Photo Prompted Flash: Elusive
Thursday, March 27, 2008, 12:07 AM

For the Writer's Retreat Forum challenge and for Romance Roundtable's Fiction Friday.

Word Count: 500


I feel the burn of exertion in my lungs and slow to a jog. Loose fists. Arms low to the waist. Heels first.

Orion’s Belt is fading against the sun’s ascent, and the birds haven’t even begun singing yet. I feel as if I am the only one awake on the planet.

Serene means tranquility of no thought. Reflection means vivid and clear awareness. Therefore, serene reflection is clear awareness of no thought.

Bruce Lee’s words make no sense to me, but I repeat them in my head every day as my running shoes slap against the road’s pavement. It’s smoothly paved with new paint. The shrubbery fronting the forest is trimmed, but yesterday it was thick with the overgrowth of weeds and brambles and litter. I remember seeing the empty beer bottle, the flattened, empty pack of cigarettes, deadfall from the trees.

I want to run again. The back of my neck prickles, but not from sweat. What is there to fear at five-fifteen in the morning? A moment ago, the sun peeked through the lowest tree branches, and dusk became morning. It’s my favorite time of the day. No distractions, just me and the road and my never-ending hope for clear awareness of no thought. Charlie doesn’t understand; he’s into fencing, porn and a virtual world called Second Life. We have nothing in common but a love for kinky sex and staying in shape. More and more, it’s becoming less.

The first flush of rising temperature hits my face as I near the curve ahead. It’s November, but it doesn’t look or feel like November. The trees look like they look in early spring, but I know that can’t be right because Orion’s Belt isn’t visible in the morning during spring.

I hear the sound of a tree unfurling new leaves, but it must be my imagination. And this place that seems familiar and yet not familiar.

Muscles finally warm and fluid, my strides lengthen and quicken despite my resolve to pace myself. I round the curve and feel like I’m eating a great distance. There’s no pain, just this need to run. It helps, but it puzzles me that I don’t feel the burn anymore. Maybe it’s this place. Maybe it’s my consolation prize from Bruce Lee—since I don’t feel clear awareness of no thought, maybe I feel clear awareness of no pain.

I don’t want a consolation prize, though. I’m restless, scared, and I ache for serenity, for clear awareness of no thought.

A scream of tires shatters the quiet of the morning. I stumble to a stop and whip around to see a shiny gray sedan. It slams into me and the world goes black.

“Oh God, I thought you were joking.”

Charlie, whose arm hairs still prickled at the sight of his dead wife on the road, smiled nervously at the new girl in town. “She’s been gone for four years, but she still jogs in the middle of the damn road.”

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