When I was younger I would sleepwalk, back before there was nowhere to go.
Life is a game of going faster, slower. Yet I go slowly, fast, and I don’t know.
I almost tripped, putting my focus on my feet.
The bells sounded to set us alight from school steps. Off we go!
Meandering in the crowd of others.
We were dodging the bus today. Getting out in the real world. Stretching our legs. All the things good boys do.
Fun, of the good ole American variety. Evil as she was.
Happy fucking Friday.
I had zoned through school, putting that blur behind me. Further, as we broke out of the crowd through the playground. Now, we were picking up our pace as the school lot ended up ahead in a barbed wire fence.
Wally’s firehouse coat flew up over the top and we climbed.
Most dangers weren’t frightening on countless confrontations, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cut myself on this fence. Almost two years of that.
The same amount of time I’d known my friends.
That’s what they are. Not a motley crew, more like four white guys.
We could be dull together.
Coming over the fence, this time, I hit the ground running.
Four sets fell into tandem footfalls.
Behind the school was a dead zone. Old roads that were only occasionally ridden by AI-driven sentries. Black eyes were still on every corner as we crossed the street.
I made sure to flash a smile up.
Passing under the scaffolding of an unfinished building, we hurdled the lip of a paneless storefront window.
Chained to the raw concrete pillars inside which jutted up from the linoleum were three bikes. Three beautiful petrol powered bikes. Waiting.
Skrimp clapped his hands together. “Hey now, baby!”
Wally’s eyes adjusted on me as I looked back. He quirked an eyebrow.
“Who you ridin’ with?” I asked.
“He’s with me,” Skrimp grinned. “I drive the carefullest.”
“Like hell you do,” Dag said. He pulled the keychain from his black jacket pocket and sorted through them, stripping keys off one at a time.
He tossed mine.
I caught it as Wally unchained the bikes. I rolled out mine. She was yellow and rusted, but fast as hell. Not like Skrimp’s. His was loud and red like sex.
Dag had mounted a black ride, the newest of the bunch, the only electric. The rest of us followed suit.
I threw my leg over the seat and settled in. Flipped the electric starter to warm up and checked the gas and mileage on the digital meters. I ran a hand over the curve of the front. Sunshine colored. This was mine. The nicest thing I owned.
Mine for me to go far.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“The Night House!” Skrimp called it. Wally had sat down behind him on the seat and donned his helmet, flipping down the visor which lit as he did. An exterior display in the thing animated a neon pixelated text emoji. It glowed, (ಠ_ಠ).
“We can’t get into the Night House,” I said.
Skrimp had raised his hand halfway before I’d shut up already to object. “Methan told me bout a guy in the D districts can get us fake IDs.” Enthusiastic.
“Methan is full of shit,” Dag put his thumb on the starter. “You can’t cheat Smiler.”
“The usual haunt, then.” I jumped my bike.
“The Orpheum it is. Get over it, man.” Dag started his and it growled.
Skrimp swore like he’d been bitten and quickly cranked up. As the smell of exhaust rapidly filled the room, there was only a moment’s pause in anticipation.
Then, we peeled out.
It was a swift and tight fit through the brick-propped doors of the abandoned shop and into the street, three in a row, picking up speed.
As we broke into the open, we opened the throttles further.
Some dangers you grow accustomed to. Others you avoid.
As the buildings began to rip by around us, I pulled back the plastic of my raincoat to look at my watch once again. I had time. I didn’t need to do a damn thing I was supposed to.
The rush of wind was rising and I felt the bite on my face. My hair flew.
This, I never got used to. That was why I loved it.
We tore out of the lower districts and up onto a decommissioned ramp, strewn with trash.
“Watch the drop, people,” Wally called.
The upramp abruptly ended on open air.
Our bikes took the drop and suddenly we were on the manic highway, swerving from the shoulder and into open traffic.
We weaved between cars, keeping each other in sight.
My eyes were darting, trying to track every risk as they moved around me at ninety miles per hour.
A couldn’t get the smile off my face.
Dag and Skrimp were moving rightwards getting ready for the exit. The thing about a city on a grid, directional apps were a thing of the past. Besides, where we were going, there be dragons.
This was what I looked forward to, most. Not the dream machine and its blinding lights. There was nothing there but pleasure.
Right now, the wind was stinging my eyes and my heart was pounding. It was real.
And I was terrified of these speeds. I watched the others and followed their lead. Skrimp was the midman, me the caboose. Dag had to pathfind.
We drove on like that for what had to be almost twenty minutes, dodging at speed on to where we were headed. The Orpheum was halfway across the city.
But it was a favorite for a reason.
I saw Wally had turned around, craning his head to look past me. I couldn’t tell what he was staring at, but the face on his visor’s image snapped.
“What?!” I yelled over the traffic.
I snuck a peek over my shoulder. I didn’t see it, not in the dark of the scrapers.
“Something fucky?!” I asked.
“Death on the prowl!”
I looked again for longer than I should have. I looked hard.
Racing up our hind, four bikes were flying on the light streaks of their sickly colored rides. The side and taillights of semi trucks obscured them. But I could make out their masked faces.
I had to cut my eyes forward again to watch the road. But they were there, gaining.
Fast, faster than us.
Wally leaned forward into Skrimp’s ear and they shouted up to Dag, but the noise for me was drowned. I wasn’t listening.
My blood was heating up as my hearing dimmed.
A little bit of panic was a dose of certainty.
We have to get off this road.
“Follow me!” Dag bellowed.
Into the marshes.
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