“Don’t Give Up if Your Enemy Hasn’t” by Rachel Brooks

Don’t Give Up if Your Enemy Hasn’t

My feet screamed each time they slapped on the pavement, my shoes’ thin sole doing little to cushion the repeated blows. It felt as though the sole grew thinner with every minute I ran. I did not know how long I had been running. Minutes. Hours. Years.

My chest burned. My heart felt constricted, like it was wrapped in several rubber bands. My lungs felt like they were stretched to full capacity and they could not shrink back down, yet I felt short of breath. My ribs strained to contain my lungs, and I mistook the slap of my feet as the cracking of bone. I screamed in pain, but it came out as a ragged and breathy sound.

My throat was raw. My breathing was shallow and rapid and my mouth hung open. The air was cold and sharp. Never had the light air of a cool night felt so thick and hot. I tried to force myself to swallow and my throat would not perform the desired action. It stung, opening wider rather than closing. I coughed and I tasted blood.

I turned to look over my shoulder so see if my pursuer was still chasing me. He had been gaining on me when I last looked, and it took a stroke of foolish bravery to convince myself to look again. I did not see him, but I did not stop.

I faced forward, pumping my legs faster, swinging my arms farther. I refused to be caught. In my single-mindedness, I leapt over a row of small caution cones, landing in a block of wet cement. I gasped, a pained wheeze, as my feet were stilled without warning. My momentum carried me forward and I fell forward, landing on my hands and knees.

I breathed heavily, trying to free my limbs from the goo. I managed to get into a kneeling position and I sat back on my heels gasping for breath. I looked behind me. He wasn’t there. I made a pained sound and put my hands to my face. It was streaked with tears I did not know I had shed, drawn back in streaks on my face by the force of my run.

I laughed softly, though it sounded more like growling when leaving my torn, dry throat. I closed my eyes and wept, shaking my head in disbelief. I lowered my hands and looked up at the streetlight beneath which I was prostrated. In the distance, I heard church bells, they were striking one. Beyond that, I heard police sirens. The cell phone on which I had dialed 911 had fallen from my grasp a few blocks back, but I was sure they would find me.

I opened my mouth to thank god, but a hand fell over it. My eyes grew wide as they caught a flash of steel.