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Old 12-18-2011, 02:37 AM
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Tau (Offline)
Solemn Simulacrum
 
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Default Runner by reggman99

Runner


A blanket of grey to smother the sun; a chill wind stripping the air from my lungs, and I felt like freedom. A few feet ahead of me she jogged, a tiny beauty wrapped in a neon green over-shirt, one shoulder fashionably bared, black running shorts, and sneakers. Iíd watched her in the beginning, admiring the shape of her, the way she moved, the rhythmic dance of her ponytail. No one would have blamed me, but when she glanced my way, there was hardness in her eyes and the set of her shoulders which skewered my lustful thoughts. My mind settled, focusing once more on the crunch of gravel beneath my shoes and the slow fires building within my muscles and chest.

She led me on, an emerald beacon in the grey gloom, and I followed gratefully. Silent homes came and went, our wavy images reflected in their darkened windows. Every so often I would glance behind us for no reason I can gather. I saw nothing and so I ran on.

After a time we made a sudden right, veering away from the still houses and the road down a hidden dirt path. It felt like dropping out of the world, like slipping inside yourself. The air was sharp there. Sound seemed to carry further, clearer. Bare-limbed trees and sad, twiggy bushes edged the trail, choking it ever narrower. I slowed, fearing I might twist an ankle on some unseen root or crag or pit as around me the grey dullness sank further toward a thick, charcoal twilight.

I wrestled my eyes away from the shadowed ground at the sound of pounding steps. Several feet ahead now and steadily pulling away from me, my guide was racing across overgrown brush littering the path. An unexplainable apprehension surged through me as I watched her recede, goose bumps dotting my skin. Despite my hesitation, I quickened my pace, fearing abandonment much more than injury. My strides longer, it took little for me to cut the distance. Huffing raggedly, I burst from the hidden trail returning to the paved road and the houses.

I saw them then.

They scuttled behind her, shadowy and noiseless. It was impossible to make them out fully. Night had settled in and they seemed to swim in and out of the darkness. Light from the streetlamps made them even harder to see, like coiling mist or half-formed thought.

They followed her, pursued her wildly, hungrily. I heard a strange, sad noise when the closest reached out to her. She never looked back, but by the way she leaned forward, pumping more speed into her stride, I knew she was aware of their presence.

I think itís important to understand, as nightmarish as this all sounds, I was not afraid. Itís hard to explain, but there was no malice coming from them, just an overwhelming sense of wanting. Drawing as close as possible, I reached out for the nearest shadow, intending to snatch it from the pack and cast it aside. In what I can only describe as fitting for the circumstances, however, my hands slid past its skin, closing on nothing at all. From fingertip to wrist, I felt nothing but bitter cold. It seeped into my skin, my bones, and with a jolt it spread throughout my body. Finally it reached my mind, my thoughts, and I understood.

I drifted. I heard voices; a relentless tide, layered one atop the other. They fought desperately for her attention, screaming, pleading and whispering. Their words were nonsensical, composed of wild desires. Some spoke in the voices of children, incessantly repeating her name over and over again. Others were deeper, older, quietly speaking of things I could not, or was not meant to understand. There were those, deeper into the pack, wrapped in a silence so dense and meaningful I longed to shield her heart as well as my own. And somewhere near the center, something turned to me. It was darker than the rest, true dark, like the black when you close your eyes. It had no desires. It was content merely to saunter along. Whatever it had once coveted, it had already taken long ago.

I stumbled, slipping on loose gravel and once more the neighborhood surrounded me. Catching my balance, I made to continue, to help her somehow when against my neck I felt a frozen touch. More and more settled against my skin. I was immobilized by shock and then a familiar weight I could never begin to explain collapsed upon me. It was not physical, I can say that much. It seemed to sink into my chest, my vision; my very soul. I cried out, fighting and exhausting myself, but whatever strength I needed I had none of it. I closed my eyes and prepared to let go.

ďRun.Ē

When my eyes snapped open again she was there, filling my vision. She reached behind me, grasping at my assailant. I watched her eyes widen, shining oddly beneath the street lamps. She stared into me, filled with heartbreaking empathy. Over her shoulder, her own shadows swarmed. They fell against her and she grimaced, her skin paling. She staggered and I caught her arm and from the deep corners we normally hide from ourselves, I found the strength to rise. Together we stood, surrounded by our dark torments. I stared desperately into her eyes, and she into mine, and then as one we turned and we ran.

We ran hard and we ran fast. We ran for moments which stretched into forever. My lungs spun air to flame. My heart clenched, crushing my chest, and still I ran. Above me, stars burned white hot in the night and I ran to them. Beside me I heard her panting harshly. Between clenched teeth she hissed, ďRun!Ē and I have no idea which one of us it was meant for.

When I feared the fire in my muscles would consume me completely I saw the house where our journey began. Moments later we careened to a stop in the driveway, sucking in lungfuls of air while holding our stitching sides together. I turned to my companion. There were tears in her eyes. She held my gaze for a second or two before lowering her head self consciously. Eventually she turned, looking down the street we had just travelled. I lingered on her briefly before doing the same.

Under a distant streetlight they stood, silently watching. One by one, they turned and slunk back into the night until only the darkest one, the one that had turned to me earlier was left behind. It remained for many more heartbeats, motionless and indistinct. Finally it lifted what Iím sure was an arm and waved a farewell and then it too was gone. I turned back to her, knowing the goodbye had not been for me. She stared, her expression unreadable, and hugged herself against the crisp night wind.

I moved close, wanting to place an arm around her protectively and tell her it was alright. I did neither. She deserved better than the lie. It wasnít what she needed. Instead we stood together, watching the pool of light where our demons had stood, wondering when we would need to run again; knowing when the time came we would do it together.
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