A BEL CRASHED THROUGH THE FIELD of corn, oxygen deprivation burning deep inside his lungs. His legs tensed with each lunge forward as he charged deeper and deeper into the thicket. By now he’d lost any sense of direction, his internal compass simply screaming at him to keep going in any direction but backwards. The sound of corn stalks crunching behind him propelled him in a new direction, his head dipped low to avoid the crops whipping past him from stinging his eyes. His hands had started shaking over a mile back and soft edges had begun creeping into the corners of his vision, his area of focus becoming more and more narrow with every step.
You’re going to pass out.
Abel came to a shuddering halt and blinked away the stream of sweat cresting his brow and stinging his eyes. He’d never heard those words before, pass out, but something deep inside his mind knew exactly what it meant. He also knew that stopping wasn’t an option for him either. The smell of kicked up dirt and broken stalks filled his lungs.
His eyes darted over his shoulder. The call had come from behind him and a little to the right. Maybe thirty yards back. Tanned arms trickled blood from micro cuts suffered while sprinting through the brush.
“Give it up!”
Abel whipped his head around in the direction of the second shout. His brother couldn’t have moved all the way over there so fast. The corn was reverbating the sound, projecting them at Abel from all directions. His chest heaved with each passing moment as he sucked in air, hoping that any moment his vision would clear; just enough to distinguish between the stalks closing in around him. His world was beginning to blur, his surroundings being reduced to nothing more than shapes and colors.
Anywhere but here.
The voice inside him stirred a surge of energy inside him and he took off sprinting into a sea of yellow and green. He plowed ahead until a new color dropped into his field of view: blue, sky blue. There was a clearing ahead. The crunching sound behind him had only grown closer. He figured his brother was only twenty yards back at this point. Head down, Abel crashed through the final wall of corn and found himself in a small clearing.
He didn’t want to stop running but his body had begun to revolt. A few steps into the clearing his right leg buckled, the first domino to fall. The rest of his body followed as he crumpled to his knees. His hands dug into the ground in front of him in an effort to stabilize himself. It was in that moment, when his mouth tasted of salt and metal, that his brother broke through the clearing behind him.
He was bigger than Abel, taller by a few inches and an extra twenty pounds of muscle wrapped his body. He was panting but his body wasn’t denying him like Abel’s was. Abel leaned back on his shins and stared up at his brother’s approach.
“Please,” Abel said, wincing at the sound of his own voice. Even talking hurt. Much to his surprise though, his brother stopped. For a moment he just looked down at him.
They were only five feet apart but Abel had nothing left in him to give. Too tired to try and run, to run down to close the gap and fight; and his brother knew it. He could see it in his eyes. Abel had seen that look a hundred times before. It was the way a predator looked at its prey when they knew the hunt was over. When all that was left to do was eat.
His brother knelt down in the dirt and began to dig with his hands. For a moment all that filled the silence between them was a soft breeze and the sound of fingernails clawing through packed soil. A jagged gray rock began to take form as his brother systematically excavated it.
“Why?” Abel asked.
If his brother planned on answering as him, he didn’t show it. A moment later he lifted a stone the size of a melon from the ground and rose back to his feet.
“Please Cain,” Abel pleaded with his brother. “I’m begging you.”
Cain raised the rock above his head. For a second they looked at one another; one of them savoring the moment, the other praying it wasn’t their last. Then, with little affair or fuss, Cain crashed the rock into his brother’s skull and Abel’s world went black.