Run - Short Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl with wings.
The city of Frisco.

Submitted: December 19, 2009

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Submitted: December 19, 2009

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Run.
I feel my feet pound against the ground, hear the leaves crunch under my feet. Clouds roll over themselves overhead, dark and gray, and in the distance over the mountains I see streaks of rain falling down. A cold breeze hits my face, and my hair flies backward behind me. My bare feet step on something sharp, maybe a shard of glass, but I keep going.
It’s a funny thing, when you run. The world stands still. Even as everything moves so fast around me, weaving through trees, my mind seems to slow down. Through my panting, I take an uneasy deep breath. The cold air creeps into my lungs, and my chest seems to close up. Before I can exhale smoothly I start panting again.
And I look up to the sky, but then again, I can’t really say there is any sky. I haven’t seen the sky in what seems like years. This is the driest day there’s been for a month. There’s no sign of blue, just dark and light grays. The shades blend together in a smear of neutral colors. Once again I catch a glimpse of the mountains through the trees. The snow peaked monsters tower high above the tree tops, reach to the sky above. Wispy white clouds hover around their tips, swirl freely in the atmosphere. A heavy thunder booms over the trees.
Just like that, they pull out of sight again, and I’m on my own in the trees. An emptiness spreads through my being, a desolate feeling of aloneness. I smell the sticky sap on the maples, and I close my eyes for just a moment to take in. I feel so at peace, so insignificant and small, I almost stop. But I can’t. I open my eyes. Another gust of wind tries to throw me backward, but I don’t let it. I push forward, the adrenaline fueling my sprint. I don’t jog. I don’t run. I sprint.
Because I’m not the only one running.
Only one thought is in my head.
Run.
My feet hit the ground at an angle, and they send me to the right of a wide tree, just barely missing a low branch. It sends me into a shower of pine needles, and I wince as I feel the warm sting of fresh scratches across my face and arms. I feel a small trickle of hot blood drip down my cheek, and without thinking anything of it, I wipe it with my sleeve. The shirt sleeve is already bloodied from other whipping branches.
But I don’t stop. I can almost see an opening ahead.
I stumble over a fallen oak, catch my foot in a forked branch. My body throws itself to the ground, a gut wrenching swing, and I pull myself up and look back. My ankle is twisted in an unhealthy shape, but I don’t feel the pain until I hear them.
They call for me.
With a grimace on my face I pull my ankle out gently, run a few feet to test it, find it sore but okay. I take off again, put myself in the steady rhythm, and soon the trees blur again and I feel the wind against my face. A sharp smell of pine needles and sap reaches my nostrils. The prick of pine needles on my feet, the familiar sting, comforts me.
The trees go from dense to spacing out. I can see them open up to the mountains as I get closer, and I pump my arms harder at my sides.
Their voices behind me are further now, distant. But I still push myself further; feel the slow incline as I make my way to the mountain. The ground is covered in pine needles, and every tree now is a pine tree. The reds, yellows, browns and greens are high contrast compared to the sky. I look back behind me, hoping to just see empty woods, but to my despair, I see them spread through the trees, coming at me.
I turn back and take a sharp right, then a left, making a beeline to the nearest mountain. My mind goes through escape plans, procedures, ideas… I can’t let them catch me. There has to be an explanation for why these things happen.
I hear dogs barking behind me, probably big police dogs, trained to kill. They must think they’re after an animal. I know, behind those dogs, are police. Police that will stop at nothing to get what they’re after.
But they have it wrong. I’m not the bad guy.
Even though some people think I am.
My foot sinks into a patch of mud, and I pull it out without slowing. It’s a footprint. It’s proof. I stop, spin around, stare at the print. Do I have time to erase it? Can I risk trying?
The police, as it’s getting darker, turn on their flashlights. Here, it gets dark fast. There was no sun to begin with. The lack of light cast shadows across the ground. I turn and push the print from my mind, but I know I’ll regret it later. They haven’t seen what I am. They only heard me. They can’t see me.
And now they’ll know I’m human.
But they’ll only be half right.
With one last look back, I dart through the trees and toward the mountain. I hear one of them yelling to another, but the words are hard to hear.
