This challenge required the following elements: a cargo hold on a ship, a wheelchair and the genre is Historical Fiction
Charlie and Lou, 1969
She lay beneath a single bulb that hung from the ceiling. The nurse held the cup to her lips so she could swallow the pills. The smell of rubbing alcohol and salt air filled the room.
“Night, Louise,” she said and closed the door.
A whisper broke the silence.
“Lou. You awake?”
She searched the room with frightened eyes, thought the voices called her again.
His shaved head stuck through the open window.
“Hey, Lou,” his voice softened at the sight of her. She managed a half smile.
“I thought you were them again,” she said.
“No, Lou. It’s me. You know me,” he said and crawled inside.
“How’d you get out?” she asked, eyelids heavy.
“You know me, Lou. I have my ways.” He kissed her. “The only way we can make sure to leave this place for good, is if we leave this world.”
“I can’t go, Charlie,” she slurred.
“Why not?” He checked the hallway for nurses.
She wiggled her arms. “I’m tied.” Her eyes rolled back.
He pulled a pair of wire cutters from beneath his hospital gown.
“I got it,” he cut the cuff on her right wrist.
“What if we get caught, Charlie?”
“Shhhh-shh-shhhh, I ain’t letting nobody take you from me.You believe in me, Lou?” He whispered, jostling her to open her eyes. “You believe in me, girl?”
Footsteps slapped against the linoleum floor in the hall. He tucked the severed cuff together and slid under the hospital bed.
Shift change time.
The nurse entered, crossed the room, closed the window, checked Louise’s chart, and left. She’d be back in an hour. They’d have to make a lot of miles, fast. He cut the other wrist restraint.
“Ready, Baby?” He lifted her, threw her over his shoulder, opened the window and ducked out. Behind a row of shrubs, he changed into a stolen nurses uniform and lifted Louise into a waiting wheelchair.
After midnight the gates only opened once, for the sanitation department. He waited in the shadows. A spotlight swept the yard. The groaning truck arrived and the guard pushed open the barrier, took his clipboard to the driver and waited for his signature. Charlie had watched this scenario a thousand times from his third-floor bedroom. He knew exactly how many seconds the driver would risk away from his post. The rattle of the engine camouflaged the wheelchair crossing the lawn, traversing the driveway. He snuck alongside the truck and to its rear, into the shadow of pine trees lining the road.
“We did it, Lou,” he said, adrenaline overwhelming his heart, tears in his eyes. “My roommate told me all about it. First time ever, people are flying to the moon.”
She slumped over in the wheelchair as he pushed it along the rutted road.
“Won’t nobody be feeding us pills, no wrist ties, no razor blades.” He set her up again and kissed her wrist, the scar, like a little rubber fishing lure. “We just gotta make it to the cargo hold, right inside the main compartment. And I know we can, because I can get into anywhere if I set my mind to it. Right, Lou? Just a few more miles to Kennedy. I’m gonna carry you now, because of the sand,” he said. “Wheels and sand don’t mix. Sometimes I feel like that’s us, Lou. You know? Wheels and sand, always sinking. Until now. I guess every once in a while, it takes a rocket….”
At the end of the two-lane he waited. Cars sped past. He crossed the highway and ran into the swamp bordering the Space Center.
“I don’t like the dark,” she mumbled.
“It’s okay, Lou. We’re going to the moon. You and me. Nobody will tie you down, or call you crazy or lock you in a room, ever again. Guess what else, Lou? The sun shines all day for a month, on the moon.”
“Bring a gun?” she asked.
“Charlie, remember last time…?’
“Put me down, Charlie.” He stopped, stood her on the ground.
“Charlie, they’ll kill us…”
“Lou, first, I ain’t never gonna let anything happen to you. Never.” He cradled her face in his hands, pressed his lips to hers. “The way I see it, Lou, they already killed us.”
“You’re not on death row,” she slurred.
“Maybe I should’ve been.”
“Don’t…,” she whispered.
“I’d rather be dead than caged.” He crossed his hands behind his head, stared up at the almost full moon. “I ain’t crazy, Lou.”
She fainted and he caught her, threw her over his shoulder and ran deeper into the scrub brush, his feet slowed by the sandy soil.
Far off in the distance, sirens sounded, echoed all around him, he ran faster, until he reached the fence. He cut a hole and stepped through, still holding Louise.
In the clearing, the mammoth rocket stood, Apollo 11, positioned to launch the next day.
“Look, Lou,” he set her in the grass, held her face so she could see.
“Charlie…” she began.
But he put his mouth over hers. “Trust me, okay, Lou? Okay?” And she nodded. “Can you walk?” She nodded but couldn’t stand. He swept her up and ran, stumbling, toward the launch pad.
A spotlight swept over them. Charlie grabbed for his gun.
Sirens wailed. Louise screamed.Charlie threw her over his shoulder so he could run faster, up the steps that led to Apollo 11.
Ten police trained their guns on him.
But Charlie never looked back. “Lou, we did it! Just you and me.” He cradled her head in his hands.
Lou opened her eyes and was blinded by red lights. She called Charlie’s name, buried her head in his shoulder.
“You and me, Lou. We’re free….,”he whispered, bullets fired from every weapon pointed toward them.
And in the shadow of the space shuttle, 283,900 miles from the waxing crescent moon, they left forever, her head still cradled in his arms.