Sunday, October 12, 2008

Invisible Motorbike

I dreamed of an invisible motorbike (among other things) last night. This story is the result of that dream, and a warm up (maybe) for Nanowrimo (3 weeks!). [Note: this is the edited, and much less bad, (I can't guarantee it's any good) version.]
Faith didn’t usually stay out late at night. She was a little bit too quiet and a little bit too introverted to thoroughly enjoy the club scene. And when she did stay out late, she almost always arranged for friends to walk her back to her apartment. She was a little bit too small and a little bit too spacey to feel entirely safe by herself late at night. So it was more than a little bit unusual for her to be staggering down the street at two AM, slightly tipsy from her night on the town and mostly just chilled to the bone from the walk. So she was worried at every corner that someone would appear and assault her, at the same time she told herself the crime levels in the city were at an all-time low.

If only Michelle hadn’t met that cute boy from across town. Or if Jeremy had been with them. It was on his way home. But no one else lived anywhere close and so she was left alone. Which wasn’t, really, much of a problem. She was already just across the street from her apartment, and her wonderfully warm radiator exuding its steam heat. She smiled just thinking of her cozy bed and stepped across the street.

It was thus, preoccupied, that she almost ran into the man on the invisible motorbike. She screamed and fell back, landing heavily on her wrist. He swerved out of the way and screeched to a halt on the pavement, staring at her quizzically.

“You can see me,” he said bluntly, puzzled.

“Well, you’re not invisible,” she answered, taking what she decided were deep, calming breaths. She didn’t feel terrified anymore, not now that the motorbike had stopped moving. She thought maybe the alcohol was preventing her from processing it. “That’s just your motorbike.”

He frowned. “If it’s invisible, how do you know it’s a motorcycle?”

She blinked, and was about to answer that he was sitting on it like a motorcycle, and it made a growling sound like a motorcycle, and so it had to be a motorcycle, but he had disappeared, and all she could see was a single headlamp shooting through the dark.

#

The invisible motorbike had been Peter’s idea, although Morgan often claimed it for herself. Back when they just had a red Yamaha bike and a massive load of debt, making it invisible had seemed like the sort of obvious gimmick that a certain group of people would go for. It had, slowly and only among those keen enough to see it, become his trademark. If you ever saw a boy – no, rightly a man, although at high speeds he looked even younger than he was – crouched over, clutching invisible handlebars, flying down city streets, it was Peter on an errand or another.

“I’d appreciate it if you at least wore your helmet when you went out joyriding,” Morgan said without even turning to look at him entering the office.

“I met a girl on my way here,” Peter answered bluntly, ignoring her comment. Morgan raised an eyebrow. “She almost ran into me.”

Morgan shrugged. “People are always running into you, Peter,” she said cattily. “It comes with the territory of having an invisible motorbike.” When Peter didn’t seem surprised, she added, “It’s one of the reasons you should wear a helmet.”

“She could see me,” he answered thoughtfully, and Morgan was suddenly silent. “She knew I was riding a motorbike.”

“She could see the bike?” Morgan snapped.

“Of course not,” Peter replied, grabbing his helmet from its high shelf, tugging at the chinstrap. He hated the way it mussed up his hair like a small child’s. “But she knew what it was anyway.”

Morgan snorted. “What was her name?”

“How would I know? I didn’t stay to chat.”

Morgan rolled her eyes and sighed in frustration. “Why did you tell me, then?”

Peter shrugged. “You take an interest in my life, sometimes,” he said softly, and fell into the worn eyesore of a couch that soiled the wall of the office. “I can never tell when you’ll be interested and when you’ll be sour. Give me a break, Morgan, what do you want from me? I mean, just yesterday you were --

“Enough,” she said. “If you don’t hurry, you’ll be late to pick up the keynote for the voodoo convention from her hotel.”

“I’m never late,” Peter said, frowning as he slid his helmet onto his head. “Which hotel?”

“The Omni, on Franklin. And the convention is at the Hyatt. After that, you’re travelling north to pick up some Mandrake for old Mrs. Smith.”

“She can’t pay,” Peter said. “She never pays.”

“Consider it a charity case, then,” Morgan replied. “Giving back to the community.”

Peter sighed. “And then?”

“Then come back. I’m manning the phones; the psychics told me they’d be late to get back to me about their order three weeks ago. So I’m expecting a phone call any time now.”

Peter nodded, and was gone.

#

Faith woke up with a splitting headache, a throbbing wrist, and the strangest recollection of a man on an invisible motorbike. She looked at the clock beside her bed; 10:00 AM on a Saturday. She had been out with friends last night, late. The headache must be a hangover, and the motorcycle must have been a dream.

She stumbled into the kitchen and put on the kettle for tea. She had read somewhere that the best way to cure a hangover was hydration. She had never needed to test that assertion before. She winced as the kettle whistled cheerily and poured her cup of tea.

It had really been the most vivid dream. She could remember his blue eyes in the two AM darkness, and his wind-blown hair. He hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

Why hadn’t he been wearing a helmet?

And why would she remember something like that about a dream? And how could she tell he had blue eyes if it was two AM?

By the light of the headlamp, of course, a small voice said. But she just sighed and sipped her tea. She had errands to run, and resolved to let the dream fade into the mist of forgetfulness, like the rest of her dreams.

But all day, she kept flashing back to startled blue eyes, and a single headlight. And after dinner, as she washed the dishes, she had a resolution. She called Michelle, just to make sure her plan wasn’t too crazy.

“I had the strangest dream last night,” Faith finally said after Michelle had gone on about Darren (so that was the cute boy’s name) for a few minutes.

“Well?”

“I was walking home from the metro at two in the morning, and I was almost run over by a man on an invisible motorbike.”

“How did you know it was a motorbike if it was invisible?”

“He asked me that,” Faith said. “From the way he was sitting on it, I guess. And the single headlight. And the sound.”

Michelle sounded nonplussed even over the phone. “You don’t think it was a dream.”

“Well, no. My wrist is awfully sore today.”

Michelle sighed. “You probably just slept on it funny.”

“I don’t think so. It’s bruised and everything, like I fell on it.”

“Might it have been a black motorbike, and you just couldn’t see it well in the darkness?”

“No. I could see his leg through it.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

Faith paused. “I’m going to wait outside, see if he drives by again.”

Michelle sighed. “You’re going to stand around outside until two in the morning? Need I remind you of all the reasons that’s a bad idea?”

Faith, truthfully, knew all the reasons it was a bad idea. Even in her relatively safe neighborhood, standing on a street corner for hours was a wonderful way to attract attention of exactly the wrong sort. “He was on an invisible motorbike. I can’t just let that sort of thing pass me by,” she said slowly.

“Notwithstanding the fact that you probably dreamed him up,” Michelle said, “You certainly can let something like an invisible motorbike pass you by. In fact, it seems like it being invisible would make it particularly easy to pass by.”

Faith snorted derisively. “You have absolutely no imagination, Michelle,” she said.

“And you, my friend, have too much. Keep safe, and warm, and don’t get mugged.” Michelle paused for a moment. “Call me tomorrow morning, okay? Promise?”

Faith smiled. “Yes, mother,” she answered wryly, before hanging up and looking out the window, pensive. It was as much as a blessing as she was likely to get from Michelle.

At twelve-thirty AM, she pulled on a few layers over her pajamas, grabbed a thermos of hot chocolate, and crept down the stairs to sit on the stoop and wait.

It was quiet, and cold, with a fresh sprinkling of snow on the ground, but her thermos kept her hands warm and her wool socks and insulated boots kept her feet warm, and she felt a little bit like a small child again, waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney.

Around one thirty, she was dozing off, when she saw a single headlight approach. She stepped to the edge of the street.

He was moving fast.

She threw herself out in front of him. So it can be said, this second time, that it was entirely her fault.

There was a screech of brakes, and a muttered curse, and she stood, smiling broadly.

“You again!” he said.

“Sorry,” she answered, not looking very sorry at all. “I have an answer to your question.”

“What question?”

If it’s invisible, how do you know it’s a motorbike?” She recited. “I’ve been thinking about it all day. And it’s the way you’re sitting on it. And the headlight. And it smells like a motorcycle, all burned rubber and worn leather and waxed metal. And the humming, revving sound the engine makes.” She smiled. “But you should be wearing a helmet,” she said, looking at his once again windblown hair.

The man looked marginally impressed. She hopped from one foot to another and glanced from side to side. The cold was finally getting to her. “I have hot chocolate,” she said, holding out her thermos.

He laughed, blue eyes sparkling in the lamplight, as he gulped down some hot chocolate. He handed her back the thermos, grinned and held out his hand. “I’m Peter,” he said.

“Faith.” She grabbed his hand and shook it, but he didn’t let go.

“You want a ride? As payment for the hot chocolate,” he said. It wasn’t an offer, it was an assertion.

And Faith found that, when it came down to it, there was no reason for her to have stayed out the second night if she didn’t want a ride. “Sure,” she said with a smile. And then he was pulling her onto the motorcycle behind him, and he said only “Hold on tight,” before they were off.

It feels like the beginning of something bigger. But I can't decide where it goes from there, in part because that's where the dream ended.

Also, planted Pansies and Poppies in my garden. They are yellow and blue and generally beautiful. I loved picking them out, and I loved how dirty my hands got when planting them. Hopefully they will survive! If they do, I'll go back to the gardening shop next weekend to get more flowers for the back. Maybe some herbs too for a real kitchen garden. If they die, I'll have to reevaluate my ability to do things like have plants.

7 comments:

ayn said...

Hooray for planting things!

I'm intrigued by your story, the motorcycle bit, but I have admit I was a bit put off by the scene in the coffee shop, starting with the customer commenting on her looking young...to me, she really didn't seem to be acting like a 22-year-old, and it didn't make sense to me why her boss would call her a "child runaway" when surely he knows her real age? Her interactions with Peter seem very different from either her bitter inner dialogue or her fuming interactions with customers.

But I want to know what's up with the motorcycle, mostly in relation to her.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

^_^ I just have to cross my fingers; if the flowers survive they'll be beautiful throughout the winter!

I pretty much agree with you about the story; I had no idea what I was doing with Faith, or who I wanted her to be, other than I wanted her to be running from something at the end, and I wanted her to be able to see/intuit the motorbike when others couldn't. And so her character is inconsistent and uncompelling. So whereas I like the idea of the motorbike, and the girl/woman/person who gets on the motorbike to get away from her troubles, I don't like any of the other things in the story. In the end, I probably should have waited until I had a better idea of where I wanted this to go before posting it. Or perhaps writing it. Oops.

Leah said...

it sounds like a beginning. A good beginning, you want to know more.

Embly said...

I really enjoyed reading this! dream inspired stories are awesome!

ayn said...

You definitely didn't make a mistake by writing it down--that's never a mistake and you know that. As for posting it, that's up to you. I guess it's a matter of whether you would rather wait to have something in more completed form before opening it up to public scrutiny, or if you'd rather present beginning stages because you don't want critiques on a more polished stage. Or anything in between/any combination. Whatever. =)

Elizabeth said...

@Mom, Emily: Yay! I'm glad you liked it!

@Ayn: I appreciate criticism at just about all points in the process. I would say that it is more useful at later points, because a greater proportion of it brings up things I would not otherwise have thought of. Also, while I agree that it's never a mistake to write something down eventually I know of quite a few stories/images/things, and this may well be one, which I needed time to think about and fit into a larger plot before I wrote anything good involving them. Having something written already, in that case, only makes me want to revise it instead of starting afresh -- when starting afresh might be the better option.

What I'm saying is that I need to get better at letting story arcs go, and mining them for their few good ideas.