Charles Drake, Career Escapist

The man in the bright orange jumpsuit moved through knee-high swamp water that sucked at his legs like rotten molasses. Dried blood painted grim swaths across his belly and gleamed darkly in the moonlight. Every arduous step sent white-hot nails of furious pain shooting through his chest, and sweat plastered his rough-cut hair to his tall brow. Between each ragged inhale he uttered curses that would cause even the hardest of his former convict brethren to wince.

Rest called to him, flashing lightning-bolt fireworks that burst through the exhaustion vignetting his eyes. A gnarled hand caught a passing tree and he stared at it until he recognized the rough tattoos carved into the knuckles as his own.

Splashes echoed through the chilly air and a hoarse voice called from somewhere behind. "Where the fuck are we, Drake?"

Drake pressed his burning forehead to the back of his hand. Shivers wracked his wide shoulders like sobs and he sucked thirstily at the cool night air. "I don't know," he said. "I never did spend much time in the goddamn swamps."

The other man, dressed in a similar but unbloodied orange jumpsuit, pulled even with Drake. "We're gonna end up as food for 'gators, mark my words," he said.

"Just don't step in any nests and you'll be fine."

"We shoulda stuck with the rest of them."

"There are much easier ways to commit suicide."

Drake took a long, sober look at the other man. His vision cleared and all the pain of the past twelve hours melted away, dribbling down his quivering thighs and joining the black waters at his throbbing feet. His eyes positively gleamed in the dark, and like a hungry cat stalking his prey he licked a dry tongue across his chapped lips.

"You're about my size, ain't you?"

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