The knife clipped to my bra weighs only 2 ounces. There are four men in a semicircle. I run straight. Looking natural becomes a conscious effort. Each step must fall in time. They track me, rearranging as I pass, leaning back slightly, and I hear something lippy and cutting. They ask me how I taste. I am wearing the sports bra that pushes my breasts as close as possible to my chest. Baggy shorts. No earbuds. In the city proper, screams can be heard like fireworks, surprise turns can be made, if the alley looks empty, silhouetted, if a blurry thing haunts a window. These four do not follow me and I flee to the park. My toes skip over castled mounds in sidewalk cracks, sparing the ants; I pause to pinch a worm off the pavement before it dries. Smog blots out the sun, my nose tickles, when I blow my snot is black in the tissue. I train with the crowd and envy those who run crepuscular like foxes without thinking twice. 10 miles in midday. By the time I arrive home, my shirt is blasted with upwind industry soot. The grime against my runner's high makes me feel like fresh snow gilded with lapdog piss.
Here lies a path with no turns; here I cannot hide in plain sight; here they say I don't need to. My pepper spray weighs 4 ounces on the small of my back. Location shared: my mother watches from a satellite like a digital angel. 20 miles, the big push before the race, clean air for endurance. My car keys are hooked to my shoelaces to nip jingling in the bud. They claim bears should be warned of your approach with noise, but I'm not worried about bears. I watch habitats fragment along my journey, great swooping carpets of vine surgically spliced into rattling grey wheat, or repulsive empty acres. I am not alone. A man is standing in dense stalks to my right; I notice him there, facing me. I have no idea what he's doing in the crops by the path. I startle and I sprint. His shadow swings counterclockwise over my own, because the sun is beaming down behind us, so I know he slipped toward me, but I do not know why, will never know why, since I am faster. Did he want to say hello; did he want to hold a chloroform rag to my mouth until I collapsed limp against his chest. Two sides to every story, he would probably say. Later, when I startle the black bear, I pull my shirt off and wave it above my head, to appear bigger, a skyscraper in the city fringe, and it turns tail to flee without a second thought.
does sampling work in the environmental sector along the outskirts of Pittsburgh. His book, "Litter of the Waste," was co-written with his oldest friend and will be released soon. He has previous or incoming publications in Daily Science Fiction, The Molotov Cocktail, JMWW, Bending Genres
and The Colored Lens
, among others. He tweets humbly @the_sour_potato