Contest Winner: Bad Day For a Jog

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WRITTEN BY ANNA Q

October 15, 2021

Dream Journal Entry 288/365

Do you ever have those dreams where you’re not sure that you’re in a dream until you wake up? I do all the time. Sometimes they feel so real that I can’t be sure if I am just thinking about dreaming or if I actually am. 

Lately I have been having the same reoccurring dream: I’m at the Park at River Walk and I am just gaining the nerve to actually start jogging down the path and start my timer. That’s one of the things that no one really tells you when you start getting into a healthier workout pattern. Often you will be left on your own to set your own goals and reach your own milestones. For me jogging down a path had always been something that I had wanted to do but I always hesitated because of the whole “beware of killers off the bike path” thinking I grew up with. So, I decided the best way to tackle that feeling was to face it head on. 

I take a deep breath and bend to stretch a little more before I actually start jogging. As I am looking down at the asphalt, I see fading leaves and feel the brisk cold of the early morning air grazing the back of my neck and my nose. It can’t be that hard, you just have to start somewhere. I feel a strange gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something doesn’t feel right. I shake the feeling off and shake it out of my body and decide to just go for it. I’m definitely going to regret the burning in my calves later. 

I start jogging down the right side of the lane, the left lane usually being reserved for bikers and people on scooters. I set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes. That should hopefully be enough time for at least ½ a mile for a beginner. The pace I am going doesn’t seem too bad and I feel like I’m making pretty good progress for this being my first day by myself. I see a man with chestnut brown hair and a grey running shirt and black shorts jogging in the opposite direction, he meets my eye, smiles, and continues to run. Somehow seeing someone else pass by makes me feel like I should be picking up my pace. As I turn to the ground to make sure I don’t trip over a branch (that would be just my luck) I see some writing in chalk on the ground, but it’s abnormally large, it looks to be about a foot tall and about 6 inches wide. It just says GO. Weird. I then remember that my mom used to tell me if I ever saw writing on the bike paths that I could either ignore them or take them as caution. I look around me and see that there is no one around but I can still hear the birds chirping and the trees rustling with the breeze. Surely it’s just a prank the teenagers in this area like to do. 

My timer goes off. How did 10 minutes go by this fast? I decide to just leave the thought behind and continue to slowly jog so as to not pull a tendon. I see something else coming up ahead on the asphalt, I slow to pass it. It’s another word. This time the writing is even bigger 1.5 feet tall and still 6 or so inches wide. It says: FURTHER. That’s strange. These pranks have definitely gotten convincing over the years, but I don’t think anything of it. I have worked hard to convince myself that it’s time that I need to get into shape and I’m the only one who can’t hold myself accountable. Why stop now? 

I decide to set another time for another 10 minutes. By this time, I’ve gone ¾ of a mile and I’m so close to just reaching the mile marker. I can’t leave this early without accomplishing something. Then I start to realize something else: It’s early, not yet nine a.m., but it’s usually pretty busy in the morning. Did I miss something? Was there a holiday no one told me about? It’s a Friday morning, I thought I would see more people out and about by now. But there is no one around. I start to get a slight shiver up my spine and through my hands through my gloves. Why is there no one here? I decide to shrug it off, I have to keep moving or I’m going to end up freezing out here. 

I try my best to shrug off all of my doubts and second guesses. Surely this kind of thinking can only put a damper on the mood. I continue to jog and look at my timer. 3 minutes left. I feel like I can make the last of the jog in that time. It looks like there is a nice big oak tree next to what looks like a metal bridge. That’s it! That will be my stopping point. I feel a burst of energy go through me and I sprint to the finish line! I’m doubled over and panting trying to catch my breath when I see it: another word. This time it is the biggest I have seen: 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide: it reads simply: DON’T. 

My timer goes off at this point and I feel the strangest feeling like I am being bent and twisted from all angles. I feel my eyelids closing despite me trying to keep them open. Just before my vision fades to black, I see the words start to bleed as if the words are made of blood instead of chalk. I awake with a start, and I feel myself breathing like I’ve just ran a marathon. 

“That was a weird dream, talk about anxiety manifesting into reality” I say to myself as I get out of bed. Today’s the day. I have to start getting into the habit of taking care of myself. “There should be no harm in going for a jog. It’s the easiest exercise” I think to myself. I decide to get ready and make sure I have my phone and gloves and jacket, it’s going to be cold today. Hopefully, the chill will wake me up

I get in my car and make the 10-minute drive to River Walk. Hopefully parking won’t be too bad I know it can be pretty busy in the mornings, what with all of the expert joggers and cyclists trying to run over anyone and everyone’s feet. I start to stretch a little off the path and get ready to start my run and set my timer for 10 minutes when I have a feeling I’m being watched. There’s a man in a grey shirt and black shorts stretching not far from me and he smiles at me. Why do I feel like I have seen him before? I decide to shrug away the doubt, there’s always people around the park doing whatever they want. 

I start jogging down the path making sure to avoid the cyclists in the right lane. I don’t know why they decided to go in the right lane. I thought they were always in the left lane. I pause to tie my shoelace and then I see it: A word written in what looks like red paint marker or chalk, it’s gigantic: about 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide, it just says: DON’T. All of a sudden, I look up and I see the man in the grey shirt in the distance with a devious smile on his face. 

I turn around and come face to face with myself: I see myself covered with dirt, my lilac jacket covered in mud and what looks like dried blood. There are leaves and twigs in my hair. I look at my face, I am covered in dust and dirt and where I should have been wearing my glasses. My face is covered with cuts and scratches and it looks like I have been crying. There is a huge gash in the side of my forehead, and I look down, there are bruises around my neck in the shape of fingers. I open my mouth and my mirror self replicates the same movement. My replica reaches up with her hand to point behind me, one hand holding her throat. I turn around and see the man is now less than 3 feet in front of me. I open my mouth to scream but my vision fades. 

My alarm goes off with an annoying shrill. I am so tired of having it go off, I wake up and stretch. It’s eight-thirty a.m. I reach for my phone and see it is October 15. Friday morning. I feel like I should be getting up. I promised myself that I would go jogging. At the thought of that a shudder crawls down my spine. Weird. I decide maybe today is not a good day and go into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee and use the brand-new Keurig I’ve been waiting to use for a few weeks now.

 I turn on the TV to channel 23 and see a headline: “River Walk Killer At Large”. The reporter continues: “There have been reports of a man luring young women to a bridge overlooking a river and strangling them and then dumping their bodies over the bridge. The count is now up to 5 young women” I take a deep breath, my dreams now flooding back to me. The reporter continues: If anyone has any knowledge of seeing this man (a picture shows of the man with the grey shirt and black shorts) they are advised to call the local police department at xxx-xxx-xxxx as soon as possible. I turn the TV off and close my eyes. I am so glad I decided not to go jogging today.

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