And a dog howls. I can hear the bloodcurdling sound echo off the pines and bounce back at me. They’ve got me. They’ve got my scent.
But I have something they don’t.
But I won’t do it unless I have to.
I feel the cold wind against my unprotected skin. I’m only wearing a white long sleeved shirt and jeans, and it’s the end of fall and the beginning of December. It’s cold. Really cold.
My fingers are already turning red, and I bet my face is too. I’m panicking. It’s so incredibly cold, as it gets dark; I’m surprised it’s not snowing. Another drumming thunder crackles, and I know lightning has hit a tree. It’s just that kind of earsplitting sound, wood cracking and burning, the horrific boom of a tree falling down in flames. A forest fire will begin soon, and I’ll probably be caught in its fury.
And yet I push forward.
But a thought occurs to me. I can’t run up a mountain. Not at this speed. I stop and turn, wait for my eyes to adjust to a watercolor painting in front of me. I’m higher up than I thought, and before me is an explosion of reds and oranges, each bleeding into the clouds and darkness. But the color is not what surprises me.
It’s the sun.
Before me is the sun. A big, bright ball of gas sinking under the horizon line. I feel like I’ve been reunited with an old friend. I love the sun. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rain, but I haven’t seen the sun in so, so long…
I’m caught watching too long. The police officers, two of them, are ten feet away below, waving their flashlights around in the darkness. They haven’t seen me yet, thank God, but I don’t want them to. At least not yet.
I take off to the left and scale one of about two aspens in this area, climb as high as the branches let me go. The tree’s about fifteen feet high, and it rejects my stiff hands. Swinging my legs and bending swiftly around branches, I ascend like a spider monkey.
Ever since I came to Frisco – I’ve been here as long as I can remember – I’ve been probably the world’s best thirteen year old climber. Since I was three I’ve sized up hundreds of trees, but none quite like this massive aspen. My earliest memories are from climbing trees. I remember a time, running from a bear; I had climbed a tall aspen, like this one. It was about twenty feet high. But I didn’t know that the particular species of bear could climb.
I cling to one thick branch, one hand on one branch, another on another, practically hanging. I dare to look down. I hold my breath. The police are right there, right below.
They’ve stopped directly below me, and if they happen to look up, I’m about as exposed as I can get. The dogs are sniffing at the trees, sniffing the air, and the police are waving the flashlights pointlessly. They won’t look up. I’m in the clear, right?
One of them, a man, curses under his breath.
“Come on, I could’ve sworn it went this way,” he says to his partner.
It?
“Right,” his partner, another man, about twenty or so years old, replies.  
“I mean it. Did you see what it looked like?” he shakes his head, trying to remember. “It was on two legs, like a person, but it had, I think, wings? It had black hair…”
“It’s time for you to retire. It was an animal.” He replies. “People don’t have wings. It was probably a bird.” And with that, the partner turns and leads his dog back through the trees, but the first man stays. I don’t have to see to know he’s looking for me. The only thing I can see is their silhouettes and the tops of the trees. The rest is just shadow.
After the partner is long gone, I feel my muscles start to ache. If I move, they’ll see me. If I make a sound, they’ll hear me. My very bones are freezing, and I’m shaking with the strain. I’m stuck between two branches. My arm muscles are solid and strong, but in the cold, it’s unbearable.
I hear the cop say something, maybe to the dog, maybe to himself, but it was definitely something. It’s drowned out by another roar of thunder. Drops of rain fall now, little spits of water. A drop falls onto my nose, another on my hand. The very first sign of rain.
And soon it’s pouring. My clothes stick to my skin. Below, I can’t tell if the cop is still there. Great. So what will I do? Hang here all night? I already feel myself tense. It’s impossible.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” I hear him yell. His voice is somewhat of a release to me. It lets me know it wasn’t for nothing that I’m still here. “We won’t hurt you, we don’t bite.” He’s almost mocking, and the release is back to strain before I can take time to enjoy it.
Who does he think he is?
I’ve had run-ins with cops before. It’s kind of on and off. Hanging here, I remember a particular memory, of one time where I was caught at the scene of a car chase. The police were chasing down this group of teenagers just off the woods on the highway, and I had been there when they ran into a tree. The kids took off into the trees in my direction, and the cops, of course, started chasing me too. They thought I was one of them.
