I bend double, stomach twisting itself inside out, and dry wretch as my body tries to vomit out the contents of my earlier breakfast. A washing machine motion making me spasm as I gag once or twice. Sweating profusely, limbs shaking with exertion, and heart working so hard I think I'm having a heart attack, and it's about to explode through my chest. I can feel my own pulse inside my ears and in my throat while I use my hands on my knees to brace my body and gasp for breath to fill my laboring lungs. I feel like I'm on the verge of dying.
"Here, drink some water and it'll pass. Take a breather." Colton holds out a cold bottle towards me, foggy with condensation and straight from the ice bucket, at eye level and I can't even muster up the ability to reach out and take it. I cough up phlegm, my throat burning painfully, and exhale wheezily in some sort of response. I can't believe how unfit I am.
"It'll get easier, you're just at the start of building stamina." He carries on, placing the bottle on the grass below me near my feet within my eyeline, and sinks down on his haunches to gaze up at me, tilting his face and smiling handsomely. A bead of sweat runs from my messy ponytail down past my ear and somehow travels across my cheek to drip off the tip of my nose. I can feel more running down the center of my spine, between my shoulder blades, and I shudder.
"If I... make it… that …far." It's an effort and a half to get the words out and he grins at me, amused with my uselessness. We've been out here for hours. Stretching, running, exercising, jumping boards, climbing obstacles. I never knew physical training could inflict so much agony.
"You're doing fine. First time my father put me through this, I blacked out and woke up covered in my own vomit, at his feet." He shrugs with that cute boy smirk as though it's some sort of proud memory and I squint at him. Not sure why that's a helpful or encouraging thing to say, and he chuckles, that sexy half smile of his bringing out his dimples and pats me on the back firmly. I feel like he's being more condescending than sympathetic and inhale with effort, sure my lungs might no longer be working to full capacity, and then blow out a long hot exhale. Trying to recover enough to take the damn drink I sorely need.
The noise of a field full of various aged people, all in different stages of training is all around us, voices echoing among the rumble of vehicles, and building works in the further distance. It feels like a school sports day, only with more shouting and yelling, and much older people. Also, a lot fitter, because I don't remember my class ever taking on a course like this and doing it without dying.
The whole valley is in movement, orders being carried out, and there's been an ongoing stream of trucks all day so far. Bringing supplies, materials, and wolves from further down the valley outskirts of its furthest point. They started construction further down and there's been rumbling and thudding noises coming from that direction on the wind. They were quick to assemble and start to put things in motion at the crack of dawn and its humbling to see the force that is Santo, in the flesh.
The worst of the internal burn inside of me calms down with the non-movement of my limbs and the three minutes of rest. I grab at the bottle and manage to straighten up, if somewhat painfully. My body trembling, and my legs weak, I can't take it anymore slumping down on my butt ungracefully, accepting fate. I'm done. It doesn't help that we're moving from spring to summer and the sun is hitting its high point of the day and slow roasting us all to a crisp. Not the best time to take your unfit self and put it through military style athletics.
Colton looks up and towards a podium where senior wolves stand issuing orders at the masses, and nods silently. I guess someone is talking to him and he flashes me back a sympathetic smile.
"You'll be pleased to know you have a two-hour rest and refresh session to go easy and lay face down on your bed." He extends a hand to me, straightening up to stand up himself and I bat it away with another frown.
"I'm going to lay right here, thank you very much, and hope to god I wake up and this was all a bad dream." It's a better attempt at verbal conversation but I still sound like an asthmatic dying pig. If only that was a strong possibility.
I let myself slump back into the short prickly terrain cushioning my ungraceful fall, and stare up at the cloudless blue sky, so utterly relieved to be able to let my body finally stop. It would be a beautiful day if I could appreciate it.