GOING UNDER

bike crash

by Jakob Ryce

\

He’s going to go under, I’m sure of it. As I stand by the side walk, I look on with complete assurance that I am about to witness an ill-fated daylight accident, warts and all.

/

The road is tar-wet, the rain pricks at my skin, my fingers are milky dew around the grips of my handlebars. A yeast heavy, vinegar smell, hangs in the air – as if the road is a thing, a formless beast in heat during mating season. I don’t like the smell of asphalt, I like the smell of creosote.

\

When his head hits the track and bounces under the wheel of the SUV, all will turn. They will stop, reach down and pull out their smartphones and wind up their fingers. They won’t think twice.

/

The stream of traffic is constant. These hurried commuters, tracing out their daily vectors, fouling up the air. They don’t see it, but they are zoological, hungry monstrosities; each occupant the corporeal property of their vehicle.

\

This poor man’s opened skull, his eyes curled back like half-hidden gems – will be all over Instagram, maybe for an hour before the censors catch it. He will be infamous for nothing more than being killed in a biking accident.

/

I feel something move from under me. I catch the reflection of my helmet in its shiny, metallic rims swallowed by gravel-encrusted barnacles. I feel the front tire of my bike clasp the steel groove of the tram-track – rubber slipping against the scorched slick road—buckling, everything moving too quickly, too slowly.

\

This will be the last thing people remember about this guy – his entire life, and everything in between will never be known to the world, apart from his final moments.

/

The mouth of the wheel looms closer. It’s going to swallow me. I think of what I could’ve done differently: could’ve waited a little longer, shifted gears, kicked across the road like a drenched snake heading for a river.

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This man’s life will be reduced to rumour, speculation and jokes.

/

I think of D. I see her smiling at me, that complete smile—and I might ask her if everything is going to change, if time can be reversed and she might say: yes, of course, you can return home with me. Home.

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I want to help him, but my feet are glued to the pavement.

/

Here it is. The moment. I watch as my front wheel turns and the world swings sideways. I didn’t think I would die like this. I never pray but I want to say a prayer now, so I try. It’s short.

\

I take out my phone and snap a photo.

/

I pray.

\

I furrow. Blink. My brain does not register what it sees.

/

I feel myself moving now as one conscious globule. I am sliding in a rush of water. My eyes wide open. I cannot close them but the water doesn’t sting. I see a golden tip where my nose used to be.

\

I check my phone. Everyone around me stops, their mouths gaping. They check their phones.

/

I don’t remember there being a river, but now here it is and I am surrounded by it. I can’t struggle, I can only wobble my agitated, bulging body as I plunge forward between great steel banks in the violent brackish water.

\

My eyes can not look away from the photograph. Nothing. No man—just his bike under the wheel of the SUV. Gone. People don’t vanish do they? Do people vanish? We are all still, unblinking – eyes fixed on the space between us and the missing man.

/

Something is terribly wrong. Clearly I have died. This must be what happens—instead of a tunnel of light you get a funnel of gushing water. My mouth feels too large for my head and I can’t feel my neck.

\

The driver of the vehicle is speaking to an elderly man with enormous frames, who witnessed the incident. Her head is shaking, her mouth is moving in reverse. Her hands are striking at invisible bubbles in front of her. She gestures to the mangled bike, the wheel, the gap where there should be a dead man. The old man shrugs, his head droops to either side. His magnified eyes swallow up the side walk.

/

I don’t like this. I want it to stop. I want to get off. I try and scream but nothing but air comes in. I am having trouble breathing and something is going on with my sides. I feel something moving back there. I can’t feel my heart either—or if I can feel it, I don’t want to. I reach out my hands to make it stop but there are no hands, no arms, just rushing water.

\

The police arrive. They are interviewing the driver, then the man. I should step up, give a statement but I don’t know what I would say. Here one minute, gone the next. End of story. My eyes drift downhill, following the road. Maybe he did a commando-roll and ran, super fast, like The Flash or something. But super heroes don’t exist. Ridiculous things don’t happen.

/

There’s too much water. I gulp, my oversized mouth working. I’m not sure if I am choking. I think I know what I am but I don’t want to believe it, I can’t take it. I’m … wait … I can’t seem to remember my wife’s face … it was roundish, I think … like a crescent moon in the right … light … Angela? Stephanie? Her name … my name … I slip … stretch my sight … the world … enormous … great beasts loom above … Cars?

\

I slip my phone into my pocket. The show is over. The crowd has dissipated, the police are wrapping it up. I start walking home. What a story to tell the kids.

/

Words only … pieces … like photographs … time … report card … Benjamin … friend … 12 times table … remember … holiday coast marshmallows dog Claudio cats … sick … doctor … hello I’m B … thank you … painting … hurt finger ouch … mama … big boy … juice … milk … more … all gone.

Writer, student, wayfarer of a digital age. I write stories, essays and articles. https://medium.com/@jakobryce | @JakobRyce

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