This story was originally published in March 2013 in the first (and, as of yet, only) print edition of renowned online flash fiction publication matchbook, which has since SOLD OUT. The “Author’s Note” at the end is a feature of all matchbook-published pieces.
“The Little Daredevil”
Waking from apocalyptic dreams, I realized that while I was dreaming those dreams they never once felt like nightmares. This disturbed me far more than the dreams themselves.
I figured a stroll through the gray, late-winter dawn might help.
The outside world was refreshingly chilly, and still but for a silent breeze. In my robe and slippers I hiked up the steep slope of my block until I reached the top, where the street dead-ends and the forest begins. That’s when I first noticed the sound. It must’ve been there for a while, but I don’t know when I actually started hearing it. It could’ve been there as soon as I left the house, buried by the colossal quiet. Or maybe I started hearing it subconsciously while I dreamed those apocalyptic dreams. All I know is that the sound didn’t just all-of-a-sudden start. It hadn’t startled me; it simply dawned on me.
It was a rusty, buzzing sound. A weed-whacker, I assumed, or a chainsaw. Despite my delicate, fluffy slippers, I ventured into the frosty, crackly forest in search of the source.
In the time it took me to hum “After The Gold Rush,” I came out of the forest and saw a dirt bike track, about an acre wide. A young girl drove a motorbike around the track at alarming speeds, her pigtails flapping behind her helmet-less head like furious otters. Dusty mud and muddy dust spewed in her wake, reckless and insouciant.
The bike zipped up a dirt-ramp and soared so high I was certain the girl would crash-land, crush her skull, and snap her spine. I stood frozen in fright, though I knew I should’ve been running toward her, to pick up her soon-to-be-mangled body as quickly as possible.
I was still frozen when she landed. The bike bounced and swerved along the track like a mechanical bull gone haywire. And yet, by some bizarre miracle, the girl held on and kept her balance. She righted herself just in time to zip up another dirt-ramp, terrifying me all over again. This second time she jumped even higher, and when she landed she bounced and swerved even more spastically before righting herself. She did it again and again and again: jump, bounce, swerve, straighten, jump, bounce, swerve, straighten…
I thought about trying to stop her. She was going to kill herself for sure. Of course, I instantly realized that if I ran out on the track and distracted her I could very well kill us both.
Then I thought: If that girl hadn’t crashed yet, could she ever crash? Could it be she had some divine, infallible gift for dirt-biking?
I stood and watched her, and fell into a prickly kind of spellbound. Ferocious, paralyzing anxiety wrestled with a tranquil, mountainous faith. I wanted to watch that little daredevil all day, but after about an hour I felt tired again. As she continued to rocket around the track, I headed back home to sleep and dream once more, comforted by a hunch that if the world were going to end, it probably would’ve ended by now.
Addendum to original Author’s Note (March 8, 2018): In spite of everything, I still believe in my original Author’s Note as much today as I did in 2013.