I look up at the night sky in front of me and frown. Damn near seventy miles out, north and slightly west, surrounded by pitch black night, and in the crisp, cold air I can still see the signs of the city radiating over the horizon. My frown twitches into a grimace as I flex my hands. I hold up my throttle hand and try to close it. Nope. Still too swollen. It felt better though. Perhaps the 2000 milligrams of Advil I'd downed in a gulp were starting to do something. I hoped so...I really wanted to ride. I wanted to get home.
I needed companionship. I needed human contact. I needed to see and touch and feel a soul that wasn't broken. I knew where one was...but right now I simply couldn't reach her. Instead I was here. Unable to ride. Absolutely alone.
Can you hear me, can you hear me?
Through the dark night, far away...
Gawd, I hate this city. Well, that's not really fair. I hate it...and hate it with a passion...except for when I love it.
Tonight though, it had ground up and spit out another unprepared soul. Worse, it had sucked me into the turmoil as well. It's not possible to come away from such an encounter unscathed. This city is infused with powerful emotions. Haunted, perhaps, with the essence of all the pain it can bring...with all the conflict. Emotional scars are a given. Physical ones nearly inevitable. Sometimes you're lucky just to escape alive.
I had helped one escape tonight. It had cost me some pain at the least, and maybe more tangible things later. The city had sucked her in and then nearly devoured her. By the time she realized she needed to escape it, it was far too late to do it on her own. I'd had to help and wanted somebody to blame...somebody to hold responsible. There were those that had been the cause of this night's events...I grinned and tried to make a fist again...they, at least, had not escaped unscathed, but they were just inevitable cogs in the machine. What was driving the overall system? No matter how I approached the problem, there was only the city. I couldn't punish the city.
I flexed my hands again and winced. The light gloves kept the cold night air from stinging the cuts and abrasions. I tucked them under my thighs. Perhaps the warmth would help.
This city. Yep. Tonight I hated it. Tonight I pondered its dark side...its corruption...its indifference...and its absolutely merciless appetite for the innocent.
In the darkened parking lot of the closed country gas station, I sat on the cold concrete and leaned my back against the still-warm motorcycle. Shortly I closed my eyes, concentrating on getting the throbbing pain in my hands under control, and struggling to keep the headache from getting any worse. Maybe soon I could ride.
I spit off to the side and nearly gagged. I hate the taste of blood.
Perhaps some sleep would help.
I couldn't help taking one more look toward the city, suddenly knowing it for what it was, realizing just how beautiful it was from a distance. Understanding how easily it lured the unwary. The ominous glow above the horizon seemed to taunt me and to confirm my growing unease.
The city...itself...has become a predator. Like blood, bone, and organs, everything in it serves the purposes of the entity...or is expelled, or worse, destroyed.
A predator. Alive. Growing. Powerful. Absolutely ruthless.
I'd won tonight, but how much fight do I still have in me?
I close my eyes and breathe deeply.
Perhaps the answers would come later.
Damn the thing anyhow.