She Ran

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Fantasy, atmospheric literature.

Submitted: October 16, 2013

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Submitted: October 16, 2013

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She Ran

by Karl Verkade

…to be read with accompanying soundtrack

 

 

The night was cold and thin. The air was scantily clad in such a way that she felt that if she could but stop for a second, she could reach through it and grasp time. Arrest it, stop it, bring back the years of hope, before the years of inevitably set in. But she did not stop. She ran.

Air is a precious commodity; one she had taken for granted until it was all she had. Tonight she chased it; she felt as if her lungs could not get enough of it. With each new step, a new shallow breath, and a new resolve to continue filling her chest with the last thing in this world that was free. She knew that if she stopped, the night would end; and she did not want the night to end. The colors were too vivid.

First the reds…the piercing reds. They swept out of the night sky in such an instant that she did not have time to witness their origin. But there they were. Swirling, brilliant reds that swept her up like she scarcely remembered. Indeed, did she even remember it? Or was this the embodiment of a shadow she always hoped to one day remember. The color floated around her as she ran, keeping up with her; perhaps even lagging back a little so that she could keep up with it. She could not help it; she began to be entranced by its brilliance, though she dared not slow down. She peered into it, trying to imprint upon her memory every detail of its stunning lifeform.

Then suddenly, did it change? The reds were not quite as flowing as they once were. They moved a little more awkwardly. She knew she had seen that movement before, somewhere. Then she remembered. Yes! The reds were walking! Alongside her they walked, still dancingly keeping up with her every running stride. Their shapes became more and more human. She recognized one of the colors. He looked into her eyes with the love that said that it was already finished; there was nothing she could do to ever spurn that love. Then another color touched her shoulder. She whirled her head around just in time to catch the shape of a life that spoke of a bond with her that nothing but tears could form. In an instant, the motherly shape was gone, but reformed next to the figure on her other side, walking arm in arm with it.

She almost stumbled. Something had touched her heels. She turned her head around long enough to see a child following behind her. It was a little girl…a little girl without colors. She skipped and sauntered, without a care in the world, but all the time keeping up with her. She wondered at the child; she wondered at childhood. So happy, so light; all its cares are immediate. There is no sense of that fact that time will one day have its way. No one tells children the truth.

From somewhere behind the child, deep in the distance, she thought she saw another red. A different red. But she couldn't be sure; she had to keep her head straight onward, to immerse herself in the air, in the night. Nor did she have time to worry about the new color, or the child, as the brilliant reds by her side had split into multiple colors, each walking at its own pace somewhere by her side. They were dear to her…some moreso than others. All looked at her with varying degrees of knowingness. One in particular. He looked at her with a seriousness, and a questioning. His was by far the most tender touch, but not the most knowing. She slowed slightly, gasping for breath as she did. She turned to look at him, but her gaze was interrupted by the new color, now creeping along the horizon next to her. It was a dark color, and threatened to swallow the red she now fought desperately to keep. She reached out for him; but slowly he faded, and slowly the dark approached. She had seen this before.

In an instant he was gone, and in his place were two other brilliant reds. One for whom she cared, one with whom she was comfortable. The dark color approached. She tried to outrun it, but it was of no use. It swallowed up the two colors just as it had swallowed the last. She now saw that it was not a darkness, but a deepness. A deep red that spoke of something she knew all too well. It sent shudders through her life-stained body.

The shudders continued as she ran. And continued. Until she had unknowingly discovered that she was quite at home with the shudders. She did not mind them. In fact, the deep red had mixed with the brilliant red so much so that neither color was now better or worse for the mixing; but they were more real. Then, just as she was about to acquiesce to the new deep and brilliant red, it suddenly birthed a figure. And she hated. She hated its curves, and its smoothness, and its beauty. It tore from the rest of the colors, revealing its blackness. And then, in horror, she watched as it reached back into the deep and brilliant red and pulled from it the loving figure. He looked at her as she ran with the same, unquenchable love as before, as he faded off into the distance with the beautiful black figure.

She ran harder; and at her heels she felt the child again. She turned again to look, and now saw a young lady, walking warily behind her. She knew that look; the colors had replaced the innocence. She had never been sure which was more desirable; but now she knew that neither could ever coexist peacefully with the other.

