My legs are weary and my arms are heavy, yet I keep running. Running from nothing, towards nothing. Running into being and away from it. Running towards happiness and away from happiness. Running from that which all humans consciously or subconsciously run from. I am running from the truth.
I turn down the corner of Elm and Maple, watching the dark green sign draw closer. I clutch the wreath of ink black roses I’m holding to my chest, unaware of the thorns digging into my skin. Suddenly, I’ve reached the sign, adorned with flowers and photos of everyone I ever loved, and everyone who ever loved me. Sharply, quickly, I turn from the monument of my guilt and shame.
The chasing monster draws closer now, threatening the thing I fear most with every loping step. I begin to run once more. I run, with no knowledge of where I’m going. I run, led by the inherent, primal fear of truth. I run, without slowing.
I take my wreath of shame and turn away from the sign, walking slowly back down the path I’ve tread every day since the accident. The accident. It wasn’t a car on car accident, either. It was my accident.
The day was October 31, 2019. I Still remember every detail. The sky was blue, but the air was bitter. Me and my best friends were going to a party for Halloween. I jumped through so many social hoops to get an invite to that party. It was senior year, and we had never even been to a party, so we were as eager as the hypothetical child in a candy store. Anyways, I was driving, and I got a text. A text that changed my life forever. Ava, with her dark, long hair and deep blue eyes passed me my phone, and I took it. I took it and I checked my texts. And in the split second I was staring at the display, the car lurched into a ravine. Ava and Iris were killed, but by nature’s cruelty, I survived with only a two inch gash on my left thigh.
The monster speeds up, it’s sticky breath on my heels and its slimy residue on my heart. I gain momentum as I sprint, evading the long, spindly fingers that try so hard to reel me in.
I walked home in the blustery November cold today, just like all the days before. All the days of denial. All the days of lies. All the days of wishing I had died with the others.
Of course surviving after my two closest companions died in a car crash lead the police to me, but their investigation ultimately proved me not guilty of murder. Of course, I could never clear myself of those charges.
In the days after the accident, I received flowers and casseroles and warm, home-made food. I received condolences and comforts and small awkward “I’m so sorry”-s. But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because I deserved none of it. Even Ava’s moms and Iris’s parents gave me gifts. But I knew I had done more hurt than anyone could ever know, and yet I can’t even lay a wreath on the sign made to commemorate my two victims.I can’t even say sorry. Because saying sorry would mean admitting my mistake.
The walk home is the same as always, long and dark and clouded with regrets. I wave the regrets away, but I know that they’ll resurface tomorrow. And the day after that. And all the days after that.
The monster bows its head, charging fast down the pavement behind me. I can hear the ragged breaths and the tremendous gate approaching step by step, closing the distance between my exhausted, worn down body and it’s large, ready to kill one. I begin to run even faster, sprinting from the inevitability of my actions. Sprinting from consequence.I open the old chipped fence into my family’s backyard, the hinges creaking louder than ever. I threw my wreath of roses into the empty garden bed, littered with three years of roses I never had the courage to lay down. Three years of cowardice, wilting and fresh, staring me in the eyes. A second monument to my shame.
I run, the looming shadow of the monster of my truth bearing down on me. I run, the large, dark, silhouette of truth looming over me. I feel pain rise in my chest, my legs. And yet still I run.
I wake early. Dark early. I can feel my monster chasing, drawing near and falling further away. Silently, and cringing at any noise I produce, I slide my bicycle out of the garage and begin to pedal.
The monster lopes after me, gaining speed as I pedal faster and faster from the inevitability of doubt. From the inevitability of fear. From the inevitability of my own actions. From the fact that controls my entire life. From the fact that, no matter how much I want to be wrong, I am responsible for the death of my friends.
The florist sighs when he sees me, looking up after the light tinkle of a little brass bell on the door. I offer a small cheek twitch, which is the most of a smile I can muster, and begin heading towards the counter.I’m about to speak, but the florist just hands me the roses.
I face the sign, staring it down with venom and love at the same time. Today’s roses are yellow with frosty blue tipped petals, and I clutch the bouquet to my chest, summoning courage. The monster chased me here, hot sticky breath coating my legs with a tangible film of fear. I turn towards the sign, the monster’s fogging breath puffing out like steam on the back of my neck. Slowly, I bend down and place the flowers at the base of the sign. I feel my monster finally envelope me. I’m exhausted. I’m tired of running. Tired of lying. Tired of hiding. And I can finally, finally stop. My monster has finally been slain. The chase is finally over.