David had been locked up for impersonating a philosopher. He’d told an older man that he should follow his desires, no matter how ridiculous those desires might seem. After all, the man was in his sixties, and it seemed to David that the older man, Nathan, should be able to do whatever he wanted at that time of life.
But after giving this advice, David had just moved on – forgetting Nathan and forgetting what he’d said. However, for Nathan the conversation had become a kind of existential touchstone. According to his family, he started pursuing a maniacal interest in the outdoors.
He never returned from one of his trips. He was seventy by that time, and his family had given up trying to get him to just settle down and stay home. They reported his disappearance, and the authorities launched an investigation to find him. After about a week, they found his body several miles from the road. Not exactly the backcountry, but not easily accessible either. The autopsy revealed that he’d eaten some poisonous berries.
In the aftermath, the family was outraged and wondered who’d put the ridiculous idea in Nathan’s head in the first place. Eventually, they were able to narrow it down to David.
Apparently, Nathan had decided that David was some sort of guru or visionary or something. Unbeknownst to David, he was the head of a cult of that included Nathan and no one else. And he definitely had a philosophy degree.
Of course, David had no recollection of ever saying such a thing. He barely remembered Nathan at all. But that was what Nathan had believed about him.
And the family believed he’d said it. So did the judge. And so, David was convicted of trying to pass himself off as some sort of philosophical expert. And he was convicted of playing a part in the old man’s death.
Complicating matters was the fact that David did feel pretty terrible about what had happened. He couldn’t remember making any claims about himself, but he did remember talking to the old man and giving some bad advice. He hadn’t thought it was bad advice at the time, but it clearly hadn’t actually worked very well for Nathan.
But bad as he felt, after a year in prison, David decided that he’d had enough. It was time for him to get away. It wasn’t a high security location, and with a little ingenuity and some investigation he found a way to get into the ventilation system and then outside.
It was night, which was good because they were on a wide plain and during the day he would have been visible for miles. But because it was already dark, he could run without worrying too much about being seen.
He just took off across the fields. He saw a light up ahead of him as he ran. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew he had to run toward something. Since the light was all that he could see, he ran towards it. When he got close, he found that it was a cluster of farm equipment. Somebody had hung a light on it to work by and left without turning it off.
He decided to wedge himself into a rusty crevice to rest. It was already starting to get light at the horizon, so he knew that it wasn’t going to be a long rest. When morning came, he’d start running again, but he’d had enough of trying to run in the dark. He’d stumbled a few times, and almost twisted his ankle in what he assumed was a gopher hole.
He dozed for a while, and when he woke it was fully light. He knew it was time to go. The prison was still visible in the distance, but it was a few miles behind him. Far enough away that they would never be able to see him from one of those towers.
Even so, there was a dark blue jacket hung on a piece of metal and he took it. If someone did happen to see him, they’d just see a farm worker in a blue jacket rather than an escaped prisoner.
After he’d put the jacket on, he started to walk. He had decided that he was too tired from running and if anyone noticed him, it would make him stand out. And while he was more likely to see tangles and gopher holes than in the dark, he could still really injure himself running. Walking was the way to go.
After walking for a half hour, he saw the church on the horizon. He started heading toward it. Another couple of hours of walking and he’d reached it.
It had been abandoned and when he pulled the door open, he could see that one corner of the building had collapsed. But all the pews were still in their places. He took a seat and looked forward at the bare platform where the altar had been.
As he sat, he noticed that parts of the platform were missing. Then he heard voices from outside and without even thinking, he ran forward and went through one of the larger holes in the floor. He adjusted himself until he was sure that he couldn’t be seen. Unless the put a head down there, they’d never be able to see that he was there.
He heard the door open and what sounded like three men came inside.
“I saw him coming this way,” said one.
“But you never actually saw him going inside, right?”
The first man admitted that he hadn’t. David’s guess was that it was a couple of guards from the prison, and a bystander that had seen him and called the guards.
“When I went out to work, my jacket was missing. I’d just figured that the wind had taken it, but then I saw a guy walking through my fields with my jacket on. That’s when I got in contact with you guys to see if you were missing anybody.”
“And this is the only structure out this way?”
“Well, if he walks in that direction for another day, he’ll get to the truck stop on the highway. I’ll drive over and let them know to be on the lookout so if he shows up, they’ll know to give you a call.”
With that, they took a quick look around and then left. There wasn’t much to look at it in the old church. They didn’t even bother to come up on the platform, let alone check the floorboards.
When they had left, David pulled himself out of his hiding spot. He knew that he would need to start going a different direction when he started walking again. He also knew that they were on his tail, and that he would need to avoid any truck stops that he came to.
He didn’t know exactly what time it was, but he looked out the window and the sun was high. He estimated it was around noon. He decided that he should wait until dark to start walking again. The farmer would be watching for him in the daylight. He thought about ditching the jacket, but he figured that it would be fine in the dark.
And while he waited for the sun to go down, he started praying. He didn’t really know what to do, so he said the Lords Prayer. He remembered it from the year or so when he was young and they’d all gone to church. Then he thanked God for the great good luck of overhearing the guards, but not getting caught. David still didn’t know if he really even believed, but he felt like he should really be thanking someone.