Was “The Survivor” Going Crazy?

Short Stories for the SoulFrom my soon-to-be-published Short Stories for the Soul:

“The Survivor”

I glance down as the speedometer’s passing 90. No helmet, of course. The sun’s setting under a blushing sky, succumbing to darkness. Dark is good, closer to oblivion than light.

Leather-gloved hold on my Ninja 650, engine fever pitched. Hunched behind the windscreen, wind thundering over my head, I’m riding a rocket. A long, straight stretch, and I surge to 120, 130. Adrenaline pumping. A car in front of me. I pass it as if it’s standing still—and the whoosh makes life feel almost worthwhile.

But I’ll always have to stop. No matter how fast or how far, I’ll eventually have to stop.

“Let me die,” I whisper behind clenched teeth.

            No, comes a voice.

I could try to pop a wheelie at 150—that might do it. Or go off a cliff—no cliffs here, just hills and valleys.

            I said no.

I’m not drunk or high. And I’m not daydreaming. Speed clears the mind. Focuses it. And this kind of speed hacks off every peripheral thought. There can only be focus.

            It’s not your time.

“What the––” I’m not speaking to myself. Really I’m not.

I’ve been looking for a bridge abutment. That way no one else will get killed. I don’t need to add more guilt onto my pile. A person shouldn’t survive the way I did. I’ve ridden half an hour. Don’t even know where I am. No bridges. Only farm fields and cow pastures. Sheesh. It’s easier to kill yourself in the suburbs than in the countryside. I should’ve thought of that.

I will not take you. It’s not yet your time.

I’m not speaking to myself. I may be suicidal, but I’m not a weirdo.

            Neither am I. I’m astonishingly natural.

“Oh sure. Did God decide to talk to me?”


“Then what?”

Nothing. Just the deafening wind over my screaming engine. Of course. What else would I expect?

            I am Death.

“Whoa.” I let go of the throttle and press the clutch and brake, 120–90—60—

I’m not at liberty to take you yet. But tempt me once more, and I’ll let you be quadriplegic the rest of your life.

The voice pauses and I keep slowing, 40—20—10—

            Physical debilitation is not in my department, but I could see that it’s arranged.

I grind to a stop, stare at the pavement, then roll to the side of the road. Gravel crunches under the tires as the engine purrs. I’m panting, neck throbbing with a runaway pulse.

“Death doesn’t talk to people. It just comes and . . .”

            Generally that’s true. You’re one of the fortunate ones.

I look around just in case I might see some black phantom. Nothing.

            Most people run from me and encase themselves with caution and insurance. People tempt me with the way they live, even the way they eat. They fight me, especially in intensive care units. Sometimes it wearies me. When I temporarily spare a life, they think they win; when I take a life, they think they lose. Strange creatures.

“Looks different from the other side, eh?”

            Oh yes. The view is infinitely clearer. And here you are chasing me.

“Imagine that.”

            Yet your ambivalence contrasts your intent.

I don’t ask what he means. Doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do.

            Now if you’ll excuse me for a few years, I’ll be on my way.

And the voice is gone, leaving me to wonder if I’m going crazy. . . .