Running Faster than Destiny: Part Two
“That wasn’t very smart,” Kari said, as her grandfather paused to take a long drink of neocola.
Gar smiled as he set the can aside. Only a short time ago, Kari had been in tears as she stressed over a race that was to be held later that day and a particular runner she felt she had no chance to defeat. However, her tears had dried as she listened to his story of Twitch, a runner who had faced a similar dilemma until a strange sorcerer named Onyx had stepped into the picture. “What do you mean?” Gar asked. “What wasn’t very smart?”
“Twitch shouldn’t trust Onyx,” the young Xweetok clarified. “In these types of stories, only bad things will happen if you tangle with a mysterious sorcerer.”
Gar laughed aloud. “I can’t argue with you about that,” he admitted, “but what if this wasn’t just a story? What if someone like Onyx approached you after a race and offered to help you to become a winner? What would you do?”
Kari seemed to consider the matter for a few minutes. “Well,” she finally began, “I would probably at least listen just out of curiosity, but I wouldn’t believe him. I mean, Onyx was just telling Twitch what he wanted to hear – about making him a winner. Right?”
“You’re a smart girl,” Gar said, “and you’re absolutely right. Onyx was telling Twitch what he wanted to hear, and he’s only going to keep doing that. Are you ready to hear more of the story?”
Kari’s smile was genuine as she nodded. “What happened next?” she asked.
“Well,” the Royal Cybunny began, “Onyx had just claimed he could help Twitch become a winner...”
“So, how can you help me?” Twitch asked. “How can you make me a winner?”
Onyx’s smile didn’t slip a notch as he brought his fingers to his lips in a sign that Twitch should remain quiet. “You don’t talk about such business in a clearing,” he said. “Come with me to my humble home so that we may discuss the matter civilly.”
“I don’t know,” Twitch said hesitantly. “I really need to going home. My mother will be expecting me.”
“Wouldn’t you rather go home a winner?” Onyx asked, his eyes growing darker and deeper as he stared into Twitch’s blue irises. “Because you can, my young friend, and I can help you. Why not at least just listen to what I have to propose before you make up your mind? After all, this decision may affect your life in ways you haven’t even imagined.”
Twitch wanted to look away from the dark, probing eyes of the sorcerer, but he felt he was unable to do so. Some part of him knew that he was being hypnotized, but he couldn’t avert his gaze. Besides, what if Onyx was telling the truth? The Cybunny could at least listen to what he had to say and then he would be better able to decide. “Okay,” he agreed, his own voice sounding distant in his ears.
“Wonderful!” Onyx exclaimed, clapping his hands together. “Now, follow me and I will lead you to where we can do business.”
The Shoyru turned and began to rapidly make his way across the clearing and towards an overgrown clump of trees. Twitch had never had much question of his own speed, but he found himself running to keep up with Onyx’s pace. This was the perfect time for Twitch to turn around and leave, but he didn’t. A part of him wanted to hear the sorcerer’s offer.
The other part of him just wanted to be a winner.
Shoving aside his own feelings of dread, Twitch walked deeper into the unfamiliar forest. The weeds were thicker here, slapping about his ankles like greedy hands, and the trees were gnarled and twisted. Sunlight was only able to filter through in small patches, where it was hungrily eaten by the deepening gloom. Dead leaves crackled underfoot like ancient whispers, but Onyx didn’t even pause. He just pushed aside the branches and briars that pulled at his violet robe as he walked.
Twitch was just about to think they were hopelessly lost, when Onyx finally spoke again. “Ahead is where I reside,” announced the sorcerer, and Twitch was greatly surprised.
Onyx had called his home ‘humble,’ which had led Twitch to envision a small neohome. Such a description, however, was too great for the ragged tent that stood before them, sagging and sighing. The tent might have been green or blue at one time, but weather and age had faded the color to a nondescript grey. Twitch held back all comments for he was unsure of how to say anything about the tent that couldn’t be construed as an insult.
“If you step inside,” Onyx instructed, as he held back the flap, “we can discuss the matter of making you a winner.”
“But all we’re going to do right now is talk,” Twitch clarified as he stepped inside, “because I haven’t agreed to anything yet.”
“Of course,” agreed the Shoyru, as he followed Twitch inside and allowed the flap to fall back into place.
The gloom inside hit Twitch with an almost physical force, but he struggled not to let his uneasiness show. There was little furniture inside the tent. A wooden table set to the back of the tent, crooked chairs flanking either side of it. A single candle burned upon the table, providing the only light. The tiny flame did little to combat the darkness, however, which twisted about them like a cloak. Just behind the table was a lopsided shelf, filled with countless vials that twinkled softly in the available light like distant stars. In the center of the enclosure, there was a large round object covered by a thick, ebony cloth.
