The path was pocked with potholes and there were stones and rocks jutting abruptly from it. They could be seen all along the path, sporadically jutting out with a crimson tinge to them. Supun was in a crouching start position, next to him was his opponent, Pasindu, in the same stance. Supun could see drops of perspiration slide down his forehead and land on the dirt.
It was evening and the other children from the village had come to see the race between the two fourteen year old boys. Both boys were waiting to hear the ‘go’ that would mark when they needed to take off. Ahead of them was the straight road, where it took a turn to the left and was obscured by the forest, and then would run straight again. There were four children beside the finish line to witness the winner.
“Ready,” began one child, eager to see the race.
The tense mental race had already begun between the two.
A surge of adrenaline then prepared their adolescent legs to compete against one another.
Pasindu was ahead, the lean,short boy took long strides that pushed the ground away from him as soon as he had contact with it.Supun struggled to keep up with his short, merciless, quick strides, yet then he came just ahead of him, and neither of the two went ahead or dropped behind, both constant in their position.
The left turn was approaching, Supun knew his opportunity to win was soon to come.The barefooted village athletes turned left and Supun, ignoring the pain he felt from the stones that blistered his feet, was numbed physically and mentally by the pure desire to win. As he took the left turn, he ran along the margin of the path and was soon ahead of Pasindu. It was a straight run now Supun shut his eyes and let only his indomitable will propel his body forward to surge his physique past the victory he deserved.
Deaf to all reality, Supun could only hear his rival’s steps that abruptly stopped. Supun was victor, he sensed it, he knew it, yet he ran, eager to conclude with the grand finale, to run beyond the finish line for victory was his, but now, he found it befitting that the loser be rewarded shame for panting at the finish line while his rival had gone the extra distance tirelessly, his endurance left to do more.
So Supun ran until he saw the main road ahead and stopped at the tall, gnarled tree with a dark bough. He was panting with absolute satisfaction and he looked back at the finish line.hock contorted a look of terror on his face.
At the finish line, one boy had his face slit. The boy, whose name was Ishan, had three long slit marks on his face that had evidently struck the small head thrice and left it bleeding, no vestige of life spared. Supun swore he could hear some breathing from the child, weak little pulls of air to sustain himself, but it ceased after a few minutes. There was blood on the dirt. The blood shimmered a dark red under the rays of the setting sun. The few other children there next to the body, Pasindu included, could not do much.
“This had happened while were taking the bend!” Supun heard Pasindu cry, “I tried to stop you as well, but you just kept running!”
From his right a breeze blew, and to Supun this felt an insult and mockery to the heavy blow of reality he experienced. Then they began to scream and babble incoherently, unable to distill what they wanted to say in words. They pointed behind Supun, who looked at the Palu tree he was beside. The intimidating and imposing height of the sloth bear on his hind legs was ahead of him, coming through the bush and thicket, approaching him, grunting with hostility.is front legs were held back, packed with the potential to swipe at any given moment.
The bear was approaching Supun now, growling louder. The children screamed and he heard them run away. Yet the very legs that had led Supun to victory were locked, frozen in terror as the beast took one of his front paws back, preparing to swipe.