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by Peter Koronakos

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Pat Charlotte Grayson


She hated this part of the competition—this in-between time after she entered the stadium and before the race began. It would be fine as soon as the starting gun went off. Then she would be doing what she had been bred for.

But now, as the runners were stretching and psyching themselves up, preparing their minds and bodies, she was all too aware of her surroundings. The stadium was filled to capacity with hollering, flag-waving fans, and their noise and frenetic energy were impossible to ignore. That’s what she hated. Sure many of them cheered for her, shouting her ironically ordinary name. “Smith, Smith,” they yelled. But she saw the look of disgust on their faces. She noticed the little boy in the second row staring at her, his puppy eyes wide in disbelief, obviously close to tears. Yes, many bet on her success, but she knew what they were thinking. Look at the hairless, sideshow freak. Look at the ugly monster created in a laboratory.

Oh, she was well aware of why she looked the way she did. Her unusually long, monkey-like limbs were designed to chew up the track in record time. She had no hair to reduce wind resistance; to make her more aerodynamic. Her nose was abnormally large and flat with wide, pig-like nostrils so she could take in and process the optimal amount of air as she ran. She was flat chested because breasts would get in her way and affect her balance.

The corporate marketing staff called her “the pinnacle of human potential.” What a laugh. She wasn’t human, and the crowd knew it.

Still, they roared when the announcer introduced her. “In lane 3, Vanessa Smith, representing Geneletic Corporation,” he said. She waved to them and smiled shyly as she assumed her starting position.

As soon as the gun went off, she sprang into motion. The impetus for speed, intrinsic in every cell of her body, kicked in automatically, propelling her forward, without thought, as natural and autonomic as breathing. Now her muscles and organs did the thinking for her.

Her blood, powered by an abnormally large heart, super-charged her body with adrenaline. And though she breathed slowly and deeply, her lungs were racing, pumping oxygen at almost twice the rate of the average person. The optimum amount of lactic acid was flowing through her muscles, enough to propel but not to tire. Her feet hit the track with super human force, allowing her to spend more time in the air and maximizing her forward momentum.

But she did not feel the impact as her feet hit the ground or hear the roar of the crowd as she quickly outdistanced her competitors, for she had already moved into another phase of existence, what her Zen master called the harmonic phase. “When you’re free from all seeming, from all craving and lusting,” he said, “you move of your own impulse, without so much as knowing that you move. Then you reach harmony with the universe; then you become the universe.”

In this state, she was beyond awareness and fatigue.  She had tapped an inner source of energy that propelled her effortlessly and allowed her spirit to roam free. She felt as if she were floating above her body and watching it run on and on, pounding, pounding, faster, ever faster, but never faltering, never losing its footing.  Caught up in the beautiful fluid perfection of movement, a slow motion dance of energy, she felt no sense of exertion, pain, or resistance.  She was weightless and ecstatic, carried forward by omnipotent momentum.

Stretch, breathe, stretch; stretch, breathe, stretch—they tapped a power source deep within, obliterating who and where she was.  Everyone, everything, was gone.  All that was left was rhythm, harmony, balance. Unity.

Patricia Charlotte (Rex) Grayson’s career has undergone several incarnations, but they’ve all involved writing in some form. She graduated with honors from San Francisco State, dodging protesters and baton-wielding riot police in the process. After teaching writing at several Bay Area schools, including San Francisco State, Ohlone, and Santa Clara University, she moved to the business world and managed employee communications for a Silicon Valley company. She fell in love with computer technology when the Macintosh came out, so much so that she started her own desktop publishing business. Until recently, she used all of these skills as writer, editor, designer, trainer, and information specialist for a local non-profit.

Salon Fiction
Kit Anderton
Jo-Ann Birch
Paola Bruni
Dixie Cox
Diane Craddock
Pat Charlotte Grayson
Clifford Henderson
Duke Houston
Helene Simkin Jara
Nancy Krusoe
Jory Post
D. L. Sansone
Jeanne Rosen Sofen

Morton Marcus Poetry Contest:
First Prize
Danusha Lameris

Morton Marcus Poetry Contest:
Dane Cervine

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