Runner

May 24, 2018 | Flash Fiction
Tags: Calgary, Horror, short story, Thriller,

Estimated Reading Time:


Runner is the first of a flash fiction series that will be released on a monthly basis. Each one is going to be a completed transmedia storytelling experience that consists of the story, artwork and an audio component. The story can either be listened to in audio format or read directly below.

The purpose of these flash fictions is to offer some fun tid bits to read while I am working on the next novel for you to CONSUME. Feel free to listen to the story, or read it, and share with your friends!

Runner

by Konn Lavery

 

The blue wind breaker was zipped up, shin-protection socks on, shoes tied, toque on, and Bluetooth earbuds in. The smartphone was synched to the earbuds with the music app set to the workout playlist. It was everything Dan needed to start his run. As with every day, his head was groggy at six AM. It didn’t help that he had a late work night the day before. His lifestyle hours didn’t bug him, he enjoyed getting up at this time to embrace the brisk morning. It was technically spring but there was no sign of the snow melting any time soon – typical of Alberta.

“Let’s do this,” he muttered while getting up from his seated position. A late-night-early-start day did not motivate him to go for a run, but he knew he’d regret not doing it. The reward is what drove him to get up each morning and endure the cold. The clarity, the physical form, and the sense of refreshment post-run was unmatched.

Dan exited his condo, locked the front door, hurried down the flights of stairs, and out the lobby. He took in a deep breath through his nose, feeling the crisp air enter his warm system. He pressed the play button on the earbuds that wrapped around his skull, bringing the electronic bass to life.

Alright, he thought, recognizing the beat – a favourite track of his to get energized for a work out.

Dan burst from his walking speed and exited the front of the condo and down the sidewalk, leading to the river valley. He glanced down both sides of the street before making a dash onto the fresh snowy road. At this time of day there was barely any traffic, making crossing the street like real-life Frogger on easy mode.

He breathed steadily, moving on the familiar path as he did with every morning.  It led him down a set of stairs, which was a pain to get back up at the end of the run. Past the staircase, the path continued along the bed of the river. From here he could see downtown just south of the river. It was always a beautiful sight this early on.

Dan kept a steady pace, head looking down at the fresh snow. There were a few bike tire imprints but no shoe imprints. It was a big ego boost for Dan. He knew he was the only one dedicated enough to focus on his run consistently throughout the year. Summer time was when all the posers came out and ran.

About two kilometers into his run – or three songs later – the peaceful snow suddenly had footprints and pawprints. They came from the forestry to his right and onto the path. The footprints were slightly behind the pawprints until a splash of red sprinkled over the snow.

What? Dan slowed his pace, looking up to see the pawprints became more condensed and the blood became more prominent. Further ahead, the blood smeared the snow in a wide stroke, spanning for several meters before disappearing into the forestry.

Dan stopped in his tracks, panting as he pressed the pause button for his music. What was he looking at?

“This doesn’t look good,” Dan said under his breath. He unzipped his jacket so he could reach for his smartphone that was kept in the inner pocket. This was too weird not to report to the city.

He took his one glove off so he could swipe his phone and unlock it and dial nine-one-one.

As the phone rang, he turned back to see the path was empty behind him. He was completely alone.

“Hello this is nine-one-one, what is your emergency?” came the operator’s voice.

“Hey, yeah, I’d like to report a slaughtered animal.” Dan said.

“Slaughtered?” the operator asked.

“That’s right.” Dan turned forward again to examine the trail of blood. “I was just on my morning jog down by Bow River and saw some fresh blood, some animal tracks and shoe tracks.”

“Is anyone else there?” the operator asked.

“No, just me. Think I will be heading back though.”

“Alright, for future reference, call for three-one-one for disposal of animals.” The operator said.

“Yeah I know that, but there’s a lot of blood. I’m just trying to do what is right here.” Dan exhaled. Is she stupid? he thought.

“We appreciate your concern, where exactly is this?”

“I had just crossed onto-“ Dan’s sentence cut short as twig snapping caught his attention.

“Sir?” the operator asked.

Where the blood ended, a tall, broad shouldered being – presumably male from the size – burst from the shrubs with a blood-dripping machete in hand. He wore a ski jacket with the hood over his ski-mask covered face.

“Oh shit! St. George’s Island!” Dan shouted while spinning around, dashing back whence he came. His legs stumbled slightly before he regained balance, they were weak from the sudden stop-and-go in his regular run. Dan clenched the phone with one hand and his glove with the other. He could feel his muscles burn from the burst in speed.

He took one glance back to see the man closing in on him. His speed accelerated faster than Dan’s with each stomp he made in the snow.

“God no, God no.” Dan exhaled through his breath. How is he running that fast? This can’t be happening, this can’t be. “What is going on?” he exclaimed.

The muffled sound of the emergency operator came through the phone. In the moment of panic, Dan forgot about the operator on the line.

Bringing the smartphone up to his face again, Dan said, “help! Send help! I’m being chased by a man with a machete.”

“We have a unit on their way. You said by St. George’s Island?”

“Yes! I will be crossing the bridge and heading west, towards traffic.”

“Stay on the line. We’re not far off.”

Dan made a swift turn left onto the bridge, crossing the river. His steps were wobbly from his tiring legs. They were echoed by heavier, stomping footsteps of the man with the machete – he had to be getting closer.

Don’t look back, don’t look back, Dan thought. It was hard not to. His lungs burned, and his legs felt like jelly despite the burst of adrenaline that spiked through his veins.

He reached the end of the bridge at the fork in the road and collided with a passing bicyclist. The impact sent him flying to the side of the pavement, letting go of the smartphone and skidding in the snow. The bike tumbled onto the ground, launching the rider off the seat and shoulder-first onto the concrete.

“Shit!” Dan rolled onto his back and attempted to get up, but his feet slid on the ice hidden below the snow. He looked back to the bridge only to see no one.

Dan stared at the fork in the road, it was empty. He turned to his left – no one, his right, nothing. He looked back towards the island, then the bridge, nobody. The machete-wielding man was nowhere to be seen.

“Christ,” muttered the bicyclist while taking off her helmet.

“Did you see the man behind me? He had a- “

“Share the damn road!” the bicyclist snapped.

Dan wiped his face and glanced around one more time to see if he missed machete-wielding man. No. He was gone for certain.

Dan couldn’t help but smile to himself with relief. He got away. He knew running was good for your health but who knew the results would be so sudden.


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