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By Samantha Cook
My mother died of ovarian cancer fourteen hours ago.
I should have known something was wrong from the way she finally accepted her fate with a disturbing serenity. I asked myself – is this the same woman who just last month had screamed for no more experimental treatments? That when she gave me life, I took too much away from her? I should have identified the void of erratic emotions and protected my father. He wasn’t ready for her passing, not in the way I was...
Instead of comforting him, I sprinted to the same place I went every time I had something to run from. Though this visit was, and is, different; instead of looking down, planning, wondering, and then stepping back with weak knees, this time I am sure of my purpose. It is where I sit right now, doubling back over my thoughts, second guessing my skills, and rethinking my conclusions. In the end, I know that nothing will change unless I do this. Her death showed me that.
Ten years ago when I was six this place changed my life. Knowing of this impact was another thing. Being scouted by a renowned institute for future athletes named ‘Occulex’ never really mattered to me. It was years later when I found out who they really are did I start to plan for this moment. When I realised my fate had already been carved out before me like a tailored set of combat clothes. All I need to do is step forward and wear them. And after that, jump.
I peer over the edge of the three storey sports centre and let the wind comb through my sharp, navy-black hair. From here I can see the horizontal pole sticking out from the building. Years ago it wielded a Union Jack, but since then it has been stripped bare. Apart from the desolate pole, the bricks set out a smooth path down; no window ledge to catch my heel on, and no ‘hero’ pedestrian to get tangled up in the fantasy that they need to ‘save me’.
Halfway down to my right, a single brick pokes out from the wall around a vent. Plumes of gas retch out from it, reeking of pollution. Below that is the cemented ground of a car park, decorated with lightning shaped cracks. The only shrubbery is the weeds that have poked through these crevices. Nothing will break my fall.
This is it. Fear of death will no longer hold me back. I can only fear myself, how far I will go.
I dive off the building.
My stomach lurches back - a sensation I live for. My sense of smell is whipped away as I hurtle downwards towards the cracks. They draw nearer and, for a second, I doubt.
I reach out. A crunch and slap harmonise as I seize the pole. It jolts, reverberating. My body coils around the cold steel, feeding my momentum into a swing, slowing down. Then I propel myself towards the vent, balancing on the brick with ease. It was a larger platform than I expected, allowing me to grab a fair amount of ledge with my right hand. From here I run down the wall, hanging before the vent with my strong grip. If I hadn’t been wearing my running gloves, I would have lost a clean layer of skin from that trick, but I guess part of me knew I would need them today.
The rest is easy. Having leather to protect my palms turns the haggard blades of the vent into a ladder that I scurry down, and after that there is simply a one storey drop. When I land atop the lightning cracks, I roll and then check for damages. Not even a scratch.
Standing back, I marvel at the moves I have just pulled off, ones I have planned since I was ten. That was when my mother told me that, “Sometimes you have to push yourself, really push yourself right over the edge so you know anything a step back will be easy.” Thanks to her I can now be the very best Runner. Her and Occulex.
Occulex are the ones who are utilising my running skills. They delegate tasks to be completed by using the environment resourcefully and efficiently. There are no government secrets in my head and my license stretches as far as tranquilizing, not killing. Still, I’m the most valuable implement that the off-government holds, even though my life is not worth the coffin it would take to bury me in – if it was, would they let me climb up buildings? Nonetheless, it is who I am. My identity.
I am a Shadow Runner.
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