I’m unlucky. It’s just the way it is.
“Let’s go, sweetheart,” he looks around for me. “I saw you, so don’t go hiding…” just now my hand decides to slip. I feel the wood burn my hand, and I swing to the side, almost falling from the momentum. I close my eyes tight and try to prevent what will happen. My one hand grips the branch hard, but my fingers are slipping and I’ve made enough noise. I hear the cop pull out a pistol and load it. It’s aimed right at me.
“Come down,” he orders.
I remain still and silent, my fingers screaming at me as I hang. I slowly try to get purchase with my feet, but, with my luck, there are no branches to stand on. I reach out to the other branch, but it’s gotten too far away. Instead I hang from the one branch with two burning hands, closing my eyes tight. Just my luck.
“I’m going to ask you to slowly lower yourself from the tree,”
The darkness and rain seem to add to my misery. I didn’t do anything. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and it just so happens I should never be in that position. If I’m caught, well…
“Please,” he asks from below.
The branch is breaking under my lightweight. Am I always this unlucky? Here I am, in a soon to be burning woods, trapped in an aspen tree above an armed cop. I can’t get caught. It’s the rules.
I take another deep breath and open my eyes. The first thing I see is a spark of light in the darkness far in front of me. Smoke billows from the trees, and I can see it spreading fast. Fire. Fantastic. My mind runs through more plans, how I’ll have to find a new Safe Place, one that nobody can find but me. And then I think how hard it was to find the current one.
Then I realize the flashlight shining directly on me.
So there’s no point in staying up here.
I hold my breath. Do I let go? Can I risk it? There’s another thing about me: I’m always so cautious. I think before I act. I let go of the branch, get the quick sensation of falling, and land smoothly on my feet on the ground. It’s darker down here, and all I see is the flashlight beam in front of me, shining in my face. I don’t see him.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” he says. If he’s surprised to see my swift, practiced moves, his voice doesn’t reveal them. “Now, if you could put your hands where I can see them?” I do as he says; put my hands by my head. But I haven’t given up just yet. I have a plan. “Turn around.”
I turn.
He comes over, the dog sitting obediently on the ground. I’m patted down, he feels in my pockets, makes sure I’m not a threat. He doesn’t know.
“Thank you for cooperating,” he adds sweetly, and I roll my eyes. I’ve always had better hearing than most, you can call it the ears of a Hawk, and I can hear the distant crackles of fire in the distance. He doesn’t even know what’s going on, much less what will be. I let myself smile.
 
 
I grit my teeth, prepare myself to start running. I’ll have to get back to the Safe Place, retrieve my backpack, and run to the next city. My legs are tired, not to mention the rain.
The cop pulls out a pair of hand cuffs, gets ready to clip them on my wrists. Before he can, I turn around and grab the lowered pistol, twist it out of his hand and throw it behind him. I slip out of his reach and stop. Do I do it? Do I dare?
He runs toward me and I jump out of the way. A punch just misses my ear. I bend backward to dodge another fist, and I push past him and out into the open. With one flying leap, I’m in the air, and my wings pull themselves from their space on either side of my spine. They catch the wind and I’m jerked upwards, into the air. I’m flying. They beat up and down, up and down gracefully as I spiral, until I’m close to thirty feet up, and I breathe in the cool night air.
A gunshot is followed by a series of loud barking, and I feel the bullet sink into my right wing. I’m sent into a swirling plummet to the ground, hit down hard on my stomach. The wind is knocked out of me, and I gasp heavily, clutch my stomach. I quickly examine my wing, my monstrosity, and see a small hole. Blood seeps from the wound. I look up toward him. The cop has the gun. He must be thinking of me as an animal.
I stand up and tuck my wings in, slowly walk backwards in the direction of the Safe Place. I feel the blood dripping in the inside, regretting that I did anything at all. If I get into a clearing or a high place, I can try to take off again…
“Slow down, sweetheart,” he says. His calmness doesn’t touch his fascinated eyes – my eyes have adjusted – and I almost smile. The bleeding feels sick. “I want you to come over here with your hands where I can see them.”
