The silence in the woods was overwhelmingly strange, threatening to swallow Tan whole. Still, he kept running like someone was after him.
It was the sounds of snapping dried twigs, the rustle of leaves and branches that slapped at him as he ran past, his harsh breathing, and his running feet on the ground that kept him company.
Even the nocturnal insects and animals knew to keep silent at his presence in the woods.
His chest was hurting because his lungs screamed for relief but he could not risk taking a single rest. He was almost late. He had to get to the opera for the final show for the season. He would not miss it regardless of the threat to his life.
"Tan, get back here! If you take one step out of this house, don't think of returning!"
His heart broke over those words from his drunk father who snatched his wallet and tore his shirt in a bid to keep him at home but he did not care. He ran out of the house.
His heart desire was to be an opera singer but his father saw it as a foolish and lazy way to make money. A man who sings is a sissy, in his words.
It was not about the money. Every penny he earned which was not much to start with went into caring for the old man. Singing was his passion which he'd inherited from his late mother. Her untimely death broke his father and he took to the bottle ever since. But he would rather die than let someone stifle his gift. It was his link to his mother.
The full moon lightened his pathway as he ran through the woods. The woods was the shortest cut to the opera house. He burst out of it and crossed a major, busy road. The opera house stood tall with shimmering lights around the signboard announcing that the final show would soon begin.
Tan leaned on the wall beside the back door to catch his breath. A fellow performer peeked out of the door, "Hey man, your soprano is pissed. She's been waiting for ages."
Tan huffed. "Thanks, man. I'm here now."
"Wow, what happened to your shirt?"
"Long story. I'll change quickly and meet you on stage." Tan went into the changing room, opened his locker and changed. He was already feeling the excitement in his heart. He could hear the chatter of the audience as they took their seats.
After profuse apologies to his co-singers and the maestro, he took his place among the singers behind the curtain.
"Alright everyone," the maestro whispered. "Let's end this season with a big bang, yea?" Everyone nodded.
Tan silently closed his eyes and took deep breaths to relax. His usual ritual before every performance since he was promoted to lead singer.
As the curtains rose, the audience fell into a deafening silence and the symphony began. Tan and his soprano held hands and moved forward a bit to sing.
Tan knew the audience was there but he could not see them. He sang his heart out and finished on a high note with his soprano. The audience rose to its feet and clapped loudly as roses were tossed on the stage.
Tan could not stop grinning widely as he felt right at home. The thought of his drunk father's last words to him made his grin waver a bit but he dismissed it from his mind and gave the audience a graceful bow before the curtain descended.
The maestro walked up to Tan and his soprano and hugged them both. "Great performance, my people. Super proud!"
Tan beamed and felt intense satisfaction when one of the backroom boys ran towards him, waving the opera phone. "Phone call for you!"
He took it. "Hello, Tan speaking."
"Hi, Mr Tan. This is Raymond, calling you from Richfield Memorial Hospital. Your father was brought in an hour ago. He had a heart attack and is undergoing surgery now…"
Tan did not hear the rest as he handed the phone to the boy and ran out of the opera. At the hospital, his father was out of surgery, hooked to a bleeping EKG machine that showed signs of his heart movement. The old man, though asleep, creased his brows and appeared troubled.
Tan drew a chair closer, sat down and held his hand gently. The old man's eyes fluttered and opened slowly. Tan froze. He did not expect his father to be awake so soon.
"Son, w-will you forgive an irrational, old man?" He whispered hoarsely.
"Shh. I am here now. Go to sleep."
The old man's eyes fluttered shut as he slept peacefully.
I hope you enjoyed reading. This story is inspired by prompt 34 from the 50 Story Ideas which says - Someone is running through the woods, frantic and out of breath, because they are being chased. Who or what is after them? How is it all resolved?