I’m breathing to the rhythmic scrapes of my feet grinding on road dirt.  I’m concentrating hard on keeping everything rhythmic.  It’s not the type of run where I’m running from something.  You know when you’re being chased.  There’s tingle that surges from around your heart and climbs up the back of your skull.  Its not there.  I’m just running.

This hill is known all over town for being steep.  During the winter, my family and our neighbors have to park at the base of the hill and walk up because the ice and snow make it impossible to drive up.  Some of my earliest daredevil memories are hurtling down this hill in a plastic trashcan cover on the winter ice.  No one ever made it to the very bottom, being dumped out the side of the lids when the plastic feels that it has reached its speed limit.  The summer always brought us to this hill for us to race our bikes.  The hill, essentially, defines my little slice of the universe for my childhood.

Its standing before me now.  Like a mountain rising out of the soft green prairie.  There aren’t any sounds.  Children have all grown and left.  From the silence, it appears they took the birds, dogs, and other ambient neighborhood noise with them.  The only noise is the dry crunching sound of my shoes propelling me forward toward the sleeping behemoth.  I go back to making sure my breaths and steps line up in perfect sequence.

Toward the top of the hill, I catch sight of something in the middle of the road.  As I approach, I see a woman lying face down.  She’s thin and well dressed, her blue skirt strangely pristine.  Her white blouse’s sleeves are stylishly rolled to just above her elbows and carefully framed with a thick band of blood.  The pointed toe of her pumps make her ankles and feet bend in uncomfortable positions.

Execution style.  The woman was killed execution style.  I have no idea how I know this.  Could I have learned it from watching too many episodes of Dexter?  There is blood.  Its thick and wide, going on a straight course up the hill.  A river of life flowing against the laws of physics.

I lift her to look at her face.  Perhaps I may know her.  Her blue eyes are open and staring wide-eyed at me.  Her mouth is open in surprise.  She looks like any typical working professional woman.  Her makeup is minimalist.  It could have been rubbed off in the throes of a long day.  There’s a hint of eye shadow still on her brow bones.  Her lips are stained from repeated use of lipstick.

Laying her face gently back on the concrete, I notice two people to my left.  Its Cindy.  She’s young again, her fresh cherub face hasn’t been touched by the dark makeup she came to thrive on as a teenager.  She’s looking at me trying to assess whether its a situation to be afraid of or not.  Her eyes are as dark as rich soil and keep holding me.

“Come on, let’s go inside.”

Its a man’s voice.  I can see his hand reaching down to grab her arm, like parents of small children often find themselves doing when their children are errant.  I don’t dare rip my eyes away from hers.  She’s being gently pulled backwards toward where I know her house is.  She makes no move to run to me, nor do I detect fear.   Eventually she turns around walking toward the brick house she occupied in my childhood.

Standing and wiping my hands on my shorts, I wonder if there’s need for alarm.  I crack my knuckles against my face and start running along the blood river, careful not to slip.  The creeping tingling feeling starts to take over my heart.  I’m no longer concerned with rhythm.

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3 responses to “

  1. I disagree, I think Cindy can be explained with a simple “it’s Cindy, my childhood friend, young again,” or something like that. Maybe a slight reference to her when the narrator is discussing times spent in their youth.

    I like how you described two different types of running one as the introduction and one as the end… I think it provides a closer that short stories typically need. (This IS a short story right!?)

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