Pete went out for a jog round the park. Popping his iPod earphones into his ears, he began his stretching exercises outside by the porch. The next door neighbour passed by, carrying some grocery bags (a friendly wave) and the birds chirped. Pete always liked the mornings around his place. A gentle breeze blew down the street, lonely strangers walked briskly minding their own business and the birds flying in out the trees. Sometimes, the sun poked through the clouds, shining a happy bright light into the houses.
Music pounded on his ear drums, and he began to set a pace according to the drum beats of his iPod. One, two, one, two, and three, Pete went through his routine subconsciously. 20 minutes had passed, and Pete’s pores released sweat and stench. Wiping the dripping sweating down his forehead, he suddenly increased his pace slightly. Music track changed at the same time, to a slow alternative rock. He looked towards his back in simple curiousity, and saw someone waving at him. Stopping, he turned round, but saw no one there. Slightly flummoxed, he continued to jog.
A long time seemed to have passed, and Pete was tired. The lactic acid building up in his liver was starting to kill him, and he felt rather dizzy. He sat down on the nearest bench, and let his lungs hyperventilate. Not very conscious of himself, he looked to the side, and saw the same someone waving at him. Squinting, he muttered, “Alex?”
No, Alex is dead, Pete thought, he’s dead. He shook his already dizzy head and looked again. The man was still there, waving, smiling. “Alex?” Pete spoke more loudly. He got up and walked towards the man waving – but this man disappeared. Pete clenched his teeth, and felt his heart sink lower. “I miss you so much, old friend,” Pete muttered. So much, he added in his thoughts. One day, they had been enjoying themselves at a pub, talking and shouting loudly – the next, Pete attended a lonely funeral, where only a few came. Many of Alex Howard’s friends and relatives had disowned him for breaking his faith in God.
Wiping his sweat away, he got off his bench, and walked towards home. He needed to find refuge from his dangerous line of thoughts. Dumbfounded and confused, Pete quickened his pace, and wiped his sweat away again. There was no reason to panic, as all was gone and past – and yet Pete panicked. His heart beat faster, but felt much lighter. A purge of catharsis rushed and permeated through out his upper torso and down his arms, only to disappear in a matter of seconds. Pete shook his head inadvertently, and soon found himself opening the front door to his relief.
The house was strangely silent. Pete felt rather alone, listening to the buzz of the iPod speakers in the quiet front door corridor. The image of Alex Howard waving to him smiling passed through his mind again like a knife through soft flesh – making Pete close his eyes whilst rolling his eyeballs upwards. He was cut off from his mediation by a crash coming from the living room. Pete stood still for a while, debating quickly whether he should go and check it out or not.
His dad was convulsing on the floor of the living room, foaming in the mouth. Everything was happening so fast that Pete wasn’t sure that what he was seeing was realistic or not – the twitching legs and fingers seemed so unnatural. Pete rushed down on the floor to hold his dad in his arms, in a childish way to comfort him. His sense of equanimity broke down immediately, and a lump grew in his throat – but Pete held back his tears. “You’ll be okay, dad, you’ll be okay!” Pete whispered urgently. He dialed the ambulance straight away, and waited painstakingly for the next half an hour. “You’ll be okay, you’ll be okay…” Pete whispered repeatedly, “You have to be okay…”