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Aug 02, 2017 at 09:02

For the millionth time, he reminisced about how his life used to be. He thought about each race, all in different seasons, at various times, in miscellaneous venues, yet strangely all the same. The pre-race prep that consisted of calming down- shutting out all the noise and getting into the zone, his own private little bubble, transparent yet impenetrable. The actual race that never exceeded a minute but felt like years at a stretch. And the sweet taste of victory as he took the decisive step across the finish line, leagues ahead of anyone else, and received his medal amidst the constant cheer of his nickname, “the Thunder” Voltz- a taste that he could still recall days after the race. But not anymore. He couldn’t taste a single wisp; not even the slightest hint remained. It was all gone- his motive, his purpose, his inspiration. All gone and perhaps forever.

He was literally at the pinnacle of his career when it happened. With 36 podium finishes out of which 30 gave him a gold medal, Peyton Voltz was the greatest 100m athlete in history. Even though he’d won a couple of accolades in the other, longer categories, his speciality was the 100m. Just last summer he’d climbed the final step of his journey to the top, winning that cherished, revered Olympic gold and in the process, breaking his own idol’s record of 9.65s by an impressive 0.12 seconds.

Yet, he should’ve noticed those telltale signs. The extreme frostiness in the locker rooms after the races, where his unfortunate opponents shot him death stares and where the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. He knew each and every one of them despised him to the very core, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that they would go that far. Yes, he knew it was them, he knew it the moment it happened when on that fateful day in the locker room, he got a call from the police, regretfully informing him that his son had been in an accident on his way to the race and was in the ICU. His opponents didn’t say anything, but those knowing glances showing suppressed pleasure had spoken volumes. They wanted him to know they were responsible, and that he couldn’t do anything- for once the victory was theirs.

He’d bolted out of the locker room and ran to the hospital two blocks away but his maximum speed just wasn’t fast enough. He’d reached his son’s room just in time to see the last shred of life ebbing away from him, the little fluctuations on his monitor settling into a still line, never to move again. He could see what had happened, but couldn’t register it. He’d felt numb all over, like in a warped, twisted version of his bubble before the race. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye”, he’d whimpered, and the world had turned black.

He brought himself out of his haunting reverie- the next few days after the incident were too painful to recall. He’d cursed and grieved and retreated into his bubble, not wanting to face anyone. He used to run for his son, to make him proud, so that his little boy could always hold his head up high and proclaim that “That man, the fast one, is my dad.” But now, he had nothing to run for and without his motive, he was nothing. He felt completely and utterly helpless. It was as if he was running towards the ribbon at the finishing line but couldn’t reach it as it moved away every time he seemed to be getting closer, again and again until the helplessness transformed into frustration and then eventually into despair. He was broken, yet the only thing that kept him alive was vindictiveness, of one day exacting revenge on those who had stripped him of what he held dearest. Yet deep down, he knew that it was just too well planned and there was not a shred of evidence. All he could do was sit and reflect, all the while continuing to spiral down the deep dark hole of despair.




Manya Kapoor              Aditya Vir Singh            Pratyaksh Singhal