Preface: So, this was based on a quick writing prompt (should be fairly easy to guess), and written rather early in the morning, so apologies for spelling mistakes and odd sentences. You should be able to see what I’m trying to do here though, but I think it could rather have been done better! Anyway, hope you enjoy 🙂 – Ben
A gunshot, loud and harsh, cutting through the mist. Zygote sprang forwards, pumping his legs and gathering speed. If anything, that was a cue to run. There was a track ahead, he knew, and he could take that for the next few miles before he hit the road and could loop back towards the farmhouse. Then it was just through the river and he’d be home and dry. Well, he’d be soaked, but that was a small price to pay.
Just run, he thought. It was perhaps best not to get distracted when someone could be gaining on him, and the fog surrounding him deadened sounds, so he’d have little to no warning if he was caught up. His feet thudded hard against the packed earth, squelching in the odd patch of slimy mud, and his breathing settled in to a steady rhythm. That’s it, concentrate on that, let all the rest fall away. They wouldn’t get him this time, he was prepared.
Suddenly the dull air was cut by a shout, abruptly cut off. Someone else had fallen. They were finished now, he thought, forget them and move forwards. A copse of trees loomed eerily out of the fog, and he cut right, hugging the edge and watching for divots in the field that could cause him a particularly final mistake. Then a hedge appeared, and he burst out on to the tarmac, swerved left and dashed on up the road.
He’d known this was coming for months, and had prepared. Physical training, breathing exercises, stamina, it was all built in now, part of him and what drove him on. He was lithe, quick and sharp. Zygote Oval, a strange name, but one people would not forget in a hurry. In what felt like very little time he could see the crossroads up ahead; the fog was thinning now, revealing more. And there, behind him, not too close, but gaining, were the thump of shoes on the road. Concentrate, breath, run, forward.
And then the ancient hulking form of the farmhouse appeared by the side of the lane, beside it a stile, which he leapt over, barely pausing. Back in the fields, he raced across the flood plain towards the meandering river. The footsteps behind him were still there, and he had heard another three shouts of failure just since the stile. Zygote summoned the last remaining strength in his muscles, gulping down oxygen and pushing himself onwards. He would make it.
There was the river, slow moving and sluggish as it wound its way around the lazy loops it had cut through the vast plain. Nearly there, one last stretch. But now the footsteps were right behind him. He knew who it was without looking, and he couldn’t look, not now. He was breathing hard now, his careful regime of ins and outs, nose and mouth was falling apart as he struggling to gulp down the air to feed his starving muscles. One last stretch. Just don’t let him catch up, he thought.
Fowl, his nemesis, or as close to one as he could get. Not that he wanted one, but Fowl hadn’t given him much choice. A year ago he had cheated him of what was rightly his, and now he had come to finish the job. Zygote gritted his teeth and prepared himself, and leaped forwards. The bank of the river had come within reach, and he was taking no chances with his timing. He rose in to the air, then plunged back down towards the chilling water, the surface rushing up to meet him.
The cold was much more than he had imagined, but he struggled through it, swimming through the deeper part, then wading, pushing against the weak current. Then up, out the water, gasping for breath as the pressure on his lungs lessened and coated in the mud of the river and the banks he began to run again, up from the river beach, across the narrow island and leaping again down in to the other side of the vast loop. More cold, more mud, and then back out.
He had heard the splash of his pursuer close behind him each time, and now he could tell they were close enough to hear him speak. Gasping between breaths, he struggled out, “Not this time, Fowl, not this time,” and behind he heard the reply come with gulps of air.
“I’ll have you for dinner, Oval you slimy bastard.”
No love lost there, either. Suddenly, he felt something brush against his back. For the first time, he allowed himself to glance back. Right behind him, like some river monster risen from the muddy depths, the snarling glare of Fowl bore in to him, his hand reached out to grasp Zygote’s clothing. A burst of speed, and he pulled away. Not enough, it seemed, and before he could react Fowl had pulled along side him. They glared at one another, then Fowl pushed him, and Zygote stumbled sideways, nearly losing his footing.
He kept his feet, just, and pushed on, catching Fowl again and swinging his arm at him, trying to knock him off balance. Then a banner rose up from the remaining mist, surrounded by people, screaming, cheering, it was hard to tell.
“It’s MINE Oval!” Yelled Fowl, neck and neck with him.
All he could do was shake his head, then put it down and power on. They burst through the crowd together, one next to the other, and the banner had passed all of a sudden. He had made it, he had done it. His legs, reluctant to stop after such a along way, carried him a way further before he collapsed on to the grass, pushing his face in to the cool moisture of the ground and feeling someone ask him if he was OK, then throwing a rescue blanket over him. Somewhere he could hear Fowl, shouting and raving.
Another person went by, and he grabbed their ankle, stopping them. A woman leant down to him.
“What happened?” He asked her, eyes focusing at last, “What was the result? Who came first?”
“Oh, you don’t know yet?” She smiled at him and patted his hand, “It was a dead heat, a photo finish. You both did, well done!” Giving him another smile she stood up and walked away.
Zygote let his head fall back to the ground. A draw. He could see the headline in the local paper now; ‘Which Came First? Chicken or the Egg?’ He sighed. There was always next year’s race.