Doug Balster is a fourth-year student at University of Iowa. He is pursuing a creative writing degree and one day hopes to write impactful stories for games and novels. He has previously been ... [+]

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
Once again another contender wishes to chance his luck. Every day it seems that an ill-fated man steps up to the starting line trying to win my hand in marriage. Despite the fact that I can outrun anyone and spear them with my bare hand right after I've made it to the finish line. The fools relish in their folly. Their eyes always clouded either by arrogance or lust.

He had the brightest smile on his face when he told me his name was Hippomenes, and it was fate that he would win my prize. His boldness is endearing, but only to the point when I realize he demands my hand rather than attempting to win it. He will not be victorious, this I am sure of.

As I bend down and get into my sprinting position, I glance over seeing the fool laughing to himself as he gets ready. He's so cheerful for a man going to be gutted in less than a minute. We are both in position and the crowd yells: tría, dýo, éna!

My feet push me into the air, as if I was pouncing like a lion hunting its meager prey. The breeze is so refreshing as it pushes my hair back and I pierce forward. I'm almost ahead of the boy, but then out of the corner of my eye I see a shimmer. My base instincts take over and I can't control myself. I rush to the side picking up a golden apple in only two seconds. The bastard threw one to the side to distract me! I feel a rage inside me like no other, propelling my body forward with each muscle screaming out: I will not let this cheater win!
Getting back on course I see the boy has made it even further. It'll be difficult to win, but not impossible. I have outrun both boar and leopards in my time. I embody their techniques more and more as I pick up speed, gripping the dirt with my fingers and feet, pulling myself ever closer to the boy! Just as I'm about to overtake him he throws another apple. My mind tells me to focus on the race, but my body drags me to the sidelines once again. My mouth grasping the fruit, while one of my hands holds the other. No matter how hard I try to regain my senses when I see those damn apples, some invisible force compels me to them.

I return to the course, sprinting faster than I ever have before. My feet pounding harder than a stampede, and faster than the flight of a pegasus. Almost faster than him! I can see the finish line! But then he throws out his final trick, a third apple behind me. As it goes flying through the air, time grinds to a slow march. I now know that my fate is sealed. My freedom stripped from me! Just before it lands, the tears rush from my eyes, vainly attempting to purify me.

What cruel fate is this that I am to suffer? What god commanded that I should be chained down to this cheat, this bastard, this damned brat! Why has Artemis abandoned me in my most dire hour of need? As soon as the golden orb smashes against the ground my body forces me back. My eyes turned away from the villain that threw it. The streams of fear torrent down towards the apple, washing it in all my pain. I pick it up with my last free hand. I turn my head to see him crossing the finish line. The crowd is cheering the name Hippomenes this time, and not Atalanta.

Why have you abandoned me, Mother?