The eleventh chapter of Uncharted Stars! Things go on a downward spiral for Pete…
I poked my head out of the changing room. There was no one. I sighed deeply and slowly walked out.
What in the world was I doing?
I sighed again at the downward spiral of fate.
I was about to go through a race in front of the whole school and I happened to be shirtless, wearing some random small black swimming trunks.
Life sure as hell is going well. I looked around me, to see if there was any way I could escape this horrible fate that Jason had chosen for me. Not that I’d be able to outrun the people Jason were bound to send after me. I walked back into the changing room, trying to think of a way out of this. Sometimes I wish I was a ninja, and maybe I could’ve just turned myself invisible and walked out or something. There was no talking Jason out of the idea; he’d lectured me on how it’d ruin his credibility to the school.
Promising something to the school that I hadn’t even agreed to sure sounds credible, alright.
I looked around the changing room. There was random clothing scattered around the place; I saw someone’s PE shirt and swimming trunks hung on the benches inside. God damnit, was there no swimming shirt I could borrow? Would I really have to reveal my so utterly sexy frame to the world?
I just kept walking around the room when I heard footsteps coming towards me. It was Will.
“Well, hi, Mr Chicken-legs.” Will greeted in a way that made me really want to kick him, if the only legs I had to kick him with were not the chicken legs he had described.
“Damnit, Pete, you’d be perfect to play in one of those movies where someone is stuck on an island for a month and soon they’re starving and wearing rags and swimming in the ocean finding fish and climbing trees to get coconuts. You’d be perfect for that.” I truly appreciated that extremely pride-lifting comment.
“Yeah, whatever. I know I’m thin. I don’t want to go out there. I’m just hiding here to kill time.”
Will said, “Yeah, if I were you I’d be hiding too. Jesus, I never thought I’ve see my friend, the one named Pete, running in a public race for everyone to watch. God, I’d never have betted that you were ever going to be here in Student Council, let alone be President. This might be the biggest turnaround in the history of the school.” I wanted to say something like I never ever set out for this role I’m being forced I’m so scared I want to run away please take me away from here oh my god, but then I heard a voice from some faraway microphone saying “all racers, please come to the swimming pool.”
“Piss into your swimming trunks, if you need to.” Will mumbled. “The pool will wash it away.”
“That’s disgusting. Have you ever considered that once you’re swimming, other people’s sweat…”
“Good luck.” Will said firmly, grabbing my bare bony shoulders and pushing me lightly towards the door. I walked out slowly as the wind blew past me, sending up shivers.
“I feel particularly…exposed.” I said quietly.
“You already are.” Will said behind me. “And I don’t mean, physically, although you are exposed physically, but I mean you’re now exposed to the school in the way you’d never have thought you will. You’re coming out from your shell.”
I pondered for a second about the deeper meaning of this, but then forced myself to walk.
* * * * *
My heartbeat was ridiculously fast as I walked to the pool. There were only fifty people or so watching at the pool- the rest of the school was scattered around the sides of the football field, waiting to see the main racing there. Only some had come to the pool to watch from the start, and I didn’t doubt they’d be running after the racers so that they would get to watch the whole thing at the field.
The crowd cheered madly when they saw me walking, and again part of me wanted to just run away. What the hell did I ever do to deserve this fake popularity? Why have I suddenly become so popular over the course of about half an hour? Or was it just the sight of seeing me in public, finally? As the cheers grew louder, my heart started beating even faster, and I thought I could faint at any moment.
I swore under my breath. “Damn you, Jason, just damn you.” I tried my best to ignore the cheering crowd as the afternoon sunlight zapped into my bare skin. I was sweating already as I sat down on a bench along with the other racers.
All of the other racers looked remarkably athletic, which was probably because they were, and so that’s why they’re here. I was the black duckling among the group. They were chatting to each other, but I stayed quiet; didn’t have any friends here, didn’t need any.
Jason had told me exactly what I’d need to do in the race he planned out. First, I had to swim across the pool and back. Then, I had to get up, run through the school to the football field, then I had to go through an obstacle course that would lead me to the middle of the field, which was the final part. I heard this being repeated by Jason at the football field through a loudspeaker for the crowds to understand; he had put one of his trusted lieutenants in charge at the pool, probably someone he could trust wouldn’t let me go easily. The guy, whose name I did not know, or care to know, gestured us to stand by the pool, to be at our marks. This we did, and the others started to make pre-diving bodily shapes which I didn’t know any because I suck at swimming. The crowd cheered and I felt really dazed. At least there was no public speaking involved.
“Be ready!” the guy called. “On your marks. Get set. Go!”
The other people dived right into the pool and swam gracefully across the pool, while I jumped feet down, promptly chocked on pool water, and started swimming sluggishly. Despite the sunlight, the water was horribly cold. As I swam across to the middle of the pool, the others were also at their middle- but on their way swimming back from the other side. It took me a while to finish the swim, and I was already panting when I emerged from the water. I wanted to stop then. The crowd kept clapping and cheering and it was just horrible.
“Run run run run run run!” I heard a voice call. It was Will’s.
I stood up to my feet, my body and summer trunks dripping wet with water, and began to run across the school for the football field. I was faster than what I’d thought I’d be, I thought to myself that this isn’t so bad. I didn’t care if I was last, just that I came out of this as unhumiliated as possible.
As it turned out, I was wrong.
At least complete neglect of physical exercise other than the weekly PE class meant that I was exhausted easily, and by the time I reached the field, I was out of breath. But no, to stop now would be embarrassing; I can’t quite yet! I pushed myself on, running barefoot into the lush grass, and when I realized everyone was now watching, the entire school, a far larger crowd than the pool’s,
I felt a surge of energy as I charged forward. I had to appear confident. I was the new President.
That surge of energy lasted approximately ten seconds before I slowed down until in the end I was doing a jog. Boy, I must have looked stupid, being fast a moment and then jogging the other, like a car that used all its gasoline for a 200 km speedboost or something. The crowd started doing a mixture of cheering and booing as I nearly slowed to a halt, as if to urge me on.
If shouts can push legs, I’d have screamed asking for one. However, it doesn’t, so I wish they’d just shut up.
By the time I finished my three laps around the field, all the other runners had already finished the whole track, including the obstacle race part. The crowd began the robotic and systematic chanting of “GO PETE GO” every three seconds, and hearing my name shouted by the whole school just made me want to hide my head inside my shirt and roll away into oblivion, except I didn’t have a shirt to hide my head under, which just made it all the more embarrassing. I never wanted to be a public model.
I tried to shut off these thoughts as I looked at the obstacles ahead. My heart was pounding away at my chest and I was completely of of breath, but I gritted my teeth and zig-zagged through a bunch of cones then jumped over skittles. I came across a rubber tube I had to crawl through, and I dived right into it, creating a beautiful Pete-in-a-tube mess as I hit the sides, lost direction of where I was going, and the tube began to roll around with me still in it, to the great laughter of the crowds. I cursed loudly, although no one could hear.
I managed to make my way out. I then looked forward, and saw a sack. It was a sack race, but I felt so completely exhausted by then I just had to stop for a moment. Once I did, the crowd once again erupted into crazy cheering, and so I spent that break cursing the crowd.
The heat. The exhaustion. The cheering. The laughing. The publicity. The humiliation of it all.
It was just too much.
As I began to regain my breath, I staggered on weakly and picked up a sack, stepped into it, and jumped. I landed and managed to tip over, falling in on the ground. The crowd began laughing madly once again as I lied there, trying to get up from the damned sack.
It was just too much. I closed my eyes and I didn’t know anything more.