The tempo was high and her breath stable. The wind chilled comfortably on her sweaty skin and filled her lungs with energy, making every breath propel her feet forward.
It was almost nightfall and the park was virtually empty, save for one or two couples on the wayside; but she ignored everything around her, focusing on a bench ahead.
She grit her teeth and sped up.
As she passed the bench, her chest swelled with pride and her legs kept running. Feeling her goal already completed, she decided to continue, to see for how long she could go before she croaked from exhaustion.
The street ahead was dark, and she could only see a glimpse of light sparkle by the path. She glanced backwards and hesitated, considering turning back. But she still had energy in her legs and they wanted to continue.
As she continued onward, the thickness of the dark surprised her, forcing her to rely on the feel and her memory to keep her on the path. She tensed with the extra effort to stay on the road and she could feel how exhaustion crept into her lungs.
She stopped and leaned against a tree, wheezing as the body tried to recuperate. While looking around she found only one source of light ahead of her. Just a little more, she thought. Then I can go home.
She made ready to run again when the wind suddenly whisked by her, and she start back in fright as she felt something soft caress her leg. Her eyes flashed and a chill went down her spine as the feeling lingered. The leaves remained still and all was quiet. The only thing she could hear was her own breath and heartbeat.
With her back pressed against the tree, she dart her head back and forth. Something touched her shoulder, and a scream developed in her throat. She dashed aimlessly in the other direction, forgetting where the road began and ended.
The streetlight were all gone, and she had lost all sense of direction. But, she could still feel tall grass crumble under her shoes, indicating that she was still in the park.
Running aimlessly, several lights appeared from behind the dark vegetation that blocked her path. She swallowed dryly and continued towards it, feeling the branches snap at her face.
But as she ran towards one of them, it disappeared. Then another, and another, until there were nothing left but the darkness that engulfed her.
Her heart sank and she fell to her knees, gasping from exhaustion and trembling in fear. As she looked around, her lips quivered and tears welled in her eyes, feeling desperation wash over her.
But as she was ready to give up, a lone light shone in the distance. She didn’t care where it led; it was her only hope. She dried her tears took a deep breath and rallied. “I’m not gonna die,” she said aloud and sprinted towards the light.
As she ran, she found that all obstacles were gone. No trees, or bushes. The ground was flat and the grass was gone.
With her eyes focused ahead, a glimmer of light appeared out of nowhere, as if light reflecting on a piece of metal. Unable to stop, she crashed into whatever was in front of her.
She fell forward, toppling whatever blocked her path. Confused and disoriented, she tried to rise, but her heart was in her throat as she could feel the softness of flesh under her hand.
Quickly rolling over the body, she felt a sharp pain stung at her thigh and she rose on staggering legs. As she placed her hand where the pain burned, she could feel the wet thickness of blood coursing down her leg.
“Who are you?!” she shouted. “What do you want with me?” not able to control her tears any longer.
In response, the ‘thing’ in front of her breathed deeply with a rasp in its voice, as if something was stuck inside of it. Without waiting for an answer, she limped in the other direction, squealing, sobbing and gasping at the same time – but still towards the light.
As she limped, the light grew closer, but the ‘thing’ followed her, breathing heavily at her neck.
Feeling as if the light was her salvation, she did everything she could to reach it. And at the border of the light, she threw herself on the asphalt that was surrounded by a yellow glow. She crawled inside of it, careful not to stretch any part of her body outside of the light. But as she turned towards the threat, a knife flashed before her eyes and she cowered on the ground with her arms thrown over her face.
“Hey, hey!” a man’s voice said. “Whats going on?”
She flailed her arms and resisted his touch, screaming loudly. But as the man grabbed her wrists she snapped open her eyes and stared at the glowering eyes of a man she recognised.
He released his grip as she calmed and she checked her body, feeling that she was neither in pain nor exhausted.
The man rubbed his eyes and murmured. “It was just a dream, honey. Go back to sleep,” before he crawled back under the blanket.
Her eyes flickered at the man lying next her. “Who… What—?” she stammered.
As reality slowly sunk in, her heart settled. And she wrapped the blanket around herself – careful not to extend her body outside the comforting of the fabric – her safe zone.
© Christopher Stamfors