With a distant pop in the sky, a deep fear flooded my senses. An idle girl bolted down the fenced course, but no one followed. The rest of us waited. We knew a second pop was coming, and something worse. Shouts echoed from the corner where the Mayor's Mansion stood. I watched that corner, along with the rest of the city, some in dread, some in violent rapture.

A second pop, louder, closer, set the fear. Work, home, finances, all disappeared. There was only survival. My heart fought my ribs for freedom. People flung their arms at others as they plowed a path for their flight, the force of which knocked some to the ground. I resisted the temptation to join their mad dash.

A moment longer and a booming rumble of a stampede echoed down the narrow street. They're here, I thought, hidden behind a tidal surge of red and white, the collective dress of the annual tradition. The panic-stricken crowd spurred my frozen feet. I ran around a bend in the course and noticed the crowd ahead of me begin to part. People dove to the walls and gathered like clogs in an artery. With a glance behind me I saw the sharp tips of heavy horns clearing a wide path. My pace quickened, but changed direction towards the gathering wall huggers. 

We stood still, our worried heads turned to the street like prey hoping the enclosing predators would float by. Hooves pounded the stone next to us. Underneath the strong legs I saw the white outfit of an unmoving body. He's dead, I thought. No one could survive the trample of 6 bulls weighing a ton a piece. When the hooves became distant, people rushed to the fallen man. With hands on his shoulders and legs he was taken to the wall. His head tilted to see his injured leg, then rested on the ground. The camaraderie was short lived as heads began to turn again. 

A wild thought entered my head and fear deepened. Was there one wave, or two? Before I could remember, people violently pushed at my back, and flowed around me. I was a rock in rapids. My feet lurched forward and in a few strides I saw the finish line, a tall circular coliseum looming over the course. At it's mouth, an arched doorway stood where the course infamously bottlenecked. With a familiar rumble at my heels I threw myself against the fence guiding the course. Several bodies did the same forcing my ribs against the thick wood. The rumble faded with a collective sigh. I waltzed under the arch into the coliseum greeted by a roaring crowd. I was exhausted, but alive, and with a renewed sense of what being alive truly meant.