I'm honestly not sure what I expected to happen when I looked back at that woman, if it was a woman at all. She was just standing there in the road, dressed in silver with that 80s-neon orange helmet.
I was night driving, my headlights weren't in the best of condition, and look; I could give all the excuses in the fucking world, but the point is that by the time I saw her, it was too late to swerve out of the way.
She fell down like a bowling pin, didn’t flinch at all, like running over a speed bump. My motorcycle collapsed under me as I rolled into a skid. I swerved out of the way before it toppled over.
After the dust cleared. I was okay. The bike wasn't, ground against the asphalt, body scuffed with asphalt scars of course, I had bigger things to worry about at that point in time.
I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and looked back there, to see what the damage was on the woman. I was reaching for my cell phone when the real shit started to go down.
Because, fucker just pushed herself up there and stood like a statue, staring at me. She didn't have a scratch on her, clean as a whistle like my bike hadn't even touched her.
There was a readout on her face shield. “00:00” like a digital clock. After a few seconds, she spoke to me. Her voice was like an autotuned secretary.
And that was when I blacked out.
I woke up after I don't know how long. But when I opened my eyes, I was up on my bike. My bike was up, running perfectly fine, though still scuffed and worn. But there was something else on my mind. This was not the road I blacked out on.
She was right there next to me. Looking at me. On her own bike. And she spoke.
“Three.” Her bike was made of flat, monocolored polygons put together, like one of those really old 3d-games.
“Two.” I had no idea how something like that could move.
“One.” It was bright pastel pink. Funny how you remember things like that in situations like this.
“Start race.” She started off across the road. Light streamed from the machine, sliding across the road near-weightlessly. I stayed paused there for a moment, stupefied by the bizarreness of the event. There was a buzzing in my ears.
As I sat there, the buzzing got louder and louder until it was an intolerable howl. I could make out words like go, hurry hurry up. I cranked the accelerator, and my machine surged forward, screaming a howl through the night.
It was surprisingly easy to catch up to her. Almost as if she was going easy. But it felt near impossible to push past her when I had gotten through.
As the foreign wind egged me on, I noticed things along that desert road, a road which was NOT the one I fell down on before.
The saguaros were too neatly spaced, a little too shiny in the moonlight, a little too exactly the same in appearance to be real. I don't think I've ever seen a moon that glowed a bright neon red before. And I’d never seen those things, those shuffling rainbow things that tried to follow me as I rode past.
But, again, catching up was easy. Getting past her was another story.
She kept creeping up just a little bit more and more each time I got close. I could see her arm crank down as she pressed the accelerator. I did likewise.
As I got closer and closer to her machine(?), sonofabitch looked back. She let up off the throttle a bit, rammed right into my side. Naturally I pushed back. There was a crack and a sharp pain in my arm. I retreated back. I felt the small, sharp trickles of blood down my arm. I kept driving.
I looked back. Sonofabitch was still there, few meters ahead of me, whatever JO crystal made up its bike reforming rapidly. A few small shards of pink were lodged in my arm. I leaned over, yanked them out with my teeth. I still kept on the accelerator.
I saw the rainbow things move closer to the track as I sped by. I heard them sniffing and shnuffling at the blood on the road, even over the sounds of our motors. One of them looked at me. I felt a twinge of pain in my arm. I tried not to notice. I held the throttle down a little harder.
I kept pushing through, trying to get past her, inching upward and upward, swerving away when she tried to ram me, trying not to touch the prismadic probosci probing inward from the road.
The closer I got to the tip of that thing, the more aggressive she got. Swerve, weave, ram swerve, weave, repeat, closer and closer, feinting and dodging as I did the best I could. When she hit me it felt like a cannonball to the side.
I kept pushing onward, back against the recoil to lean back in and keep that rubber to the road. I had to.
She acted like she was on a timer as she swerved back; forth; inward, going on the offensive; gunning towards me; going for the throat, then abruptly pulling away for no real reason, like some sort of AI routine. I thanked my god-damned stars the first time that happened, for every time she let up.
The creatures on the road seemed to hate her, but she didn't care. One of them tried to get her with its proboscis, but it only slowed her down for a moment before she ripped the thing clean off, never looking back for a moment. That was the one time I pulled ahead of her, before she turned and rammed me. Which was right before I saw the line.
Suspended in the air, like a neon strip of barbed wire. The ugly shade of red did not look inviting. But the rider sped up when she saw it. I did likewise.
The needle on my accelerator slowly went up as I ticked up the gears and ratched the clutch. I'll be damned if she wasn't faster. Like a pale horse out of hell, she set the machine flying, and she hit the wire. I braked, tried to stop and...
Again I woke up on my bike. Upon a freeway of concrete and asphalt, suspended in the abyss of night. And she was right beside me.
