My head fills with dizziness as I struggle forward. My legs burn with agony as I listen to the redundant echo of my sneakers upon the hollow tar. My whole body is weak with pain, but I linger on. I can feel the sun on my back, penetrating deep into my skin, the slow trickles of sweat on my contorted face. My arms are grasping the invisible strings in the air to propel me forward, cutting the biting wind that forces me back. I long to join the last few shadows of the afternoon resting lazily on the walls, free from everything. I look ahead to the track before me teasing and laughing. Then, I listen. I hear my body crying out to me in a desperate plea, "Stop hurting me." Around the bend, the others stop to catch their breath. "You're hurting me." As I pass them, I look at their faces, red from exhaustion. They pause and look up at me. Do they look with wonder? Wonder at why I continue? Or is it admiration? As I ponder their message, my muscles tense, and I feel the agonizing pain spread through me. "Why are you doing this to me?" My lungs, tight and constricted, beg for air as they strive to keep from collapsing. The trees around me swirl and dance as I grow sick from nausea. I press on. "Stop hurting me." I must go on. I want to be free. I need to stop, to collapse in a ball and feel the relief drown every inch of my body in exhilarating pleasure. Then I see a bird fly by, a bird, gliding through the wind, free, and happy. And I concentrate as I watched him soar in loop after loop, in his natural love for flight. And somehow, I don't feel the pain and agony. I don't notice the burning light that was making me sweat profusely. Somehow, I'm not tired anymore. I feel light and relaxed. And as I round the next bend, I catch one of his feathers that dropped from his crimson wings. I am a bird. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.