My heart is racing. Not out of fear, or excitement. Just racing. It’s a neutral moment of intensity. I am focussed and moving forward. I got this.
I sit, at my desk, in my bedroom, with my laptop in front of me. The screen buzzes angrily as the crowd roars, but I can’t see the crowd. I can only hear them. The grey steel arena wall has some graffiti on it. I run past but I’m moving so fast that it’s barely legible, but I managed to catch some of it.
…run from fate…
I trip, stumble and fall. My opponent pulls ahead. I berate myself and launch myself into a run.
This world is bright, and yet so dark. Some surfaces of metal gleam, they’re polished to perfection. Others are dull and filthy. The ground is dirt, but it too is grey and sickly.
Some type of light illuminates the hard, cold surfaces. These bright lights mark the walkways. Light blue light from the engines of massive freighter ships were hovering above use their blinking lights on their hulls helping to guide them into dock. They were a part of life here, like the spotlights on hovering cameras. The world is watching me now. But I can’t see any life. Even my opponent is a robot it’s metallic with little lights. Definitely not alive.
Although it moves fast for something not alive.
My fingers type hurriedly on the keyboard. My distracting thought cost me precious time. Several minutes spent while glancing around the room and while running through the fantasy in my mind. That trip could’ve cost me the race. I start picking up speed again.
The flashing lights are distracting too. I can hear the roar of the crowd. This world is full of distractions, and hazards.
I remember something about this. I’ve never run this arena before, but there was something about hazards. I know they exist, but I remember someone telling me about how they’re activated. Running in the back guarantees you almost no hazards. Running up front guarantees you all of them. Where was I?
I glance behind me at the clock above my bed.
I have time.
Surely I have time.
I look forwards again and hear myself cry out. I try to manoeuvre to the side but I’m too slow. Not everyone has the processing power of a supercomputer or nano-reflexes. So where my opponent side-steps, vaults and loses no speed I brush past one obstacle, grazing my thigh before stumbling into a dive roll over the next. At least my roll gave me a chance to look back again. The rest of the pack is nowhere to be seen.
I stand and stretch. Flexing my fingers and rubbing my eyes. The sun has moved a lot since I last looked out the window. The leaves outside are moving. I wish that I had a breeze in my room. But my window is in a dead spot and my room stays stuffy.
My helmet doesn’t allow much air flow. But in this part of the city it isn’t air that you breathe. I stand, breathe, and run again. I can feel my head clearing as I settle into a rhythm. The noises of the steady thud of my feet on the ground, and the crowd are now becoming dull in the back of my mind. The lights streaking past at steady intervals, that one breath is all I needed. I am focussed.
I check my textbook next to me. There was a page somewhere that I remember. It had something in it. A quote and some statistics.
There it is, a slight shift in the floor as several tall cone-shaped spikes rise from the ground.
Flicking through the pages I found it. Thank you Dr. Smart-Enough-To-Write-A-Textbook.
I jump between them without losing stride.
I check my word limit.
I can see the robot ahead. Is he running slow or am I running faster?
Then I can see the finish line in the distance.
My conclusion is a simple paragraph, this is so easy.
The lights flash by faster, as I spur myself forward. There is the finish line. I glance at the robot at my side. Why is it so slow? It’s a robot, it doesn’t get tired…
I sit back to look at my monitor.
I’ve forgotten something.
There was a soft whistling as dozens of heavy balls dropped from the sky, each as big as my head. The ground was now a minefield of potential broken bones and loss.
But I am so close. I jump.
I’m reading through the task sheet I see that I’ve missed a key subtopic. All of the information is here though, I just need to…
The world slows down as my mind races. I’m flying through the air now but I’m only going to clear about half of the danger zone. I need to land without breaking anything.
I flick through my textbook, until I find a single page with all the information I need.
The balls are dense and difficult to move. I angle my arms down and grab one of them using it as an anchor.
I start typing the new paragraph part-way through my essay. There’s still room in the word count.
I spring off the ball, catching a glimpse of the robot trying to find footholds between the hazards.
The paragraph is finished, four words under the limit.
I land, and sprint the last dash, through the holographic ribbon. The crowd roars. The robot runs next to me and stands still. There’s a knock at my door.
‘Hey Jordan. What you doing?’ Angela looked ready for some sort of mischief.
‘Hey, just wrapping up an essay.’
‘You’ve got nothing due until next week.’
‘Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.’
Only one of us will be in a panicked rush next week.