12 May 2011

The Runner

Pahkmen ran. It seemed like he had always been running: sprinting down alleys and up broadways, his sneakers so ragged that the soles slapped against the asphalt with every stride. Sometimes he would pause in a quiet corner, doubled over and leaning on his knees, and he would just try and breathe. He panted and shuddered.

He was being hunted.

If it hadn't been for the scraps of food he found, he probably would have simply died on his feet long ago. He'd find them and snatched them up, barely even pausing: a lump of stale bread, a tin of sardines, or a potato so slimy with mold that he had to scrape it down to nothing (once, only once, some luscious cherries! but never again). Pahkmen thought he might choke, trying to swallow a mouthful of dry crumbs or oily fish while gasping for air, but he couldn't stop. He could be sore, he could be thirsty, and he could be so tired that his run descended into a staggering jog, but he couldn't stop.

He didn't know when they'd first started chasing him. A handful of them, emerging from some secret base they'd established in the city. He couldn't even imagine what they were really like... he so seldom saw them, except for glimpses at the end of a street before he choked back his fear and lurched into a faster pace. He wasn't sure what he'd seen, really... monsters, horrible in their stature, floating above the ground on a thick mist of noxious gas. They seemed to be different colors, but they all had the same smooth horrible face. Enormous wide eyes, glassy with malevolent idiocy, and no mouth. He wasn't sure what they'd do if they caught him - it didn't seem like they could eat him. Could they even touch him? Would he melt from their presence, or freeze, or just drop dead on the spot? He didn't want to know.

So he ran. His life was almost unchanging, except...

There was a moment. He wasn't sure how long ago - hours? days? - when he'd found the orb. It was in a pile of rubbish, but he couldn't have missed it. He dropped into a loping gait as he neared it, then - impossible! - stopped to look.

It was strange, like the monsters - it had their same eerie horror to it. Coldly glistening, with an alien anger to its slick metallic surface like he could see in the loathsome gaze of the monsters: a hatred that sprang not from any desire or emotion, but only a wholly inimical repulsion. It was just like them, somehow.

Even the fascinating object and his all-consuming weariness couldn't stay his need to keep moving, though, and he tore his gaze away from the orb and straightened himself out to start off again. It would be even harder now. It was always harder.

But the monster. There was a monster, just now rounding the corner up ahead - he could see the rolling vapor on which it floated, and one horrifyingly red tentacle slid out around the edge of the building. A shriek built up inside Pahkman. It would catch him and it would touch him, and something would happen. Its hollow hatred would pull apart his soul.

Without even thinking, he had kicked apart the rubbish in which it sat - sodden lumps of paper and rotten greenstuff - and snatched up the orb to flee. In that instant he seemed to understand. He can't quite remember what he understood about what was going on - a fleeting knowledge of eternal struggle - but he will always remember the feeling of the orb. It was wrong here, and it knew it, and it hated him and this world and everything. He and it could not exist, and as he touched it, it dissolved in his fingers into a thick grey jelly. The jelly slipped from him to splatter on the asphalt, and he seemed to hear a groan of violation and horror.

Pahkmen looked up, and saw that the monster had stopped, halfway around the corner, and was shuddering. It had changed in color to a bright blue, and as it slid back out of sight, running from him - running from him! - it seemed to be in pain. He had hurt it. Touching that orb, destroying that orb with its connection with the monster... he had hurt it.

That was long ago, though. The respite had lasted mere moments, to his disappointment, and he had begun running again. Shoes flapping, lungs burning, and weary beyond belief.

Pahkmen runs, and maybe he will always run. But he remembers a moment of understanding and a few seconds of triumph. He remembers what it felt like. He remembers freedom from fear for just a little while. And he watches for more orbs.

4 comments:

  1. You're writing. Good. And you're pleased enough with it to post. Excellent. :) I'm looking forward to seeing more.

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  2. I enjoyed this. :-) Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete