Short Story - Run...For Your Lives
The vibrant orange sun sizzled and caused the air to become thick and soupy. It was a scorching hot day in the month of May, which was fairly unusual for the late spring time in the coastal state of Rhode Island. The sound of stomping feet filled the atmosphere, as a tiny group of teenage boys from Ridgeview High School Boy’s Junior Varsity Track Team ran past the numerous fields and into the woods behind the school campus in their bright red uniforms.
Jon Chandler led the small pack of sophomore boys which consisted of him, Evan Peterson and Ian Ryder. Chandler was a lanky young man with bright blue eyes and unruly brown curly hair that made his head look like a giant unspooled ball of yarn. Jon was followed by Peterson who was slightly shorter than Jon and had straight long blond hair, and brown eyes. Ryder trailed behind the other two boys, due to his endomorphic body build. Ian was shorter than Jon, but taller than Evan, and had brown hair with dark brown eyes.
The three teenage adolescents entered the dirt pathway in the far east corner of the Girl’s Varsity Lacrosse field and began to trek up the steep hill. The second the boys entered the trail, multiple oak trees, birch trees, shrubs, and other forms of vegetation concealed the sun and protected the three boys from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays. The smooth grassy patches of the fields were soon replaced by the rugged, gritty terrain of the woods. An occasional breeze would cool the sweat that was running down the faces of the three boys. The humidity was so unpleasant that it caused the bright red t-shirts to stick to the backs of the boys like “Gorilla Glue.” As the boys pushed themselves up the hill, Ian began to speak up during their run.
“Coach Duran needs to stop freaking out at us,” Ian complained. “He needs to understand that we just want to have a little bit of fun at practice. Running mile after mile gets really boring sometimes.”
“I agree with you,” Evan stated. “The Boy’s Track Team hasn’t even won a single meet in the past two years. I don’t understand why he’s so set on making us train so hard if there isn’t a chance that we’ll win this season.”
“We’d win a meet if our team wasn’t so small,” Jon added. “We only have five boys for the distance events. To make things worse, as of right now it’s just us three because Ryan’s out for the season due to his broken ankle and now Keith’s flunking out of Algebra I CP so he’s on athletic probation.”
“How the hell is Keith flunking out of a CP class?” Evan exclaimed.
“Not everyone’s number one in their class like you, brainiac,” Jon replied. “Keith’s a good kid he’s working two jobs, and he’s running track. I’ve seen the kid’s schedule. He’s booked every day and he doesn’t have any time for his schoolwork.”
“I know he’s busy,” Evan said, “but it’s still one of the easiest classes in the world. I’ve tutored him and the material just doesn’t stick in his head.”
“Can we slow the pace down, guys?” Ian panted. “I’m having trouble breathing.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” Jon exclaimed. “We’ve only been running for eight minutes. This is the reason why we aren’t winning any meets, and it’s pissing me off.”
“I’m trying Jon!” Ian hyperventilated. “I’m really trying hard. I’m just not as fast as you!”
“It’s just frustrating that I am the one who is carrying the team for the mile, two mile, and the 3,000-meter steeplechase!” Jon remarked. “Even if I come in first place for my events, it won’t do the team any good, because you two bring us down so much when you come in last!”
“For the record,” Evan stated, “I have never finished a race in last place. I’ve come in second to last place a couple of times, but I have never come in last!”
“That’s still pretty pathetic,” Jon said. Ian continued to push on during the run but trailed behind the other two boys. Eventually, the three young men arrived at the pinnacle of the hill, which split into two paths. The three of them ventured down the path to their right, off the main trail. Gravity pushed the three boys downhill, as they continued to jog at a steady pace. The new trail was fairly straightforward for the next mile and a half, but it eventually faded away as the three boys reached a narrow passage at the Ridgeview River.
The river glimmered due to the large amount of iron in the water. It flowed rapidly with tremendous force and occasionally splashed the feet of the boys as they trotted along. Slowing down their pace, the boys came to a dead end at the narrow pathway. There were multiple dead leaves scattered on the ground, which gave the environment an autumn feeling. The ground on the river was a relatively flat surface, and there were multiple bushes, and tall trees across the landscape. The boys continued to slow down their pace due to Ian’s protests and complaints. Eventually, the three of them stopped and sat down for a bit.
“Thank God!” Ian said. “I don’t know how much longer I could’ve kept that pace up!”
“It wasn’t even that bad,” said Jon. “If you’re going to make such a big fuss out of running track, why don’t you go join the theatre club instead, since you’re such a drama queen!”
Evan chuckled at Jon’s remark, as Ian rolled his eyes. The three boys casually began to pick up twigs and rocks and toss them across the river, while making jokes about each other and laughing.
“How much time do we have until the run’s over?” asked Evan.
“Let me see,” Jon said, checking his phone. He responded, “Well, we left at 2:30, and it took us twenty minutes to get out here. Since it’s about two and a half miles out, we can chill for another five minutes or so and then head back at 3 o’clock.”
“Sound good to me,” said Evan, as the boys resumed their game of throwing twigs across the river for the furthest distance. All of a sudden, a strange rustling noise erupted from a nearby bush, prompting all three boys to jump up and pause their game. The three of them figured it was an animal of some sort, and they decided to sit back down near the riverbed. After Ian tossed a stick into the water, the rustling noise continued and became even louder.
“What the hell was that?” said Ian.
“I have no idea,” said Evan, “but it certainly didn’t sound like an animal.”
“You two are just overreacting,” said Jon. “There’s always strange noises in the woods so you should just ignore them.” The moment Jon finished his sentence, a deranged and sinister laugh belted out of the same bush that created the rustling noise. The three boys began to panic and started backing away from the river bed, very slowly.
“That was definitely a human,” whispered Jon.
“I bet there’s a psychopath, a serial killer, a monster or a clown in the woods,” squealed Ian.
“It doesn’t matter what it is,” yelled Evan. “We need to get out of here right now!”
The three boys sprinted along the narrow pathway in fear of the creature, and a dark figure dressed in a black cloak concealing all of its facial features popped out of the bushes and sprinted along their side, as they ran. The three boys screamed in horror as the figure came into and out of their peripheral vision. The figure veered off into a different pathway, and the three boys lost sight of it. Adrenaline pumped into the veins of all three boys and they ran with all of their strength. The three boys came to a turn near a large oak tree, which led to a brand new path that they were not familiar with. Panic corrupted their senses and they screamed bloody murder for help while running down the new path. They were just a few steps down the path when the deep, creepy voice projected out from the woods into the boys’ ears.
“Going so soon?” the voice inquired.
The boys stopped dead in their tracks and turned to the right where the figure was standing heinously. The figure walked closer to the boys who were paralyzed by fear and could not move at all. Bitter tears of horror began to filled Ian’s eyes.
“Who are you, and what do you want!?” choked Ian.
“Why I’ll show you,” said the horrifying figure.
The figure in the cloak removed its headpiece, and a terrifying mask of Pennywise the Clown covered the face of the figure. The mask was a pale shade of white and resembled a skull with a large red nose, and large blood-red lips. The boys could not bear to make eye contact with the dark black eyes that were surrounded by pitch black eyeliner and eyebrows that were arched down in anger. The mask was complimented by the tangled red hair that distinguishes Pennywise from the multiple other horrific clowns that have been spotted recently by people of all ages throughout the country. All three boys began to whimper in fear at the sight of the beast. The clown continued to traumatize the boys by removing the body piece of the dark cloak. Once the clown stripped off the cloak, the boys screeched in fear. Before them was a bulky male human body dressed in the well-known Dr. Frank-N-Furter costume from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The costume consisted of a jet black vest and tight black spandex shorts. The boys noticed that the clown was wearing track shoes as well.
“I want you to run!” exclaimed the clown, as he took out a knife from the vest.
The boys sprinted away from the monster in fear of death and hollered over each other for help. The clown chased the boys down an unfamiliar path with the knife raised up high in his hand.
“We’re gonna die!” cried Ian. “We’re gonna die!”
“Just keep running, and don’t look back!” cried Jon.
Fueled by fear, all three of the boys ran at the speed of light down the rough path. They navigated sharp turns and hopped over multiple branches and leaves, as Pennywise laughed and snarled at them, close behind. The speed of the three boys was very impressive, especially for Ian who could barely crack a seven-minute mile. They pushed themselves forward and came to a clearing in the deep section of the woods near the campus. The clearing split into two paths.
