Speed

My car casts a long shadow on the empty road ahead of me as I sit perched atop a small rise in the roadway basking in the setting sun. It’s summer, so the days are long, and the heat radiates from the road like a slow-cook oven. The smell of rubber permeates the air. I can smell it through my whining air-conditioning vents. My stop was abrupt and jarring but certain.

I tap the accelerator and the engine growls in response. The power brings a smile to my face as I peer out to the long stretch of blacktop before me. There’s a long straight-away, and then, the road snakes around another hilltop and comes briefly back into view before it lunges into the sun-beaten terrain for good. I haven’t seen another car in what feels like an hour. I have the road to myself. Good.

I pump the clutch and pop the car into first gear, and as I let out the clutch, gravel spins beneath my tires and rattles against the frame of my car. The rear end slashes sideways as I jerk the car into the road. The tires catch the blacktop and I gain speed rapidly. The engine groans until I shift gears all the way up to sixth. The speedometer reads 80 mph, 90 mph, and then sails north of 100 mph.

The straight-away disappears beneath my tires quickly, and I bound into the first bend in the road. Gravity tugs at me as I lean into the curve. My car hugs the road like a go-kart. I own the road. The next curve comes quickly and I shift in the other direction, again hugging the curve and fighting the forces that threaten to pull me off the road.

After a few zig-zags, I’m back on a long, straight road just on the other side of the hill I just circumnavigated. I push the gas against the floor. The engine roars in response as the car impossibly gains more speed. Should anything roll or step into my path at this moment, my car would be obliterated. The speed is intoxicating, a dangerous drug that could kill, but I don’t care.

More curves lie ahead and I grip the steering wheel tightly in anticipation of not slowing down. The bend comes rapidly, and I can feel the muscles in my arms tense as I spin the wheel to keep the car on the road. The taut steering feels good in my hands. I feel as close to the road as I could be without actually lying on the pavement. The turns are violent but sure-handed. I can’t get the wicked smile off my face.

I shoot out of the knots in the road like a rocket and bolt down another straight-arrow stretch that rumbles across the barren, grassy plain. For miles around me, I see nothing but small hills covered with burnt, gold grass heaving in the late afternoon sun. The hills project long shadows that offer some respite from the heat and momentary pockets of darkness that disorient my vision as I whisk around the curves.

The engine roars like a lion, a king of the asphalt jungle. As I race to one horizon, the sun races to the other. Finally, the shadows get so long that darkness begins to fall. Even my high-beam headlights struggle to give me the foresight to keep up the speed. I slow down, give into the night. My engine begins to purr, content or disappointed, I’m not sure. Up ahead, the bright lights of a city await. The freedom of the vast, vacant plain lies behind me, but the speed siren calls. I promise her I will be back. I most certainly will.

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