A short story written by Christian Tanner
I’m sorry, I don’t have time to explain. As quickly as the men behind me are catching up, I’m sure you’ll do the same.
You’ll never find a pattern in their footsteps because there are too many of them. Imagine the thumps at a horse race when they’re released from the gates. I’m not talking about the horses, I’m talking about the fat-asses who can’t wait to place their bets after they run into the stadium. You won’t be able to tell who’s who, but you have a gut feeling where everyone is. There has to be twenty of them and they all want my life. I can’t run much longer, I’m running short of breath and my khaki pants are tearing at the crotch. My side is tense; I hang on to my side as if I’m holding my lung, preventing it from falling out of my fat stomach. Air is humming in and out of my nose and mouth. I’m barely hanging on. Jesus, this has to stop. I’m in what country folks like to call a skyscraper. However, here in the city, we just call is the Commerce building. I’m about 20 floors up. I race around the corner and I barely have time to peek behind me before I turn this next corner. I only want to see if they have turned the last corner I raced around. They have. They still see me. They know where I’m going. I know, almost for a fact now, they will be the death of me.
I use these white walls to help prop my leaning body while I book it down the hallway. It’s so late and everyone has left the building, and honestly, I can’t believe I’m still in here myself. As I run through the halls, I check each door handle to see if any rooms are unlocked. All the bronze handles aren’t turning. The doors are solid oak, I can’t bust through any of them. If I break the glass, they’ll know which room I’m in for sure. As corny as it may seem, I’ll say it anyway, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. One of the rooms isn’t locked. I barge in with the last breath that I have, taking one quick look back to see if they saw me, and of course, they did.
I slam the door shut. I bet I slammed it so hard that it’s impossible to open, but I won’t take my chances. Look at the bronze lock. Don’t think about it, though, just lock it. Quicker, lock it. Ting. There ya go. Shew. Not so fast though, they’re going to break the glass. Who’s saying that? Who? I’m not talking to you. He’s talking to me. Who’s talking to me? I’m talking to you. Who are you? I’m you. What? Confusing as it may seem, it’s really not.
I’m sitting in the chair. Not me, but me. It’s hard to explain. I’m pushing my back against the heavy door, making sure they can’t bust in. But at the same time, in this same room, I’m staring at me in that chair over there. The red one. That man, not me, but me, is staring at me. I can’t stop staring at me. He asks me, “Whatchya runnin’ from, muh man?” Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question. I hate answering questions that I don’t know the answer to. I ask him, “Who are you?” He nodded his head a little to the right and laughed. “Who are you?” He asks me.
I’ve gotta get out of this terrible room. My head cocks from one side to the other, looking for an escape. Christ, there has to be another way out other than that damn window on the other side of the room. I hope the door’s lock will hold long enough before they get through. The man in the red chair says to me, “where ya headed?” I look out the window and see a fire escape. I pick up a chair and say, “the fuck outta here.” And I throw the chair through the window. Wow, that thing must’ve fallen a couple hundred feet. I crawl through the window and onto the fire escape. I take one quick look at the door and they’re still on the other side. I run for my life. I run so fast. I mean, really, really fast down those steps. Damn it, of course, just my fucking luck. There’s a gate latched shut, I can’t go any further. The window on my right, I give it a good kick. I look up, and they’re looking down. Christ, here we go again.
I jump through the window, giving my bad arm a good cut. Shit, I have to escape. They are only moments behind me. Moments I tell you. Jesus, please help me in my time of need. I take a quick look to my right and jump a little, looking at a terrible sight. I say terrible but it’s not all that bad. I mean, it’s me. Damn it, not me. But for Christ sake, he looks just like me. “Whatchya doin’ in here now, man? You must be crazy.” Huh, maybe I am, I say to him. I give him a quick crooked smile before my next swift move. I kick through the door like batman. I mean it, I kicked it like Bruce Lee would kick a door. One of those kicks where you imagine the door disappearing in a cloud of dust. One of those kicks that make you feel like a man. Yep. One of those.
I look both ways as if I’m crossing the street, and I turn left, wherever that may be. The layout of this building is too confusing. I look back and it seems clear so far. For now that is. I check each door again as I run down the hallway. Every door is locked. Wait, except this one. I run through and lock myself in. There’s something wrong with me. Mother of God, there’s something wrong with me. If you met me, you’d want to punch me in the face for being so god damn crazy. If you didn’t want to punch me in the face, well then hell, you’re probably crazier than I am.
My wife and kid are playing behind a thick desk over there on the left. Right in front of the big bookcase that takes up the entire back wall. You know, you’ve seen the movies. One of those scenes. They didn’t even notice me come in. “Emily,” I shout, but no answer. I’ve lost it. I’ve lost them. They won’t even pay attention to me. I walk over to them and put my hand on Emily’s shoulder to turn her around. For god’s sake, my hand goes through her should. How do I even explain this? I can’t help but stare at the haze that makes up my family. Then I jump like a frightened kitty. You know, you’ve seen the cartoons. Silly pooty-tat.
They’ve caught up to me once again. They’re all banging on the door. I turn around and run through the other door that connects two offices. I figure I’ll shut the door that’s connecting both rooms and when the bust through that one, I’ll run out the other for a sure escape. I’ll out-smart all of them. I know I will. I wait patiently by the door, waiting for the crash and the bang. The window and door I mean. And sure enough, here we go. I open the door as quickly as possible. I turn left and run for my life. I’m chucking it, man, let me tell you. High knees all the way down the hallway. My arms push and pull, back and forth as my knees hit my fat-ass stomach. One hell of a sight if you’re on the outside looking in. I’m high-tailin’ it outta here. I hear them behind me, though. One of them saw me.
I turn the corner. They can’t see me. There’s a bathroom in front of me. Literally five feet away. I dive into the bathroom like a professional baseball player dives for the plate to win the World Series for a game winning run. I dove into the women’s bathroom, though. Maybe that’s better. Men don’t dare go into that god forsaken place. They don’t. Really, we don’t unless we’re running for our lives, in which case I am. I run into the second stall. Not the first, that’s too easy. Not the third or fourth; the second. I prop my tired feet onto the toilet. I look like a gargoyle. My head is tucked into my neck and my fingers are huddled close to my face. I try my best to make no sound because I hear their feet rustling through the hall. Damn it, I hear one of them say “in here.” And sure enough, they’re in the women’s bathroom. They’re all yelling for me. They’re screaming my name. “Tim! Tim!” They have me cornered. They have my life. “We know you’re in there.” I’m dead. By now, you should have caught up with them. The one with the high voice asks, “Tim, do you have the Johnson file?”
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