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Title: The street

by Roz from Berkshire | in writing, fiction

She kept running, stumbling over debris, climbing over imposing obstacles. Thoughts sprinted through her mind. Her harsh breathing fell into a rhythm that matched the blood pumping in her ears. Slowing and turning back, she saw him lagging behind by only a few feet, encumbered by the array of objects he bore in his arms. As he came to a halt in front of her, something round and metallic clattered to the ground, rolling in panicked circles.

'We keep moving,' she said, with the determination of an army officer, 'we don't stop until we reach the site. Not for anything. If we get there fast enough we could save lives. We will save lives.'

His face was a mask of worry, one she'd seen so often recently that it seemed stuck there. He didn't reply, yet like a losing gambler with only a desperate last resort, he discarded his things. They scattered across the broken tarmac, mingling with the other abandoned articles. The pair broke into a faster run, driven on by some invisible machine, unable to stop until they reached their destination. The sound of despair grew in their ears, mutating, invading their minds with doubt. Smoke attacked their noses and mouths, hindering their advance.

'It'll be alright,' she told herself. Her breath was coming shorter. The ache in her legs was spreading and weighing her down. Squinting as she moved deeper into the dense, choking gas, she felt they were close as she focused on the street ahead. A large, unidentifiable object had been mangled and cast into the centre of the road, creating a barrier and preventing any further movement. Her eyes scanned it, already choosing a path.

'We climb,' she said, once again taking a commanding tone. Before he could argue, she cut across him, 'It's the only way to get there. It's not far now; we can't take any other route, it'll take too long, Just go. We need to help.'

Ignoring the look on his face, she began to clamber over the obstruction, unaware of the blood flowing down her bare legs and running for cover in her shoes. On the other side, she saw the well-known street transformed, mutilated. Every item was unrecognisable, as though forced into a strange shaped box where it would never fit. The hopelessness of the scene overpowered her; the screams were too loud, the sights branded into her mind, full of heat and pain. Bodies mangled, covered in pieces of homes that would never be recovered. Each fading cry would become another printed statistic, every lost family member transformed into an emotionless news story. She fell back, aware of her frail arms and legs, her stained clothes, every cut and bruise leaving her motionless in her devastation. The wounded lay around her, begging her for aid, wasting their last few breaths.

There would be no glory that day; she would not mark her place in history through a single moment of courage. It was as though that time-bomb of doubt had ticked its last, destroying her swiftly from the inside and leaving an excruciating aftermath outside.

He ran past her, still moving towards what had been their final destination. His old, worn mask had a new concentration, and he joined those attempting to pull out trapped citizens, helping to dress wounds without hesitation. The indecisive figure has dissolved. He moved quickly through the wreck, each movement prepared and unfaltering. He would save lives. His doubt has been installed correctly; he could overcome it, whereas hers had been left unfinished, now choosing to take its toll upon her body and mind. She lay hopelessly, unable to do anything except watch, finding it impossible to comprehend her own thoughts, and keep breathing, a survivor of an attack she was never part of.

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A product of summer school '07, where we were asked to write characters that contradicted themselves.

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