Somewhere, I am running. Running, running, running.
My feet pound relentlessly against the earth. Everything is sped up, life in fast forward. My heart pulses hard in my chest, my head, my throat, my fingers. My feet tread bare against the rough ground, their soles numb and bloodied. The world races past me, eyes and ears. My is breathing loud and rapid in my lungs, the only sound that seems to fill the night air besides the drum of my feet, and the sickening sound of the heavy boots that pursue us. Running, running, running. I stumble, my breath caught up in a gasp, my arms stretched out in front of me in a primal attempt to shield myself from the approaching black pavestones, burying my face into the crooks of my arms. With no sound, it seems, I slide along the cobbled street, skinning my left forearm and both of my knees, grimacing as the skin peels back.
Her hand thrusts into my line of sight from nowhere, her voice is shouting but I can only make out an unintelligible blob of sound, fuzzing and meaningless. I look up at her, facing those who run behind me, and she pulls me upright. At the touch of her hand, the world begins to slow. First, and briefly, we are in real time, and then we are slow, moving through treacle, until every second lasts forever. And that is when I realise what is going to happen. In this infinite moment, she is beautiful, glorious as I look upon her face. Her hair, black as coal, is curled neatly around her neck, its velvet ribbon hangs slightly dislodged and caresses her white skin as she turns away from me. This instant hangs suspended from all others; her hand in mine is soft and small and clings to me, anchoring it there. Her wrist protrudes just slightly from the cuff of her woollen coat with its velvet trim. As she runs, its pleated back panel expands and contracts as if in breath, the buttons just above it glinting in the light of the streetlamps, a flash of brightness, twinkling, like stars caught on the small of her back.
Running, running, running. Her grip on my hand slackens as we reach a tall brick wall. To us it is a huge towering black spectre in the night. Somewhere, a clock is ticking, a phone is ringing, someone is putting their children to bed, and I am running. She faces me, and I see her lips moving but I cannot hear the words but still I understand. She crouches; her white dress with its frothy lining leaves barely an inch now comes barely an inch from the top of the creamy white sock which shortly disappears into her mud flecked boots. She makes a cup with her hands and I step onto it. I reach up. I hear her sound of protest as she stands and I’m lifted but not enough to reach, my fingers left groping uselessly just a few inches from the top of the wall. With one huge heave and a thrust of my leg I’m there and I’ve caught it and I pull myself up, the raw flesh down my arm screaming in protest against the bricks and the weight of me. I scramble and I’m up; I feel my foot just clip the top of her forehead.
Steadied now, I turn; I reach down to her, my fingers splayed. She looks up; reaching desperately for my fingers. I can hear the boots; the echo around us. She glimpses them over her shoulder but I won’t follow her gaze. She looks back to me in panic, reaching again and this time she finds my finger-tips, but my grip is slick and she can’t hold it. She screams and sound comes running back to me from some place other than her body, which still I am reaching for. The boots rattle my ribcage and I spin so I’m reaching down and my legs hang over the other side of the wall and she grabs on, her hand around my wrist. I pull, and I hear her shoes against the bricks, so I pull harder. She’s calling me, yelling my name. I try to pull harder. The world stands still. I’m back in that moment again, where she first took my hand, but I know her hand’s gone, and she’s falling. It’s all I can think, though I’m falling too, and I hit the ground a heartbeat after she does.
I call her name over and over; crying; trying to climb; falling; cutting my hands; knocking my nails back. I am clawing the wall, screaming her name because that's all I've got and that's all she’s become. She is just a name unanswered on the other side of the wall and I am just a tiny girl who can never get to her. Somewhere a baby is born, somewhere lovers meet, somewhere a grandfather clock is ticking in the hall of our quiet house without us, and somewhere I am broken on the ground.
I ducked into the bushes nearby, and crawled along the cold earth beneath them. I can still feel the cold earth on my hands, how it stung on my cuts, and how thorns snagged my shoulder, and tore my jacket, leaving me shivering on the frosty grass when I finally emerged. I was doused in cold sweat, and my limbs trembled in the icy wind. I knew I had nowhere to go, and went back to the bushes, where I hid. Time hung still around me as I lay there. I could feel those moments, where she grabbed me and she fell, all happening at once, all instances somewhere, played on loop for eternity as I lay waiting on the ground for something to happen. When a hand founds my sleeve and dragged me out into the open, I called out her name, and I didn’t fight. My pursuers looked down at me, and I didn’t feel the knives of their words in the cold. I looked around, but I couldn’t see her. I still cry for her every night.
At night when I lay packed against others, I imagined her, alone, and afraid, like I was. After I was liberated, I still clung to this idea that I would find her, somewhere, and I wouldn’t be alone any more. One morning, I woke, and I cried, and I realised that I had always known that she was dead. If I had admitted it to myself before, though, it would have killed me. I am not sure I would have minded.
Somewhere, though, I am still running, in those moments that were worlds, instants that were universes that unfolded into others. Seconds bleed into minutes bleed into days; it’s all just another place. It’s happening now. I know because when I close my eyes, I see her face, that wall, those men. I know because I still feel that those cuts on my palms, and that fear in my heart, and I always will. I know this, because that way, she will be alive always, just somewhere I can't see. She is not past tense; she exists in between seconds, in the ticking off the clock, in everywhen.
(Based on this Story Jam)
Fruit from this Jam:
Time's Chaos. by Benjamin
The Frenchman by MichaelThompson
Americana Chance by
Modern Factory by Matt Drake
A wrinkle in Time by
Emilio by Richard
Personal time by lindalopez
Time Machine by Zita Barlai
All in the mind by Sam
When we were young by Kip Logan
Echoes of Darkness by James
we are Al ready time machines by David Pinto
song on repeat by H.L.W.
The Black Hole Walker by Kevin Cagle