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Author Name: Freeborderline_mary 1 Comments
Date Added: November 09, 2010 12:11:40 Average Score: (Needs 2)
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Type: Short Story
Category: Short Stories Add To Favorites | Text Only
 
Run

Germany was quiet all around her.

The thunder of light, fleet footfalls still crashed through her nerves; it would not be stilled.  Miles had etched themselves into every wound, each bruise delineated by rhythm and wind.  She breathed hard only to hear the sound, and scraped short, blunt nails against the soil she had tamped down into a gritty pack for a bed.  High up in the branches of this tree might have been safer than the knotty hollow of roots, yet it had neither appealed nor more than half occurred to her to climb.  So much of her hurt, physical injuries cut and twisted together with subtler things, that it all called out for shelter, no matter how little sleeping in the dirt could do to soothe its pervasive ache.

The trees seemed to dwarf her more than usual, now that the sun was setting and the shadows were long; sweat came off her skin in sheets, a panic-sweat far too drenching to be accounted for by heat or exertion, though today had been hot for this time of year.  It still felt so.  It bordered on hellish when the wind of her flight no longer cooled her.  It was suffocating.  It made her dizzy and nauseated.  This temperature was unnatural, enveloping and sticky, and her body screamed that it was too hot to be night and too cold to be day.  Here the air smoldered under her skin, seeking ways into deeper places, leaving her sick with moisture and fatigue.

She wished for the scorching winds and baleful, bleaching eye of the desert.  In the desert she knew how to be alone.  Here, she could only forget.

This was the only place familiar to her in this foreign city, and it personified solitude.  Trees screened the house from ready sight, distance from the road kept it nearly free of passing traffic, and the fury of a full moon over its shadows turned away those who knew the power of such things.  It had stood empty for months before they had come, though scarcely a day since they had left to risk their lives; and it had changed in that day, in a manner that perhaps only Sasha might have detected.  Nothing about this place, or any other, had smelled quite right since their return.

A filmy layer of betrayal tinged each scent with its edge of bitter orange resentment.  It was as an invisible specter, pressing itself between the atoms of things until it was everything and nothing at once.  Its focus, standing now with their backs to the door and blocking her escape, seemed to glow dully to her eyes, dark-lit with turmoil like slow roiling murk.  Distracting her, a lingering blend with the afternoon's faint mist, the musty, heavy perfume of the building where she had once been held prisoner filtered into careless lungs at each too-deep breath.  It had refused to clean out of clothing or hair or skin, or to be anything other than cloying and faintly sickening.

Intrusive and chill, a breeze dried both sweat and tears over a handful of slow hours, lulling her tremors, and presently she was aware that her frantic breathing had evened and blood no longer thrummed in her ears.  Still she felt jarred, as if she ran, but she could listen to that breathing and know that she had stopped.  Tingling slivers walked their way up her spine and said she had overexerted herself in this state.  She should stretch before damaged muscles locked up.

Insects scattered as she edged out of the hollow and into twilight, carelessly loosing a small avalanche of twigs and lichen dust as her head failed to clear the upper lip.  Powder settled in her hair and forced her to suppress a sneeze.  It would be under her bandages now.  She vanished it away with her mind to match her own glass-like transparency.  Grass grew tall surrounding these trees, far from the road, but she could not allow herself to be visible to the sky―they would use the sky to find her.  From this moment until her last, she could be seen by no eyes and touched by no hands.

Slender leaves slid across palms whose callouses suddenly seemed no protection at all, leaving cuts in papery flesh, and little spidery gray lines collected along their stems from the dirt that coated her hand wraps.  She was scarcely taller, and had to push her way through, rustling like the sound of rain on cement, to a place that was sparse enough for free movement.  The bamboo forests of her childhood dominated this pitiful place, she thought errantly, and the want for them that followed was sudden, hot, and metallic; she hadn't missed them in years.  Longer, it seemed, than she had been alive.  The yearning halted her, pumping molten through her chest, and then it didn't matter if she found a clear patch of ground.  Everything was the same here.  It would pass through her if she let it.

