Fri, 27th Dec

The Runner

Text by: 

Emily Childress

Photo by: 
Holger Link on Unsplash

Her feet hit the pavement in a synchronized panic and her breath chorused between the beats of her shoes slapping the asphalt. Left foot, inhale, right foot, exhale, left foot, inhale, right foot, exhale.

She couldn’t run fast enough, as if that could stop her, and she blocked out the noise of her lungs screaming and her heart banging around inside her chest, wailing, “Let me out!” She wouldn’t listen, couldn’t listen, couldn’t focus on anything but the rhythm of her feet and breath.

Left foot, inhale, right foot, exhale, left foot, inhale.

It wasn’t working.

She tried pushing herself harder, tried to pedal her legs as fast as they could go and then faster still, until her legs became a blur beneath her body. She tasted the asphalt. Her knees were stinging and her heart was thumping right out of her chest and her cheek was resting on the scratchy surface of the road.

Inhale, exhale… inhale… exhale.

The road was empty, a fact for which to be grateful, and she crawled over to the side of the street and sat up, crossing her legs and bending over them as if she could curl herself into a ball and disappear completely.

If she could have, she would.

She closed her eyes and focused on the way the space between her heartbeats grew longer, the way her breath slowed down and smoothed itself out, the way the stinging from her knees made a steady decrescendo to a dull kind of pain, one she was intimately familiar with.

She moved her shaking hands to brush pieces of black tar away, and as they fell off her knees, they smeared the blood even more. Her palms were wet but she wasn’t sure if that was from her knees or her hands themselves, and now that she stopped to think about it, she wondered why she wasn’t wearing leggings, considering the breeze that was beginning to pick up. She should’ve brought a jacket, but it was too late now.

A soft tapping on the road caused her to open one eye and she watched as a possum carefully crossed the road. She didn’t move, couldn’t have even if she wanted to, and she watched as the animal paused and lifted its nose in the air, sniffing for danger. The moonlight shone down on its figure and the creature seemed almost beautiful, the kind of quality that couldn’t be touched and didn’t come from appearance but from sheer willpower to live. She wished fiercely to have it.

The possum moved on and the footfalls went quiet back into the night and she sat there, breathing slow now as she looked out over the quiet road. It was one of those roads that didn’t seem to have an end but instead stretched out into forever, something left unanswered. It was comforting and frightening at the same time, the idea that maybe there was no end but instead the road stretched on and on until there was nothing left but road.

Would she ever get there? To the end, where there was nothing left? It seemed so impossibly far but she would keep running until she found that place where it didn’t hurt anymore and she could finally stop running and breathe.

She didn’t have all the answers, but if there was something she was going to find out, it was where the road ended. Gathering her courage, she pulled herself up to stand. She was sore, no doubt about it, but she had no plans of stopping. So, she put one foot in front of the other, and began to run.