Student Showcase: 'Running'

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I can feel the scream trying to escape my throat, but it’s too dry. The adrenaline is pumping and I’m too terrified to make a sound. My breathing consists of short, fast breaths, and my heart feels as if it will burst right out of my chest at any second.

I am running, fast. I am running down a dark, narrow corridor, down which I can see but a few feet in front of my face. I squint as I sprint, faster and faster, trying to make out what is in front of me. All I am able to distinguish in this darkness is a cloudy shadow, although an end to the hallway appears to lie ahead. A wave of relief passes through me as I recognize what is a door. However, the relief is short-lived. What if the door is locked?

My only option is to keep running, which is exactly what I do. My bare feet beating on the hard, cold floor, and my face hot and sweaty, I run. I run all the way down the hallway, hoping my escape awaits me, and sure enough, it does. But, I can’t stop. The door is closed, and my mind, even with the small amount of common sense remaining, tells my legs to stop so I can open the door. But, they don’t respond. As if they no longer belong to me, my legs keep moving at the same sprinting pace, and the door is yards away … feet … inches.

Sight returns to me instantaneously, and I stare wide-eyed at my bedroom wall, illuminated by a night light. The clock on my desk reads 1:07 a.m. I must have been asleep only for a few hours, but I am now wide awake and very thirsty.

I open the door slowly, trying to be as quiet as possible, but the floor creeks as I tip-toe down the hall and into the kitchen. I run my hand along the cabinet, searching blindly for a cup; then, hearing a sound, I pause for a second or two. It is a faint whisper, followed by a sniffle. Someone, probably my mother, is crying softly. I creep towards my parents’ bedroom door and lightly press my ear against it. I hope they cannot hear me, although I can hear almost everything.

Curious, yet fearful, I listen intently to their conversation. They must be discussing my father’s health again. It has been waning slowly over the years, punctuated with ups and downs. I’m not entirely sure if even they know what is wrong with him. At least, no one has even given me a straight answer. I only know that my father is sick. Now, remembering that my dad went to the doctor a few weeks before, I’m wondering if the test results are the topic of this late-night discussion.

Moving quietly across the house to dad’s office, I close the door and turn on the light, I rummage through stacks of bills and assorted papers on the large mahogany desk, and encounter an oblong manila envelope bearing the hospital’s address sitting near the edge. I wrap my hand around the crisp edges of the envelope, lift the flap and slowly extract the papers inside.

My fingers follow the words as I read them. They appear bold, black and confident on the crisp stationery, explaining what the accompanying documents will reveal. Somehow, I know the words I’ll read are true, since these thoughts have stirred in the back of my mind for years. And now, in the middle of the night on a Thursday in June, my fears are confirmed.

I read faster and faster, eyes wide, gathering facts I cannot wrap my mind around. My eyes well with tears and deep inside I wish I were still running fast and hard and away from the truth: my father has cancer. And, only in my dreams can I escape this reality.

Cortni Troublefield is a junior at John Hardin High School.