Once Baek Siwoo started running, there was nothing for him but the end goal in sight.
His feet hit the pavement at a steady rhythm, almost in tune with his heartbeat and breaths.
When he ran, he was free. When he was free, he felt alive.
Moving in constant motion was as easy, and necessary, as breathing. His aunt had once said that he’d run empty someday if he gave more than he should.
He hadn’t understood what she meant until—
Regardless, the fresh wind had always been his truest companion—not the other competitors, his coach, or the audience. The track field had been his stage and he’d always been the star.
Now he preferred to shine less, dull more.
There was no end in sight—only a bleak red track field that continued stretching further underneath an abnormally bright sky. Everything around him was nearly white.
He couldn’t see the sun, but heat waves rolled off the ground in a brutal haze. The edges of his eyes felt wet. A scorching pressure converged against the center of his chest. One of the worst places to get hit…
But he couldn’t bring himself to stop running.
He could remember figments of his life but not what happened before he ended up here.
Memories whizzed by like snapshots, with every thump and inhale and exhale: an empty rice cooker infested with ants, his little cousins waddling after him with shrieking delight, a droplet of ice cream melting onto the bleachers, his aunt and uncle whispering furiously over the kitchen table in the dead of night, bright flashes of light and booming bass everywhere he turned.
Si-woo hated them the most. Even here, wherever he was, he couldn’t escape the harsh flashes that continued blinding him.
He wanted to stop.
He wanted to stop running.
He wanted to stop running on this fucking track field.
He wanted to stop running on this fucking track field where there was nothing at the end for him.
A murmur whispered against his ear. It wasn’t the wind, but he couldn’t tell, delirious from the heat and the pain and the lights.
Why couldn’t they leave him alone anymore?
“You’ll be alright now,” a soft voice crooned, so close yet so far. “Just a little longer…”
It sounded like his mother before she had left him on his aunt and uncle’s doorsteps. Siwoo didn’t want to go any longer.
He wanted to stop now.
But he couldn’t, and for a second, when the wind picked up its speed, he thought he was flying.