Sad Fiction Urban Fantasy

Tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat

The runner blazes through the sweltering day on his delicate feet. Along the way, the sights of the Sonoran fly by his pupils. Saguaros, canyons, green bushels, the occasional jackrabbit who’d hop away before he could glance. 

Tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat

He reached a strange, desolate human structure, but the asphalt he kicked behind his tail stretched ever farther. Once again, images of the unforgiving, dull landscape would pass his gaze. More bunches of greenery, more saguaros. He thought how fortunate those damned things are.

Tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat

He had found this road a couple hundred miles back, eager to see what lay at the end of its trail. Yet here he was, still running. Still going. Still seeing those same old sights. Even the occasional human monuments were growing stale to him. 

Tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat

Why am I what I am? He begins to think as his feet keep up the same tedious pace through the land. Why can’t I be as jumpy as those rabbits and touch the air above me as they do?

Tat tat tat tat tat tat

Why can’t I experience the patient thrill that those devilish reptiles do, striking for their next tasty morsel? Why do I run?

Tat tat tat tat tat tat

What have I got to earn? Another stop at unremarkable constructs of man’s making? He couldn’t even seem to reach the end of this long valley of black with a fading, cracked yellow strip dividing it. 

Tat tat tat

The runner stops. He isn’t exhausted either. Just as he begins to contemplate heading for a snake’s maw, he hears that same tat tatting a few feet away. The tatting stops just behind him, and he knows it’s another runner. He had a bright red stain on his beak.  

“What are you doing stopping out here, my brother?” The red beaked runner paces his feet in place, pecking at the ground around him as he speaks. “Don’t worry about the mark, I had some delicious something a couple miles back! Whoever left such a bite there is a sorry soul!” 

“Can you stop pacing?” the runner finally says.

“Oh..” The red beaked runner halts suddenly. “My apologies, I just get excited to see any other of my type on this path! You’re the first one I’ve seen in a long while!” 

“I feel so special.” The runner says it so dry, the other wonders if he got some dirt caught in his throat on his way. 

“Well, I’d love to keep chatting, but could we maybe get running as we do? I’m eager to see more around!” 

“You’ve seen all there is to see.” The red beaked runner runs ahead. The other doesn’t want to follow, but some weird feeling inside for this other runner makes him anyway. Why do I care? Why am I running again? The red beaked runner saw the other running to the side of him. An uncontrollable ecstasy fills him. 

“You don’t know that for sure, my brother! Like I said, I had that tasty bite a bit a way over there, I saw this weird looking lizard before that, he had some interesting colors to him, he didn’t seem pleasant though, and, oh, I also found some wacky place that had a funny smell to it, with all these lights-”

“You don’t know when to shut up, do you?” 

“I don’t, I’m glad you noticed! No critter ever acknowledges that out loud!” Who else has had to suffer this?

“Why are you talking to me?”

“You looked a little lost out there, my brother!”

“Well I wasn’t. I’ve known where I wanted to go for a while.” 

“Then why did you stop there, my brother?” 

“I was exhausted.” 

“Huh, that’s funny. I didn’t think our type was one to tire easily. I say that because I myself have been running along this way for quite a while without fatigue. How about you? How long have you gone?” 

“What does that matter?” The red beaked runner steadily stops his rapid trek and the other follows suit. 

“Why should it not, my brother?” The road runner gestures his beak at the road to the side of them. 

“Do you know where this path started?” 

“No, not exactly. I just found this way and I’ve been following it wherever it may lead.”

“How do you know it leads anywhere? You ever think there is no end to this?” 

“I don’t, but I don’t see how that’s an issue.” The runner freezes for a moment. Confusion starts clouding his brain.

“Doesn’t it bother you that we’re running a path that we may never see the end to? That this whole thing doesn’t seem to offer any final destination?” 

“There have been plenty of destinations along here!” 

“It’s not far enough.”

“Why is going that far such a big matter for you?” 

“It’s been my only matter for too long to say.” The red beaked runner’s eyes widen. “For so many days I run on this road only ever getting to see the same old stops every time. Signs, plants, man made structures, waiting for the moment I can be content about this journey!” 

Silence fills the desert around them. A tear rolls down the runner’s left eye. “All this running here…no end...why?” The red beaked runner has no immediate answer. He turns his head lost in thought, before he turns it back to the teary runner.

“To be frank, my brother, I don’t know. That thought is rather scary, hearing it…but maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe this road has no end, maybe we’ll perish before we know if it does, but look at what you’ve done along it. Can you think of any other critter in this land that has gone as far as you have? Any others that have been able to find and see what you have?” The runner says nothing. He is done dismissing. The red beaked runner continues, as moist tears still fall from the other runner dry to the dirt under him.

“I’ve not seen how this way began, but there have been a lot of remarkable things that I’ve seen along it. Sure, some ugly ones as well, none can avoid the predators and bad storms of this place. Once they part and I can see those things again, though, it reminds me why I suffer through them. Maybe, my brother, you just need that reminder too.” 

For the first time, the runner doesn’t feel like running. He looks around him and takes in the majesty of the Sonoran. The way the Saguaros stand so tall and strong in the sunlight. The way the bushels of the green complement the orange of the dirt around it. The red canyons in the distance casting shadows behind them with their grand slopes. Then, next to him in the middle of it all, the roadrunner that has been talking with him. Oh, how lovely that red on his beak is. The runner gives a light chuckle and another tear drips down. Though, now, the sadness has long fried in the earth beneath. 

The red beaked runner, with its beak, gently pats him on his wing. The runner shakes his tear off. “Where was that delicious morsel you found exactly?” 

The red beaked runner smiles. “Let’s see if it’s still there.”

March 01, 2024 20:02

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Rancid Blough
18:39 Mar 07, 2024

This is a great way to show that the constant chase of something better is fruitless. To relax and enjoy what is already there and what you have achieved. I enjoyed the journey but got a little confused with the dialogue exchanges. I found it hard to keep track of who was saying what. I think maybe some of the dialogue tags were in the wrong place. It could just be me being dumb. Great story though, well done.


Aidan Romo
22:27 Mar 07, 2024

Much appreciated! There is no error in the dialogue as it's placed upon my review, though the differences between the two runners of the story is slim so I can understand the confusion. Either way, thanks for the read and for taking the time to share your thoughts!


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Jack Kimball
18:16 Mar 04, 2024

I really enjoyed this Aidan. You've got a great fable going here, an allegory for life's journey. What does it all mean, and much deeper than just 'smell the roses'. Why does the runner run? He runs, by my read, to find the meaning of life, only to find out he may never reach the end to know the true meaning. The true meaning is in front of him all the time and the red beaked road runner teaches him. And then the fable arrives in full. - “I’ve not seen how this way began, but there have been a lot of remarkable things that I’ve seen al...


Aidan Romo
05:20 Mar 06, 2024

Much appreciated, Jack! I love the insight you gave into it! I was toying around with the first person perspective on this one for sure as well as jumping in between the two headspaces of the roadrunners that way, but I did the first person in "Shadow" and just wanted to shake it up for myself. I haven't written that much in the way of third person so I wanted to try it out here. This is the first story in a while I'm genuinely proud of, so to hear someone so gifted in the art of writing give it such appraisal means a lot to me. Thanks so mu...


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Darvico Ulmeli
16:29 Apr 02, 2024

We all run for different reasons. It's not a problem running as the reason why you run. That's what I think. Enjoyed reading this.


Aidan Romo
18:13 Apr 02, 2024

Well said, Ulmeli. I sincerely appreciate your comment and insight.


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