Published recently on StoryShack with the accompanying artwork from talented illustrator – Daniele Murtas.
In place and awaiting the signal, Jeff checked-off his protocol list.
Seatbelt — check.
Helmet — huff, check.
Gloves — check… and on down the line.
The body of the car stretched out to over twenty feet in length, its weighty engine hugged the tarmac, covered by a rear spoiler of monumental proportions and decorated in the most garish of paint jobs.
The radio sparked into life and hummed in Jeff’s ear.
“Jeff? Can you hear me?”
“I hear ya, Cliff”.
“OK. Everything feel good?”
“Yup — engine’s roaring like a kitty in a kibble store”.
“Good ta hear, buddy. Listen – you sure ‘bout this?”
Jeff sat in his bucket seat and rolled his eyes.
“Come on, Jeff. We need a bit of honesty here…The Crash!”
Jeff felt his blood begin to boil.
“I’m OK, Cliff. It’s in the past”.
“YES!” he snapped…”Sorry, yes, I’m sure”.
“Alright, in that case, I expect you ta go like the clappers when the green hits, ya got me?”
“I got ya, Cliff”.
The radio crackled and Jeff was alone again. The crowds up and down the sides of the strip were cheering — he was the main attraction. The crash had been weeks ago and all the sport-casters could talk about. There’d even been talk of suspending the races, but that would never happen. The fans wouldn’t allow it. Neither would the sponsors. And besides, it wasn’t even his fault — she’d run onto the track.
Jeff looked over at the car next to him. Through his cockpit he could see Hal Johnson. This was it — the final. Jeff — 101 points, Hal — 104, whatever the result, the winner took all today.
The nitromethane lulled in the fuel tank, aching for that spark to fly. The lights hung high above them. The crowd cheered in anxious moans.
Jeff and Hal waited.
Smoke spat from the exhaust like a blow-dryer on high, the cars edged forward and then paused for a fraction on the start line. The guttural scream from behind him invaded his ears and resonated throughout his skull.
In an instant, the lights turned and the cars shot forward.
For Jeff, that instant seemed to last substantially longer. The forces dragged him backward and clamped him in place, while the same power pushed the car forward at a frightening speed. No steering, just the most minor of adjustments — Jeff knew — Jeff remembered.
The crowd flew by in his peripheral vision and the finish line came and went.
The judder from the parachute caused the straps to cut into Jeff’s shoulder blades. The blood would show later.
Who had won?
The cars slowed to a manageable speed and coasted to a stop.
The radio clicked and the words seeped through.
Jeff shook his head, trying to dislodge the hum.
“Jeff, ya hear me, you won!”