I was running.
I was following the ongoing parallel, black tracks which faded endlessly into the dark night sky with only the bridge interrupting the gloom. A mass of forest was on either side of me. Pacing through and panting, exhausted. I was searching for the energy to continue. The reiteration in my mind of, “I must get home” gave me the slightest bit more momentum in my strides. The trees remained so tall they could hear the moon’s whispers. The more I ran, the further away I felt from home. The absence of light brought eruptions of fear. The lack of sound gave way to the paranoia of the mind. Suddenly, every shred of bravery retreated back into the furthest parts of the void which was my mind. Immediately, it felt like Mother Nature was at peace, a perfect contradiction to my mentality.
I saw things as if they were a complete danger to me, when in fact they were just harmless objects distorted by fear, but then something appeared in the distance. Something fearful. Something vulgar. I heard a roar and sort of howl. It came from the bridge. Staring, I stopped in my tracks. My heart was beating rapidly. Looking poised to attack, it was just sat on the bridge. I shouted: it did nothing. It was so dark that I couldn’t work out what it was! An object was then abruptly hurled at me: a rock possibly. I thought to myself “I must hide where it’s safe! I can get behind that tree, that way it won’t see me!” I leapt off the tracks and hid behind the widest tree.
Stupidly, I had made the error of hiding somewhere where I had no visual on the beast. Attempts were made to regulate my panting but the anxiety was too much. “I could run but it may catch me, or I could wait it out here but there’s no chance of getting home!” I thought. At that moment it occurred to me that I had completely forgotten about finding my way home. “They’re probably worried sick about me” I assumed. The issue was that I couldn’t recall how I had got here. I remembered how they took me outside at midday and that we ran and had fun for a while. I got tired again, so I soon stopped. Out of nowhere, I was alone. Bizarrely, they had left my stuff by the tree; all my favourite things. I ran to find them which resulted in me getting lost. Unfortunately, I had to face that no one was coming for me. I was lost. That “thing” was going to find me and that was it. It was just me. I was alone.
From out of the sky came more noise, I assumed it could be another beast, but was it? An even louder noise struck and sparks of light broke into the sky repeatedly. The noises were so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. I darted into the side of the forest- I kept running and running. The trees felt like they were closing in on me whilst the ground felt like it was caving. My vision began to blur. I had no choice but to stop, so as I slowed down I made my way to a tree where I could hide. Closing in on me, I could hear and feel the beasts catching up. I looked down to see a small wound on my leg; oblivious of how I had managed it, the pain shocked me. More and more explosions were happening, this time quieter but still deafening. I had to carry on running, so I burst out from behind the tree and impulsively started sprinting in a random direction.
As I continued running, my vision again started to go, my body felt so weak and as the forest diffused- my dim vision was able to depict a stretch of road. My body collapsed. Now on the road I felt safe from the beasts. The only danger was my own body. Now dehydrated, nearly sightless and injured it was a fight to endure. After a few moments of recovering, I soon realised where I was. Only 20 feet ahead of me was the bridge. I had no choice but to continue, regardless of if a danger was there. As a precaution I shouted, so if there was a danger then possibly it would be scared and leave.
So I shouted.
There was just enough light present to expose what I could see.
The beast was no more, in its place a human.
I was walking.
I was trekking through an unceasing journey to find happiness. Following the road but unsure where it would lead me. The emptiness I was feeling had only ever occurred to me once before, as a child, at the death of my mother. So my coping mechanism was non-existent. It was strange how I was feeling anger, hatred and betrayal at the same time as feeling love, contentment and peace. The stability of my world was broken, my heart also. I tried effortlessly to pull myself together but the tears kept running down my face. I let out a roar of crying. I became overwhelmed with emotion that I picked up a stone from the ground and threw it in anger towards the train tracks. Immediately after, I held my head in my hands, still sobbing.
I sat on the edge of the bridge.
“Who would’ve of thought my New Year’s Eve would’ve ended up like this?” I said whilst sobbing
“We’re nearly made it! We were so close!” I was now shouting out at the forest as if someone could have heard me.
Stillness. With only the trees rustling providing sound.
From over the forest came eruptions of fireworks, just on the outskirts of the village. I looked up to the stars wondering if either of them were there. “Why?” I screamed.
“Why would you leave me on my own?”
A brief silence came. Then unexpectedly from the pit of darkness came a dog, old and hurt, most likely abandoned. It slowly came over the bridge to me, as if it were afraid. I did my best to show comfort and kindness, as a result the dog limped forwards. It sat by my side, silent, as I stroked its fur. If felt safe, which made me begin to calm. I turned to the dog and whispered “I’ll call you Karl, yeah?” the dog turned to me and held a glance.
“Want to hear a story Karl?”
“It’s a true one!” I wiped the tears away almost smiling.
“So it starts off with a boy, he’s 18 edging to 19. He leads quite a boring life. That was until a certain someone arrived- a girl called Violet. He thought she was the most beautiful thing he had seen, who was funny and smart. But anyway, fast forward let’s say about 12 years and they’re now married as well as homeowners to a great house in York. Fast forward one more year and this is where their whole world crumbles into a million pieces.”
I tried to breathe so as to prevent the tears again.
“We were asked to sit down and the doctor gently informed us that Violet had the disease and that treatments could help avoid it being terminal but the certainty was low. Violet broke into tears at that moment. Nothing had felt worse than that instant. The next couple of weeks were tough, I had to work but also support Violet. It was a strain on us both. It felt like we were at a dead end. Her words couldn’t prevent me from seeing her fear. The stars were changing whilst our love was fading.”
I took a look at Karl to see him so content and it actually felt like he was listening.
“A while had passed and we were now repairing our lives. The treatments seemed to be doing a good job. That was until the day after Boxing Day, when her health declined and she collapsed. She spent the next couple of days in hospital. I was there every minute of every hour. But I couldn’t save her. I could do nothing more but hold her hand and say I love you. “
I broke down in tears, this time I didn’t want to contain myself. I sobbed. I felt Karl brush his damp fur against me, and he stared at me whilst I opened up my heart; I truly believed that the dog understood me.
Whilst sobbing, I yelled to the stars “You were the best thing to happen to me!”
“I’m lost without you. My mind is still, but my heart’s still racing. I need you!”
“I see my future but in that all I see is you! I would take your place, I would have all the treatments, all the pain, all the disappointment you had if it meant one more day with you!”
An overwhelming sense of liberation hit me.
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