The road to nowhere.
It's been two years since I last raced at this drag strip. Admittedly my mind has been on other things of late and after all the last race season was supposed to have started in March, only the Dawn virus had killed off most of humanity by then and the organisers never quite got round to arranging a meeting after that. It took me a while to get to the place, an old airfield that was occasionally rented out to race associations and the like. These small stretches of runway were never perfect. They did not have the smooth, sticky tarmac of the big drag strips; rather they were rough asphalt lined with cracks and the occasional tufts of grass. Still, no one ever complained at the imperfections as they were just glad of the opportunity to race.
Today it is a little worse for wear. The grass is beginning to reclaim the land, though with the world having ended there aren't exactly any gardeners left to mow the lawns, still it's not so bad that I will not ride and anyway, to find the other of my favourite tracks is beyond my patience. So I slowly make my way to the faded start line and immediately I pull in the clutch, squeeze tight the brake and rev the engine so very loud that it drowns out all thoughts from my head, and then I release the clutch so that the back wheel spins, screeching against the ground. It was a familiar and pleasing sound, more so when mixed with the smell of the tyre as it heats up with the friction, smoke rising. I twist the rear of the bike, feeling the movement as I heat as much of the wheel as possible. Then just as it starts to jut forward, eager to be off, I shut off the throttle and pull in the clutch, reducing the engine to a low grumbling purr. It waits patiently to make its final run.
I stare down the empty track. Even on a cold and miserable day, when rain constantly threatened, some fifty riders would arrive at least but today I stand alone. No one to chat to, no bikes to admire. There are no start lights, no timer, no queues and no father to tell me my times as I return to the start. No Dad to encourage, or to tell me where I went wrong or to race alongside, knowing I'd never win. I miss him, and my mother and my brothers and friends and my co-workers. I miss the other riders, their designs and colours. I miss the small crowd that would watch. Five months without seeing a single soul. It's an empty world that is slowly drowning me as I wander it.
I stare determinedly down the strip, sit down and begin to feel that old strengthening aggression take hold, readying me to pull hard on that throttle. It occurs to me that even the professionals would make mistakes on far safer tracks than this. Should I crash, should the heavy metal bike slip from my control and drag me violently to the ground then there is no one to help. No ambulance standing by. I could slide across the earth receiving no more than bruises and scrapes, able to get back up and trundle onwards as before. I could just as easily land fatally. A crash can be an instant death or alternatively it can lead to a slow, painful demise. Yet even with this possibility I can feel a smile slipping onto my face. A wide, genuine smile that feels of freedom. The first smile in months.
There is this little ritualistic dance I do; a shifting of my feet back and forth till it feels right. I actually laugh as I feel myself do it, my little motorbike jig. My brother was the one who noticed it and it made them all laugh.
In front of me the colours seem as extreme as the ones on my bike. Bright blue sky on long green grass that gently sways in the breeze and the grey of the road running through the middle like a canal in some oil painting, offering me a cool, refreshing wash in an otherwise dismal life whilst threatening with the penalty of swimming out of my depth.
I feel good now. Each breathe firm and steady, my entire body filled with a calm, adrenalin fuelled strength and a sense of surety I've never before known. This is it, once more for old time's sake. The engine roars, a fiery steed ready to sprint. My hand slides open the clutch.