Friday, October 31, 2008


There was something to the dark that made her want to run faster.


Her mind recycled old favorites, like a metronome searching for its rhythm. Ignoring the sharp stitch under her ribs, Kelly ramped up her speed.


Sweat lifted into the sharp, dry air. Her boyfriend thought she was nuts for running in fifty-degree weather, clad only in t-shirt and shorts. But it exhilarated her to have the black cold rush her skin, even while her lungs burned.


Steps. Other steps. Behind her.

She hugged the right side of the path, so the runner could pass. But he sustained the same, even pace for a quarter of a mile:


It had to be a man, his slower, more deliberate steps mocking her shorter stride.

She glanced over her shoulder. Saw nothing but shadows. The ponytail lashed her neck as she turned back around. She licked her lips. Her eyes jigsawed. A mind skidded over facts like oily puddles:

She passed the last 9-1-1 panic button a half mile ago.
There was not much of a moon tonight.
Everyone else was at Halloween parties.
Her boyfriend didn’t know she was out.
Her boyfriend didn’t know she was out.
Her boyfriend didn’t know—

The stitch in her side chewed deeper, and phlegm plugged her throat. Her elbows dropped a little. Kelly weaved and lost the path. The softness of the turf bent her right ankle at a crude angle.

She chomped down on her tongue.


Her lungs whistled like a teapot over her limp. Sweat poured and stung her eyes. The jagged needles in her ankle threaded the muscle in her calf. Her knee spasmed.

The wall, the wall. I’ve hit the wall.

Kelly whimpered, tasting blood.


The steps behind were lazier now. Almost gloating.

As she turned to snatch another look, she stumbled.

But as her hands scuffed the ground, the real pain descended. It glommed onto her like she was a soft cicada, being squeezed from a crusty exoskeleton. She gasped, her torso twisting, arms flung wide. Her throat tipped back, mouth rounding, while her eyes milked the stars.

Run. Run.

The word was a cold hook, reeling her to feet. She hadn’t thought it. It had just come. But she knew--she knew--it was the only cure.

Sobbing as the torment instantly subsided, Kelly struggled to find her stride.


The thing approved. Her ankle numbed.

Tears flying with the sweat, Kelly trudged past another distance marker. This is how it would be. No stopping now. She tried not to remember how much longer there was until she ran out of path. Until there was only woods, and unbroken night.

There was something in the dark that needed her to run.

And so she would.


Charles Gramlich said...

ooh, creepy. Very nice.

Aine said...

Yikes! I hate the feeling of being followed. It actually happened to me once. I crossed the street and thankfully my pursurer did not.

Anonymous said...

*clapping clapping clapping*

Oh, nicely done! Love the word rhythm in her head. That comes from a true runner's brain.

The pursuit was rich and pounding. Even worse how she is compelled to run.

Happy Halloween!!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Sarah...I found myself getting breathless, as I read faster and faster - trying to get away from the danger behind me (her). I enjoyed the uncertainty - the suspense. Very unnerving! What a writer! Happy Haunting!!

Sarah Hina said...

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

I'm getting ready to leave for a couple days, but I appreciate all the comments. It was fun trying something different for a change. :)

Thank you!

Billy said...

Great Halloween piece! I really liked "like a metrenome searching for its rhythm."

ChrisEldin said...

Great pacing with this one (no pun intended)

I love how you couple your writing and your photos! Very, very nice!

Hoodie said...

This is my kind of spooky!

Once again, I applaud you.

Miladysa said...

Chilling :D

Sarah Hina said...

Billy, that was probably my favorite line, too. Oh, runner's brain! ;)

Chris, I've enjoyed the added dimension of marrying a photo to a story/poem. It feels like a more complete vision. Thanks! :)

Hoodie, thank you! There is something awful about compulsive running--and not knowing what it is behind you.

Miladysa, thanks for coming by! I appreciate it. :)

Vesper said...

I felt compelled to run with her, Sarah, and now I’m in the woods, and the unbroken night…


Sarah Hina said...

Vesper, thanks! I'm still a little sketchy about stretching my genre boundaries too much. The confidence just isn't there yet. But it was Halloween. ;)

I'm glad it got your heart pounding!