This a piece of flash fiction that is mostly an excuse to experiment with pacing. Centuries by Fallout Boy came up on Pandora and I got the urge to write something intense. I don’t know if this sliced moment about some near-future competitive sport is even coherent, but why else have a writing blog if you can’t throw stuff like this on?
The stadium lights flash. I take a deep breath, feel the electric sandalwood smoke spark up my lungs, send supercharged electrons through my bloodstream. My fingertips tingle. My skin heats up. The lights flash again. It’s time to go. I’ve prepared for this moment. Run the practice course a billion times, run chemical enhanced visualizations, done VR. But there’s no preparation at all. The platform beneath my feet disintegrates, and I fall.
Air screams in my ears as I plummet downwards. In my frictionless suit I fall faster, faster, faster. 32 more feet per second, per second, per second. The cacophony of the wind screeches its gleeful and permanent abandonment of terminal velocity. Particles in the air smash into my body like cannonballs. I squeeze my body close so I’ll fall faster. Faster than the others. I’m a comet. I’m a bolt of lightning. I’m an angel hurled out of heaven by a furious god. I fall.
A thousand thoughts speed through my head in a few moments. I can’t see them. They shred. Don’t worry about the tiny patch of safety below me. Don’t worry about the acres of spiked death surrounding it. There’s no death, there’s no taxes, there’s no me. There’s just exhilaration, the explosion of color as the world races by me. And the fall.
Blackness consumes the universe. I’m in the tunnel. I made it. I didn’t die. And I didn’t slow down. I know that I’ve curved, that I’m looping and swerving through the labyrinth. I can’t see it. In my frictionless suit I can barely feel it. I loosen my neck muscles for the barest instant, and my head smacks against the wall. I go dizzy. I don’t care. I hope it didn’t slow me down.
Supernova sunlight annihilates my vision. Wind banshee-wails its reintroduction into my world. I’ve emerged. Out of the tunnel, into the open. I fly upwards, higher, higher. Colors bleed into a violent, gory mess of a vision around me as I rocket through the air. I thrust my head backwards, point my eyes up. It’s quick, but delicate. I could snap my neck, but I have to be able to see.
There they are. The bars. Far away, but not for long. They’re superlit, a thousand green spotlights illuminate them like the sun. I’m moving so fast I can’t see shapes, but I see them. Ecto Cooler green, speeding towards me, or I’m speeding towards it. At this velocity it’s all the same. I’m a beam of light hurtling through space. Massless. Infinite.
It’s coming. I stretch out my arms. The timing has to be perfect. I could come too hard and my bones will shatter. My aim could be slightly off and I’ll slide right past. I could just miss. I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m not going to miss.
I’m slowing down. I shot through the tunnel, now I’m flying off. Residual speed from my fall is all I have left, and I’m losing it. Losing too much? Too slow and the others get there first. Too fast and I fly past. None of that is going to happen.
I curve my fingers just so. I careen towards the bars. Here it is. They’re coming. I can make out sounds, now. Louder than the wind, more chaotic, more controlled. Crowd-sourced thunder. It’s the fans. The enormous mass of them. They are screaming their lungs out. I ignore them. I can’t ignore them. I flex my fingers. This is about to happen.
The bars are so close now they’re made of matter in my vision, not just light. That means one more second. Less than a second. It’s happening now. By the time I think it, it’s already done. Too fast for thought. My aim is perfect. My fingers smash into the bars. They’re stiffened, frozen by the cold. Just enough. I feel the metal in my hand, barely. My hands close just, enhanced grip tight enough to crush stone. The rest of my body whips past, still moving so quickly.
Everything wrenches. There’s a sickening crunch. I’ve broken ribs, maybe my pelvis, dislocated both shoulders. I don’t care. The force is intense. It’s angry. It tries to rip me off of the bars. I don’t let it. I hold tight. I swing back down and dangle off of the bars. I’m exhausted, spent, useless, but I have to hold on. Adrenaline, real and artificial, pumps through me. I have no strength, no energy, just willpower. Real and artificial.
The world comes into view. The crowd is all around me. There are so many of them. Did I know that? I can’t think about it. They are screaming, tearing up their lungs, losing their minds. I hear clanks around me, sickening crunches. The other competitors are arriving. The same controlled collisions with the bars, the same massive damage to their insides. Moments after me. Was I the first? I don’t know. I can’t think. I can’t concentrate. I have to hold on.
In a minute the medical staff will run out to recover me. They’ll pump me full of restorative tonics, reparative nanites, they’ll throw instacast wraps over my bones so they can be reset. Then I’ll see the scores. Then I’ll know the results. I think I was first. I think I’ve won. But I can’t concentrate on that now. I have to hang on. Just a few seconds more. That’s all there is. That’s all that matters. I’ve almost done it. It’s been 37 seconds since the second light flashed. At most. My best time. I think I’ve beaten it. Just a few more seconds and I’ll know. Just a few more seconds.
It’s almost over.