Eddie didn't sleep in a bunk in his cell. He slept in a frying pan. Each night in his vain search for rest he was roasted alive, tossing and turning, the back of his head dripping sweat, waking in horror. In a place where men had committed so many unpardonable acts, it was Eddie who had the most trouble sleeping. But he was at a loss to explain his peculiarly rancid soul.
Prison itself, of course, is torture. In Texas, there's not even air conditioning, the hate is so great for our fellow man. Criminals caging criminals. The wardens and the guards are desensitized as the self-loathing masses turn a blind eye. Basically, you're thrown into the bottom of a well and left to die, day by day. It's in this way we say we will fix the world. Good luck with that, assholes.
Eddie had to believe his cage certainly was part of his sleeping problem. Another part was that there are no secrets in prison as everyone knew of his deeply inflicted nightmares. Desperate for moral rationales, any weakness is preyed upon and used against you by surrounding prisoners. A murderer even referred to Eddie as "That weird dude." That only turned up the flames of his nightly broiling. Eddie's time was divided between agony and the fear of coming agony. He prayed for death but death would not come.
So he had nothing left to lose. Eddie's drug charges were nonviolent so he had an easier time of gaining trust of the guards. That's what allowed a chance in a million to come his way. He found a forgotten guard uniform in the laundry. Using that he could engineer an escape. Miles from civilization, he was nonetheless prepared to make whatever run he needed through the east Texas woods. He laid down pepper on his trail for the dogs sure to follow. His determination was not to be denied.
That first night out in the woods he slept no better, nightmares of enraged pursuers stringing up their captured victim. Getting out of prison was only the first step to escape. Eddie also knew from countless stories he'd heard that 99% of the time recapture didn't come from stellar police work but from simply monitoring known contacts of the escapee. That mistake would not be made here.
At least he had some direction in his life for once. As a low level pot dealer Eddie had just drifted along, paying his rent and growing his hair, trying to find a way to survive outside a system that suffocates his soul. It was true he didn't see much future in it. He never had the ambition to make enough money to achieve financial independence. Eddie was just waiting to get caught now that he looked back on it. It was during that time his sleep troubles had begun. The more he tried to push down his fears in the day the stronger they raged back up in the night.
The actual physical running felt good. His head was clear and his objective indisputable. But he would need some luck. The first bit came with finding some drying clothes on a clothes line behind a rural house. Eddie thought that only happened in movies but was glad to find out otherwise. What did only happen in movies, however, was having the clothes actually fit but he'd make do. He didn't discard his prison garb, though. Not safe yet. "No mistakes!"
Eddie chose to go north to Dallas, not south to Houston. Houston was closer and that's where they'd concentrate their search. If his prison clothes were found that would be a clear tip off of his misdirection. It wasn't until he reached the city of Crockett did he find a dumpster where he could safely dispose of his old garments. Now he had to figure out how to traverse the 150 miles to Dallas.
Without help, Eddie understood for the first time the true odds against him without ID or a legitimate address. Luckily, there were enough unscrupulous building contractors looking for day labor he was able to scrounge up some money. He couldn't risk formal transportation like a bus so he hung around a coffee shop in the mornings hoping to find a ride northward. His luck held in finding a rancher hauling a horse to up near Gun Barrel City, about 45 miles from Dallas.
But the man wasn't blind as they thundered down the back roads. "You're an escapee, aren't ya?" The crusty cowboy had a huge grin on his face like he'd just gotten away something slick. Eddie tried to protest but the man knew what he knew. "Don't worry. I don't give a shit. I think it's fun fucking with the law. They done fucked with me enough, waitin' outside bars just to trip ya up. Fuck 'em. I'm glad to help."
Eddie explained his predicament, telling his life story. One thing he left out, however, was the terrifying night sweats that even murderers mocked. He felt that sharing that aspect of his life would end any possible help he might get - and so far he'd had an incredible run of luck.
"God is looking out for ya, kid. You were lucky advertising you wanted a ride when we's supposed to be on the lookout for hitchin' escapees. They'll turn you in in a heartbeat back in Crockett. Great town but people there got no use for prisoners. You can breathe the fresh air now. Yessir, from what you told me God wants you to escape."
"If God wanted me to escape that's the first good thing the Great Saboteur In The Sky has ever wanted for me."
"What you talkin' about? God only wants good things for you."
"It's certainly pleasant to think so. That has not been my experience. To me, we're born to die."
"God's lookin' out for ya like He does everybody. Just look at this run of luck you're havin'. I can introduce you to a guy who'll give you a job no questions asked. You can start your whole life over!"
"I have to admit the idea of God wanting me to live is overpowering. I'm so tired of fighting headwinds every fucking day of my life. I've never seen a way out, not for a single second. It truly is blessed to think I've been wrong. It's like a giant weight off my shoulders if I can trust God. I've always had a horrible attitude."
"Now you see the light! Don't be making life so hard on ya."
"This ranch we're going to, you work on it?"
"I own it. Inherited it from my Daddy. Life is good!"
Six months later Eddie found himself washing dishes in his evening split shift in the back of the Yellow Rose Café. Life was hell. He was paid off the books just enough to survive, yet could gain no driver license and no way to re-enter legitimate society. His only course of escape would be to return to drug dealing but this time go all the way until he had enough money to get out forever. Eddie was not ready to do that. True, he'd not been caught but his pursuers hung over his head in permanent menace. He slept worse than ever.
The cowboy (who knew the restaurant owner) made his way back to see Eddie.
"Hey, how ya doin'? Still footloose and fancy free, I see, still livin' in the free world!"
"Yeah, what's free about it? I'll be stuck doing slave labor for life. Out of prison my life is even more of a lie than when I was in it. Fuck God. I should have known better than to believe that Cocksucker would ever want to help me. Life: the harder you try the more you die. It's better just to be dead."