Have you ever had a dream you wanted so badly, chased so hard, cried and screamed and yearned and fought for so much, and yet it always felt just out of reach? That is exactly how I feel about publishing a novel!! I’m not giving up, not by a long shot. I’ve got some published short stories under my belt, so that’s a good start. And I’ve won a bunch of contests. And I WANT it! This is one of the short stories that won and is published now in a League of Utah Writers anthology titled ‘Chasing Tomorrow’ (after my piece). It’s a story about wanting something always out of reach and never giving up. Hope you enjoy.
Her footsteps echo off the midnight alley walls. A cold breeze gusts down the narrow corridor bringing a hint of rotting garbage and dank corners. Fear crawls up my spine and settles, cold and clammy, at the base of my skull. I pause a moment, but the tap of her feet draws me into the dark.
A musty heaviness fills the air, sinking to the bottom of my lungs with each gasp, muffling my breath, filling my ears with my heartbeat.
A single naked bulb, hanging drunkenly from a rusty fixture, throws a circle of light on the ground. The alley’s broken pavement is like jagged teeth nipping at her ankles as she skirts the light. I see a flash of sky-high red heels and a flutter of her delicate dress before her creamy calf is swallowed again in the shadows.
I speed up. She’s not getting away this time.
But when I get to the light she’s long gone. I push farther, faster, eager to finally feel her heat, her vitality under my fingers.
I see her silhouetted against the night-city dusk at the end of the alley. It steals the color from her, painting her in grays and blacks—tumbled curls, straight shoulders, slim waist, long legs.
I start to run.
She doesn’t know I follow her. She’s never seen me, never felt me watching, never perceived my yearning. Now, she steps to the right, moving away again, intent on what’s in front of her instead of what’s behind.
Hurrying forward, I trip over a box and sprawl to the ground. Whatever was in the container rolls hollowly across the pavement. My cheek is pressed to the grit and grime of the alley. A cellophane wrapper crinkles under the fingers of my right hand, and I prefer not to question what the warm, wet substance that coats my left hand is.
I scramble to my feet and rush around the corner headlong into a chest as wide and hard as a brick wall. I bounce off and hit the pavement. Blinking from my new seat on the ground, I peer up at the hulking figure in front of me. He looks like a prison warden, which I guess is appropriate—hair buzzed high and tight, body like a tank, and eyes that see everything and show nothing. Words like schedule and priority and order are important to this guy.
I curse silently, but I keep my face pleasant. “Hey, Time. What’s up?”
“Today.” He says my name like it’s a bad word. “Where are you headed in such a hurry?”
“Really.” Time doesn’t say it like it’s a question, but his gray eyes stare at me like he’s waiting for an answer. I keep quiet. I’m no dummy. Finally, he says, “Guess who I saw pass by here a minute ago?”
I stand and dust off the seat of my jeans. “Who?” I give him what I hope is a casually curious look.
“You can drop the innocent act,” he says. His hands are fists at his side, and he’s the kind of guy who would use them. “I’ve told you before not to chase after her.”
“But nothing. You’ll never catch up to Tomorrow.”
“Please, Time,” I say. “She’s so beautiful and mysterious.”
“It’s hopeless, Today.”
“No, it’s not.” I shove my hands through my hair. “If she’d just look behind her—if she could only see me—I know she’d feel the same way I do.”
“You’re too different,” Time says. “I know you both. Tomorrow’s full of optimistic hope for the future. You’re the painful, inescapable present. It won’t work.”
“I can change,” I say, “if she’ll just give me a chance.”
I try to walk past him, but he plants a hand on my chest.
I turn my head, not casual any more, and give him my own unbending stare. “I have to try.” His mouth is granite and his eyes are steel, but he drops his hand.
I run down the sidewalk, sprinting past barred windows impatient to dazzle passers-by, weaving through empty tables forlorn without their twenty-somethings sipping flavored coffees. I pass street lights shining for an audience of one. Me.
But no, there are two of us here. I see Tomorrow ahead, flitting through the puddles of light, feet barely touching the ground.
And I follow, like I always have.
Farther and farther she leads me. Hours and miles through the night. The city falls behind, the suburbs, the scattered houses that fringe civilization. Fields of wheat roll by, corn and grass, soybeans and rice. Oceans and mountains and deserts and wide open spaces that only small, furtive creatures call home.
Finally, light breaks in the east. I see her pause, eyes forward. The first rays of sunlight finger her golden hair, turning it into a tumble of fiery curls.
Now! I think. Now, while she stands on the threshold.
I double my speed. Close. Closer. I reach out as the sun bursts over the horizon. But I’m too late. My fingers brush the red-gold tips of her hair as she skips ahead once more.
My toe catches on the uneven ground, and I stumble. Spin around.
My heart leaps in surprise. What’s this? Someone behind me with her hand outstretched, reaching for me. I meet Yesterday’s eyes—pleading, wishful eyes—for one brief moment. Then I gain my balance, shake it off, and turn again to chase Tomorrow.