Tristan hit the ground fucking hard.
He didn’t make a noise, he didn’t blink, he didn’t stop moving. As quickly as he hit the ground, Tristan was back up on his feet and running as fast as he could.
The forest was dark. The sounds of fallen branches and debris echoed loudly in Tristan’s head as he trampled them. He wasn’t really sure exactly what he was running from, but finding out was not on his To-Do List either.
Tristan could hear the faint sounds of civilization off in the distance as well as the loud sounds of his heart pounding in his chest, forcefully pushing blood throughout his body in rhythmic pulses. He didn’t dare look behind him to see if he was still being pursued, he knew that he was. He could feel whatever it was still following him.
Somehow Tristan could feel the warm breath of whatever was following him upon his neck as he ran through the cold forest. After years of being chased by bullies at school, Tristan grew into a fantastic long distance runner. It was only now that he began to truly appreciate the years of torture and pummeling that he endured in his past.
Tristan took a lot of beatings over the years. The beatings have subsided some as he went through puberty and grew into the body of a more developed young man; but if you watched him for a week, you’d feel a bit sad that these were the good years of his lifetime of being a victim. I guess “victim” is the wrong word though, as he never internalized it that way. He was always apathetic to the treatment he received from his peers. The punches never hurt him and the person who was throwing the punches would always get bored after enough time had passed and move onto hitting someone–or something–else.
By the time Tristan started high school, there were rumors abound regarding his ability to take a punch. Stories of him being cursed by a witch, that he was a demon, that he was from a different planet, that his parents were mad scientists. The stories told were as varied as the textures of an art student’s mixed media depiction of morality.
As he ran, Tristan remembered. He remembered Margaret and their date. They were both sophomores but she was new to the school and had no reason to think negatively about Tristan. They sat near each other in biology class and on their date they had a picnic in the park, played cards, and then went out for milkshakes afterward. It was at the ice cream parlor that Tristan’s neighbor (and the first person to break Tristan’s nose) thought that it would be a good idea to breakup the date.
Bobby walked over to Tristan and Margaret and knocked Tristan’s milkshake into his lap. Tristan, after years of being picked on by Bobby, finally had had enough. Tristan locked eyes with Bobby and began breathing loudly and deeply. Tristan stood up with milkshake dripping onto the floor from his lap. Bobby started laughing.
“What? Is little Pissed-On Tristan finally getting pissed off?” Bobby taunted as he smirked.
The back of Tristan’s shirt began moving as if there was a gerbil underneath it. Margaret noticed this.
“Tristan,” Margaret interjected, “what’s going on with your back?”
Tristan turned his head and tried to look at his back. Bobby saw that Tristan’s attention had shifted and Bobby took a swing at the side of Tristan’s face. Tristan’s left hand shot up without looking and grabbed Bobby’s fist. He clenched it tightly, turned his gaze back towards Bobby and held his eyes as Bobby screamed while dropping to his knees.
The pushing on Tristan’s shirt was getting more forceful when suddenly it tore open. Two large angel wings protruded out from his ragged clothes. Tristan let go of Bobby’s now broken hand, looked at the wings in shock, noticed the eyes of everyone watching him, and then ran out of the front door as fast as he could.
He ran down the street, through the park, and as he approached the gate to the wooded nature reserve, he felt the rumbling of what he thought was an earthquake. He stumbled, looked behind him and saw a cloud of smoke surrounding flashes of light about ten feet away. The cloud looked dense and thick and it could easily hide a bear. The wings on Tristan’s back began to twitch and flutter.
The smoky cloud began to dissipate and standing in its place was the form of something that Tristan assumed was what a demon looked like. Tristan’s eyes caught the edges of his own wings in his periphery and, without thinking, got up and ran into the forest preserve.
Tristan ran as fast as he could as the sounds of the city grew distant. He wasn’t sure if he was going to out run the thing behind him or if being around other people would do any good, but he knew that he didn’t want to die alone in this forest. On the other side of the preserve was a different part of downtown and as the city sounds grew louder and more defined, he felt a hand grab his shoulder and pull him down onto the ground.
Tristan landed with a thud and hit the back of his head on the soft dirt. He looked up from the ground and saw whatever it was towering above him. Tristan closed his eyes tightly.
Tristan’s eyes shot open. He sat up in the darkness and was drenched in sweat. He looked around and saw the silhouettes of the familiar items in his room. He reached over to his nightstand, grabbed his Albuterol inhaler, closed his eyes and took a big puff off of it while trying to catch his breath. That was an intense dream, he thought to himself.
When he opened his eyes, Tristan saw a cloud of smoke and lights across the room and he heard a voice.
“This isn’t where you belong”