A piece of flash fiction inspired by (not based on) true events; any resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental.
Blink and you miss it. You already blinked. Damp chill remembers itself to your formerly numb skin, now a flimsy barrier between the cruelty of the elements and the darkness of your soul. Nothing else between.
You need to close the gap. Dredge the reserves, dig down to examine what’s left and come up empty. You find yourself wanting. Needing. Falling. You carve a tragic figure and imagine the stories they will tell of you, from when you were once great. Write the words for them in your mind like ‘back then’ and ‘dry spell’ and ‘washed up.’ Wonder when the line was drawn, and how you missed catching onto it before it was whipped out of the water, leaving you drowning.
Maybe not today, but someday soon, you’ll be a name on a list and a house in the country and an expensive hybrid car and what will it matter then because there’s nowhere you’d rather be than right here, fighting to close the gap. The space between generations, as the youth surge away leaving their elders behind. So it always was, and ever will be.
Why today? Why not in a year, or a month even. You’re not ready to have your flaws laid bare, your weaknesses displayed in front of you, paraded ahead of you in that yawning chasm between you and the tête de la course. The kop van de wedstrijd. You are group 2. Chasers. Achtervolgers. But not yet arrière du peloton. Not yet.
The gulf between him and you is a gaping maw where you will lose or find yourself, an exposer of truths too terrifying to look upon, like a scouring pad on road rash, cleansing dirt from your wound, or driving it deeper. A mirror.
Hesitation snags you, threatens to pin you down and own you. It’s your choice whether to scrape yourself raw, turn yourself inside out and bare the livid bruises of recently inflicted defeat, as you drag yourself across. But sticking in the bunch is not a choice. It’s surrender. Worse than the fear of the chasse patate as you flounder alone in the in-between, knowing they’re judging you, as the bottomless pit beckons you in, reaches and wraps itself around you, clinging on as you labour, pulling you back by your heart, via your legs.
You drive. Don’t think, don’t think. Ride. The buzzing in your ears confirms the truth. It’s you, versus the race. The road. Will they laugh at you or commend you, shake their heads at your delusion or laud your effort? What does it matter. You’re fighting against the empty space, the terror of falling into the void, being left behind, of losing the thing you love, of the passion that twisted its way into your heart and gripped you by the soul way-back-when being forcibly wrenched out, leaving you incomplete, a half-thing, a shell. You’re fighting not for life but for what makes you want to live.