Before one can step out, before one can be within air, before one can mind hold the scape that is without of one. One must be pivot, electric in muscle and vision of dream. -Wendella Rhoads
My lungs clench in spasms trying to gulp air. I stop running but my body is wracked with the effort of the last four hours. My heart a tattoo against my ribs almost in time with my gasping. Squinting up into the darkness, my eyes burn with sweat, I strain to get a good scan of my surroundings. I feel the rough, cold texture of the bricks on my back as I draw closer into the shadow of the building.
A cool breeze caresses my face giving a moment of grace, I close my eyes, bow my head and wrap my arms around me. Taking a moment to quiet my head. “Why are they after me?” “Why won’t they let up?” The questions echo to the depths of my consciousness but garner no discernable reply. All I know is the feeling of loss and grief sing through sinew and bone. “Something is very wrong” I mutter to myself. A tattered memory tries to surface, I can just barely make out some colors, shapes, like an out of focus movie. Edges blurred, the image just out of perception, then it is gone. Leaving an empty thread of loss in its wake. I feel the shadows reaching out to comfort me with calming quiet fingers. Pulling myself back into the reality of the dimly lit alley. I try to quell my physical noises and internal dialog long enough to reach out with my senses and listen. Quiet? “How could a street be completely quiet” part of my mind wonders. I could neither hear or feel anyone on the street. Had they stopped tracking me? No, I imagined they had locked down the area. The acrid atmosphere of the alley held thick with traces of trash, urine, dirt, oil and the distinct smell of unwashed bodies. The city’s homeless had made this dim alcove their home, but they did not seem to be here now. Dread slowly filling my mind, adrenaline starts to build and all thoughts slow down. They were near. All three of them, spawning the unnerving feel of someone unexpectedly breathing down my back, I felt them. The sensation still light and vague. They were still looking; they didn’t know where I was. They were canvassing the area around me. I could still stay low and they might not see me. I surveyed the alley for a dark bolt hole. I consciously hold back the physical sensations of a body that have been pushed beyond its limits. Sagging down and curling up against the building on the dark side of a large garbage pod, I hold myself and push down the urge to wretch. Sweat and blood still stinging my eyes; I start to shake. My hands gripping into my arms to harden against the involuntary quaking. Locking my teeth together I mentally reach for the feel of the comforting cool bricks against my shoulder. Two days ago I was happy, two days ago I was just living in my mediocre life, living in the boredom of routine hoping for something exciting to happen. Now I would give anything to be bored again.
10:00 AM Two Days Earlier
“Did you see the sweetener?” I asked lightly to my co-worker as I fumble through the assortment of different coffee accompaniments in the break area. I cast a sideways glance with one eyebrow raised at the slender twenty-something woman standing next to me. She is wearing a generic office uniform, an undefined suit shirt and slacks in drab understated colors with sensible shoes. Her light blonde hair is swirled up in a clichéd hairstyle. The light scent of laundry detergent wafts off her when she shifts. This woman is the picture of unremarkable. Obviously, she works at an image of being competent, non-fussy and very businesslike. I wonder if dressing in that fashion keeps her bosses from looking too closely at her work. Does the image really make less corporate drama for her? She absently finishes dunking her teabag in a company logo coffee cup. She lifts her head slightly and makes a small effort of looking over the array of products that I just shuffled through. Her head drops back to look into the apparent depths of mystery in her mug. Then glances at the breakroom exit, never turning back toward me I see her profile give a slight side to side nod, the universal gesture for ‘no idea’. Shrugging one shoulder she quietly turns and wanders out. I watch after her feeling slightly resentful. I wished I could be so bland and blend in with my environment. I never could, I honestly think it is physically impossible for me to be part of the unseen. The corporate drones that meander through their day, go to their over-mortgaged home, deal with an over demanding family and sleep the sleep of the untouched by the hands of anger, pain, and suffering that fund my thoughts and nightmares. Then again don’t we always see others as having a better avenue than that of what we have been handed? I stand staring into my coffee. I am suddenly aware that I am doing the same thing as “Business Barbie” had just done and humorously wonder if the Oracle of Delphi actually did exist in the bottom of our corporate mugs. The realization that I am actually supposed to be at a meeting smacks me out of my trance. No wonder I am doing my best to get sidetracked! mentally berating myself for not being more responsible with my time. I turn to exit the company break area and feel a ribbon of fear start in my middle and wind itself through my mind. My heart starts beating faster, tensions fills my muscles informing my body it is preparing to fight. I had learned long ago this was my physical response to the ancient wind that whispers to my soul telling me danger is near. I briskly round the corner of the breakroom. Panic ebbing, I try to focus and keep my motions from appearing too dramatic. Scanning the main floor, my eyes dart quickly over the area looking for obvious signs of an earthquake,fire, flood or the fourth horseman in full medieval armor complete with a flaming sword riding through my office. I see nothing but the monotonous gray sea of cubicles that serves as my workplace. All I take in is the normal sight of tired people sitting at their computers wearing their usual haggard glazed over expressions. The rhythm of mindless keyboards tapping out the bass beat, the droning phone conversations are the lyrics, to the song, of this, the land of the living dead. No one else seems to be reacting? As I try to stroll casually over to my area, mentally trying to cage the ever-strengthening grip on my mind, that is telling me to run, to hide. Sweat starts dampening the base of my neck, my skin prickles with energy and my blood pulses, I fail at ‘casual’ and start walking faster. I finally arrive at my cubicle, a quick look at my desk tells me nothing is out of place. Standing stiffly in front of my chair, I close my eyes. My rational brain tries to argue with instinct. “Sure, you feel threatened, but you are probably just over reacting as you know you do“, “No, there is a predator!” my ancient instinct answers in a renewed cold wash of adrenaline. Finally giving into the insurmountable pressure building in my blood, I stride purposely out of the office. Doing a light jog to the sidewalk I feel the pounding waves of fear sweep through my muscles. I have to run. Giving in and pushing my body into a run I feel unchained. I turn and look over my shoulder at my office and glimpse ‘them’. Three men in indistinct brown suits cropped haircuts and sunglasses, the only thing that makes them at all remarkable is the fact that they are all stopped in the middle of the sidewalk staring right at me. One of them sniffs the air like a bloodhound scenting prey. I start to realize that I must be the prey as they all silently nod at each other and one of them starts to run after me as the others go in separate directions.