Saturday, July 16, 2016

Frenzy: Coming Out (Part I)

Tomorrow is the annual “City Frenzy” event. I did it every year since aging into it, and won three times, including my first try. But I’ve left that life behind. I mean, I still run, but not like that. Even though I’m still a minor, it’s time to move on to more adult endeavors. Sure, I’m technically young enough to qualify, but I feel an obligation to hand the reins over to others. And nobody deserves the title more than my little brother. He’s been training every day for a year. His birthday landed one day after the end of registration, which meant that he was unable to compete. But now he’s ready, and he won’t let anything stand in his way. Except for maybe the flu.
“No, please!” little Alim cries. “Isn’t there something we can do?”
“Like what?” I ask. “Maybe a magical medicine that cures you in minutes?”
“Don’t mock your brother,” my mother orders. “Alim, our agreement was that if you were not better by this morning, you wouldn’t complain. I’m afraid there is nothing more we can do. You simply will not be able to race tomorrow.”
“This isn’t fair!” Alim tries to yell, but his voice is too hoarse to be all that loud. “This is just like what happened last year. Somebody upstairs doesn’t want me to be a runner!”
“Perhaps,” I suggest, “they know you’re not ready for it. Maybe you need one more year of training so you can kick their asses for the next four years.”
“Language, Serkan,” mom scolds calmly.
“I’m just tryna help,” I claim, and it’s true. Alim is so much smarter than me, but he’s also probably faster. If he were given a real chance to compete, he would not only win, but he would also break the record. I wish there was something I could do. I wish there really was a drug out there that could relieve his symptoms, if only for a few hours.
My fans, if you would like to call them that, were disappointed to learn that I would not be running this year, because it would be my last chance. City Frenzy is unlike any race on the planet. But a few dozen of the elites between ages 12 and 17 are allowed in. Depending on the number of contestants, you only share your starting point with a couple of other kids, and your ending point with an entirely different set of kids. Your route will cover roughly a marathon distance, but is also unrestricted. If you find a way to cut through an alleyway, or even a building, then more power to you. Hell, there aren’t even any rules that say you can’t take an elevator to a roof and start leaping across high-rises. Of course, that’s not recommended, but it’s what I’m famous for. The key is to make studying the map part of your training so that you know the city better than anyone. Having a little experience with gymnastics and parkour doesn’t hurt either.
“You have to do it,” Alim states in no uncertain terms.
“I can’t, little bro. You know that.”
“Why not?”
“I didn’t register.”
“Everyone knows the council lets winners compete every year for life,” mom corrects me. “They’re just not allowed to win if they’ve aged out. You’re basically automatically registered.”
“We’ve not paid the fee.”
“We can pay today, or even tomorrow.” She is just not letting this go.
“Why do you want me to do this so badly?”
“I understand that you stepped down for your brother, Serkan. And that was very noble of you, but now that we know he won’t be able to race, you should go in his stead. Represent the family name.”
“I’ve not been training.”
“That’s nonsense.” She shakes her head. “We all know you run with the Tracer gang in the gray district.”
“Mom,” I start to say. She’s not meant to know about that. Gangs are composed only of adults, but the Tracers are known to make exceptions for Frenzy winners. They did just that for me.
She waves the argument away. “It’s okay. We knew we wouldn’t be able to stop you. We’re just happy you didn’t join the Taggers, or the Beasts.” What a relief.
Okay, well to be honest, I did want to race again. I pretend like I’ve moved beyond that sort of thing, but I really do love it. When I was a child, before the City Frenzy fund had enough money to broadcast online using wearable action cameras and drones, I would find a starting point and run around as a spectator. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the racers, but I would always find someone else before too long. The race is my thing, and I want nothing more than to feel that glory once more. I suppose my career as an adult tracer can wait. I don’t want to seem too excited about it, though, so I try to play it cool. “Fine. If you insist. I’ll call the council.”
“I’m sure they will be overjoyed,” mom says, only half-jokingly.
She was right. I call up the council and discover that they have no problem letting me in as a late registrant. Within minutes of tweeting that I was coming out of retirement, #SerkansRun was trending locally. I lean back in my chair, allowing myself to rest on my laurels for a moment before getting down to business. I have been tracing, but I’ve not been training. They’ve done a lot of construction in the last year, so that’s my biggest problem.
Just as I’m opening the map on my computer, Alim bursts in the room. “Why aren’t you getting ready?”
“For what?” I ask, eyes glued to the screen.
“I just got an alert from the council,” he explains. “They’re holding an emergency meeting to discuss the weather. I assumed you got it too, but I guess not since you just registered.”
Without so much as looking at him, I flip to my weather gadget and expand tomorrow’s data. “It’s gonna rain, yeah.” I shrug. “We’ve run in the rain before.”
“Not like this,” Alim says. “They think it’s going to be worse than first predicted.”
I ignore him and switch back over to my map.
“You have to be there in half an hour!”
“All right!” I whine.
“Are you gonna let me down, son?”
“Shut up,” I reply with a laugh. But I don’t want to leave. I’m behind everybody else. I’ll lose if I don’t catch myself up.
“Ya know, they have these things called tablets, and also driverless cars. You can study on the way. HQ is clear on the other side of the city, so you should put on pants and leave now.”
“Okay, I’ll leave.”
“But I’m not wearing pants.”

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