’t wait to get to boot camp. Then he said to hold on tight, but before I got on the motorcycle, I put Bob in my backpack and whispered, “Good luck,” to him just quiet enough for the man not to hear me. I sat behind the man, and he asked, “Ready?” and I responded, “Ready as I’ll ever be.” Then he turned on the motorcycle, the engine made a loud revving noise, and we were off and away into the midnight sky.

At sunup we finally arrived at our destination. I got off the motorcycle and thanked him. He said, “You’re welcome.” On my way to the gate I checked on Bob, and he was holding up. When I walked up, I came face to face with a guard, tall sturdy and very muscular. He asked what my badge number was, and I said that I wanted to join the army. I wondered if he got suspicious that all of a sudden, I wanted to join the army? Would he see or confiscate Bob? He searched my backpack, and he asked me about the cup with Bob in it, but I just said that it was my pet and he could be calm. The guard told me to follow him. The camp had a basic layout, a big green yard, a thin hallway to access the sleeping quarters, and a fence to separate the yard from the sleeping quarters. I saw a flag on the training yard and realized I enrolled for the wrong country. The old man in the forest led me to the wrong camp. The Russian flag waved in the wind. I lost my breath as the leader of the army walked past me. I was infuriated that the old man had led me to the wrong camp. I wanted to leave but I was too tired, so I decided to stay for a week and then escape.

After a couple minutes of walking around we came to the room I was sharing with about ten other soldiers, who were big and tall, but nothing compared to the guard. I realized that everybody at the camp had a Russian accent but only one third of the camp spoke Russian, so all I had to do was to talk with an artificial Russian accent. There was only one other boy in my dorm room that didn’t have a Russian accent, it was a young boy who looked around the same age as my brother. I slowly started to approach him trying to get a chance to talk with him, but before I could a bell rang, and a loud voice yelled, “Attention!” Everybody stood in line with perfect posture, so I followed their lead. As soon as I got in position, a tall muscular man walked in front of us. He turned and looked at us and introduced himself as Sergeant Maxim, who was huge and had more muscles than the guard and the kids combined. He explained that for the next six months we would learn to fight for the Russian Army. He then asked for questions, but nobody dared raise their hand. He asked us to follow him, so we followed him in a single-file line outside into a grass yard. He took us outside where we would be training. I didn’t expect it to be so hard but the first thing he said was, “Drop and give me twenty. Last one runs a mile.” I was relieved when I finished because I wasn’t the last one. The last one was a boy who looked like he was 14, and he took off for the mile run. I never saw him again. After four painful days of training, all I wanted was to get out of this place. They would wake you up at four in the morning and then made you sprint ten miles. You couldn’t get water until you finish shooting training. We would get a five-minute lunch break and then they would make us go back to training. We would go to sleep at 10:00 pm, and every day, a repeat of the process. I came into the dorm every day, and I was drenched in sweat. I felt the beads of sweat rolling down my cheek like rain coming down my face in a storm. I decided I would escape that night because by the end of the first day I couldn’t breathe.

This was my second escape in less than a week. This time I planned carefully. All the Trainers, who never payed attention unless it was during the day, switched shifts at 12 o’clock pm. This transition lasted for at least ten minutes. I planned to disguise as a trainer and pretend that I was going off shift. They would let me out if they believed me. At twelve I tiptoed out of my room. Before I left, I checked on Bob. He looked hungry so I gave him a little bit of the banana I had got at dinner that evening. I planned to eat it on my journey, but he looked desperate and he was shaking. I was worried about him. I slowly walked out of my room, and no one noticed me. I made my way to the front gate. There were so many guards. Should I turn back? But I was already in line with the other guards to exit the facility. When I got to the front of the line, I started to sweat.” Where are you going?” asked the guard.

It was a matter of seconds before it turned into a foot chase through the woods. I was running for about two hours when I got out of the sight of the guards. I had to make a split-second decision to stay in the forest and camp out. I was glad that I had camping food or else I would’ve died. I made a fire striking two pieces of wood together and I cooked my dinner. It wasn’t the best meal of my life, but for camping food it was pretty good quality. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning to Russian guards yelling in the distance. I remembered what happened the previous day, and I stood up and ran to my house.

On my way to the house I noticed my brother, wearing shaggy clothes that were full of dirt, I grabbed him and told him we needed to run. I saw the confusion on his face. While we were running, I asked him why he was here, and he said he was looking for me. I got tired and then I heard yelling not too far in the distance. I arrived at our house where I was surrounded by thousands of Russian soldiers. I rushed inside and looked out of my window. I could hear them barking orders like: “Guns ready!” Or: “Fire!” I noticed Mom and Dad were not there and I asked where they were. Josh replied that they were looking for me in the forest. I was filled with two emotions, anger, because they went on a dangerous expedition, and fear, that they would get captured by the Russian soldiers. I told Josh that I will go outside and negotiate with the Russian soldiers and that he should stay put and be quiet. Before I went out, I grabbed some emergency bombs from Dad’s room. What I didn’t tell Josh was that I wouldn’t negotiate and instead I would fight. I threw one bomb and it exploded, and I took out one third of the men. I finished them off with the other two bombs, and I walked back inside. When Josh asked what just happened, I responded by saying, “We are temporary champions.”

I am tired and worn out, but the war isn’t over. I will enroll for the army but for now we can call it a victory. I have learned a lot from this experience, but one thing I will always remember is to check my sources and not trust old men that offer to take me somewhere. Before I go and find my mom and dad, I tell Josh the story, who is filled with different emotions, and it was fun to watch them change. After my storytelling, I start my journey into the remains of the forest.

My name is Brody, the great grandson of James Freeman. My great grandpa, a military hero to many, was tricked by an old man. He later joined the fight with the U.S. Army. He was shot behind enemy lines. It is the year 3171, and I live on a military base actively serving for the U.S. Army. We’re still in the war with Russia. We have a secret alliance with France and Thailand. Russia has an alliance with Japan. In two days, we are planning to have a final battle. The armies of France and Thailand will be hiding in the trees. By the time you are reading this, I am going to be dead. I hope that we win the war. I would dedicate the victory to my great grandfather and his brother. The times in the military were fun, but my time has come and it’s the end of the long journey.

This is the end.

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