We Ran

For the month of November I'm writing a bit of random fiction every day and posting it. Each piece will be inspired by a photograph and posted as a very rough first draft without much editing. What I write for this November project will not be true, or based on real events. 

I would love this practice over the month of November to sharpen my writing skills, not just by providing a framework and some discipline for the craft, but also through feedback. So I would love to hear what you think. Don't like that use of simile, let me know. Think that particular sentence doesn't read quite right, tell me. I'm up for it ;) Thanks friends!

Want to learn more about this project, click here.

Here's my piece for November 3rd:

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We ran as if someone was chasing us, but every time I glanced behind me all I saw was the tall grass that had been stomped flat into a makeshift road. I didn’t glance behind often. I didn’t want to see the house in the distance. I just wanted to run. I could still hear the yelling ringing in my ears and I wanted to drowned it out, get away from it.

I could see both of my sister’s running ahead of me. We hadn’t said anything, but as soon as the porch door slammed behind us Mary started to run, and Rose and I joined her. I ran with all my might, but I couldn’t quite catch up to them. They were faster than me. They had always been faster that me. I was the oldest, and yet somehow this view, running behind them, felt so familiar, so in keeping with our lives.

When we had crossed the yard and reached the field we didn’t stop. Mary ran straight ahead along the well worn road between the tall grasses. Right away I knew where she was headed. I watched my sisters long legs lift and propel them forward, their sunday dresses twisting and wrapping around them. Their hair whipped from side to side with each step. Perhaps if we ran far enough we could be free. Perhaps if we ran fast enough we could fly.

My side began to hurt, but I didn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to feel the wind in my face and the pounding of my heart. I even wanted to feel the ache, to feel my legs ache and throb, to feel the sharp pain in my side, it made me feel as if I was real. Sometimes I felt as if I was floating though my life, but in this moment as each foot slammed down into the sharp dry grass I felt desperately solid. I was here in this present moment and nowhere else.

I ran faster.

By the time we reached the top of the hill I had nearly caught up with Rose. I could hear her quick sharp breathing mingle with the rhythmic noise of her feet hitting the ground. The sounds played back and forth with one another, like the call and response of liturgies. The noise beckoned me onward.

I could see Mary now far ahead, almost to the river. She had always loved to run the most, she had always rushed head first into all of life. I wished often that I could be more like her, less in my head and more present and passionate in each moment. But, Mary felt it all the most. She couldn’t detach herself from her hurts so she carried them, adding the past highs to the current ones, adding the past lows to the present ones. She was like a tornado and I loved every second of her swirling.

The river lay right in front of me now. It was a large river. It rested on the landscape of grains and grasses like a snake, swaying in large arcs across the ground. From the top of the hill I could see it stretch out over the land from Rivenna to Hilldale. Today, I didn’t stop to look and my feet picked up speed as the ground began to slope down towards the river. I felt as if I would crash from the speed and be unable to stop myself, but I knew I didn’t need to stop. I just needed to go faster.

Mary had reached the river now. She didn’t stop, she just ran straight into the water, until it was too deep to run any more. I could see Rose slow and hesitate as she reached the waters edge, was she wondering what Mother would say when she saw our Sunday dresses dripping wet with dirty lake water? She didn’t slow much and I watched her shake her wavy auburn hair, as if shaking the arguments out of her head before running straight into the water as well. I was right behind her. No hesitating for me.I couldn't stop even if I wanted to.

The water felt cool and crisp after the heat of the run. It flowed lazily forward, and I wished for a moment it would sweep me along with it in it’s idle current. I sank down under the depths, my dress tangling about my legs and dragging me down deeper. When my feet touched the rocky muddy earth below I pushed with all my strength and shot back up to the surface for the water.

Rose was floating on her back. I didn’t see Mary, but she soon surfaced from under the water too. I rolled over and floated next to Rose. We didn’t say anything. We didn’t need to, we all knew. There was a shared understanding that only we three could have.

I listened to the babble of the river as it ran it’s course, imagining it had secrets to tell me. I thought of all the places it had been, from it’s cold bubbling origins in the mountains all the way down to this place on the plains. What had it seen? Who had it met? How many others had floated as we were floating now? Did it know the way to get free?

It seemed to me that the river was apart from time, free from the hindrances that held me back. Free from all ties and obligations, hurts and repercussions, free even from self awareness and insecurities. The river was only a river and content to be just that.

Before long we dragged our dripping selves out of the water and lay in the weeds that grew along the water’s edge. We stared up at the cloudless blue sky. My sisters lay on either side of me and I reached out my hands to grab hold of theirs.

“Do you think that some day we could run fast enough to break free of the earth and fly up into the sky?” I asked.

Mary laughed. Rose smiled, “Maybe. Someday.”

We were silent again, but we were together. And for that moment we really were free.

(The photo that inspired this piece)

writingBethany Stedman