It was a crisp autumn day. I was sitting upon the leaf-ridden earth, under a shelter of dying foliage. light was collecting on the drooping leaves, pooling around the cracking edges. It spilled from the cracks, dripping onto my face. My surroundings were marked by a web of twisting shadows etched by the sun, through gaps between the leaves. I sat there, face twisted tightly, tending a broken ankle.
The day was of moderate temperature. The sun brought some warmth, but the wind caried an eery coldness, and dusted the land with it. A chill that put goosebumps on my skin. I was sure I could not stand.
John and I were playing tag. I was never as fast as him. But I had tried, all the same, to match his pace. This was my reward. The pain was shooting arrows from my ankle all the way up into my guts and chest, leaving me immobilized, nothing to do but to rest in crumpled, lifeless defeat.
I was sure this was the end.
I would die here. Would they even find my body? Perhaps the leaves would continue to fall upon me, covering my sweatshirted corpse until it was masked from view. And when those leaves magically vanished as they always did, I would vanish with them. I wanted to cry, but I knew I mustn’t. A man must be strong, even before death. And at age seven, I was as much of a man as I would ever be.
I knew John wouldn’t come back. We were fierce in our games, every day was a collosal struggle against our foe. Today, that was eachother. It was a titanic adventure to be had, facing eachother in brutal competition. But such galavanting brought with it risk to the extreme, and we both knew it.
Today, his quest was survival. And he would rather bring about my death than to give into becoming “It”.
So there I rested, basking in immense pain. And even greater shame. I did not cry, or yell for help. I just sat, crumpled up, waiting. Challenging the world to send an adventurer to lift me from my certain doom. Would anyone come?
What must have been weeks had passed. I knew only my vast, heroic stubborness was sustaining my life now. Leaves continued to drift down from the roof above, slowly peeling greater holes in the umbrella, slowly erasing the shadowy fibers that webbed around me. Covering the ground in a sea of orange and brown.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
A rescuer approached.
“Why are you sitting there?” John’s voice echoed across the spacious back yard.
I rose up and looked at him, curiousity touching my brow. It was also on his own. He was looking at me directly, wearing a face of concern and confusion, hands at his sides. He kept distance, sensing the possible trap he could be falling into.
I did not respond.
“Why did you stop chasing me?”
He looked a bit hurt.
“I hurt my ankle…” I said faintly. I had not spoken in years.
He was swaying back and forth in place, weighing the situation. The possibilities were flashing across his eyes.
He extended a hand.
And I took it.
His certain doom was upon him now. He lifted my frail body up, and I put an arm over his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around mine as well. I leaned on him, casting my burden to him, giving into him entirely. He bore his cross. And I did not dare mention his newly aquired status.
He was my crutch now, my support, carrying me to my home. We marched silently, until we had reached my concrete patio.
“Let’s say this was a tie.” John stated plainly.
Never have I questioned that ruling.