The deep, brilliant red circled around her and comforted her. It did not split into its native colors, nor would it ever again. And she was grateful.

Now there was another color. It crept out from behind her. She turned to look; were the colors coming from the child? But it was no longer a child, or a young lady. It was a young woman…a young woman with a war in her eyes, between childlike hope and the lamentable wisdom of the inevitable. She recognized that look. And she ran faster.

But she could not outrun the new color. It surrounded her, and here and there penetrated the deep and brilliant red with its yellow haze. It was a tired color…so tired that it was almost transparent, and blended in with the night in such a way that at times, in her gasping for air, she would inevitably suck in its yellow weariness as well. But she did not mind. A little weariness might even be nice…it made her feel as if her running was accomplishing something. Accomplishment. The reds spoke nothing of that. She wondered at her life, and for the first time, looked upwards. There were no colors to see through…just the night sky. The vastness looked down upon her as if it knew her. She slowed a little, letting her inconsequential state settle in over tired bones. The yellow crept wearily into her upward gaze, and she knew the child at her heels was now a woman. She did not turn, but ran onwards, knowing all too well the look in the pursuing woman's eyes. There would be tears, resolve, the tiniest glints of echoes that were once laughter; but most of all, the yellow weariness.

Her legs were tired, her lungs empty. She inhaled without the benefit of air, as the deep and brilliant red moved underneath her and helped her forward. The yellow slowed her enough to where she could look around her a bit; she discovered trees…big, green trees towering over her on either side. The deepness carried her down the small, inescapable path made by the foliage, and the little child softly padded around in front of her. The bright eyes of the child were now furrowed under a wrinkled brow, and the once beautiful cheekbones now protruded in a manner unworthy of the years and wisdom that made them such. At first she blushed with the hardness of the old woman's gaze, but then stared back at herself with the same knowing inevitability. The old woman took her hand in hers, and walked her down the path. She tried to run to keep up, but could not; the old woman dragged her softly and silently onward, as the deep and brilliant red carried her, the tired yellow enveloped her, and the green trees lapped gently at their own dust which formed her body.

And she stopped running.

 

It had been a miserable night, and they were excited to be able to go into the alley and play today. They bounced the ball against the cracked bricks of the tall buildings, and he even let her win a few times.

But this turn, he was going to win. With all the bravado a big brother can muster, he slammed the ball at the corner of the building where the curb met the bricks. The ball ricocheted down the alley, towards an oncoming truck. As it did, it dislodged some old newspaper crumblings, and in the tired yellow light cascading onto the alley through the old buildings, they saw it. His sister screamed and went running back through the shabby aluminum door into their mother’s apartment. But he couldn't move. He stared at her.

 

They drove down the alley. What a miserable day. The night had been cold, and whenever the nights were cold, he knew it would be a long day. He watched as two children bounced a ball against the side of the grimy building. The ball got away from them and in the tired yellow haze peering through the buildings, he saw the ball dislodge some old papers; and underneath it, he saw another one. They stopped the truck and walked over to the body. It was not her…it was never her; it was a shell. He wondered who she was. They picked her up, and he knew that beneath his gloves, there was coldness. But her open eyes seemed peaceful; somehow that brought him comfort. He looked into her eyes as the red of the bag enveloped her body, and she was gone.

It was then that he noticed the boy. He hadn't moved, but was staring at them with large, questioning eyes. He nodded at the boy as they carried her back to their truck, and attempted a smile through his mask. The boy was motionless.

"We're just taking her someplace where she can rest," was all he managed.

"I know what the green trucks mean," said the boy bravely.

"But you've never seen this before?"

The boy shook his head, fighting back the tears for which he had been taught he was too old.

The man stopped, and pulled his mask off over his head. He looked straight into the boy's quivering eyes.

"It's very short. Don't waste it."

He looked at the boy. The boy looked back at him. Not knowing what else to do, he slowly turned away, leaving the boy standing alone in the alley; older, whether he wanted to be or not.

They put her in with all the rest.


© Copyright 2018 Karl Verkade. All rights reserved.

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