Juan lept like a gymnast over the partition and landed on the stationary escalator. From behind him came noise that sounded like a roar mixed with a dial tone. He raced down the empty escalator and was thankful that everyone left the mall a few hours ago. As he jumped off and sprinted away he checked his watch: 2,400 steps to go. Nearly a mile, he thought.
Juan threw himself into a hallway that branched off from the promenade . He paused to try and catch his breath and clear his head. He thought to himself. How did this happen? I must have tripped an alarm. What the hell is chasing me? Possibly automated security. How many more steps? He took another look at his watch, 1,855 steps remaining. Juan’s vision was slightly blurry from a combination of sweat and lightheadedness, and he was grateful for a rest from running. Maybe it lost him? A tumultuous roar filled the promenade, and Juan peeked around the corner and and knew that the answer was no. A digital dragon sat at the top of the escalator and was sniffing the air. Its nose locked onto a scent, and its eyes flicked directly towards Juan. The pixel-blue monstrosity roared again and pumped its comically-small wings. It left the ground and flew down the escalator. You didn’t need much lift when you were virtually weightless. Juan took off and ran deeper into the mall. Even though it was a hologram, it was still as deadly as a solar flare.
He took smaller but quicker strides and started to get tired again, he needed the step count. The dragon, on the other hand, plowed through carts and benches without any sign of tiring. A dragon of all things, he thought, might as well be the the 2190’s. Juan took another glance at his watch, 988. It felt like his lungs were on fire, if the dragon didn’t get him, his asthma surely would.
He could feel his chest getting tighter, each breath that he took wheezed and burned away at his lungs.His vision started to go black again. He punched up the illumination of his watch 27… 26… 25… He was so close. Just a few more steps and- he didn’t see the small cart in front of him and barreled into it at full speed. The fabric umbrella of the cart ripped and a rainbow explosion of cell phone cases launched into the air. Dazed, Juan’s vision crept closer and closer to black with each of his tiny breaths.
He rolled over a few times trying to get untangled from the quagmire of cheap plastic. He tried to catch his breath. This is weird, it should have gotten me by now. He looked around and saw that the cart’s umbrella was leaning way past its tipping point and could have been in mid-fall. The dragon was about twenty feet away, and it had blown a puff of red and orange pixelated fire. The fire hung silently in the air as if it had second thoughts about burning Juan to a crisp.He looked at his watch and saw that the steps had been replaced by a timer counting down from five minutes. He must have taken the last couple of steps while rolling around in the cart’s debris. The watch had launched its patented “hyper break” which allowed a user to take an extremely quick rest after a tough workout by stopping time.
“That was fun,” he said to the dragon, pausing to take a breath with each word. “But I really have to run, well walk” and he calmly walked out of the mall, and out of the dragon’s programmed territory. His watch beeped with the end of his break and he saw the glass windows of the mall blow out with squares of fire behind them.