Something twitched in the web of bare white branches.
Lisa upped the volume on her headphones hoping that the throbbing percussion of the latest Vampire Weekend would shut down the rapidly encroaching sense of doom.
“One two three four five six seven eight and one two–”
Sometimes sheer counting had made the aches disappear. Not this time. Why had she stopped for a long run?
The trail head had looked inviting enough. Lovely wintry crisp weather, small gravel on the path covered with the squishy quilt of rotting leaves. On one side the river slowly ate away the frozen edges of the last snow storm. The canal on the other side was not so lucky and, even in the warming temperatures, hung on stubbornly to a layer of greenish ice, now in total disarray displaying through its encrusted translucency the remnants of the many freezes and thaws of the winter season.
She hadn’t hesitated. She had jumped into the idyllic path, gone over the quaint red bridge and began to pound the soft ground.
A few miles in she had began to notice the solitude–the disturbing echoes of nothingness. Bare bones nature–chaotic and random and rarely encountered in her native New York City overpowered her natural sense of indestructibility. She ran with music in most trails. Not here. Strange thoughts began to creep in. What if someone lurked in the path. Did you forget about wild animals. She hadn’t told anyone she was running.
For a moment she stopped, paralyzed. In the distance she could hear a rumbling getting louder and louder. Panic set in. It sounded like a mountain sized vacuum approaching. No. It was a train in the distance. Her hearing became painfully acute. She turned around and ran back.
As her speed increased, she saw other women from long long ago also running this very same path. They were finding their way to a village, carrying food, some were fleeing for their lives. May were very afraid. They ran fast and it hurt them. She was running for them, she was running with them. The women who had to run alone because they needed to escape, to go somewhere, who hadn’t had cars, or cities or desk jobs. Who had to live and run. In the open, in the rain, in the dark. She heard everything. The crack of the wind against a frozen edge, the echoes of the men running after them, a couple of deer running from them. She realized she was (they were) both prey and predator.
Then the mind went blank.
By the time she saw the car at the trail head, the sun had began to color the trees in its evening honey tones. She touched the car. She clicked it open. She took some pictures. She drank some water. She posted to some media. She got in the car. She drove away.
Less than five minutes later, she completely forgot that for a moment she had actually been alive.