Author’s Note: This short story was written for the 1000 Word Battle challenge forum at lunaescence archive. It was the unanimous winner of the challenge battle. I posted it at lunaescence on May 6, 2006 and I posted it at my FictionPress account on September 6, 2006. I cleaned it up for posting here on June 17, 2014.
Disclaimer: Please do not copy this fiction without my express written or verbal consent. I may be reached at my email of record. All original characters are mine and may not be used without my express written consent.
His heart pounding, Marcus pushed, leaning forward to make the most of each thrust. The sidewalk was uneven and cracked; streetlights shed a feeble light through the cloying fog surrounding the neighborhood. He bumped down a curb, crossing the alleyway, the scent of over-full dumpsters nearly making him gag. The other curb was broken, making a sort of natural ramp. With a mighty shove, he rumbled over it onto the sidewalk beyond. The sound of running feet beat in time to his heart as the fog-muffled cries of his pursuers grew closer every moment.
He knew he couldn’t outrun them; legs were much faster than self-propelled wheels. Still, if he could get to a place where he could see farther than the scant yards the infrequent lighting and the fog afforded, he could put more distance between them.
He huffed through his nose as he sped onward. Why the hell did I come down here? This is the last time I take a dare and I’ll kill Kevin for even suggesting it!
It seemed an easy thing to do. Go down to the waterfront and buy a drink in one of the bars there. “It’ll be a cinch,” Kevin said, tipping him a wink. “I dare you to do it.”
It wasn’t so much the dare that brought him to the roughest part of town as it had been Kevin’s snide remark. “You keep harping on how the disabled should be able to go anywhere, do anything that an able-bodied person can.” He crossed his dark arms over his chest. “Now you’ve gotta fish or cut bait, Marcus. Go down to the waterfront and have a drink.”
“How about you come too?” Marcus suggested.
Kevin grinned, shaking his head emphatically. “No. You’re always complaining that when you’re not alone, people ignore you and talk to whoever’s with you. So, this time you’re on center stage. But,” Kevin rummaged around in a drawer to pull out a digital camera on a lanyard, “you can take this with you to document your outing. I’ll want proof.”
I’ll strangle him, Marcus promised himself. He ran through an oily puddle, the foul liquid seeping into his racing gloves as he rolled onward. His grip tightened on the wheels; he was thankful once again that he’d come in his sports chair. A damp lock of fine blond hair flopped down into an eye and he tossed his head to get it out of his sight. He couldn’t spare the time to brush it back because he could hear his pursuers.
They were gaining on him.
He pushed again, straining his arms and shoulders to the limit. All those hours in the gym, building up the muscles that kept him mobile, were paying off. He had a rhythm going now, taking him quickly down the sidewalks. His breathing went from aerobic to anaerobic with the effort to stay in the lead. The camera bumped against his chest with increasing force.
If only he’d kept quiet. Just gone in, ordered the drink, quaffed it down, and left. No striking up conversation with the other patrons. No lingering to absorb the ambiance. No complaining that the restrooms weren’t fully accessible. And most importantly, no getting friendly with and taking pictures of the pretty waitress, whose boyfriend was sitting at a table in the corner with his cronies. Then there wouldn’t have been the name calling or the threats. The boyfriend wouldn’t have pulled out a knife and Marcus wouldn’t have punched the him in the balls. The blow had surprised the lout; Marcus was good at hiding his upper body strength, and at his level, the crotch was a natural – if not exactly sportsmanlike – target. He’d overturned a few chairs and tables on his way out, tripping up the enraged bully boys who started chasing him. Once outside, a clear view of the sidewalk two blocks down had given him a good lead on the creeps, but that lead was slowly diminishing.
Suddenly, the fog cleared a bit, allowing Marcus to see the parking lot of a convenience store some distance ahead. He gathered his power, and focused his intention. There was an odd ripple in the air, something that Marcus could never see, but in the blink of an eye, he had disappeared. He reappeared in the parking lot, still moving, his momentum carrying him forward as he teleported from one place to the other.
He slowed, wary of colliding with cars pulling in or out. Suddenly, he smiled. His salvation was near. A city bus, handicapped accessible, brightly lit and nearly empty, rolled down the street toward him.
He stopped rolling completely, focused his eyes on the interior of the approaching bus and willed himself there. He materialized in a clear place big enough for his wheelchair. The driver, noticing the movement behind her, looked into her mirror and gasped. Marcus pulled out his wallet and extracted his special bus pass, holding it up so the driver could see it. She nodded before putting her focus back on the road. Meanwhile, Marcus maneuvered his chair into the spot designated for it, locking his wheels down.
Breathing heavily, he glanced out the window. The bully boys stood on the sidewalk, scowling and red-faced. The waitress’s boyfriend started arguing with them, his arms flailing. Marcus smiled as the bus passed them by. Sighing with relief, he removed his sodden racing gloves and pushed back his sweaty hair. He’d done it; he’d fulfilled the dare and lived to tell the tale. He settled down to wait until the bus neared his apartment.
He smiled, a pale eyebrow rising in thought. Hm. I wonder what I can dare Kevin to do next…