The Disappearing Runner

The warmth of the day made the mountains seem closer, so decided to run towards them. With his wife and kids relaxing in the backyard, he set his shirt over a chair, to let them aware that he was going without disturbing them, and stepping from the shadowy interior of his house, he set off.

A single road led from here to there, lined only by telephone poles that he continually lost track of counting. His house being the last in town until the peaks, He kept a steady pace as they passed by, while the mountains looming ahead grew larger with each step. The gentle breeze tickled his back as it raced him, rippling the sun colored grass of the valley as it blew ahead of him. He could almost swear to see it as his eyes followed its imaginary pace up into the sky, where large clouds lined as far as the eye could see.     His eyes descending back to the road, he peered down the open road that made the mountain seem farther than ever. 

The sun passed by, and he plugged on. With nothing to pass the time down on the earth he ran across, he could not tell if it were seconds or hours that he strode. And with no sign of tiring, he kept plugging away. 

A dot in the distance made him slow down, his run dying to a trot so he could catch his breath. He had gone far enough, and maybe it was time to turn around. Walking to the next telephone pole, he watched the dot come closer, emerging and differentiating itself from the dark blue of the mountains. As it became defined, he could see the dust it kicked up as it came his way. A truck, barreling along the lane. With nothing located this far from town, the speed limit was that of a joke until his house came into sight, something the runner was always uneasy about. But there was nothing that he could do, for the sheriff was never really concerned of the typical happenings of the outskirts. 

He only saw one person in the cabin as it passed by, a flash of a tan mustached man driving through, unseeing of the one pedestrian on the road. Though rather close as he flew by, the runner was unharmed by the vehicle, but his mind began to worry as he watched the truck becoming smaller. There was nothing he could do, the truck and him would never be together again; it would be gone by the time he got back to his house, but he felt compelled to begin heading back. Turning around, he walked a few steps, before running once more.

***

The sun slipped a little too quickly on the way back, which made him wonder how long he had actually been on the road. It was early afternoon when he had set out, how was it nearing sunset on his way back? His curiosity was brushed aside by some extraordinary panic, as he pushed onward, thinking of the reckless driver and his home. 

***

The orange was not of sunset, he realized when he came closer to the houses. Somehow, though it was a dot on the horizon, a fire leapt up on the road, the orange flames reaching for the greater fire miles above. He ran faster, towards his house, and the man panicked. He could not tell exactly where down the road it was, but it was close to his home, and with the winds picking up, the runner’s worry began to increase. 

He was not tired, but his vision began to tunnel as he grew closer to civilization. He pushed harder, his legs striding greater with each step, but he seemed to be going nowhere. What was wrong with him? Shouldn’t he be flying down the dirt road? But the distance between the telephone poles seemed to be greater. It made no sense, but somehow he was slowing down.

He stopped walking, blinking his eyes away, and when he opened them, he was not where he had just been. Smoke was everywhere, the roar of the flames… but he had just been far away from the fire! How had he run so far, and gotten nowhere? He looked around, and took a step back… and suddenly he was under the stars, standing, and the fire was far away again. The man looked around, bewildered, and stumbled, trying to figure out what was happening.

Flashes of color went through his memory. His house, the stars, the road, the outline of a truck burning… but he could not remember the events surrounding these images. It was if he were one place for a second, like flicking a channel on the television. The run had not been that strenuous, was it? Closing his eyes, he stopped moving for a second. For one second, hoping that he could see straight if he stopped moving. There was nothing beyond the sight of his eyelids, and when he opened them again, it would be daylight, he would be on the road back to his home, and this was all a product of his imagination. 

A blackened truck frame was wasting in front of him when he could see again, yet the man remained still. All around, the ashes were scattered on the road, and the smell of gas mixed with the scent of early morning. Somehow, he had missed hours of reality, where something had happened. Without a step, twisting around, he could see that the truck was in the middle of the road going closer to town. A burnt tree in the yard, a shattered mailbox on another side of the street, a busted fire hydrant… somehow, his worries of that truck driver had been a reality, and the disaster of the road had happened. 

He had to figure out what happened to his own family. Whatever was going on, with the truck or him, if he could find out one answer, it would put him at peace. Raising his foot nervously, he turned and set his foot down… and the scene around him stayed. Whatever odd thing happening to him was over, for now, and maybe if it stayed away, he could figure out what it was. 

But as he took the first step toward his home… he was gone.

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