This started life as the beginning of a novel. Then I realised it was the same novel for which I already have about six starts, several middles, and a couple of different endings, none of them joined together. You only need one beginning, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t shoehorn it in anywhere else. So I kept the basic idea and structure and tried to turn it into a short story but that was going nowhere. I’d started too discursively and I was caught in a halfway house type of thing where I either needed a lot more time to develop character, plot etc. or there wasn’t enough information fast enough to make a short story work. Harsh editing ended up with this very short piece of short fiction that says something more than I had thought possible when I started .
Waste not want not.
The old railway sleepers were wet from overnight rain. Slap, squelch, every step, trainers fighting for grip. Cheap steps, but they were slippery beggars. He pumped his arms. Careful now; no repeat of the fall last year. Old wet wood soaked in diesel fuel, lubricating oil and the contents of British Rail toilets. But without them the hill would be almost impossible to run up.
Another couple of minutes and the steps ended, a track crossing his path. Thighs burning, Will turned left and the climb became less steep. He burst out of the trees and a long vista opened before him, down the valley to the spires and roofs of the distant town. He felt himself slowing as he stared. Try as he might his pace always dropped here. It was cruel to put such a view after that first dramatic climb. It was almost impossible not to slow down and peer through the haze at his distant Shangri La. She was down there, in those streets, somewhere among the warm yellow glow. A few miles away. Could run it in under an hour. Might as well be the other side of the world.
He glanced at the stop watch on his wrist. Damn! Three seconds slower. Supposed to get better. He kicked on. Lost time to make up. Only a few seconds. Might as well be the end of time.