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Time and Time Again
“Almost there.” The words were quiet, loud enough for only the boy to hear. He was cheering himself on to the finish line, which came into his sight. Only a few more yards, then he would be able to stop. He would be declared a winner.
He closed his eyes as he awaited the snap of tape across his chest. He waited for the pleasure of winning a race after months of training. This would be the first time Reese Parker would win a cross country race. The taste of success was on the tip of his tongue. With this triumph, his name would be put in the school newspaper. Well… maybe not but it was a nice thought.
Reese Parker was the loser and the baby of the team. He never won a race; he had always been the fat kid in last place. After the coming of puberty and the training that he had done all summer, he was someone else. In the heat of the day, he would jog for miles, preparing for this moment. Over the course of a sweaty summer, he had lost most of the fat on his body and the extra weight that he had carried. When his sophomore year came around, Reese knew that this was his time to shine.
One second he had been sprinting off to the finish line with the tingling sensation of triumph. A second later, instead of the breaking of tape, his whole body burned as if it had been set on fire. The world turned black as Reese snapped his eyes closed against the pain. It was as if he were being ripped away from existence.
His body was thrown to the ground, his head bounced against the packed dirt. All thoughts were thrown from his mind. His chest ached as he struggled for air, the burning continued to rage through his veins. A groan escaped his mouth, sending a rumbling pain through his chest. Reese swore that he had never been in so much pain.
His heart was racing faster and faster, pain was the only feeling he had. A headache kept any new thoughts from forming. As he tried to focus on this predicament, his mind shut out any kind of communication. For a long moment, Reese could not see, his eyes were not able to open. His eyelids were shut tight, unwilling to budge.
The runner tried to move his painful body with no avail. His body still felt fire hot and his legs refused to cooperate. The only choice he had remaining was to listen.
Reese waited for the voices of the runners that had been so close on his heels; the sound of footsteps as they reached him, maybe the sound of an ambulance would be there. Except, he didn’t hear any of this, the only sound was birdsong. Something was not right; there should be people and plenty of them. Only seconds before there was cheering in the distance as he neared the finish line. He couldn’t be alone. There had to be someone coming to his rescue.
The burning feeling ebbed away slowly. The pain, on the other hand, decided to stick around. It was enough though to urge the boy to try to get to his feet. The first he had to open his eyes.
When he did the world spun for a few seconds, causing his headache to triple and his stomach to heave in a feeble attempt to puke. Once the initial shock of light and sight had gone, he tried to get upright. The process was painful; his lower back went into a series of spasms at the effort to sit up. Every joint in his body crackled and popped as if he were ninety and not fifteen. It was an accomplishment to sit up.
To examine the situation at hand, Reese had to get a good look at his surroundings.
This was deemed impossible for the world spun again as Reese was forced down to the ground. His body dug into the hard dirt as a hand held him down by the shoulder. His head started to buzz again and his sight was blurry. The person that had assaulted him was still unknown, for whoever was remained silent. The only presence that Reese felt was the hand clamped around his arm.
Time seemed to tick by slowly as Reese’s eyes finally came into focus. Not wanting to provoke his attacker, Reese attempted to only observe this person with the corner of his eye. What he saw was a firm chin and beyond that a mess of blonde hair plastered to a forehead by sweat. The little of his face that Reese could see, he was younger, maybe only a few years older than Reese himself.
“When is she going to get here? This wasn’t supposed to be my job.” The man spoke, and at first Reese wasn’t sure if he had heard him. His voice was quiet enough to be the wind. The statement was directed towards the open air in front of him. The only answer was the wind blowing through the tall grass.
Reese attempted to struggle, to face his attacker directly instead of being pinned to the ground. “Get—“ Reese tried to speak but his throat cut off all sound.
The man only responded by tightening his grip. Sharp fingernails dug into Reese’s bare arm and threatened to draw blood. “Boy, I swear that if you don’t stop moving, I will kill you before the Hunters can.” His voice came in a low whisper, it resembled a dog’s growl. “And that would get messy.” The man concluded, loosening his grip so that his fingernails no longer burrowed into Reese’s skin.
Reese did not attempt to speak again. Instead, he groaned to show his discomfort but the man refused to release his grip. It only continued to push his aching body into the ground.
The burning sensation had disappeared completely but the pain in his body remained. It hurt to breathe, his lungs stung with every shaky breath the he took in. His heart and head pumped in unison, filling his ears with thudding. Every limb attached to his body trembled in fatigue and exhaustion. At this moment, all Reese wanted to do was sleep but that was not possible. He couldn’t let his guard down.
Trying to be released seemed to be futile, so Reese relaxed and let his eyes scan the area. A jolt of recognition brought Reese’s mind from its clouded state.