“Right or left?” screamed Evan.
“Right!” shrieked Jon. “Hurry!”
Ian and Evan started to scamper down the right path, but Jon grabbed their arms and then made a beeline for the left path. The clown fell for Jon’s plan and ran down the right pathway when he came to the clearing shortly afterward. The boys began to slow down their pace and panted profusely. They continuously looked back for signs of Pennywise, while they ran down the left path.
“Jon you're a genius!” said Ian.
“Shut up!” replied Jon. “If you talk that loud it’ll hear us and chase us all again.”
“Sorry,” Ian said, as he lowered his tone.
“Where the hell are we!?” cried Evan.
The three boys looked around the path as they trotted along, and they seemed to be extremely confused. They jogged along the pathway and looked around at the unfamiliar territory in fear.
“I’ve never been down this path,” said Jon, “but if we keep going toward the left we should end up back at the school since most of the paths we’ve gone down were to the left.”
“I just want to get back in one piece!” cried Evan. “I’m too young to die! I haven’t even had my first kiss.”
Jon led the boys down another path, which branched off to the left, and the two other boys followed him closely behind. There was tension in the air, as the boys carefully surveyed the area before accelerating. After venturing down the path for a few miles, the small group of boys arrived at the sandy terrain that they referred to as the “Power Lines” because there were multiple telephone poles and wires scattered all along the sandy pathways nearby the campus. Jon scoped out the area. He realized that he was on the other side of the main trail, which was on the other side of an extremely steep hill with multiple rocks and boulders.
“We’re close to the school now,” exclaimed Jon. “The entrance to the back of the track is on the other side there.”
“I’m calling the police the second I get my phone from the locker room,” said Evan.
“Thank God, we survived that clown!” cried Ian. Unfortunately, Ian spoke too soon, and the monster emerged from the path in his horrific costume and pointed his knife at the boys.
“Did somebody say clown?” inquired Pennywise.
The boys froze in their tracks and were tempted to jump down the hill. The terrain of the hill was dangerous, and it was extremely unlikely that they would survive the crash. The three of them slowly backed up as Pennywise walked closer to them, with the knife in his hand.
“We jump on the count of three,” cried Jon. “One...Two…”
As Jon was about to say the final number, the clown removed its mask, revealing the face of Coach Duran.
“Excellent speed and endurance boys,” said the coach. “I want you all to run fast like that in your meet tomorrow.”
Expressions of confusion, exasperation, and anger appeared on all three of their faces.
“What’s going on here?” asked Evan.
“Your track workout for today,” replied Coach Duran.
“What do you mean?” inquired Ian.
“I saw all three of you, and Keith and Ryan fooling around a few weeks ago,” the coach said. “I thought that I would let it slide, but then I returned to the river and saw all of you fooling around instead of running. You took the trust I had in you and spat on it. I knew that something was causing all of you to place poorly. In order get your speed up, I thought I’d dress up as a clown, and scare you since clown hoaxes are popping up all over the news.”
“That’s so screwed up. You should be arrested for what you did,” stated Ian. “For Christ’s sake, you had a knife with you!”
Coach Duran tossed the knife at Ian’s feet and said, “It’s plastic.”
“I’m so relieved that it was just a prank,” exclaimed Jon. “We’re alive.”
“Of course!” said Coach Duran, “I would never let anything happen to my student-athletes.”
“I still don’t know what was scarier,” said Ian, “seeing Pennywise in a Dr. Frank-N-Furter costume or seeing you in it.”
All three of the boys and the coach began to laugh at Ian’s remark, and the coach pulled out a stopwatch from one of the pockets on his vest.
“Your times were remarkable today, though,” the coach said as he checked his stopwatch. “I’m very impressed. I think that I’ve prepared you all for the meet tomorrow, so why don’t you head back down that trail and hit the showers.”
Ian, Evan, and Jon all began to trot back down the trail, with looks of relief and satisfaction on their faces. The results at the track meet the next day were monumental for the Junior Varsity Team at Ridgeview High School. The results displayed record-breaking 1-mile times from Jon Chandler, who placed first, Evan Peterson, who placed second, and Ian Ryder, who placed third.