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The Freedom Kid


The boy ran. He had run. He would run.

Like a Greyhound sprinting in its unending quest to eat a mechanical rabbit, he could see his metal goal just in front of him, tantalizingly close and yet impossibly far away. Sometimes he would draw so close he could almost reach out and touch the rear bumper, and that was when the blue Jetta would speed up. It did not, however, slow down when he began to lose ground, and he had found it was more economical to run to keep up rather than to actually attempt to outpace it.

The day had started like any other since he had restarted his wrestling career. Waking up in a hazy Kalamazoo motel room, going through his morning ritual, and stepping out into the warm, thick haze that enveloped the city. The man waiting outside his door was a change, of course, and when he gestured at his left wrist the boy knew he had already made a mistake, even though the man wasn't wearing a watch.

The boy's entire body hurt, and he could feel how each individual part hurt in its own separate way.

He could feel the blisters forming and breaking on his feet, on the balls of his feet, between his toes, and on his heels. He could feel his feet rubbing against his socks rubbing against his Converse All-Stars.

He could feel his ankles and knees beginning to wear down from the impact, the concussion, the shock of his feet hitting the pavement. They ached so much that he was sure his legs would give way at any moment. They didn't, though. They couldn't. After all, he had yet to prove himself.

His shoulders felt as though they were going to pop from their sockets from the constant back and forth, back and forth pumping of his arms as he ran. Soon enough, he wouldn't be able to lift his arms.

Specks of blood dotted his white T-shirt, his nipples having long since rubbed themselves raw.

His head had ached, but now it just felt like it was swimming through the air, tethered to his neck. His vision had been gradually blurring for an indeterminate amount of time, and it should have come to no surprise to the boy when the fatigue of his body finally reached critical mass.

The boy's feet shuffled too close together. His knees buckled. He pitched forward, unable to raise his arms to stop himself. Some last vestige of reflex tucked his head in and sent him rolling shoulder over shoulder down the street, his legs slapping against the pavement.

The car stopped, and the man got out. His face was a mask of indifference hiding genuine concern. "Okay, kid, that's enough for now. Let's take a break."

"Sglrb," the boy replied.

"Er, yeah," said the man as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it. "I think you definitely need a break."

A break