Coiling herself outward, inward, and in many directions, she coaxed battered tendons to suppleness, flexing them against each other in the impossible configurations that had once so baffled her partner and his associate . . . her father.  Her brother.  Ghostly murmurs wanted to see her cry.  She banished them from her thoughts.  Physical exertion defined her now, from the execution of every contortion to the shrieking nerve endings that told her only sleep could repair what had been harmed.
 
Sleep―oh, sleep―never again.  She forced away that longing as well.  No time and no need for healing, her mind whispered, when healing could not help the dead.
 
But as another interminable hour snaked by, she found splaying her body out was not enough to dispel what pulled at her, and could not be, until she returned to the controlled blur of motion in which she instinctively knew peace might be found.  She had no thought for anything but surcease; she could run, or she could fight, or she could give in and never move again.
 
Stretching became taolu; taolu became the universe.

That building had smelled so different from the rest of her world:  so much newer, yet so much haughtier, so much more pedantic, lethargic, and weighty.  It had smelled like inevitability and sham, empty grandeur and grossly flaunted power.  Betrayal, with its cinnamon sharpness and sour aftertaste, would not merge with it, forcing it to skim across the surface as a spill of oil on water.  She had spent so little time there, for as much as it had altered everything about her life, forcing her to stare into a mirror and resign herself to losing everything she saw.  Perhaps it had soaked into her very bones and she would never be rid of it.

Sasha was happy in spite of it.  There was something painfully right in the way she faced the two of them across the narrow bedroom, while wan sunlight leaked through the window from an overcast sky, one anguished and one angry and both of them distressed and damaged, that she hadn't realized she would have regretted missing in death.  She had known them both for too long not to have anticipated, even looked forward to, this shift in their bond, the catalyst that would redefine it.  These circumstances had served as a crucible which would make it stronger or splinter it like rotten wood.

Pain broke on the vacuum she had created, washing over and receding, ignorable and ignored, just as she ignored that she was taxing her body beyond its limits for the second time today.  It would recover, as it always did, those hateful little clockwork cells busily rebuilding themselves around a mind that could have wished for convalescence even as much as it rebelled at the vaguest suggestion of inaction.

All of the last month had been convalescence, truly, biding her time until she could properly betray everything she cared about and call her choices honor.

Solitude reigned as a fitting penance.  That slight weight, absent from her side, of the token she had left behind―the weapon that had been with her every breath since she had become free―reminded that she had made such hollow promises for all she'd taken.  It was right that she should be alone.  Abandonment fit snugly against her skin like a garment, easily donned at need, mockingly preserving what it suffocated.

The sky whirled and she strove to keep pace.  On every imagined enemy there was one face that she smashed over and over again, exalted by the feel of it, the snap of bone and cartilage and the welter of bloody muscle like slip over clay, as real in these moments as it had ever been on those many black nights when corpses had piled around her.  They all had her mother's face.  She would kill them with her guns, her knives, her poison, her fire, and when it all ran dry she would kill them with only her hands, just like this, reveling in its savagery, in feeling their guns and knives and poison and fire mar her own flesh and exact from her all they believed they were owed.  They were the source.  She had been nothing until they had given, everything until they had lifted the illusion, and even now they had forced her to rupture and spill what little she'd made for herself.  What they'd molded into her could no longer allow them to live.  Forgiveness was alien.  They would die with her, and she with them, and every breath of promise that she had uttered would return to the air as she did―as nothing.

She would never come back.

But they had their honor―and finally, by this action, so would she.  That changed everything.  The impossibility of that, the reversal of something for which acceptance had come so painfully, still had the power to make her slightly giddy.  She felt entirely invincible, even as she sampled a new flavor of guilt within their eyes.