This place was familiar.
It was a park that Reese often visited for the jogging path. How had he gotten here when he was supposed to be an hour away winning a cross country race?
A cool wind rustled the grass around Reese’s face. The boy forced himself to look at the horizon and noticed the accumulation of clouds. A storm? Only seconds ago, the sun had been beating down on his back. He would be suffering from sunburn any second. There wasn’t going to be any rain today.
Reese remembered when it last rained, three days ago a freak thunderstorm cancelled practice. He detested the rain; it kept him from running and improving. ‘It will end your race.’ He thought fiercely. ‘But if you were winning, what are you doing here?’ Reese could not come up with an answer to his own question. Maybe it was a dream, which seemed the most likely. This was some crazy, elaborate dream that he was going to wake from any second now.
A loud crack jolted Reese out of the fog that filled his mind. If lightning was coming, Reese shouldn’t be sitting out in an open field. He looked up at his captor, a panicked expression spreading on his face. Hopefully this man wasn’t as insane as he had been acting.
The man did not respond, rather his grip on Reese disappeared and he stood. Reese had his chance to escape but one stern glance from his captor and the runner flattened against the ground again. There was no reason to make this situation worse than it already was.
He could only watch as the blonde crossed the small distance between him and another. She was a person that Reese had not noticed before. Had she been there this whole time? Instead of the demeanor that he had given Reese, the estranged man attempted to hug the girl.
“Get lost Domino.” Her voice echoed across the field, walking on past him to approach Reese.
“Jeez, I’m sorry I covered for you.” The man’s words were almost lost the wind as he disappeared.
Reese was not the person to kid. The blonde man simply disappeared into thin-air with a crack. With a crack that could be mistaken by lightning.
The woman watched the spot from over her shoulder, motionless for a few seconds. Once she was seemed satisfied with his disappearance, she turned back to the fallen boy.
She took a couple steps before pausing, close enough that the boy could no longer see her face. Rather, he stared at her shirt. Reese felt uncomfortable, staring a girl right in the chest. He had no energy remaining to move his head away but he also didn’t want to close his eyes. It made him vulnerable.
A wave of relief hit Reese as the woman knelt down and he realized she wasn’t much of a woman in the first place. Her face was soft and still lacked the signs of aging. She seemed around the same age as the man. The runner wasn’t often good at guessing but he placed her around seventeen, maybe nineteen at the oldest. Bangs hid most of her face except for a single green eye and half of a white smile.
“You are going to be just fine.” She soothed the panicked boy. Her tone spoke of softness but there was something hidden behind it. Reese couldn’t pick it out.
“Are you—“ Reese attempted to speak again but was cut off.
“It becomes harder if you talk.”
“----“ Reese wanted to say more but couldn’t.
Her hand rubbed the spot which only minutes earlier had been locked in a death grip. She tilted her head slightly to the left; the hair fell out of her face. It stunned Reese into complete silence.
He had seen this face before. This girl was familiar; her voice reminded him of one of the strangest occurrences in his life.
”I wasn’t early this time.”She muttered, her grin growing wider. Reese knew this girl.
She was the one who disappeared into the snow.
There are moments in your life that you never forget. Whether it was the happiest, the saddest or perhaps, the strangest moment in your pitiful existence, it doesn’t leave you. One that never left Reese was a freezing day in the middle of January. In the winter, days in Indiana can be brutal, with bitter winds and swirling snow. This day was the harshest of the year.
Walking to the bus stop, protecting a bundle of newspaper was not the way Reese had wanted to spend his morning. As he stepped out the door, his face stung with the bone-chilling wind and his cheeks turned red immediately. Holding the papers closer to his chest, he pushed through the wall of snow that attacked his thick coat.
It wasn’t even the school bus this school-bound boy was heading for. No, it had already left without him full of annoying, yelling high school students but they were warm. Instead, the boy was relying on public transportation for his safe trip to school which at this point was unlikely.
His parents were sitting comfortably in desks at a corporate building and his sister snugly seated in the neighbor’s car on her way to her second grade classroom. Reese had been left to his own devices. The only choice the boy had remaining was the public bus.
Reese had done this before. This rickety old bus acting as his ride to the high school that awaited over a mile away. There was a stop only a block from the main campus, so there wasn’t much the boy could say against it. Only the fact that the ancient junk heap on wheels smelled of old cigarettes and nearly toppled over with every gust of wind were something to complain about.
On the other hand, it gave the boy a ride to school without constantly nagging him about his grades or singing obnoxious music that came from Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift. On that note, Reese couldn’t turn down the only chance he had compared to avoidance of the terrible walk to school.
