Run Boys

They call me a running boy, but we call ourselves floaties.

We run through desert, quagmire, swamp — anywhere there is flat, open land. Anywhere the couriers cannot drive, or where the distances are too great, or both. We live on scarcity these days, and our bodies are much more efficient than the last drums of fuel.

I am leaping along the dunes. The webbing on my feet undulates with my stride, expanding to catch the air on the downstroke and contracting when I pull my legs up, pumping like a jellyfish. The shoes don’t make the running any easier, but if it gets me the last kilometer out of the thousand, then the message is delivered. When we run, we don’t leave behind tracks — we leave behind puffs of smoke.

Chained around my wrist is a feather-light steel wire, attached to a ball-bearing runner. It glides along the thick, snaking mother cable, as thick as my leg. Over the years, tectonics and weather have twisted the cables, and they no longer run straight between our destinations. Only the most seasoned of floaties dare to unhook their tethers, to venture into the true wild without resupply, wagering efficiency against death.

We start off with full packs, sterilized nutrient sludge that we sip from tubes. As the packs deplete, we fill our stomachs with the destination. The bag begins to jostle, and we yank the straps tighter, tensioning our arms to pull the pack tight against our body. My lungs pump with vigor, and my breaths are full and satisfying. I know that I will tire soon, but the joy of the destination holds me. It fixes my stance, straightens my back and dulls the pain in my knees. Lo! The black city glimmers in the horizon mirage! I dare to detether myself, and leap in a straight line for my destination. My slack bag jostles, and the trinkets and baubles — metal tins and bottle caps — beat an encouraging rhythm. For the past nine-hundred kilometers I have fought my body’s insistence, to drink until satiated and breath until full. Now it cooperates with me, does not ask for more air, and pumps my legs into the dunes.

For I have arrived at my destination.