Do they put what they’re supposed to say on note cards?
I stay where I am. I can easily turn and run, and he’ll never catch me. Or I can wait it out until the fire gets here and risk getting away. The rain has slowed, and the fire is so loud that I know even he can hear it. I know, because he cocks his head and looks in its direction. It’s all I need.
In a split second I take off in the direction of the fire.
Run.
I hear him yell for me, but I don’t stop. How can he expect me to? The pine needles, every three or so feet, are burning. I watch where I step, slower than usual, make my way to the flame. What am I doing? Why am I running to the fire?
But it seems to be the safest – I know – way to go. He won’t follow me. I must be crazy, or insane, like this plan. But it has to be crazy enough to work. I just have to pray he won’t follow and hope that I can turn and make it out before I die. But if he thinks I’m dead, then he won’t come back…
And just like that, I have a plan. A very, very stupid plan.
I run faster than I’ve ever run before, starting to rethink. Is it worth the risk? Should I even try? But it’s a little late to change my mind. I don’t pay attention to where I step, because it’s getting hotter and smokier, and every other step is fire. My feet burn and I feel the smoke enter my lungs. If the cop thinks I’m dead, he won’t come back. Just how do I show him…?
Then I get it.
I push through, can’t hear the cop anymore, but feel him chasing me behind. If I stop now, he’ll get me. I feel the heat against my face, feels so weird and unfamiliar compared to the wind from before. I go so fast that I don’t feel the burning anymore. But is he still chasing me?
I look back and don’t see him. Is he gone? Can I still pull it off? I look forward and to my left and right, but all I see is fire. I’m surrounded. But if I turn back, I could run right into the arms of police and dog.
Skidding to a stop, I place myself in a small spot that’s not on fire. Trees are falling, the sky is blocked out by smoke, and I can’t see further than ten feet in front of my nose. I start coughing madly. A gunshot plays at my eardrums.
Great. My idea was dead before it took place. I turn and run back the way I came, only to find myself closed off by a fire wall. I’m getting hysterical. If I can’t get out, I’ll actually be dead, and then…
I don’t want to think about it. There’s no way out any way but up, and even there is dangerous. I slowly extend my injured wing, scan it quickly. It won’t let me fly, will it? Out of curiosity, I extend them both as far as I can get them, like a stretch. My wingspan, since last time I checked, is eleven feet. I lift the injured one, pull it up, push it down. It’s sore. I overlook the pain as much as I can. The feathers are white with black streaks, gothic looking in the red glow. I look back up, hope to be able, and leap back into the air.
Bursting through the treetops, I spin into the sky, wings struggling to keep me up. I breathe in the thick smoke. Spiraling and disoriented in the darkness, I break out of the smoke and into the night sky. I open my wings and they catch the wind again. The sweet night air, above the billows, is smoke free, fresh and clean from the rain. It distracts me so much that I don’t feel the bullet hole’s pain. I close my eyes and breathe it in. A wave of agony rushes from my wing straight into my burning heart. It’s burning in a good way. It’s burning in adrenaline.
And with that, I push down and dive downward, gain speed and brush the top of burning trees and fire, then back up into the sky. The heat turns back to freezing cold, and the bullet wound, I can hardly feel. But then my mind goes to the footprint… I shake it off.
I rocket toward the mountain, toward the Safe Place. It’s not in flames yet, but it’s getting close. As fast as I can go, my wings beat rapidly in the air. It’s dark, cold and humid. My escape ran sloppy, not as smooth as I wanted it to go, but I’m headed straight to safety.
Then I’ll have to find a new city, a new Safe Place, maybe even out of Colorado. I’ve been here my whole life. Frisco is my place. But what if I don’t have to leave?
I feel the gunshot wound. It effects my whole flight pattern, and I wobble in mid air. Oh my gosh, it hurts. I’ve never been shot before, and I’m surprised I’m not totally freaking right now. I hear another gun shot, I feel the bullet whiz past my ear. That close. And beat my wings harder, speed ahead.
My wings propel me to the mountainside, and I feel a chill. All this just for an escape? Really? My heart sinks as I see my woods in flames, my own mountain surrounded by fire. It brings tears to my eyes, but I don’t let them fall. I love Frisco. I was probably born here…
And it brings up memories and thoughts I try so hard to leave behind. I shake them from my mind and dive toward the east side of the mountain, slicing through the air, losing altitude.
