Preview Awake, now!
by Hannah Hall
A mile and a half to go.
I willed my long, slender legs to run as fast as they could.
Come on, Blue, I thought. You can do this.
I breathed in the cold, dry air of the mountains with every stride. September in Colorado was always pretty chilly, but tonight was abnormally bitter.
I pulled the turtle neck of my black, dry-fit shirt up to my prominent cheekbones. Only my crystal, blue eyes peeked out from the covering. The wind left them painfully dry, but I forced them to remain open. I needed to see around me.
The Beckell University campus was beautiful at night. The sidewalks were wide and had glassy rocks lining each side of them. They sparkled in the intense, Colorado starlight.
The sharp-angled and straight-lined architecture of the buildings was illuminated by bright, white lights. In the distance, you could see the mountain tops that peaked over the city.
My heart pounded, and my muscles burned as I trudged up the pavement.
I was alive. I was myself when I ran, which was more than I could say for most other situations lately.
My classes at Beckell were hard, and meeting nice people was even harder.
Ever since I arrived here, nothing seemed right. I worried I had followed what my mom wanted for me over what I wanted for myself. That was kind of the story of my life.
“Beckell is the place for you, Blue,” she told me.
She had been so controlling since we lost him...
A mile and a quarter to go.
I pushed my legs to move a little faster. Even though I wasn’t a cross country star in college like I was in high school, I needed the physical challenge. I needed something to keep me going forward, physically and mentally.
One mile to go.
I wasn’t a lot of things here at Beckell that I was in high school. I wasn’t the prom queen here. No one handed me a silver tiara to put in my long, white-blonde hair here at Beckell. No one really noticed me at all.
I wasn’t the popular girl anymore either—honestly thank goodness. No one watched me as closely anymore. The pressure, on that front at least, was off.
On the flip side, that meant I dealt with a loneliness I hadn’t known before. I didn’t miss popularity, but I missed having people check in on me.
Half a mile to go.
I sucked in a deep breath.
Something felt wrong.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was somehow off. I ran on.
My left leg stung, and my knees cramped up with each motion. I slowed my pace, but I kept it at a jog.
The muscles in my shins pounded against each other with each stride. My ankles twisted impulsively.
“Agh!” I cringed.
Don’t stop. It’s in your head.
I kept pushing and pushing, but—
A snap of pain shot through my left leg, and I fell to the ground. I grabbed onto it with two hands. I rocked back and forth, and I tried to hold the area where the pain was. Everything hurt. There was no soothing the agony away.
I forced my eyes to glimpse down at my legs and assess the damage.
My right leg was drenched in webby streams of dark, fresh blood. It pooled from multiple sources ranging from my upper thigh to lower calf.
My left leg was covered in blood from the kneecap down. White bone poked out from my skin at the shin—a snapped tibia.
I bit down hard on my lip to keep from screaming. My chest heaved up and down rapidly as I struggled to catch my panicky breath.
This isn’t happening.
This isn’t possible.
I squeezed my eyes shut, and the world around me spun. The dizziness overwhelmed me. I begged and pleaded internally for the pain to stop, but my mind blurred as I slowly slipped from consciousness.
Then, as if a switch flipped inside of me, it all stopped.
The spinning in my head slowed to a halt.
I released my eyes from their strained-shut position. My eyelids fluttered, and I regained my vision. My eyes were no longer dry. They were so watery that tears poured down my face when I tilted my head. I peered around myself.
The ground beneath me was no longer covered in blood. The pavement had returned to a dry, pale gray.
I kicked my legs out in front of me and examined them. Both were completely back to normal—straight, long and strong.
I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion and looked up.
The night air that surrounded me was still frigid, and campus looked the same. No one was around. No one saw what I saw and could verify that I wasn’t going mad sitting here on the ground. There were so many stars, and they shone so boldly that I could make out the dome-shape of the sky.
It was just like any other night...
I slowly stood up and tested my legs. I lifted my right one in front of me and checked it over again. It seemed normal enough. I did the same with my left.
Everything was okay.
How could everything be okay?
Could that seriously have been all in my head?
I shook the thoughts from my mind. I pushed it all aside and refocused my attention on the path in front of me.
I hopped a little and leapt back into a jog. My legs moved smoothly across the pavement as though they were brand new.
I rounded the corner and headed back to my residence hall.
A quarter of a mile to go.
(End of preview)