Running Faster than Destiny: Part Three
“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” Kari began, “I know Onyx is just telling Twitch what he wants to hear, and Twitch shouldn’t listen. However, I would almost want to believe Onyx myself. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel fair.”
Gar nodded to the young Island Xweetok. “That’s how everyone feels sometimes,” he explained, “And when we’re really upset, we’d rather listen to someone agreeing with us – even when we’re wrong. That’s natural, but we have to be careful not to let it cloud our judgment.”
“Like Twitch did,” added Kari, “So, did the spell work? Could he run faster now?”
“You’ll find out the answer to that in just a few moments,” answered the Royal Cybunny. “Now, Twitch had just awoken on a grassy knoll. Onyx told him the spell was cast and left Twitch alone with his thoughts...”
Twitch knew he should be heading home, but for a few minutes he just sat there staring up at the sky while his mind raced. What had just happened? Had the spell been for real? If it was real, then would the consequences? Twitch had no way of knowing any of that just now. Instead, he tried to push those thoughts aside as he stood up and heading towards home. He was already late for dinner – a nearly unforgivable crime in his mother’s eyes.
He found his way towards the familiar, comforting path as his steps grew faster. There had been no conscious thought of running, but it the warm evening air it just felt right somehow. For the moment, he didn’t think about races and sorcerers, as he stretched his legs and ran for the pure joy of running. Wind whistled by his ears, singing a lovely tune as the colors of the world surrounded him. Sometimes, he almost forgot how much he truly enjoyed running as fast as he could.
But was he any faster?
The thought suddenly caused him to slow down to a mere jog. He couldn’t tell if he was any faster. In fact, he felt as he was running about the same speed he always had. Perhaps Onyx’s spell hadn’t worked after all. That possibility caused him to feel both relief and disappointment simultaneously. In a way, he was glad if it didn’t work. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about cheating or feeling guilt.
Still, he had wanted so badly to win.
Without the intervention of some sort of magic, he still had no chance of defeating Greysoon. Disappointment raged through his mind as his steps became slower and slower. By the time he finally reached his neohome, he was dragging his feet so that they created like furrows in the sandy path.
“Where have you been?” his mother immediately asked as he stepped inside. “The food’s almost cold. You know how your father doesn’t like to be kept waiting when it comes to eating.”
Twitch risked a quick glance at his father, who was trying to hide a smile as he read the latest edition of Neopian Times. His father wasn’t the one who didn’t like to wait, but both knew better than to point this out to his mother. “I’m sorry,” Twitch said. His own feelings of defeat added credence to the humbleness of the apology, and his mother immediately seemed to regret her harsh words.
“I’m sorry that I yelled, dear,” the fire Poogle said. “I was just worried about you. Besides, this was a celebration dinner.”
“Celebration of what?” asked Twitch.
“Your racing victory of course,” she answered quickly, a proud smile dominating her features.
“But I didn’t win!” Twitch cried, tears swelling up in his eyes until his mother’s image became blurry.
“You came in second,” she clarified, “and that’s very good considering how many racers there were and the fact that most were so much older than you. Your father and I watched the race, and we both thought you did very well.”
“Very well,” echoed his father, as he set aside the newspaper. “You really gave it your best effort.”
“My best effort wasn’t good enough!” Twitch yelled, his voice echoing throughout the home like a clap of thunder. Without waiting for his parents’ response, he raced upstairs and ran into his bedroom. Closing the door, he collapsed on his bed where the tears that he had been holding back for so long finally decided to escape. After only a few minutes, there was a soft knock at the door as his father let himself into the room.
“Do you want to talk about what’s bothering you?” his father asked, sitting down beside Twitch.
“I’m just really upset,” Twitch admitted. “I try so hard to win, but I just can’t do it. I didn’t mean to yell, though.”
“I figured that was it,” his father said. “I know it can be hard to compete sometimes, but you just have to remember that it’s your best effort that counts. Maybe you didn’t take first, but you were the only one who came anywhere near that Pteri that won. I think you gave him a real run for his neopoints.” The Cloud Zafara’s gentle smile grew as he looked down upon his son.
Twitch couldn’t help but return the smile. “Thanks, Dad,” he said, “and I’m going to give me even more of a challenge tomorrow. Will you and Mom be able to watch the race? It’s the last big one this year.”
“Sure we’ll watch,” answered his father. “And will do your best and know we’ll be proud of you no matter what?”
“Okay,” Twitch agreed. “Tell Mom I’m sorry that I yelled and that I’m late for dinner.”
“Will do, champ,” his father said, “and I’ll bring you a plate of food up here. After all, you’ll need to get bed early so you can be ready for tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” Twitch called after his father’s retreating figure as he was left alone in the room. However, there was a lot more to his frustration than he had told his father in their discussion. His parents loved him now even though he wasn’t the winner. Yet how would they feel about him if they thought he was a cheater?
It was a perfect day for racing, just as it had been the day before, as Twitch stood nervously by the starting line. He could see his parents in the crowd, waving at him, and he tried to portray his most confident smile as he returned the wave. However, his gaze was continually drawn to the Pteri in the far lane. As expected, Greysoon had entered this final race and was the overall favorite to win.
“I can’t think about that,” Twitch whispered to himself, drawing a strange look from a nearby racer as they took their starting positions.
“Get ready! Get set! Go!” cried the voice of one of the race officials and the runners took off down the track. Greysoon quickly took the lead position, with Twitch following close behind. The other runners could only struggle for third place as Twitch and his greatest competition stretched their lead.
Twitch kept his eyes on Greysoon, who seemed to always remain the same distance ahead, when a peculiar thing occurred. Twitch had actually closed some of the gap between them! He willed his feet faster, and watched as he drew ever closer to the runner in the lead. Faster and faster he ran, until he was even with Greysoon. Twitch’s smile could rival the sun in brilliance as he pulled into the lead for the first time. He could hear his parents cheering him on as he pushed on even faster and crossed the finish line first. It had happened! He was a winner!
“Good job, kid,” Greysoon congratulated him, as soon as the Pteri finished second. “I always knew you were going to outrun me someday.”
“You did?” Twitch asked, amazed, but there was no time for an answer. The crowd had gathered about him as a shiny, first-place trophy was thrust into his hand. “There is a new champion!” shouted the Quiggle judge and everyone began to cheer – even Greysoon.
Guilt flooded Twitch’s heart as he looked at the green Pteri looking tired and winded on the sidelines with only a second place ribbon on his wing. He realized that he didn’t deserve this honor, and started to speak up to say so, but no one in the crowd was listening. His parents were actually standing there with tears in their eyes. How could he admit now that he had cheated?
Keeping a fake smile plastered upon his face, the blue Cybunny joined in the celebrations around him, but his heart wasn’t in it. His parents were asking what kind of dinner he wanted and if he wanted a cake, but he could only nod and smile. Just as before the race, his eyes remained on Greysoon. This should be his celebration, and Twitch knew it. Somehow, he had to make things right – but he had no idea of even where to start. In fact, he only knew one thing for sure.
If he didn’t fix this matter, he would never have the heart to race again.
To be continued...