Anyhow, here's the last part of The Runner. I glad you're all enjoying it!
The Runner - Part 3
The ground seemed to race up to meet me, and I was vaguely aware of my legs and arms spinning as I fell. Last second, I curled my body inwards and rolled onto the sand. The grains, tiny daggers, rubbed my skin and I could feel the sharp point of some driftwood sticking into my back. I coughed and glanced up. The girl was about a hundred metres away and disappearing fast. I leapt to my feet, shook some sand from my trainers and ran.
The sand was uneven and running on it was torturous. My feet sank as I tried to run and my lungs were straining fit to burst. I was so unfit. But I kept running. A minute or so into my mini marathon, Rudy joined me, his small paws gliding over the sand like the girl’s. I tried to copy his legs, the way they moved so elegantly and swiftly. I focused on the inner sole of my foot, turning it inwards with every step. Running got easier and I could feel myself grinning. I was running. I was free. I turned my head up towards the bottom of the beach, and saw the girl waiting for me on the pavement. I ran towards her, dodging the people relaxing on the sand and smiling at the people walking their dogs. Rudy barked and I nodded. He understood. He got this. It was amazing. It was fantastic. I felt as though I had wings that propelled me forward. I really didn’t care about anyone else looking. They could go back to their silly little lives, chained to their work and their house and their ungrateful children. They could go back to being normal. Not me. Normal is just a word, after all. I promised myself that when I was old enough to drive I would go places and see the world. I wouldn’t settle down, not until I was ready. Until that time, I would be free.
I ran up a set of stairs that joined onto the pavement and doubled back. The girl was sitting on the wall, her legs brushing the ground, drawing patterns in a thin layer of sand. Her head was turned away from me.
Panting, I ran towards her, and sat down next to her. I paused to catch my breath and then smiled. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Her voice was sweet, and I recognized it from somewhere. Church? No. I struggled to think of anywhere else. I didn’t do anything else. I just sat at my computer and waited for something exciting to happen.
“What were you doing last night?”
“Running. Talking of which, you were pretty good.”
My heart swelled with pride. “You’re much better.”
“Not really.” The girl’s toe was moving round and round in circles. She was drawing something.
“Who are you?”
The girl didn’t reply, just kept on moving her foot round and round, up and down, sketching something on the gum-ridden concrete. “I mean, I want to get to know you better. I want you to teach me how to do that...stuff. It looks amazing. I want to know how you don’t care about things. Who are you?”
The girl lifted her foot from the ground and smiled. She tilted her head towards me and, a clichéd as it seems, I gasped. The girl had a long thin nose, with almond shaped, dark blue eyes. There was a tiny scar on her left cheek. My hand flew up to my face. I had cut myself two days ago, in that exact place. It had scabbed over, but I kept picking it. That, and the voice, and her face and the scar on her toe...
The girl smiled and shook her head. “Yes and no. I’m you, but only in your head. I don’t exist - not fully. Watch.” She stood up and walked further into the pavement. Then, with all her might, she screamed. I glanced at the people on the beach. No reaction, not even when the girl started swearing at the top of her lungs, shouting all sorts of profanity.
“So, you’re just in my head?”
The girl smiled and sat down beside me again. “Yeah. But you do become a good free-runner. You start up a club and teach others how to do it as well. Everyone knows you, and everyone loves you. You become a superstar in the eyes of these people.”
I raised my eyebrows. “And you know this how?”
“I don’t. But, hey, you just did your first stint as a free-runner - you might as well do it again. Internet has some wonderful tips, and you should go to France. They’re huge on free-running. You might pick up a hot French guy as well.” The girl grinned and stood up, stretching her arms as she did so. “Well, that’s me done.
I might come back, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
“Wait, you’re leaving?”
“Well, yeah. I got you running, didn’t I? That’s all I was here to do - make you be a bit more confident and all that.” She stretched her legs and started jogging on the spot. “Bye. And good luck. Hint and tip, by the way - just run and jump, trust your body, and do not under any circumstances, fight an instinct. If you’re jumping across a rooftop, just jump. Don’t think, and don’t struggle when the urge to flatten your body comes. Just do it.” The girl smiled. “Bye.” She winked and ran down the pavement, vanishing into thin air.
I sat on the wall, dazed. My head felt strange, dizzy as though someone had just punched me in the face. The girl was me. ME. It had happened so fast. What did that mean? Was she just a figment of my imagination? Or was she me from the future? What the hell? I shut my eyes tight and took a deep breath. It’s fine, it’s ok...Deep breaths...Ok, so the girl was me. Big deal. So what if I was talking to myself for ten minutes? No biggie. At least now I knew I could run. At least now I knew what I could do.
I opened my eyes and stood up. Rudy had padded up the steps and he was staring up at me, his lead trailing on the ground behind me. His face was set in that goofy grin only dogs can do, and I couldn’t help but pat him on the head. “Thanks, boy.” Rudy barked and his tail started wagging. “You can get home by yourself, can’t you boy?” Rudy barked again and I smiled. He could always follow me. I unclipped the lead from his collar and stoked his back, his smooth hair sliding out from under my fingers.
I shoved the lead into my pocket and steadied myself. I glanced down at the pavement, at the drawing the girl had sketched with her big toe. It was a crow, its wings outstretched and its feathers blowing in the cool sea breeze. It was wearing a cheeky grin, its beak open to reveal a lolling tongue. I grinned and scuffed the picture with my shoe. I could do this. I just needed to...run.
My legs flew out from underneath me and I raced down the street. My breathing was slow and steady, and I could hear Rudy galloping and barking behind me. I was free. I was finally free. Who gave a damn what everyone else thought? They were just people. They had opinions, beliefs, feelings and they probably wanted to do the same too. They would sit and stare and in their robotic hearts, full of work and school and the relentless whisperings of life, they would be jealous of my quick feet, my agility, my confidence. One day, that would happen and when it did, I would celebrate by going to France and training harder. I could do this. I was meant to do this.
I was born to run.