Race

We start admiring the vehicle, fantastic and unveiled, glowing with the rich brushstrokes of my paint. You only let me stick with the gold and blue part of my vision, with the bright gold stripe upturned at the back. In the end I had to admit you were probably right. The judges didn’t take kindly to glitz, no matter how well done. We couldn’t have imagined it any better. I mourned for the shortness of the time and I had with it and you, the real you I only knew for three months. You held me close and afforded me a quick peek before I ran back into the shadows and you ground the doors open to reveal my work to the sharp sunshine. My Sector 6 status dictated that I could not flash it for the crowd. You made it up to me on joyrides and meticulous plans for our escape. You were a very admirable Sector 2, never the pressure of 1, you’d say, but always a respectably ambitious driver.

Two years later, I take the car and run it around the shabby track. Somewhere between the 11th and 12th round I begin to feel dizzy. I slow to guide the vehicle into its garage. I struggle to climb out without falling. It hadn’t stopped glowing and humming, as if the engine had stuck itself inside me. The task of going back to my bubble was almost unbearable. As I walked, I tried to shake the feeling of being alive. The acid memory of the day we were supposed to celebrate was creeping up my throat, threatening to erupt. I tried to convert the feeling into body heat, rubbing my hands and remembering how the flames pulled at me. This was the only thing that comforted me, my struggle against the people who held me back. This might have been surprising. No one would care about who I was because of my class label. They could have let me leap into the fire. But no one noticed my clothing, my hair, or any physical marker. I suppose human instinct can be powerful.

They took pity on me, and despite my punishable presence at a Sector regulated event, I was only under house arrest for a few months. I may as well have been better off in prison. My body hadn’t had the tools to respond to regular functioning. It was days before I ate, or changed my clothes. The poison haze of chemicals flooding our residence from desperate production of nearby factories was rising to toxic levels. By now, I had risen from my catatonic state and developed a sense of self preservation. After my last joyless circle around the track, I began to pack the few belongings I thought I’d need.

I had expected the station to be chaotic, but the frenzy was more violent than I’d never seen before. Residents from all of the sectors were rushing to the available train that had arrived, class be damned. I pushed my way close to the car. I was more successful than others. I was used to the process because this is how our class traveled. As the doors were about to close, a young mother holding her child’s hand slipped inside before I could take another step. The subsequent push of bodies was impossibly fast. As I stepped I heard a shout. The child had slipped from her mother’s grasp. I looked down at the child turning in circles on the edge of the platform, too bewildered to cry. I lifted her above me, trying to avoid the crush of the crowd, and joined the bodies preventing the doors from closing. I struggled not to fall and pushed her down into the crying mother’s arms, in a space that seemed to be tailor made for her. I stepped back into the natural order that contained the people the train could and pushed many out. As the car whizzed away I saw a girl on the other side of the tracks who could have been me years ago. She lit a cigarette as she studied my figure. We both strained to hear the next train’s whistle and pondered the best position to climb on.