by Jenna Hanchey
Once, we raced the void.
We would tell our parents the kind of believable lies they didn’t even have to lift their heads from the newspaper to agree to, yank our bicycles upright from their restful tilts against garage walls, and fly over the hills to the entrance. The cave looked like any other cave. But you could feel the force of nothingness emanating from within as you approached, pushing you backwards. It made the races more exhilarating, fighting against the pressure.
It’s hard to race in a void, when there’s nothing to measure against and no goalposts to reach. It was Jenny’s genius idea that finally worked.
“Okay,” she said. “Everyone has to take 30 giant steps before you can turn around. First person back here wins.”
She drew a line in the dirt outside, while we lunged into position, exchanging grins. “I’ll be the judge. But no cheating.” Jenny looked us all straight in the eye as we agreed. She always said that, and we never did.
We loved racing the void. Until one day, Freddy came back changed.
He was the last to return. Stumbling out of the entrance, eyes wide.
“Freddy, you okay?” Jenny asked, running to his side. “Oh! You’re hot! Did you run too hard?”
He turned to her and cocked his head, unspeaking. The rest of us took a step back.
Freddy looked like any other kid. But you could feel it, in him.
The force of nothingness, pushing you backwards.
Jenna Hanchey is a critical/cultural communication professor by day and a speculative fiction writer by...uhhh...earlier in the day. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@jennahanchey) or at jennahanchey.com.