Willow’s bare feet pounded onto the rich, country soil as she ripped her way through branches, vines, and roots. Thunder shook the sky like an enormous earthquake, lightning streaked and illuminated the murky clouds which hung heavily as if holding a great burden and the wind whipped through the evergreen trees. The first few drops of water plummeted towards the ground, followed by the deluge of rain. The dense foliage in the canopy inhibited the cascade but permitted some of the desperate droplets to pass through, providing abundant life for the Earth. All the while, the forest hummed and buzzed with nightlife, welcoming the weekly downpour as if it were a friendly neighbour.

Holding her satchel above her head to keep off the rain, Willow dashed in the opposite direction of the nightmare, her past, her childhood. Fresh leaves and moss cushioned her feet as she swept past eddying torrents of water. She took in the colossal redwoods which towered the forest like skyscrapers. Her eyes swiftly darted between the concealed reality, absorbing what she believed for many years, an illusion. The air gave off the pleasant aroma of damp earth and freshwater as the redwoods whispered secrets of the past.

THUD! Willow was sent sprawling after abruptly tripping over a root that gnarled out from the soil like a claw of a demon. Bruises dotted her exposed arms and face and blood dripped from a shallow cut on her leg. A high-pitched screech from the warden tore through the echoing rhythm of the night creatures, bringing Willow back to her senses. She knew search parties would be sent to capture and return her to the orphanage. Gingerly standing, she propped herself against a redwood, ripped a piece of fabric off her pants, and frantically tied it around the cut.

Willow grabbed her satchel and made a run for it. Her injured leg preventing her from going at her usual speed; she ended up taking desperate strides instead. Fireflies fed the dying light, illuminating the way for the orphan. The temperature dropped; cold washed over Willow making her shiver and her breath come out icy. Bitter fingers grasped her heart; only to be recoiled by the infinite warmth.

The high-wire fence leisurely came into view, towering four metres into the darkness. Barbwire tipped the gruesome fence and a repertoire of vines entwined it like fingers reaching out to freedom. She dragged herself to the barrier and firmly gripped the thick vines, hauling herself up onto the fence.

Willow clambered up the vines, taking light and easy steps to maintain balance. Eventually, she’d reached the barbed wire which was tangled in the mess of vines. Willow cautiously stepped over the barbed wire and descended the other side, jumping when she was halfway down. She lay there for a few seconds, eyes closed, catching her breath. She was free. The chains gripping her down had snapped. Free. Willow’s eyes flapped open as the world began to take on every colour.