The darkness was thick and suffocating, like a heavy blanket had been thrown on the world under a nightlight of stars. He had to get over the wall, had to get across the border before they could spot him. If they did he, they, would be sent back- or worse. Melano was a simple man, and like all simple men he had accrued his debts. But in Texas, debts were fatal.
There was a time, a hundred years ago when phones sat in pockets and storms rarely destroyed cities, where the very same wall kept his great grandfather from crossing into the Texan desert for life and for sanctuary. Now he was going the other way, a full circle to escape the poison in a sea of evil that covered the land under false promises, drugs, and debt. America was lost, and now lives must be fled.
He slammed his ice axe into the old concrete, hardened by a century of sun yet black under the moonless skies. He pulled upwards, grabbed a few good holds, and yanked the pick out for another go. It wasn’t long, by virtue of his larger frame, before he could see the top. A small line signified where the darkness ended and an infinite sea of stars began. He was almost there, almost free from the heathenish creatures in Texas.
He hadn’t come alone, there was Jim and Bill from Huston, and their families. Bill was an easy sight with his pale skin, so he and the wife and daughter wore black coats in the silent desert-night cold. Jim, as dark as the wall itself, had to be called for every few minutes on the way just to make sure he and his family were still in company.
But at the wall, Melano was alone- they were all each of them alone, and once they had crossed there would be no return.
There was a scraping sound. He was at the peak now, the rest of them had just gotten over and into the night. The sky was stars. There was a loud THUD of a body hitting the ground. Mexico was right there, freedom was before them, the drug cartels, the debt, the human trafficking, it was over now. She was screaming.
“No, Paula! Oh mah gawd No! Be quai-et, hunybear, they’ll hear yew!” Bill begged. She was only seven. That fall must have hurt. The sound certainly did. It bled through Melano’s ears a boiling mess.
“DADDY IT HURTS!”
“Sweetie, ya gotta git back up and quit walin’, git back up this wall!”
She kept screaming. I don’t need this, I need to go, I need to be free. They’d be sent back no matter who heard them, they just had to go and get moving now.
“Shut up that chai-ald or I’ll do it for yew!” Melano snapped. He saw nothing, but could feel the stunned stares of all of them. At the wall they were no longer a team, at the wall they were each alone. They all knew that. “Paula! Yew need to be quai-et!” Snapped Bill through gritted teeth and pain.
She kept screaming. There was a light-from the Texas side- that shone so bright it burned at his retinas. He cursed.
Jim’s voice was quivering “You’ve got thirty seconds before they shoot at us Bill!” He pushed his family over to the other side with reassuring words. “Daddy’ll take care of this ya hear?”
The light was emitting voices, the guttural speech of their executors. “Paula git up here naow!” The girl writhed on the ground, illuminated by the new light. Her legs broken. “Bill, Jim, Georgia, git yerselves over that ledge now y’hear?” He didn’t like this, “I’ll git her over, now go!” He ordered, but they hesitated, “Naow! B’for yer whole family is raped, git over!”
Under muffled tears, they were over and off into the dark. He looked up at the sky, and took a deep breath, then over to the lights. There were more of them now, and vehicles revved through the sand. We’re each on our own here, he thought.
There was a gun shot, and he was over and into the dark. There were two more as the screams were taken from grief-stricken parents.
He was in the dark, but he had made his exodus. He was free from Texas, free from hell.