by Sadie O'Deay

Noah accelerated along the track and his opponent fell back, unable to keep up with the desperate insanity of his ride. The bike rose in the air, slammed to earth, unbelievably fast, pitching and stuttering, somehow staying upright.

The crowd was on its feet as Noah Pike raced with total disregard for life and limb. Screaming, they urged him on.

Silent amongst their roar and fury, Jamie dug her nails into the palms of her hands and stared at the change in his style. Gone was his smooth unerring instinct for clean lines. Noah rode now at the edge of control, and she wondered how he could stand up to the punishment. Frowning, she began to push her way toward the finish area.

Noah battled in hell, Noah so jaded with living that he had to laugh at his recent life--building an honest image, riding just for its own sake, fucking Jamie like he was some kind of virgin--what kind of fag bullshit was that? And at the same time, ashamed of the things he had done, the people he’d derided or cast aside, hurt in the interest of self-gratification. A real bastard, he was.

The smooth pass and then the Tower of Power. Beyond it was the flagman, waiting with the checkered flag. Pike was going to win.

Not knowing himself, full of fury and despair, Noah thought I do not have the courage of my convictions. His concentration slipped and his bike slammed into a deep rut at speed out of the last turn before the Tower. The suspension bottomed out with a thud. Noah goosed the throttle and threw his weight back. Crouched on the fender, he felt calves and hamstrings tremble with tension. The Yamaha sprang out of the rut, its engine screaming at full, black earth flying into the air where it had been gouged up by the foot pegs.

The front wheel lost traction and lifted as he hit the top of the Tower, forty feet above solid ground. He was going too fast. Much too fast; he was going to overshoot the landing. The dirt bike launched like it had been fired from a missile pad. Noah struggled to bring the front end down. He craned his neck to see beneath him and there was the flagman waving frantically. The checkered flag flashed black and white, stark and brilliant.

But he had nowhere to land. The Tower's pitifully small landing was already behind him and he was still rising, still fighting the front end. A glance out at the open track below his fender revealed a boiling maw of deep ruts. Without a down slope, the ruts would wreck him. He was too fast, and too high.

He swung his head to the right and spotted a little grassy hummock. Panic clawed at him and he latched on to the hill, heaved the bike toward it in desperation. The Yamaha twisted crazily above the crowd and pointed itself in a long diagonal line across the Unadilla cow pasture. The mound was suddenly not coming up fast enough. He’d lost too much momentum in the air to make the downhill landing.

In an instant, the crowd’s boisterous approval fell to stunned silence. At the finish line, Jamie began to run.

A long, loud panic rev shrieked from the bike as Noah let out the throttle. The desperate cry in his mind held the note. Linked together, bike and rider crested and dove, hurtling straight at the upslope. The hump of dirt and grass came up too fast, too close. No way was he going to clear it. His brain was working too fast for thought. And, ridiculously, counting. Three. Two.

Noah Pike rose off the seat as if to jump clear of the impact, rose away from the imminent crushing force that the laws of physics would not allow wheels and suspension to absorb. One. His hands loose and ready on the grips. A flash of paradox: the organism’s tenacious hold on life against all odds.

Zero. The Yamaha slammed into the face of the mound with a horrible rending crunch. Steel met dirt with thunder and violence and cratered. Steel and dirt self-destructed. Nowhere for him, for soft tissue and bone.

Noah had a nanosecond of grudging respect for the fundamental solidness of the earth as he felt the forks buckle and snap. The collision tore the handlebars out of his grip. Metal and flesh experienced the earth’s implacability, its resistance to being moved in any direction it did not wish to go.

A lurching sensory overload struck him: a nauseating cartwheel of blurred grass, flying dirt, blue sky and bright sun over idyllic meadowland. Earthy smells, nice. Sun-warmed grass, rich loam, maybe a hint of lilac, and something terrible and ugly churning in its midst.

Taint of oil and gasoline. Faintly, behind the sounds of carnage, a collective voice of human distress rose on a high note.

Surreal. Comical, almost, in a sick sense.

Such a nice day. This shouldn’t be happening.

Blood ran sweet and briny in his mouth. Things shattering, breaking, crushed with relentless force. Agony slashed into him.

He let his pain out, too much for him to hold. The earth sucked it up, drew into itself the suffering and shock of impact. Noah was at the bottom of the jump now. Seen from beneath the fall never looks as far. He remembered using that perspective a lifetime ago. And in the apex of his jump over the checkered flag as he’d won the race.

Won it going away. Rising high. Up there, up in the sky above him.

He tried to smile, felt the earth swallow his pain. Around him, darkness gathered.

All the noise was over, the crashing. No more turmoil in his head.

He knew who he was, now. Noah Pike, seen from below. Never as far from below, from the ground. Ground feeds you strength, keeps you humble.

Keeps you.


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hreading along his veins. Halfway done, and he was winning, and they were all just as tired as he was.
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