The Running Man

The man was running, truly running. He was not jogging, tumbling forwards under his own momentum with his legs acting almost on instinct. He was not sprinting, haring chaotically after an unspecified objective with scrambling feet.

He was flying with one foot on the ground, truly running.

At first it was like trying to drag his body through thick gelatin, the glutinous air trying to halt his progress at every step. That was how the run always began, with knees that refused to bend and feet always seeming to land a few millimetres off-target. It was a slow stumble at best.

But then his heart caught up with his legs, pumping warm, red fuel through his arteries. It was like being hit in the back by a strong gust of wind. Suddenly every pace sent him surging forwards, wind whipping across his scalp and his legs feeling like the pistons on a roaring steamer.

He was gliding on gravel and grass, truly running.

Sunlight cut a path through the clouds overhead and blasted the ground with its scorching rays. Muggy air rose around him as he ran, cloying and sticky on his skin. But he would not slow down.

Some change could be seen to come over the man. He faltered, missed a step and almost tripped. It was not a seriously slip though, he righted himself soon enough. But a clawed hand was clenching with taut fingers over his chest, as though trying to hold his heart in place.

There was little use in the action, no point in trying. His heart was not breaking free, it was simply closing down, turning off.

His steps slowed and he dropped to his knees, one tight fist still pressed against his breast. He knew that he was in trouble, that he might be dying. That was clear enough to him, but not what worried him most. He did not mind if that was where it ended, if he never saw another day. All he wanted to do was to keep on running.

I wrote this just after a failed run (not fatal, unlike our friend above). I’d aimed for 5K but didn’t make the distance (I’m saying due to the heat here in London, but you don’t have to believe me). Have you succeeded or failed at something recently? Let me know in the comments!

For more like this, go to Short Stories -> One-offs in the menu above.

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