The atmosphere was inescapable; it wasn't the greatest bit of woodland in the history of woodlands, but beyond the wall running along his right, the car that Douglas used to stimulate his vanity could seem a million miles away. And since the greenery to his left managed to sufficiently obscure everything beyond it, even Douglas, who's main aim was the simple and admirable act of staying healthy, could succumb to his inner recluse.
Douglas let his breathing catch up with his feet; the inhale and exhale concurred with the graceful stamps on the dirt.
A Blue Tit let out its alarm call, although he couldn't hear it, as it was the Beethovenian noise that dominated his ears; and dominated more so, as it was only now that Douglas realised the Fifth was already into the third movement.
Somehow, he'd missed the ending of the second, which he always quite enjoyed. The calmness of it, finished off with Beethoven's characteristic muscularity.
But, no matter, he thought. The double basses had already started their flowing arpeggios, he didn't want to miss --
And then it happened. As the horns hammered out their simplified version of the first movement's motto, Douglas felt a sudden, sharp pain on the left side of his neck. It wasn't as bad a pain as he may have initially thought, the surprise is what got him most, but it was bad enough to make him break his rhythm and stop.
Douglas pressed his hand against his neck; nothing felt odd. He let his lungs calm down, and still, he felt nothing unusual. So he continued jogging again.
The horn theme faded away, replaced by the opening arpeggios... Douglas felt his chest tighten. He struggled to keep his breathing as steady. Pain radiated up his neck.
Once more, Douglas stopped. He wiped the omnipresent sweat from his forehead, and wondered what was going on.
Roughly eight months and ten days ago, when it was a cold that impeded him, Douglas had trouble breathing. And it was then that he last felt his chest clamber, under the weight of the common cold.
He hadn't the slightest hint of a cold coming on. As he remembered, when he awoke his first thoughts revolved around his day ahead, not the dismay that usually accompanied a runny nose or sore throat.
Perhaps the infection was arriving late, perhaps it was nothing at all. Douglas decided to go on, the trio had already begun, putting him behind schedule, and if this was anything more than the occasional misstep a jogger had to suffer, he'd sort it out when he got home.
The third movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony flowed, built, and declined. Unlike the muscles of his heart, which felt the pervasive squeeze of God's hand.
And his mind was beginning to forget that he was listening to Beethoven. He tried to forget about it, but that tightness, the tension slowly shifting up his neck and down his shoulder, it was impossible to ignore. And soon, his lungs started giving in, too. As though he'd been jogging up in the mountains all along!
He threw the earphones to the dirt; the movement was in the middle of the trio. His feet stumbled as his fingers tried to get a grip on the closest tree. Douglas leaned against it, heaved to get some oxygen into his lungs, and fell to his knees.
He looked up at a Blue Tit - possibly the very one he was too busy to hear earlier - while his chest heaved some more. The scherzo had probably already started --
Douglas started coughing. He spat out some blood, but before he could react in horror, more came... some of the chicken and potatoes he enjoyed the night before, and most of the water he drank before setting out on this jog. The vomit stained the soil, and prompted Douglas to make an attempt at getting up and to a doctor.
His weakened body struggled to do it, but he managed to get to his feet and stagger forward. One step... another... one more...
Douglas couldn't go on; he collapsed from where he stood, his body unable to cope with whatever load life had thrown on its back.
It was a beautiful day, that day. Not too many clouds in the sky, warm, the birds were out singing. And maybe, he thought, maybe it was a cold. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it was something. Maybe this was the day he would die.
While the music built slowly towards the explosion that would bring in the final movement, his favourite, he would lie there on the ground, on this quiet, secluded path, and suffer his final breaths.
And it suddenly dawned on him: what was he going to have for lunch? What shirt would he wear? Was the shirt he picked out the night before the right one? What was he supposed to do today? And what about Kathleen? He'd forgotten all about her until now. What would happen to her? And his daughter? The beautiful and smart little girl, Amy, his --
The final movement began. The triumphant, glorious final movement that would close out the great Fifth Symphony. Beethoven's mighty Fifth Symphony. Douglas never got to hear it, though, he took out the earphones during the middle of the third movement.