Every weekend in October Phil will be sharing a spooky short story in anticipation for Halloween. We thank him for these excellent & ghoulish contributions.
Thirteen miles today with Zack today. Met him outside the gym like usual, but at 6:30 AM, since both of us are trying to get on the sobriety grind. Wasn’t much reason to go out and party last night anyway with how rainy it’s been these last few days.
Staying dry both figuratively and literally.
Rest of the team would workout at 10 AM.
Day was dark, windy, and honestly a little chilly for October. Should have worn a t-shirt, nipples were spiking out like stalagmites. The wind sounded kinda like that “wooo” sound a ghost makes in those old horror cartoons.
We could see light reflecting off the streets. It looked like those car commercials, because they always seem to wet the roads their filming on.
Pace was about 7 minutes, but Zack started feeling good so he pushed it a bit. Could still keep up a conversation though, mostly just pitching ideas for the next creative writing assignment.
Fog didn’t just roll in. It fell. I took a second to look away from Zack’s ass, up at the sky and a cloud descended upon us with all the force of a pro-wrestler hitting a plancha outside the ring. I could see it lower and envelop me within a seconds.
There was no park, no path, no Zack.
All I had was me.
Even though I couldn’t see anything, I had run this route so much that I knew every turn simply by feel.
I ran by faith rather than sight.
Still, I couldn’t shake this feeling that the fog was alive. I could feel it caress every part of my body as I moved through. Its icy vapors found a way to give a distinct touch to every bit of skin I had left exposed.
I had nothing but bad thoughts going through my brain as the fog deadened the crunching sound of my Asics hitting the leaves, silently snapping twigs beneath them. Instead I had echoes of rejection on a loop in my head.
“You’re so persistent.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Stop trying, David.”
“Just give it a rest.”
“You haven’t been running well at all.”
“You really think this type of work is acceptable?”
I could hear it all so clearly, but the physical quiet still engulfed me, like I was trapped in a soundproof forest. There was no hope that any scream or shout I made would be heard by anyone. I wouldn’t even be able to hear my own shrieks over the sound of my blood audibly swimming through my veins or the ambient beat of my heart.
The smoke spoke to me as I kept running.
It wasn’t that I wanted to die. I wanted to have never existed.
The voices picked up the cacaphony you hear before a concert, when the band tunes up. It cut deeper and harder than I ever thought it could. I won’t The fog seemed to have the sole goal of making me succumb to its despair.
The first step out of it didn’t even feel real. The sun was shining so bright I had to stop and close my eyes. I felt like I was about to lose my vision.
When I looked back, the fog wasn’t even there. Any passerby would be entirely unaware the fog ever existed at any point.
I continued running on like normal, as if that fog never even hit me. The breaths I took as I kept my pace up felt like those first few breaths someone takes after coming out of a coma.
The words, “I’m alive.” leaked out of my mouth.
When I finished the run, I didn’t have a big sense of relief, or the idea that my life would somehow be better every day following this, just that I was there. I had never been so “there” in my life.
Something’s different about Zack though. Nobody close to him had died, but I hadn’t seen anyone more grief-stricken than him. His eyes look lonely in a way that was resigned to the prospect of never being understood. Anything it says, it sounds like an actor who’s not even in character, performing without a single fuck to give if anyone thinks he’s checked out. There’s not even the glimmer of hope that he could be snapped out of his state.
He looks done, in a dangerous way.
If he’s here tomorrow, I’ll try to talk about it with him.
Thanks to Loc H. Dang for the free use image at the top!