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The Chase by Sophie Robertson, Yeovil College

February 2022

The chase was due to begin any minute now. Soon the chains holding me and my fellow contestants on the ground would release, and it would begin. My heart was beating so hard in my throat, I felt like I was being hung. The flames that lit up the runway were glowing hazardous red as they led my eyes to the forest beyond.

I cast my mind back to the year that Alden broke the record and won in merely an hour, when the average was five days. He had picked up his opponents and roasted their heads in the flames of the torches.

He should have been disqualified but I guess they decided it was too entertaining and kept him on. He had won that year whilst also becoming the fastest to win. Well, I didn’t care. I was going to beat him.

The roar of the audience flooded my head – I reared my neck up to see, but the chains were too heavy and my head fell back down with a thud on the ground. I heard the cry of the emperor and knew the countdown had begun. My breathing got faster and my muscles twitched, ready.

Three. Two. One. The chains released me from their grasp as I scrambled up to my feet and began to run faster and faster into the forest, following the flames, my eyes still adjusting to where I was. I fled through the trees, the sticks and stones underfoot cutting into my bare heels. I could hear the screams of my opponents. I had gotten away! I was safe! I could stop running – but I didn’t. I didn’t even look back.

I was too terrified. I knew those contestants. I knew what they were capable of. Us gladiators were all raised to fight. We trained day in and day out until, at sixteen, we could finally compete. But I know they had cheated. I know that they hadn’t just been trained well, they had been modified.