The cop must be closer than once thought.
Just like that, a bullet sinks itself deep into my shoulder.
I land in a painful twist of leaves and branches, crashing right through a large oak. With a hard impact with the muddy ground, the wind is once again knocked away. My eyes stare wide at the fast moving clouds above, stunned. So stunned, in fact, I hardly feel the pain. Just the hot blood, soaking my white shirt. I’m breathing heavy. God, it hurts.
All I’m thinking right now is just let it end, end, end!
I’ve collided almost a mile under the Safe Place. All this, I repeat in my head, over a run with a cop. I’ve lost everything, from the place I’ve lived all my life, to my backpack, to maybe even my life.
That’s too dramatic. I have a chance.
I pull myself up from the ground with my good arm, tear off my sleeve and try to stop the bleeding with it. I test it, roll it around, flinch as another wave hits. Every flash feels like fire. Just let it end! I flex my wings. The cop must be retreating now.
With a wish and crossing my fingers – if you were me you’d want all the luck you can get – I try once again to fly perfectly.
And with one second in the air, my wings beating, I know my pattern with never be the same again. It’s like running with a broken leg. Or singing with no tongue.
I beat my wings as hard as I can, pulling myself up, reaching to the sky like my mountains. I breathe in the air. I take in my last night in Frisco. And as I begin to loose altitude, I position myself directly at the Safe Place, and place my wings to plunge on its course. I drift faster than I ever thought I could.
Within seconds I’m at the fiery Safe Place, and I expand my wings just before I hit the mountainside like a meteor. Dirt and mud and grass flies upwards behind me and I’ve only slowed barely. My legs hit first, but my balance doesn’t help. My legs snap under my fall. The awful sound makes me cringe, but I don’t feel the pain yet.
I see where I had my burned out fire this morning, the stones and my little set up. The backpack is only four or five feet away strapped to the roots of an aspen, and I crawl and grab it. Pulling myself up off the ground, I shrug into it and give myself a quick brush off. Once again, I think of how much of a waste it is. I’m shot, my home is in flames, and I have to leave the only place I’ve known.
But I know I can’t take my backpack. It’s heavy, and it’s started raining again. Another wave. More blood. My vision is starting to blur and I’ve only got so much time left on my hands. But my backpack has so many things…
I push my wings down, and find it so painful…
I push it away.
With one last leap into the sky, I spiral upwards, like the tornado I’ve always pretended to be when I was littler. The backpack weighs me down. I fight against it, but I’m already dropping. I take off west as fast as I can, headed for the closest town, away from the smoke, away from the whole woods. It’s all in flames.
The reality of it hits me. I’m only thirteen. I can’t handle it all. My world has flipped in only fifteen or so minutes. Blood starts to drip down back to the earth. Unconsciousness is starting to creep in.
My eyes are starting to close. The light of the fire is beginning to dull. A giant headache pounds on the insides of my skull.
And just like that, my wings surrender. The droop and I lose altitude again, falling fast, headfirst. I give up. I’ve had a nice life. The air spins around me, making me feel sick. This is so incredibly ridiculous. But I’m too exhausted to care. This is what happens when you mix an unlucky monster with fire, rain, and a cop with a gun.
My hands fly up to my head, covering for impact again. I close my eyes tight and brace myself. Disbelief washes over me. Once again, I feel alone. It’s not the cop’s fault. The fire would’ve started anyway. But it’s rained for the past week. What are the odds of it now hitting a tree?
I feel desperate. But I push it back. I’ve been on my own for thirteen years, I can handle this. I’m strong.
But I can’t handle falling.
I know the ground is getting closer. I feel the heat of the flames already. As I reach the end of my descent, I’m close to unconsciousness…
And then, just as if my prayers have been answered, hands grab my arms, and I’m lifted into the air, getting higher and higher. But I’m too fatigued to care. Too tired too look up…
As the world starts to dim, I manage to look up at my rescuer.
He has wings.
Just like me.


© Copyright 2018 MegLou. All rights reserved.

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