River

I joined the steady river of people flowing through the road. Apart from the occasional call of a name, the only sound was the shuffling feet of thousands. It vaguely reminded me of the crowd on a race day, except these people weren’t running and the fear tasted different.

Fear is hardwired into my system. I feel fear before the starting blast
of a pistol, I feel it when I am passed in a race. But the fear I feel then is
nothing comparable to the fear I felt while walking to the roped away square.
If I run hard enough, the fear eventually melts away in a race. But walking
there, that fear was deeper. That was dread.

It was colder than anything I had ever felt. It was deadening. My limbs
felt heavy. So, so heavy.

To escape my own mind, I watched those around me. I blinked, and for a
moment I could see clearly. Not with my eyes, but with my heart. The people
around me were as terrified as I was. Their emotion was as tall as bomber
planes. It was vast. And it was all going to be squashed into this roped-off
square mile.

I saw one of my friends on the side of the road. He was a runner
himself, but he was not joining me in the roped-off square. He didn’t need to.

I smiled at him and waved. He shook his head at me and looked away. My
smile melted off my face. He didn’t meet my eyes again as he turned and ran.

My spirits plummeted.

Abandon a monster, and you are neither a coward nor a hero. You avoid conflict.

The runner’s way. Run to avoid confrontation.

I was one of the last ones in the river, filing away into the square. I
located my family and followed them in a bit of a daze, hurt at my friend’s
behaviour.

The apartment was tiny. For a greedy person like me, used to her
personal space, this was terrible to accept.

“Well, this isn’t too bad,” my father said gently. “We’ll be fine.”

Fine? No, this was not fine. This was terrible. I plunked down to the floor and extracted my running shoes.

“I’m going to go for a run,” I said steadily, fighting for breath.  

When I stepped out of the apartment, I took a deep breath of the nasty city air. But when I began to run, despite the chorus of complaints that rose
up from my stiff body at first, I immediately began to relax.

It’s kind of funny. Despite the strain that running puts on the body, I
think it’s the only time I feel truly calm.

As I ran around the square, I caught glimpses of a wall being built
around us. I failed to recognize the significance of this until I stopped after
an easy eight miles in front of my new apartment.

Walking around for a while to ease my muscles back to rest, I saw glass
shards being shoved atop the walls. I froze, finally realizing what this meant.

We were closed off. We were never going to be able to go out.

And nothing could ever come back in.

Nothing.   

The End

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