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Because It's There
by Sly Squirrel
©2002 Sly Squirrel -- all rights reserved

Coach's whistle ends the live wrestling session, and I manage to hold myself aloft for a second before collapsing on the ground in agony. How much longer could I fight this disease, anyway? A week? Maybe a month? The pain filled my entire body, choking my breathing, making my eyes well up with tears. A thousand knives shot through my entire body, and any movement just jarred my overworked muscles to further pain.

What in the hell was I doing there? Doctors put a year-long egg timer on my life. Experimental medicines left me sicker than I started. A geneticist's supposed "cure" left me a dehumanized, canine shell of my former self. I was just going to traumatize my body, they kept telling me; the more that I punished myself on that mat the shorter time I had to live.

It would have been such an easy out! No one would question a terminally ill man quitting a sport to savor the rest of his life. Not like he'd make it anywhere, or make any difference when push came to shove...

And at that point, writhing in a pool of my own sweat on the red vinyl mat, I just wanted to walk away. Nothing was worth the pain I was going through. Nothing.

"Suicides!" my coach screamed out before noticing my limp body on the mat. When he did he immediately told me to sit the things out. Through my middle school years I had shown I was a "never say die" kind of guy; when I was laid out, I really was laid out. Besides, he didn't want a death on his hands either. Especially a half-human beast who wouldn't let go for anything.

For a second I just wanted to limp over to that "hurt wall," sit in a chair, and try to block the pain from my mind. I rolled to my stomach and pulled my feet under my body, daggers of pain lancing my thought. Walking towards the side of the mat, my mind screamed one thing and one thing alone:

I was giving up!

The mantra ate at the very fabric of my soul, gnawing away pain with each sickening repetition. I never gave up. Never! Even if it came to my very last breath, I would spend it battling for that extra inch. The lances of pain in my body spoke loudly to my mind, desperately trying to get me over to the "hurt wall," to safety, to giving in to my body's needs. To skipping that extra mile.

No one was willing to go where I was willing to go. No one.

Everyone stared in disbelief when I jogged to the sprinting line. My coach even tried to stop me with an uncertain "You're gonna go?"

I just readied my body on the line.

"I think you better let your body rest," he insisted, "You never give that body a chance to catch its breath, and there won't be anything left!"

"I'm ready to go," I said through gritted teeth. My subconscious screamed in absolute agony, but I wasn't going to give in. Never!

The whistle blew, and I took off like a bolt. In reality I didn't have the five sprints in me, but I wasn't going to give in to that disease -- that inevitable disease. Screaming for that last bit of energy, I pushed forward, each step burning throughout my body.

Nothing would beat me! Nothing! I was going to make my own way!

Each stride sent a dagger through my spine. Still I screamed away the pain. My lungs burned to the point of absolute exhaustion. Still I sprinted. My body begged for moisture -- my clothes were already soaked with five pounds of the stuff; but still I kept going.

Leave it all out on the mat, I was always told. And to hell with anything that gets in the way!

My body reached into its deepest reserves, going beyond cognitive thought, beyond consciousness, beyond the pain that racked my body. For a moment my reality collapsed to the thin stretch of mat laid out ahead of me, my feet, and the spongy floor. Darkness loomed at the edge of my vision...

And with one misstep it was all over. Snapping back into my body I felt the world tumbling around me, and without warning a sledgehammer slammed into my back. After I made contact with that mat, I couldn't do much more than lay there and groan.

My coach ran over immediately. "You all right, Greg?" he asked worriedly.

"Did I finish the five laps?" I replied through gritted teeth.


"Great." I sighed and tried working up the energy to come back to my feet. Every muscle in my body ached with fatigue. Instead of standing I could only manage a sloppy crawl, and in this way I shuffled down to the trainer's office for an ice pack.

Why do I push myself in such a way, people ask? Because I live for the feeling of accomplishment I get when the referee raises my hand. Because I know nothing less will do. Great answers, I know. That's all fine and good, but it comes down to this:

Because I can, that's why. Because no one else will.

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