Running

She is running.

Her long, jet-black hair streams behind her like a ribbon as she runs, bare feet slapping against the cold, rough concrete. She gasps for breath, stumbling, holding her hands out before her to break the fall. Her fingertips brush the ground, but she does not stop running, struggling to regain her balance.

She is crying.

Tears pour down her face as she runs. Her white cotton dress wraps around her legs, hindering her. It shines in the darkness, giving her an odd eerie glow. She is just a child, frightened, sobbing, gulping for air, but she does not stop running.

She is waking.

Her eyelids flutter, and she groans as she wakes. The white cotton sheets are tangled around her, and her long black hair is knotted. She licks her lips, tasting the salt of her tears. She looks at the small room.

She is still at the Institute.

Later, the psychiatrist asks her,

"Why do you always run, in your dreams?"

"Because they tell me to," she replies simply.

"Who tell you to?"

"The voices."

"Why?"

The girl leans forward and tells him in a low voice,

"It's a game."

He raises his eyebrows and nods for her to go on.

"It's a game," she repeats softly. "I have to run and I'm not allowed to stop, not even if I can't breathe."

"How do you win the game?" he asks her kindly.

She leans even closer to him and whispers, "I have to run until I die. Then I win."

"Suppose you just stopped running?" he suggests, but she is no longer listening to him.

In her own mind, she is running.