Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

It’s not the strongest memory, but it still gives me chills. In a way I’ve distanced myself from the event, and when I do think about it the figure is foggy, but I can still feel the cold hours in the morning in my chest and my ears. 

It was way past my bedtime and the Old Brown Sherry and red wine were beginning to wear off. I picked myself off my friend’s floor and felt around in the dark for my shoes. The pubs had called last rounds hours ago, but we were not ready to throw in our towels yet, so we went back to her res room to drink Tassies and listen to Fokofpolisiekar. But now I wanted to take a shower and sleep in my own bed, so I left her sleeping and sneaked out the front door.

I was still new on campus, and I didn’t know all the shortcuts to my residence. Instead I walked on the main road that separates the university from the greater town area. It was icicle cold, and my breath billowed ahead of me like a young pony ready to trot all the way home.

Something pulled my eyes to the other side of the road. A man in a long brown coat was walking towards me. I could not see his face. He was far away, and shrouded in fog and my alcohol visions, but he was there, as clear as in a picture.

I walked faster but, having never been an athlete, my chest was burning already, and when I looked behind me he had crossed the road and was walking swiftly towards me.

Fuck it.

I ran.

I wasn’t going to wait for him to catch up. I ran up the street like I’ve never run before in my life – past the Albany Museum, past the Old Gaol,  and through the Drostdy Arch onto campus. I dared to look behind me once again, and this time his coat was flapping in the wind as he too crossed the campus entrance and came racing up the steps towards me.

This made me abandon all hope that he just wanted to know the time. (Around 4, 5 in the morning)

My fake All Stars moved faster than my brain up and down the cobbled step of the university grounds. My cheeks raced ahead of me, always forward, and I didn’t dare look behind me again. I flew past the Afrikaans department, past my dining hall, down more steps, across another road, my fingers feeling in my jeans pockets for my front door keys, for if I didn’t have them, I would be truly dead.

My fingers closed around the plastic chip that opened the front door just as it appeared on the horizon. I never stopped, I never tired, I raced towards the heavy wooden door, pushed the chip into the machine, laughed as the light turned green, and shoved through the door and made sure I heard the latch click. I was still going until I reached my room and checked every corner and window for a rapist in a trench.

I was safe.

And numb.

I fell in bed without that shower and dreamed of nothing for a long, long time.


9 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

    • Unfortunately it is true. As I got older and stayed at university for longer I got to know the town, and it is actually a damn dangerous town with a lot of violence. I was so stupid and ignorant when I was a teenager.

  1. When I was in college, one of my classes was in behavioral sciences. The professor was a slender woman a little over 5 feet tall in her mid 40’s whose first job was a teacher in an inner-city school. Her interest in behavioral sciences started when she observed how the biggest and baddest steered clear of people with schizophrenia, no matter how small–as if it were contagious. So…she began singing the hallelujah chorus between talking to an imaginary ‘something’ as she walked toward the school. She was avoided better than a swat team in full riot gear.

    My worst experience in college was drinking cheap wine. Damn if my guts didn’t feel like they were being pulled up the esophagus! 🙂

  2. Very well written piece. The perfect word count to draw me in, keep me reading, and be satisfied with the end. I also enjoyed the slightly different language from my own American English. Nice job, and I am glad you lived to tell.

  3. Ah, Annetjie! As I was reading this, I could totally imagine the fear, the road, the Gaol, the arch… all those parts of campus, and the desperate need to get back to res! So well written, I could feel my heartbeat start to quicken. That may also be due to the time I was crossing campus near midnight and a man all in dark clothes popped out of the bushes a few yards ahead of me… Turned out to be a security guard who’d been taking a leak, but terrified me nonetheless!

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