There were giant red flowers this time, like sunflowers as tall as skyscrapers, weeping white slime onto the road from the abyss.
There was a crackling sound behind me. Lights in the distance rolled forward, coming towards us I could feel...
One... She looked behind her at the lights. Something scrolled across her helmet too fast to read. I revved my motor and tried not to play attention. I could hear the pavement dissolving behind me.
The rider sped up. I looked behind me. The lights began to charge forward, the pavement behind them receding and dissolving into their bodies. I sped up to follow her likewise.
The distance between us closed much more quickly this time. The timed movements became faster and faster, swerve, push, dodge, slam, retreat, repeat. Perhaps much could be the same for me as I jockeyed neck and neck, my routines shifting from one to the next as I tried to find the best way to lap her, and to avoid falling into whatever nowhereland the bridge was disappearing into.
The road was slick from the tears of the flowers. It felt like driving through an oil slick, and I took great pains to avoid engaging her when I had the misfortune to plow through one of the wads. But it was relatively little problem compared to the lights pushing us ever forward.
The lights rolled forward like huge starfish. Their sources like heads for the moving; liquid halos of light dissolving everything but those red sunflowers.
I only saw them a few times, eating the highway from my rearview mirror pushing through space. Most of what I remember was the crunching, always keeping in my head that there was no time to look back.
I felt the shards of her motorcycle crack into my boots as I pushed back against her ramming machine. Bam, crunch, I could feel every moment of this battle of wills in the shards that stuck on my boots as we disengaged. I could feel the lightning in her electric eyes as the display wavered while I jockeyed against her.
For a moment I was pushed back and felt a tendril of the light against my back, just a touch. It felt like fire, hissed like a pan of water, and changed to a feeling like open bloody road rash again as I throttled away. There was a hissing sound through the wind, and I looked to my side.
She was throttling forward again. Her suit was broken, to reveal nothing but gears; pistons and wires. She looked at me. She let out an electronic screech.
I’d plowed through the worst pile of when we reached bat country, or something like it. I say they were bats, but I don’t think most bats have six legs or a gross-ass crunchy exoskeleton. They ran through the air in front like bullets, splattering on the roads or into the deadlights behind us, making one more thing. And that was when she fucking kicked me in the ribs.
I felt something snap as if, in the distance, my bike skidded out from me and the sound of crunching “bats” got louder and louder. The burning pain lit up my eyes, swallowing me whole and then…
I woke up. Woundless, on my bike, in an impossible cathedral of glass and wood.
She looked at me. She was pristinely clean, her suit whole again.
Her display rolled past a random sequence of numbers.
She said something to me, in that robotic voice.
“Failure is no escape.” She throttled forward, and I did likewise. I had no choice.
Of all the tracks I had been on, this one was the worst. Gravity as we went up, down, around in what was like a basement covered in shining stained glass windows; as if a roller-coaster had been built by an aesthetically deranged madman.
I felt myself sick with vertigo as we baetyed back and forth from each other. I cracked open one of the panels in one of these clashes, sticking in a boot as I pushed myself back up. There was nothing but more glass beneath me; cracking as we engaged and disengaged.
Huge shards of glass stuck through crossbeams littered the place. She hammered against them cutting open her jacket. Every time she did; her motorcycle lit up; pushing her her forward a little faster as the gash of steel and copper sparks grew wider and wider and her cycle trailed bleeding polygons. If it hurt her I could see no pain in her actions. And even rolling near curves; taking tight turns; I could see myself getting gapped forward, further and further.
I knew what I had to do.
I felt blood trickle down me as I rammed through the first one. If there was pain; it was covered by numbness. Speed was my friend, mortality my enemy as I hit back and forth, gashing myself further and deeper as the speed came down my body and into the very engines of my soul; filling my machine with toxic light.
At first I was thirty metres behind her. Then twenty, then ten. Then five. All hitting while she; in almost precise imperfection, started to miss some of the gashing boosts. I could see a huge window, like an Arc de Triomphe in size and signification. I was a nose ahead of her. There were words lit in neon on the window beckoning me.
Another boost, before the pain came back, I charged past her. I crashed through the window. Only a second after were the significance of the horror evident to me. And then I blacked out.
Afterwards, I woke up. On the road; the real road I had started upon. My bike was fine. And she was gone.
She has appeared to me six times further since. Even now as I write this, she looks outside my apartment at me, waiting for me to join her again. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a bond beyond reality, maybe it’s just an obsession on her part. I do not know if it will ever stop.
The rides get longer and more difficult every time she engages with me. Maybe someday they will be completely impossible. What I do know is that the words at the end of the gate are mockingly; hauntingly true. The ride never ends…
Written by Tbok1992