Chapter 1

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Dawn had been my signal to take off. It gave me ecstasy to embrace the murk, and let the foggy chill, and stillness of the woods take me in. I had my footprints engraved on just about every inch of the ground; I ran these woods, literally. I was one blessed man, or so I thought...

Streaks of flame had begun to lick the sky, illuminating the horizon when I approached the edge of the woods. I stopped to catch my breath, cursing my legs for the soreness they shot into my nerves.

"Move it!" I urged, massaging my calves. "Man up!" Home was near. A bird landed at my side, and I turned my head toward it.

That was when I first saw her.

There she ran, a few feet ahead, all in shiny orange from her sneakers up to her cap. She looked like a candle, shimmering in darkness. I could only see her back, but I could swear she was beautiful. I stood there, dazed. Who was she? The question was pressing. I needed to find out.

I set off once again, suppressing my pain. She romped, never looking back, so I paced faster. Faster. Faster. Somehow she was still out of reach.

"Hey!" I called. "Stop!"

She sped up. Did I frighten her? Or was she unaware of my existence? I silently dawdled, making sure she was within my eyesight. Until she headed in the wrong direction; she was running down the cliff.

"Stop it!" I yelled. There was no way she hadn't heard me, yet she penetrated the shrubs like a train on rails.

"Hey!"

"Don't!"

"You crazy idiot!"

My shouts diffused into the fog. It was too late; she had escaped my field of regard, and was no doubt now avalanching. My heart hammered, and my lungs screamed for air as I took her rout. Please don't be dead! I hesitated before I dared look at the bottom, where the cliff had abruptly ended into solid ground.

And there she lay. Young. Ravishing. And dead.

"God!" I whimpered. My knees buckled, and it felt like all the oxygen had rolled down the cliff with her. The lustrous orange had turned red. Watching her sharpened my pain. Why?

I didn't know how long I lingered there, staring at my throbbing legs. It felt like a dream, because the next time I looked down the cliff...

She vanished.

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