Frank's anger was a heavy heat that smothered deeper things; its waft of bitterness coated the slow, cold moments, making them slippery and tacky, passing too quickly for any hope of retrieval but so slowly that the hurt in them crawled its many feet across her skin until she felt conquered.  It was an interesting dichotomy, to be both conquered and unconquerable, guilty and vindicated, wrong and right.

Falling ribbons of light from the horizon, twisting as they descended, crossed into her world, and a drop of melting blood passed over them.  Separated from her, it was no longer clear as water; suddenly panicked, she caught it before it could land in the grass, jerking immobile so quickly the ground tilted.  When she looked down, opened her crystalline hand, throat cold and ears buzzing with the pressure built behind her eyes, there was nothing left.  It had vanished again . . . or perhaps it hadn't been blood?

Her breath hitched, and she stared at the emptiness where her hand should be, until everything blurred.

It was almost beyond her comprehension how the world could be suddenly smeared across her vision, whirling past her in incoherent snatches; she blinked, wondering if it would steady, wondering if perhaps she was losing her hold on consciousness as she desperately wanted and refused to allow.  But it didn't steady, and abruptly she was aware that she was the object moving, not everything else―she realized that she ran again.  The rhythm and the wind returned to her.


Time and the ground folded beneath, behind.  She no longer knew why she had ever stopped running, or if she would ever do so again until the place of her birth snapped into solidity around her.

It was reassuring to feel that way, and to feel anything at all.  Things had been too simple, for too long; they had been smoothed out by a mutual need to lock away the painful parts and disjointed memories of three doubled lives, until nothing was left behind but a lack―a hole and a want and each other.  That sat ill with Sasha, for whom emptiness was worse than despair.  She wished her lips had stayed silent, that she had never spoken the treachery that had stolen all the air from this room, but . . . still, the knottiness, the intricacy, of this moment . . . it was comforting.  It hurt so deeply and exhilarated so well.  She wanted to cry, or to die, or simply to cease existing, and it was somehow the one feeling she had missed after apathy had leached all feelings away.

Ronnie's eyes were so empty that they drew in on themselves, dark pits without light at the bottom, and she finally recognized in them what he was.  To gain family and lose it all at once―the two of them shared the burden.

It was more difficult to breathe than it should have been, here where nothingness was all around her and could not run short.  She had dreamed about this sometimes: seeing her own feet pound the grass down, smelling the too-cold wind and feeling it sheet past her, the sound of her steps bouncing back from every plane unheard by anyone who mattered.  It was freedom, and it was hers.  But there had never been so little air.  In her dreams there was always surfeit, both oxygen and energy in limitless supply, promising endless horizon if she so chose.

Everything she saw merged into a seamless whole, and she sought meaning in the pattern; there a road whose course ran parallel, there a fence that tottered away across uneven ground into inky distance, there and everywhere the stunted, apathetic grass that was no longer nearly as tall as she.  Black eyes turned upward; there, the moon rising behind bruised clouds.

Nothing familiar.  Nothing at all.
 
Sasha hated that she could have had more time; to stay, to explain, to convey the depths of her regard; but those two oppressive scents would have choked her as surely as the weight in her chest did now.  She had made for herself bonds that could not be slipped or broken, so that only death might dissolve them, and so she had to make Frank and Ronnie understand that she was already dead, and that her revenant would not haunt them any longer.  They reached out to her without moving, entreating, pleading with every breath as they stood motionless as cracked statues, but the time for recanting had passed long before this moment.  She had cheated them of that.  Black eyes that belonged to a traitor entreated them in turn, begging the forgiveness, the understanding, that she knew she did not deserve.

As her weight shifted only a fraction against the worn wooden floorboards, she spoke her last, empty promise.

The questions passed by for an ephemeral moment if she would become lost in her headlong flight, and never find her way again, and if that would be all right with her.  Maybe if she ran until she burst, all of her people would burst, too, like dream-figments in the light, and she would not need to kill them with her hands or with anything.