As the blue vehicle drove up, the doors swung open slowly to reveal the bus driver. An obese man that had obviously had no life besides his work looked bored and annoyed as the high school student stepped on. Resting the soggy newspapers on his lap, Reese sunk into the seat nearest to the front for a quick escape. The boy wished that he had not needed to drag these thin pieces of newspaper around with him but his backpack was already full of heavy textbooks. Also, these black and white pages were only homework. It was homework done at the last second as Reese swiped them off his father’s desk in the morning.
The date, the sixteenth of January stood out against the running ink. It was the only part of the front page that was any longer legible, the ink had not run. It wouldn’t work for his assignment but maybe it would show the teacher he had given the tiniest of effort. With a sigh, the boy leaned his head against the foggy window. A cold blast of wind shook the bus, the wheels nearly leaving the icy road. Reese decided that this day was going to be a long day of disappointment and boredom.
The bus lurched to a stop at the next stop, the brakes squealing as the bus slid a few feet. Reese ran a hand through his long, sopping hair as he watched the doors swing open. It was strange, after the student’s own entrance on the bus, rarely anyone else stepped foot on the dangerous bus. Everyone in the small town knew to avoid the deathtrap and had their own cars or a carpool.
On these types of mornings, Reese was sometimes the only one sitting on this bus. As the person stepped on, Reese directed his attention back to the scene outside. It was snowing hard and instead of complaining silently about the bus like usual, he was thankful to be out of the cold.
Reese flinched as whoever had just entered the bus sat down directly across from him. The entire rest of the bus was empty and this person chooses to sit in the seat nearest him?
He turned to look at his new companion, only to find not the usual homeless man or sour old lady but another young adult. She could be one of his classmates. Well, she didn’t look like one of his classmates but maybe she was an upperclassman that he had not had the pleasure to meet.
She was a pretty blonde girl sitting across from him, the chubby freshman. It was a strange situation. Green eyes searched him curiously as she shifted her position to lean forward. “Hello.” She greeted him; it was formal but did not lack a general warmness that the rest of the girls lacked at his school. She leaned back in her seat, a noticeable slump forming in her back. “Can I see that?” She asked, pointing to the newspaper in his lap.
He couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow, why did she want to see it? Even from her angle, she could probably tell not a word was legible. Still, without him giving a proper answer, she snatched the soggy papers from his lap. She propped it up, holding it so it blocked the bottom of her face. Her eyes only searched the top, her eyes not dropping below the headline. With her free hand, she tapped out a furious rhythm against the armrest. An annoyed expression spread across her face as she frowned at the papers. Without another word, she forced the papers back into Reese’s lap. “Damn it, I’m early by eight months.” She muttered fiercely, her eyes shifting to the freezing weather outside. Her fingers stopped tapping and curled into a tight ball on the armrest. Her knuckles slowly turned white.
Eight months late for what? Something must be terribly wrong with this girl. The second thing that bothered him was the girl’s choice of dress. On a day like this, every man, woman and child would be bundled up from head to toe. An oversized downy coat, thick gloves, and a woolen hat would be plastered to their bodies; barely any skin would be visible. Instead, this girl was only clothed in an obnoxiously red t-shirt, thin skinny jeans and Converse shoes that showed no signs of socks. Was this girl insane, it was below freezing outside?
Before Reese could even open his mouth, the bus came to a jerking stop. The boy was thrown forward, the papers scattering everywhere. His hands landed only inches from her legs as he regained his balance. Reese looked up, embarrassed as he regained his balance and fell back into his own seat. The girl hadn’t moved an inch, and was already standing. Where was she going? They weren’t even near the school.
She didn’t say a word as she rose from her seat and disappeared out the double doors of the bus. She was going to leave the bus, only about three blocks from where she began only clad in a t-shirt and jeans. Reese was worried for the mental stability of this girl but decided it wasn’t his problem.
Just before taking the last step into the snow, the girl turned around and poked her head through the door. “Goodbye Reese, it was nice meeting you!” She called, waving a hand. With those departing words, she disappeared into the swirling white snow. The boy pushed up against the glass, trying to spot her bright red t-shirt without avail. She had disappeared into the snow.
With a sigh, he bent down and collected the soggy newspaper off the dirty floor of the bus. Reese could no longer read a word on the ruined pages and he knew that he wasn’t getting credit now. Wadding the illegible papers in a ball, he tossed it on the seat opposite of him.
Just as he sunk back into his seat, realization hit him like an icy wind. The girl had known his name. A girl that didn’t go to his school and that he had never seen in his life. The entire time she sat across from him, Reese hadn’t said a word. So, how had she known his name?