Out of There
It was time to get out of there. Everything had been set in motion and what I had done as my part would either make a positive influence or it would not. Even though the stake was sleepless nights for dozens of people, I didn’t see the point in waiting around to find out what happened. Deep down I knew that like always I’d come back to pick up any fallen pieces, bat at the moment, as I slipped into my leather jacket and shouldered my bag, I was feeling that win or lose, I was out of there. I’d had it.
I shut down my machines and turned off my lamps, and I poured out my cold coffee. The place was quiet, uncomfortably so after too much hectic noise. My nagging memory flashed through images of worried people, frantic people in unchanged clothes, the smells of sweat and fast food and hurried, angry cigarettes. I was out of there.
I shoved open the door and before I heard it click shut behind me I was already five steps toward the parking lot, and as I walked the winter air reached down into my lungs and somehow began to flush out my brain. I heard only my heels on the pavement and a few tree branches, bare and brittle and scraping against each other n the light wind.
There were two vehicles parked close to the building, but mine was off by itself, away from the edge of the parking lot, left deserted in a spot I had been luck to find empty when I’d arrived. It was just a ride, just a machine, but it was comforting to see it there. Over the past couple of years she had carried my sorry carcass many miles, and she lay there in the lot, patiently waiting for me, ready and eager to carry my bones many more miles. Her strength and speed were dependable, and although she was just a ride, just a machine, she was also an old friend. I fingered the access code, the hatch gasped opened, and I tossed in my bag.
I climbed in, entered the keys, and started the ignition motor. She shuddered once, shaking off the cold, and then awakened, yawning with the whine of high rpm’s. As I buckled my safety harness I noticed the condensation of my breath; it would take just a few minutes before the cabin temperature was comfortable. The engine warmed up, blending harmonic vibrations into a soothing hum, and I pulled on my leather gloves, ready to drive.
Without thinking: clutch in, engage tranny, ease the throttle in and ease the clutch out, and although definitely sub-sound, I be rolling! I was out of there, leaving it all behind me.
I cautiously entered the empty road, and immediately on a straight section I did a slow-hand serpentine to warm up the tires. The pavement was dry; the sunshine had been intense all day, although now, very late in the afternoon, it was low and golden on the snow. I worked through the gears and gathered just a little speed, and when I steered into the first series of curves the wheel was weightless in my hand. Time to fly.
I went up the hill to Ridge Road, snaking through the forest, the road covered with shadows of tall trees and bars of bright sunlight, up to the top, breaking out into the open, the fields flowing away on either side, a fence of weathered wood rails lining the road, along the backbone of the hill and then down, my wheels repeatedly dropping beneath me just enough that I felt my guts rise, the sunset growing into a band of rosy orange under a dome of violet blue, my little rocket sled taking the turns just fast enough to nudge me against the harness, down, insulated from all sounds but the smooth rise and fall of engine revolutions, down in to the valley, down, down and out of there!
It didn’t take long, but by the time I got to the highway the night had just about taken over. Near the ramp I pulled off the road and got out to stand up and take off my jacket. On both sides of the road there were some petro stations and convenience stores, and the alleys between them the snow was taking on the deep blue and purple hues of winter twilight. I could see the bright light of Venus, and soon the clear sky would be crowded with stars. A single old automobile passed from the other direction, its tires contentedly sighing on the pavement as it came and went. I got back inside, strapped myself in, and flicked on my running lights.
My sled was slightly rocking from side to side, its thumping engine telegraphing its restrained power. She was hot and ready to go, so I slipped the clutch and chirped the wheels, and I shot up the ramp, achieving highway speed before I was in the merge lane. There wasn’t much traffic, so I got on easily. I checked all the mirrors, making sure of the sleds around me, and when I was satisfied with my relative situation I relaxed and settled into the seat, once on the super slab, once again ready for the super glide.
I started the secondary ignition sequence and eased over toward the leftmost lane, leaving my turn signal on to let everyone know that I was preparing to come through . . . Actually, radio and radar did that, so beside being a courtesy to those nearby on the road, the constant turn signal was mostly just a carryover from the old days of the Autobahn, just a bit of romantic nostalgia kept alive by the legions of sledders.
I drove along, waiting for clearance. My caffeine headache began to fade, and I was lulled by the highway’s hypnotic pattern of lane markers passing underneath me and the running lights of other sleds receding into the darkening distance and the soft movements of my sled’s suspension caressing the road. Two sleds passed me “on the rail,” and then I received my go-ahead.
Secondary ignition had been ready and waiting; in a flurry of movements I locked on to laser steering, twisted the overhead lever that extended the stabilizing wings, and lit the rocket. I was headed for the other side of the territory, back to the desert: I was out of there!
I leaned my skull backwards into the headrest, and as I felt the smooth push of the rocket behind me I sunk into the cushioned seat, so warm and familiar. The sled automatically moved “onto the rail” and I pushed the wheel away from me, shut my eyes, and reclined the seat. Finally able to completely relax, I surrendered to the seductive grip of my fatigue.
The rocket went sonic and reached cruising speed, and once again my old sled carried me in a super glide into the black, star-lit night. By the red light of the dashboard I looked through my discs until I found some summery jazz, and then I pulled my sheepskin-lined leather jacket over my chest like a blanket, and I fell asleep. I was out of there, going home.