“Take a seat,” Onyx said, indicating one of the two chairs, “and let us talk.”
“I’m beginning to think that this wasn’t a good idea,” Twitch commented, stepping towards the entrance flap of the tent.
“And why is that?” Onyx asked, deftly stepping between Twitch and the only exit. “We are just here to talk. Any decision of action will be solely your own. Now, please sit down. It makes me nervous to see you hopping about like a Mootix.”
Although it was still technically a request, Twitch had heard the edge to the sorcerer’s voice, and he knew it was best to comply – at least for the moment. Trying to remain calm, he sat down in the seat that had been indicated.
Onyx paced the room for a few minutes, allowing dramatic tension to build. “You are right,” he finally announced. “It’s not fair. There are those who know they will win before they even enter. At home, their shelves are lined with trophies and they are looked up to for their achievements. Yet is that enough for them? No, it’s not. They won’t stop until they win every trophy available. They know they are the best, and they don’t want anyone else to ever have a chance to be a winner. Instead of giving someone else a turn, they just keep entering and dominating each competition.” Onyx paused as he turned his attention to Twitch, the meager candlelight highlighting the Shoyru’s features like a monstrous mask.
“Such an individual is this Greysoon,” Onyx continued. “He is a great runner, and he knows it. You are only his competition and for too long you have ran in his shadow. If he was to not enter a race, then it would be your chance for victory – your chance to shine, but he is unwilling to give you that chance.”
“But what can I do?” Twitch asked, his voice a mere whisper.
“Alone, you can do nothing,” Onyx responded grimly, “but that is where I come in. I can help become the greatest runner there ever was. All you need to do is to defeat Greysoon one time. Once he is no longer the champion, he will cease to enter the races and your chance to be a winner will finally arrive.”
“But isn’t that cheating?” inquired Twitch.
“Isn’t it cheating to keep everyone else from having a chance?” countered Onyx. “This Greysoon is the cheater. I’m only suggesting that you level the playing field a bit. You’re not just doing this for yourself. You’re doing it for everyone else who wants to race.”
The Shoyru’s words were hauntingly tempting and Twitch found himself ignoring the basic facts of the matter. He had wanted to win, and here was his chance. “What do I have to do?” he asked.
“You don’t have to do anything,” Onyx replied, “except to give me your permission – and that silly second place ribbon in your paw.”
“My ribbon?” Twitch was confused by this request. “But why?”
“Sentimental value,” answered Onyx quickly. “Just a symbol of what I was able to do for you. You don’t really think much of it, do you?”
Twitch looked down at the ribbon, crumpled where he had held so tightly. He doubted that it would ever regain its proper shape, yet he still found himself trying to smooth out the wrinkles. “I guess not,” he said, although his voice lacked conviction.
“I didn’t think so,” stated Onyx, stepping forward and plucking the crumpled ribbon from the blue Cybunny’s grasp. “Now step back and let me do my magic. Soon, you will be the winner you always dreamed you will be.”
Twitch found himself beyond words as Onyx set to work, whipping aside the black cloth to reveal a huge cauldron. A series of whispered word started a tiny fire beneath the cauldron as the sorcerer’s dark smile grew. Stepping past the startled Twitch, Onyx rushed towards the shelf and took down a series of vials. In the same hurry, he returned to the cauldron and began adding the contents of the vials. A different puff of smoke arose as each new substance was added – creating a multicolored cloud that encompassed the room. Twitch felt the rising urge to cough, but managed to suppress it as Onyx began to speak.
“Run fast. Run faster. Fastest still.
Oh magic, bend to my will.
Let those who race against this one
Find they cannot match his run.
The faster runner of all time –
Oh magic, now obey my rhyme!”
The air grew thicker and heavier and seemed to swirl about. Twitch felt himself growing dizzy, as he struggled vainly to keep his eyes open. He was falling into the swirling abyss, and he couldn’t help himself.
The sun was shining when Twitch slowly opened his eyes. “Was it all a dream?” he mumbled as he sat up on the grassy knoll he had been lying on.
“It is no dream, my friend,” hissed Onyx from where he stood nearby. “The spell has been cast. Go home to your neohome and sleep well tonight, for tomorrow is another race. Greysoon will no doubt be entering, but that race will be your turn for victory.”
Twitch didn’t what to say, and Onyx didn’t seem to be waiting for a response. With another flash of his sly smile, the sorcerer turned and disappeared into the nearby woods as Twitch got to his feet. Onyx was right about one thing: there was nothing to do at the moment except to hurry home.
To be continued...