If only, she wished with every particle of being, that could be so; she could die in disgrace, instead of with honor, and yet her family would be safe, and all would settle into its proper place once more.  She could hope to be forgotten, then.  Her people should have forgotten her, but they had not; perhaps her family could.  She had wronged them so much that they would not wish to remember, nor would she wish it for them.  Birthed from void, returning to void, instantly and wholly gone with the last of her heartbeats:  the existence surrounding her would split and scatter into emptiness in their minds, and they would shake themselves awake, as if from a long sleep. If only that could be so.

If only now, before her feet could falter.

The window fractured on impact, and it did not slow her at all, though its edges slit her skin as it poured over her in raucous disintegration.  Two things dropped from her hands, and she rolled, and came up running―running, as if the world would fail if she paused, as if she could truly leave them behind when only distance lay between―running, stretched flat out to the ground, breath sobbing in her chest, pushing herself so hard that the landscape dimmed and edged itself in blue.  Only running.  Nothing else was left.

But they didn't falter at all.  She guided them to the west, chasing the last remembered light, and recognized that they never would.

Her resolve was untouched.  Somehow, she suddenly knew that if she had chosen to run again, she must have a destination.
 
She'd never dreamed a destination.  The thought tasted strange, and worth exploring.

From some quiet shelf in her mind, she dredged up the memories of laughter, of long-ago weeks only just past; no, that wasn't where she was going.  That was why she was going, but not where.  Blood, gunpowder, cotton, metal―all of them why.  The crux of it eluded her, as if it might be the wrong question.  But she knew all the other answers.

The reasons still spilled over and coated her; when was now; and how was the simplest answer of them all.  She was going to run, as she was running now, and then . . . after that . . .

. . . she was going to fly.
 
Reality attenuated.

Tears would not obey her frantic order to stay confined; vision mazed, body in agony, she lost her tenuous connection to self, and let it drift behind her, tossing in the wind of her passage.

Abruptly, joint wrenched back into socket, and Sasha returned fully to herself.

She shook off the cobwebs from her thoughts.  They realigned, truncated, restoring impetus, honor, and will.  Despair snapped off like the end of a dry stick.  She saw again, and knew where she was, and knew where she needed to go.  She remembered.

She was going to fly, as she had first flown, shadowing her past and arriving home in silence, more alone than she had ever been in any dream of desert sands.  Home, as it had never and always been, and whose concrete bones she must press into her palms one more time, if only to betray it, too.  Then she would travel back down the first and only road until she came to its source.

Now her trajectory was not that of a mad escape into death, but a strong and easy lope towards the end of her life.

She laughed, or wanted to, without sound, pure irony unleavened by humor.  The breath that tore through her lungs now meant everything and nothing, and everything, because it allowed her to safeguard all that had ever mattered.  Shame burned behind her eyes as if made of tears, while her body burned with exertion and the pain of her injuries; she had frenzied again and lost herself in it; but the danger of that was past now, and she would never again fail in that manner.  Shame was nothing.  Pain was nothing.  There was no failure.  There would be no end.

The ground vanished behind and expanded ahead, and she took to it with purpose.  Her destination was New York; New York, and China after.

It never occurred to her that she deserved to look back.

Germany was quiet all around her, and the distant star-field of a city beckoned.
Author's Notes:

This is a character-introspection/character-exploration piece, based on a character I've been working with for a while now.  The piece itself is a sideline to a much larger writing project, and thus there's a lot of background that isn't included, but I'm hoping to see how it stands on its own.

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Comments:
Comment By: Freejamieson steele on January 10, 2011 10:03:50 PM Report


Jessica,


   There's a common tone


throughout this work that


is consistent with its title,


"Rhythm & Wind"


as expressed by


"Sasha & Nature".


("She guided them to the west.")


Point:


The tone of the story,


 musically,


 is suspense.


 Anything else such as


action, character, background, storyline


etcetera is unfinished.


 


All the best,




Jamieson


PS


 Do you practice yoga?


I know you've studied an


eastern philosophy, specifically,


"Zen".


If I'm right I liked to skim through


some of your Zen works.





 


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