The Speed of Life

Run. Run and keep on running. Feel the wind through your hair and the concrete beneath your feet. The floor, the walls, the sky, you run on all of it. Gravity doesn’t hold you, it clings to your ankles, pulling you back but you run faster. You just need to run faster. The pump of muscle, the cold sheen of sweat, the throb of oxygen and blood in your brain as it pulls what little your legs haven’t commandeered for themselves.

This is freedom. This is life itself.

 

Spatters of concrete dust.

City blood stains your shirt, your face.

They can’t kill your city and they can’t kill you.

A ventilation system, pumping air like your mouth, expelling the used oxygen from your chest, your legs, throbbing with life.

A step. Higher.

Another. Higher.

Your fingers grip the top of the unit, propulsion, momentum, boosting you up like wings made of velocity.

You’re up. You’re over. You’re still going.

The steel takes the bullet meant for you.

The city is your bodyguard, and while you live, it lives.

It whoops with your mouth.

Exhilaration throttles your heart.

 

Just last week, Jonathan. A month before, Yolanda and Jack. You can run but you can’t hide, but that’s okay, ’cause we never stop to hide. Puffs of grey, dry blood made by small black stingers, hurled by the law. Bullets are the only ones who can catch us. Unlike them, we can’t break the sound barrier.

Yet.

 

Pipes laze across to trip the slow, but only boost the quick. You feel their curve, taste the metal through your soles. You push, you fly, your toes as springs, rebounding with every rhythmic movement of your hips, the beat of your step competing with the beat in your chest.

Thum thum step.

Thum thum step.

Sometimes it feels like the world is in slow motion, but it’s not.

You’re just that fast.

 

Polished glass reflects the world, the sky, the other buildings, so that wherever you look you’re looking away.

Look away.

Look away.

Don’t look at the world it’s become, you might not like what you see. Every layer wants to avoid looking at the next level down, their buildings just that bit higher than those further out. A circular pyramid of stacks, connected by the veins of ventilation.

You’re not allowed outside. Inside, there’s all you could want. Anything is provided.

Anything. Anything but speed.

 

The edge beckons. Imagine falling. Faster than you can run, faster than bullets, than dreams. Your lips wet with the thought.

You can’t go lifespeed.

Not yet.

You need to get to Jan. You need to tell her. You almost can’t remember what, you’re lost in the joy of Rushing.

 

The pipe that covers the distance is tiny, it’s whole body shaking under the weight of you. The jaws open below, plummeting upward, but you don’t look. Look away. Look ahead. One foot in front of the other, there is only the next step.

Then the next.

Then the next.

Then you’re over.

They can’t chase you now. They’re too slow. They spit their tiny lead teeth after you, but it’s not enough.

You’re too far. The city swallows them.

 

You can’t get to the streets. Blocked off, or built over, or left to fester between the spines of utopia everyone clings to. But they need the air like you need to run, and the climb of vents is your only way up. The only way out. The city retches, it’s stomach filled for the first time with purpose.

You remember your first Rush.

The first time running under open air. Open sky.

It was the first time you tasted speed, and your appetite became insatiable.

 

You feel it before you hear it. It’s different to the throbbing in your head, your blood, your city. It’s cutting the air. A shark of the sky. They can’t run but they can hide, and they hide in metal and guns and fear.

They hide in authority.

 

The shark begins to whine, then bark, one long, endless, stuttering bark, and you look, not at the monster, but at the edge ahead, too far to jump. You feel the impacts through your feet. You feel the gasps from the concrete. The concussion that ripples through the floor like flesh.

It thinks you’re trapped. You can’t stop.

The wall becomes a floor, perspective outrun for moments as gravity forgets, confused, and you kick off to land on the next roof.

You duck your head, brace your mind, and feel the city roll around your body.

Then you’re upright, gravity and perspective reasserting their rules. The shark joins the party.

Too late, you’re already running.

 

Something is shouted, words thick with amplification echoing over your head, drowned out by the adrenaline, the speed, the Rush. Words are meaningless. Mouths are for drawing breath, and breath is for the next step. The shark begins it’s stuttering roar again, and there isn’t any cover.

They want to stop you.

You can’t let them stop you.

They say the only way they can really kill you is if they make you stop. Then you’re one of them. Even with the Rush in your blood, still flooding your body as if every step is another injection, the speed white hot and relentless.

They can still make you stop.

The next vent is too far, but you almost make it, desperation and fear forcing their way through your system, adding to the adrenaline, forcing you to go faster than you knew you could. You feel the lead teeth skim your arm, sharp and hot. The joke’s on them, you don’t need your arms to run.

You drop. You slide. Underneath the tangle of metal lies darkness, and protection.

But you can’t stop. Protection is fleeting.

The concrete tears at your shorts, your skin, ripping them open as their friction tries to slow your passage. The shark’s teeth clatter against the vents, fingers of light bursting ahead of you, feeling for you.

As you rejoin the sunlit roof, you feel the finger’s touch. It presses deep.

Pain.

You gasp with all your body. Your rhythm’s gone, you need to take another breath.

You need to suck in more speed, but you stumble.

They want to stop you.

The next roof is too far.

You can’t let them stop you.

Your side burns wet.

 

The only way to stay fast, fast forever, fast eternal, is to die fast. The city swallows everything that dies fast. When you die fast you become part of the city. Your momentum travels through it. A little, just a little, the world begins to speed up.

 

You can’t let them stop you.

You turn.

You jump.

 

They say the world slows down when you jump, just for a second, to let you see everything in perfect clarity. Speed stops you seeing anything but what’s right ahead, but for that one perfect moment, you can see everything.

It’s a lie.

The buildings around you stretch up, a tunnel of mirrors that lets you watch yourself fall. Look at yourself, not at the bottom.

Look away.

But you can’t. You have to let go. You have to embrace your city, stained with your sweat and blood and adrenaline. In these final moments it’s given you the ultimate gift.

Unlimited speed.

Speed so fast you can’t even draw breath.

So fast it stings your eyes, but you don’t shut them.

You open your arms instead, wide, wider.

The shark lurks above you, circling, watching, but it grows faint under the cheer of wind.

For a second, you think you hear yourself break the sound barrier, but the wind is too loud, and you can’t think straight.

You’re doing it. You’re really doing it.

You’re going at the ultimate speed.

Lifespeed.

Nothing will ever catch you again.

 

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