His heart pounds in his chest like a drum, beating so hard he fears that it will tear free, its rhythm shaking the air in his lungs.
His breath is short, his mouth is dry; his empty stomach knots into a fist ready for the fight – but his legs feel weak and boneless.
The clock ticks; the blood surges through his veins, hot and fizzing with excitement and trepidation; he feels it rushing through his head like rapids.
But it seems the clock’s second hand is sweeping round too quickly, carrying him along with it, stealing these precious final moments from him.
He tries to take control, slow his breathing, cool air mixing with anticipation, diluting the fear inside – but he can’t slow the clock.
He’s just not ready; he thinks about how many hours he’s wasted and what he’d give for just a few seconds more.
He wishes he could somehow opt out of the game, sidestep risking his stake on a single shake of a die.
The clock ticks – he wants the safety of the sidelines but he knows that he’s already spent too long there.
He promises: just a few more moments to prepare and he’ll make the most of every one that remains.
Maybe he could he borrow a second from tomorrow, but he knows his tomorrows are all already spent.
He curses himself for forever hiding from today, for taking refuge in looking forwards or looking back.
He remembers warm summer evenings that felt endless, time as slow and honeyed as the light.
The clock ticks – at his back he swears he hears the hoof beats drawing near.
Mornings when hours seemed like years yet they’d curse the Sun for waking them.
Stolen seconds with her, nights flying by in flashes, instants that last forever.
He feels like he’s trapped in an hourglass, sucked down like quicksand.
How many costly grains has he let run through his fingers?
The clock ticks, the road narrows, the horizon is here.
God please, he begs, just a single second more.
He’s waited too long; he’s wasted too long.
He's run away just too too often.
Past the point of no return.
The clock is still ticking.
The hour has come.
Time to begin.