"Keep your eye on the prize."
So we were told, and we all set out to storm the castle that held our dreams. We didn't all begin at the same spot, some of us had a longer charge than others, we all advanced at different paces…But we were all under fire.
The snipers of adversity lay in wait.
I learned about halfway across the battlefield that armor was only going to slow me down, so, recklessly, I shed it and raced on. However, I never developed dodging capabilities, so bullet after bullet pierced my flesh.
At night, during encampment, huddled 'round the fires, fellow warriors revealed to me that I gave them heart, because I was "such a strong woman."
Strong!? Did they not see how many times I fell, hit by an expert shot? Did they not scorn the way I failed to protect myself in my zeal to reach the goal?
They did not. They saw the way I reached into my own torn skin, grimacing in pain, and slowly pulled the bullets from my body. The way I waited just long enough to regain my energy, then forged on.
They gathered courage from my scars, and it helped them strive to run their own race, day by day.
The weapons grew larger.
Mere yards away, a hollow point struck my heart, and again, I cursed my cast-off shield, miles behind me. I knew this wound threatened to end my journey, and I gasped, pressing my hand to my stenrum with all my might.
Hushed whispers circled my head, but I was so dizzy from hemorrhaging, I couldn't discern the words.
The world went black.
When I awoke, blankets covered me; a pillow was beneath my head. Hot soup was brought, and I was gently helped to sit up. I looked down- the bullet was still lodged in my heart. The eyes around me all spoke the same truth. Only I could remove it, but they would be there to support me.
With my last bit of bile, I plunged my fingers into the ventricle, seized the foreign object, and cast it into the night. Then I struggled to my feet and turned to my attendants. In their eyes, I saw respect. I bowed low, and returned the sentiment.
Then I faced the horizon.
"Tomorrow, we ride."
A cheer rose over the camp, and I knew that together, we would succeed.
When I rose from my injuries, I confirmed that victory was possible, for myself and for them.
Someone has to beat the bullet, so others can face the fire.
And so I bleed.