Word Count: 500
Running to Stand Still
By Sam McManus
Ninth grade was hell, an absolute apocalypse in the middle of a nuclear war, the first taste of a special brand of revenge for something I didn’t realize I had even done. Maybe it was all just because I was the one who survived, because anytime something positive happened in my life something negative had to go along for the ride. Or maybe it was all just a big coincidence, that the summer after Jim and Shailene died, I found myself in my own battle for existence.
First off, I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in good and evil, in right and wrong, and even in cosmic circumstance, but coincidence is just as fictional as John the Baptist. Second off, I think Shailene saw it all coming. She was always more attuned to figuring out consequences before the actions had even hit their mark. But it wasn’t like I could ask her for help, not when she was gone like so much ash in the wind. I couldn’t even properly mourn her because the day after it all happened this guy showed up at my door with a shotgun.
Jim had answered the door that fateful day. It was the only reason I continued to breathe, and scream, and cry, and snivel like the coward I am. After the blast I ran. I just opened the kitchen door, slipped out into the humidity of the desert air, and took off flat-footed across the short grass. I had been smitten with the idea of getting away, with the thought that if I ran far and fast enough then the past would disappear, but that hadn’t happened. Running can only do so much when it’s the demons that are chasing you.
In Glendale, I found a new life. Fresh off a dusty bus, Meg and Tyler waited for me, bearing a sign that said “Blake,” which I guess was my new name. At least that’s what my new license said when they showed it to me in the car on the way to our house. Blake Reston. I could be a Blake, if it meant I would live. I had seen too many people die. Jim and Shailene had simply been the latest, had been the ones I let myself get too close to, even though I knew better.
Meg and Tyler were nice enough people, but they were also clueless automatons. They signed me up at the local high school, and I think they honestly though I would get lost in the crowds. But when you’ve seen as much carnage as I have, you learn to anticipate pretty much anything and everything. The cyborgs came for me in October, dressed like ordinary people. They always looked like ordinary people, until they didn’t anymore. I recognized them right off, with their vacant stares and their tendency to mimic those close by.
And I knew I couldn’t run anymore. I would make my final stand. For Jim. For Shailene. For the resistance.