Thursday, June 2, 2011

FICTION: Race the Rain by Mark J. Reagan

Seth and his father watched the rain.

“You remember how long you have?” his father asked.

Seth shook out his body. “Ten minutes.”

“Very good, very good! And how far do you have to run?”

“Three miles,” he replied.


Seth ran his hands over his shaved head and gave an eager nod. This was the day. He had trained everyday straight for seventeen years, and finally his father had declared him ready and brought him to the field. It was impossible for him to further contain his pent-up excitement and he jogged in place.

“Great!” his father said and walked out of the cave. “Come on.”

All at once the rain stopped.

Seth jogged out after his balding, heavyset father. He circled around him on the dirt path surround by grass that led to the field. They wore matching blue track suits, and his father carried a large duffle bag over his shoulder. In the black sky above, Seth could see the stars even though the giant sun shone down.

The rain started to fall again. It fell on the stone field and went no further. Round and flat, it was like a mountain had been sanded down starting from its peak until only a smooth disk remained. Seth could see the sides of the wide field—six miles wide, his father said—but clouds blocked the light and made the darkness at the center impenetrable. The rain sizzled away when it struck the stone, the smell like charred eggs.

Seth stopped next to his father in front of the wall of rain. “You can and will do this!” his father said over the sound of the rainfall. “Yes you will! What happens if you fail?”

“I’ll die.”

“That’s right. Fail or cheat and you die.” his father said. “But you’ll beat it. You can do this.”

“I can do this,” Seth repeated.

He helped Seth take off his jacket. “Where are you?”

Seth visualized himself running through the darkness and pointed toward it. “I’m there.”

“What are you doing?” he asked and helped Seth pull off the rest of the track suit to leave him in a t-shirt and running shorts.

“I have the Godhand.”

“And? And?” his father asked.

“And I’m bringing it back to you.”

“Good. Very good! You can do this. Are you afraid?”

“Yes,” Seth answered.

“What did I teach you?”

“That it’s natural. It’s fuel. I accept it.”

“No one’s ever done this before,” his father said. “Your brothers and sister failed me.”

“I’m not them,” he replied. Behind him, his father set up the starting block from the duffel bag. “I can do it.”


“Because I’ve trained my whole life.” Seth laughed. “Because I love running! Because I’ve seen myself beating the rain for years here.” He tapped his temple

“Then get ready. Wait.” His father knelt down and retied his shoes to make sure the laces were tight, then stepped away and pulled out his pistol. “We’re all set.”

Seth knelt down, put his feet against the starting block’s pedals, and splayed his hands on the ground. He closed his eyes and envisioned his success.

After a time, his father said, “On your mark!”

He breathed out, then in.

“Get set!”

He arched his body.

The rain stopped.

His father fired the pistol.

Seth ran onto the field. With each stride his feet pounded against the stone with jackhammer regularity. He pushed himself harder. What light there was soon faded and he ran through total darkness. Pain invaded his legs, crawling up through his calves, closing around his knees.

His footfalls faded to silence, and he could no longer hear the sound of his labored breath. Only the rhythm of his heart resounded through the dark. Bile welled up in his stomach. He wanted to vomit. He wanted to cast off thighs that seemed like weights tied to his bone.

The rain fell.

It seared his skin. He shut his eyes tight and gritted his teeth against the pain. His shirt and shorts and shoes burned away. The rain mingled with his sweat and burned down his face. It scorched through his eyelids and into his eyes, dripped into his ears.

He screamed. The rain entered his mouth. He spit it out and ran faster.

The rain devoured his skin and started to eat into his muscles. Before he collapsed he threw himself forward with all the strength his flayed body could rally.

He hit the ground and rolled forward until he struck something. He only felt the heaviness of his damaged muscles and the contractions of his lungs but he knew that he had made it out of the rain. Blind and deaf he groped out for what he had hit and found steps. He tried to smile but could not feel the muscles of his face draw tight.

His body screamed for sleep, but he told it to shut up and replayed the vision of success in his mind. He still had more to do before he died. With what little strength he had left he put his hands on the step and began to crawl. What had been one step turned into many. His muscles howled, his mind reeled, and his entire body went numb. Still, he dragged himself up the steps.

The steps came to an end and his hand brushed against an object. He grabbed it. Through his fingertips more fire rushed into his body. This fire, however, did not destroy, but instead renewed. His damaged muscles wove together, his nerve endings grew back, and new skin rippled out over his body. The fire healed his ears and he heard the savage howl that rang out from his throat. His eyes were made whole.

His mind opened. The pain faded.

In his hand he held a sphere like a contained sun no bigger than his fist that felt of molten metal. With the light from its captured flames he saw that he stood on a stone pyramid surrounded by the rain. The sphere contained so much power that it felt like it contained the very core of the universe. Perhaps it did. He stood up, laughed, and pumped his fist in triumph. With the sphere’s power he knew he could speed past the rain with ease; it could not even harm him. But just how fast could he run with this power?

He tested it.

He ran off the field, out of the cave he and his father had entered through and returned to the world to run around it in a single thought. The familiar burn did not encroach on his muscles. He did not breath, his heart did not even beat, and he ran around the world again, and again, and again. He could run so fast that he could almost be everywhere on the planet at once and not feel the slightest ache in his legs.

Why run then? he wondered. Why not just be everywhere on the world at once? And with a thought, he was. The world seemed very small to him then, and he left it. In a moment he jaunted across the universe and explored worlds unknown, both empty and inhabited. He leapt across stars and black holes without straining.

When he grew bored he returned to his father, who still waited at the edge of the field. Almost no time had passed. His father shielded his eyes from the light Seth’s body emitted.

“You got it!” his father said. “You actually got it!” He held out his hands. Seth stared at his father’s open palms and comprehended every deed that he had committed in pursuit of the so-called Godhand. “Give it here, son . . . give it!”




His father raised his hand to strike him. “Don’t talk back to me!”

“You killed my brothers, my sister.”

“The field killed them. Not me.”

“You killed them. You killed all those people to get here.”

His father lunged for the sphere but Seth held it out of reach. “Give it!” He drew his pistol and pointed it at Seth’s head.

Seth knew that even with all of the sphere’s power that he could not bring back his siblings. His father deserved death, but he could not bring himself to kill him. He still loved him, loved the training that they had done together, but he knew that the older man would continue to pursue the sphere no matter the cost.

“Goodbye,” Seth said, and without remorse erased all knowledge of the sphere from his father’s mind and sent him back home.

Long after his father was gone, Seth ran back to the center of the field. No breath, no fire, no wind on his face, no feeling at all. Disappointed and unsatisfied, he decided to put down the sphere. The power still surged through him, and he found it difficult to let go. It took all of his willpower to pull away his fingers and remove his hand from the sphere’s golden surface. Its power fled from him and he trembled at the sudden dearth. Once again he could feel his heart beat and his lung fill with air. He cried out in absolute pain and sheer joy at the returning sensations.

He walked down the stairs, and reveled in the strength of each step. The light the sphere radiated projected a rainbow through the barricade of rain before him. He crouched down, and put a foot against the lowest step as if it were a starting block. He had made it past the rain, but he had not beaten it. With his eyes closed he re-envisioned his race. With a perfect start followed by each flawless stride he saw himself safely escape the rain’s grasp. He smiled at his imagined success.

The rain stopped, and Seth ran.

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