I wake in the middle of an empty field, the sun cresting over the horizon and stinging my eyes. I shake the sleep from my head and spin on the spot, confused as to where I am, or how I got there. Then I remember. I turn and squint at the rising sun, and see the outline of the town I live in. I start running.
At first, I run at full speed, sprinting through the short grass ignoring my own body and forcing myself to go as fast as I am able. Quicker than I would have thought, my muscles begin to tire. I stumble over nothing and tumble to the ground. I breathe heavily into the soil and pick myself up. The town looks no closer. The sun is higher in the sky. I take a deep breath and begin running again. I can’t think about my own limits. I have to push past them.
So I run. I cover miles, legs burning, chest heaving, not allowing myself to stop. I can’t, I won’t. I can make it. I have to make it.
I can feel every muscle, every spike of pain that shoots through them, and ignore each and every one. I can feel the skin on the underside of my feet peel from the rocks poking out of the dirt. They tear and stab, drawing blood and causing me to leave crimson footprints in my wake. I refuse to give in. I push harder. My throat is dry, my lips crack and bleed. I would give anything for a drink of water, but I banish the fantasy and focus on my destination. The town steadily grows larger in front of me.
The sun is high overhead, beating down on my exposed neck, back and chest. It stings and burns and the hot air does little to help as it buffets me. I feel only desire, purpose, drive. I have one mission, one reason to be, the sun will do what it will to me, inflict whatever pain upon me, but it will not stop me.
I go. I run. I move. I push myself further than I could ever go, and then beyond. My body cries out to me, begging me to stop, to slow, to give up and lay down. I don’t. The wind howls as it whips past, urging me to give in. The sun shouts its scorn down upon me, laughing and daring me to fail. The ground rages against me, throwing up rocks and sneering, hampering my speed and promising to stop if I do. I hear them all, but I do not stop. I will not stop. I will get to my town before the sun sets.
I see my shadow growing longer. I can tell the setting is near, but so am I. The town rises before me. I can hear the people, smell the foods cooking, and see my house on the edge of a street corner. I push harder than humanly possible, ignoring muscles, blood, and air. I must get there.
I can see my wife outside hanging clothes on the line. She turns and waves to me. I do not slow. I can get there. I can make it. She’s so close. I reach out my arms, running like mad. She smiles and reaches a hand out for me. I lunge forward, my hand reaching out for hers, but rather than the soft touch of her skin, I’m met with ash. She burns before my eyes, twisting and turning to cinder. The town burns around me as I drop to my knees. Wood splinters, people scream, the air thick with smoke. I’m too late, I think as I hold the charred pile of ash that was once my wife. I wasn’t fast enough. The world dissolves into a fiery nightmare. All the pain I’ve endured intensifies. My muscles scream, my blood boils and runs freely, I can’t breathe, smoke filling my lungs along with the blood from my cracked and dry throat and mouth. My life ends in a torrent of fire and misery, my failures crushing my mind as it burns and ceases to exist.
I wake in the middle of an empty field, the sun cresting over the horizon and stinging my eyes. I shake the sleep from my head and spin on the spot, confused as to where I am, or how I got there. Then I remember. I don’t know if this is my first or thousandth day in Hell, but it will be my last. Today I can make it. I’ll get home before it all ends. I turn and squint at the rising sun, and see the outline of the town I live in. I start running.