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It was my turn.
Dylan stopped the car, and I hopped out of the passenger’s side, landing flat-footed in my black All-Stars, feeling the shockwave travel up my bones.
Joel was already climbing off the bed, fingers white with the cold, his eyes wet from the wind.
He took my hand- his fingers were bloodless and frozen- and pressed it to the left side of his chest, eyes gleaming. His heart beat hard and fast, and mine sped up in response.
“Come on Faythe.”
Speed is my drug of choice. Not the narcotic, the velocity. There’s nothing more exhilarating than roller coasters, your body helpless against the hulking machine, the wind holding your eyes open, stealing your screams, and taking you and whirling you until all you want to do is lean against a wall and put your head between your knees, and stare at the concrete until you stop seeing spots and the ground stops spinning.
When I’d told the boys about my need for speed, they’d told me how they sated theirs. They swang off ropes into rivers and jumped off swings, they’d rented a boat and gone tubing. These things were all good. When they’d told me of their quests for adrenaline, their eyes had burned in their sockets, and their teeth had gleamed pale against their dark skin.
They’d saved the best for last: land surfing.
Speed is too expensive at Six Flags. After admission, food, gas, and line time, the highly intoxicating version of our drug costs too much for its value.
The silence of the wind roaring in your ears, the skin freezing wind, and the impartial moon in the sky illuminating the road a long way off is all you need.
It’s like flying.
I climbed into the truck bed, shedding my zip up hoodie, leaving me in a cotton tee shirt. It read “AP English, 2008”. It was ordinary; the fabric was blue, the lettering white, the script plain. Just a run of the mill, mostly cotton, unremarkable thing. Except when we surfed.
When we surfed it whipped around me, almost hurting my body, freezing cold, alive. It was ordinary until it came alive in the rushing wind, living off the high, like me.
Dylan handed me the rock-climbing harness, and I stepped into it. Jeans are a must for land surfing, or the harness scrapes the tender skin on the inside of your thighs.
My skin tingled in anticipation as his calloused finger jerked the harness tight, and clipped the carabineer to my harness.
We hadn’t always had a harness. Mike’s leg still has the scars to prove it.
He’d gotten sucked under the wheels of his own truck, and broken two ribs, his hip, and three vertebrae. One of the ribs had punctured his lung. Made panicky and anxious by the blood and his shallow breathing, we’d called an ambulance.
I’d had to explain to his mother how exactly we’d run over her son.
Joel had been next; falling off the back after Dylan had gassed the truck too hard. He’d survived, but dislocated his shoulder, and broken his arm in three places.
After that, I’d insisted we find a way to stay attached.
Dylan clipped the second carabineer in, checked the knots, then grabbed the second rope. It ran from the trailer hitch to the back of my harness, also secured by two carabineers. He secured it, checked the ropes, and jumped out of the bed.
Joel, his face starting to regain color, flashed me a grin, hopped into the passenger’s side, and slammed the door.
I was tethered just behind the cab, close enough to grab it, and when his door slammed it sent waves through the truck, vibrating from the passenger’s side door all the way to the left taillight.
Dylan paused at his door and looked into my eyes. We held the gaze for a moment, and I read… fear? Regret? Hesitation? His door slammed too, and I was alone.
The chill of nighttime was already raising goose bumps on my arms and neck, and I combed my fingers through my hair, then checked the carabineers again.
We hadn’t even had two ropes initially; we’d had one, in the front. We’d added the second when Dylan has been thrown onto the hood of the car during a sudden stop.
He’d broken his nose, and sprained his back.
That had been two weeks ago, and I could still see the bruises under his skin, yellowing as they healed. His nose had healed mostly straight; it didn’t ruin his handsome face.
This was the first time with the new rope.
The engine purred, and he started slow, having learned from experience that I was not a fan of jerky starts.
My left hand fiddled with my unsewn belt loop, pulling at the threads, twirling it around one finger, feeling with my thumb the stitches still intact.
The clouds were covering the moon, pearly gray with the light shining through them, the lightest things in the sky. A gust of authentic wind grabbed my hair and whipped it into a frenzy, wildly excited for the ride to come.
We turned a corner, and he poured on the speed.
Would I be the one that got hurt this time?
Every time we did this, someone got hurt. Three out of four of us had gone to the hospital for injuries.
I was overdue.
The wind howled, its icy moan freezing me and tearing my eyes open so I could see the black silhouettes of trees steal by silently. It lifted my mane and dragged its fingers through my locks with the fervor of an impassioned lover, and the other hand drew goose bumps on my skin as I froze, heart pounding.
The moonlight bleached my skin and darkened my glinting hair as it frothed around me, and in the silence of the never-ending roar I felt like a ghost.
What if they had to swerve, or there was a deer? I would get slammed against the side of the truck; the wheels or road would slough my skin off.
Was the high worth it?
I was shivering from the cold now, my muscles frozen in place as my heart pounded faster and faster, matching the engine for speed.
I flung my arms out like a pair of wings as I raced death towards the end of the ride, both excited and terrified by the road rushing by below me.
I think I screamed, but the speed stole it from me, and the perfect quiet was not disturbed. My heart thrashed in my chest, beating faster and faster. I whooped again, and managed to make sound.
Screw getting hurt! Screw being ordinary! Screw everything!
Everything but speed.
Laughter, joyous and maniacal reached my ears, and I realized it was mine. I was a specter that could rush over the land silently and powerfully. The thought sent my heart into frenzied palpitations, and I laughed again and again until the madness was cascading and building and I realized I had never been in control of this need.
The car slowed by degrees until I became aware once more of the limits of my body, and newly aware of the numbness in my fingers and face. I laughed, riding the adrenaline high far beyond the ground, moved stiffly onto the asphalt, and collapsed in the warm cab as pins and needles prickled back into my extremities, and the boys’ hot fingers pressed against my ribs to feel the pounding of my heart.