We set out for the race, all three of us on horseback. The finish line was twenty long units away and we were all prepared to grab that trophy. I looked down at the gleaming tack of my chestnut mare, full of power to carry me all the way. We can win this, I thought.
We must. I reminded myself on the first sprint down the road.
As we covered the ground, I couldn’t stop thinking about our opponents, the other teams competing against us. The thoughts were racing through me and as I didn’t want to stop, I couldn’t make the thoughts stop either.
How are they doing? How are they racing? Can I make it? Can I win? Of course I can! I must! How far could they be? Am I better? I should be better. How are they doing?
The picturesque track took us over a mountain-side with the shimmering ocean right below us, like a scene from a James Bond movie. Soon I heard the whirring blades of an helicopter and cursed.
‘They’re gaining on us,’ I yelled out to my companions. ‘Speed up! We can win this!’
Whether the horses heard my encouragement or simply wanted to get away from the flying monstrosity, we did go faster. Boom! I heard shots firing and saw the first bullet ricocheting off the mountain side. The opposing team was shooting at us from the helicopter.
Smack! Crack! Both of my companions went down with their mounts. The shooter must have been excellent, for I heard only one of the other horses whinnying before the bullet tore through her heart.
As for my own heart, I hardened it until it resembled a bulletproof steel clump. I had no time to feel sorry for the dead. I had a race to win.
With no further thought of whoever, I hurled on towards the finish line. I had to win this race and no sacrifice was too much. Winning was all that mattered.
I can make it. I can feel it in my bones. I have what it takes. I can win this!
And there it finally was, the finish line! A surge of triumph ran through me right before my steeled heart sank at the sight of two competitors in front of me.
What are they doing? I thought as I rushed towards them with soaring hopes. The competitors were on mountain bikes, performing bike-tricks right in front of the finish line, but the line had not been crossed. The flag we needed to grab to win the competition was still flying, unclaimed, waiting for me.
It was still mine!
AYREEE! A scream escaped my throat as I passed both bikers, jumped towards the flag and grabbed it from the saddle.
A massive applause followed. The organisers of the competition ran out to congratulate me. I slid off my horse and someone took her away. The trophy in my hands was sparking in the sunlight and made me feel incredibly accomplished.
Against all odds, I had won the race, just as I predicted, just as I wanted to.
Another organiser brought out the Winner’s T-shirt which looked like a plain white shirt with a large golden number one on the back and at the front – a rainbow-coloured heart with some words scribbled inside.
‘What does it say?’ I asked and looked down to read the words on my shirt. It took me a moment, for each upside-down letter was printed in all the rainbow colours. Finally, they formed a sentence in my mind:
Love wins everything
Huh? We’ll that’s nice, I thought, but didn’t get why it would be printed on my shirt. A bit hippie, but I’ll take it. It still means I won!
A tall man with spiky sandy hair approached me with an open smile and a slightly smug look in his face. One of my competitors, finally off his mountain bike.
’Congratulations!’ His voice was happy and elated, his body was relaxed. He offered me his hand for a shake.
I looked at him suspiciously, not shaking his hand. There was no remorse of loss in his tone or body language. My eyes widened and my triumphant heart jumped in alarm of a sudden realisation.
‘You were here before me and you could have easily grabbed the flag first!’ I blurted out, completely puzzled. ’Why did you not take it? Don’t you like the shirt? The trophy?’
His wide smile ran all the way to the edges of his eyes.
‘It looked like winning meant so much to you,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t that important for me. I’m glad to see you this happy.’ His eyes darted to my chest. ‘That shirt fits you well.’
My entire worldview collapsed then and there.
Had I won? Had I not? Had he won? No! Yes? What just happened?!
I looked into that pleasant face. His eyes were shining back at me, full of love and support. There stood my opponent, my competition. My… friend?
I woke up and stared at the ceiling, feeling the tremors from the dream reprogramming all I had ever imagined about the world before. All I had been taught and trained for. Contests, competitions, tournaments. Life full of conflict, battle and opposition.
‘Winning isn’t everything,’ I whispered to the morning sun. ‘In fact, it’s nothing.’
Yesterday I played a friendly card game with friends and family. I’m usually quite good with cards, but this time I lost the game.
Strangely, it didn’t sour my mood at all. Instead, I felt joyful throughout the entire evening, for I had the privilege of spending time with my loved ones, seeing their happy faces. They were winning.
And for the love I felt for those people, it felt as if I was winning alongside them.
The man-of-my-dream was right. That rainbow shirt fits me well.