Requiem For A Fallen Horse
... Five minutes later found me flying down the road on Julian's '97 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-7R. I knew this horse well, I'd worked on it for a long time. I'd hung the headers and helped jet the exhaust. I've changed the plugs and filters more often than I can remember.
It's an old friend.
It's been five long months since I last swung my legs over a horse this fast. I'm nervous, but I'm not scared. It's a familiar sensation, though not like I thought it would be. All my experience comes back to me in one massive wave.
I feel the throb of the compact four cylinder liquid cooled power plant beneath me, deep in the frame. The singing of the tires on the pavement, the intricate weight of my body as I lean back and forth to control the angle of attack of the Ninja. Everything is instinct, second nature.
So why am I on this horse now? That's simple. You see, I'm looking for something, something that I've been looking for nearly five months now. What it is, I honestly don't know ... I know I've lost it, this something that I can't find, but I don't know what it is that I've lost.
What have I lost?
When did I lose it?
Why can I not ever find it again?
Where has it gone?
These are the questions I have, questions that must be answered. I have no answers, but this horse and I, together we're going to find what I've lost. We're going to find the answers right now. We just need a chance to look, this horse and I.
Just one chance.
Together, we look, this horse and I, and there it is, spreading out in front of us ...
A very long two lane. Flat. A straight away, jet black top with yellow paint divide stretching to the horizon. Hot asphalt and cracking sealer. Heat shimmers like intangible vapors across the hot, soft surface, reaching for me with spectral hands.
A chance to find the answers I so desperately need!
I smile at the opportunity that lays before us.
The Ninja, this horse, nods its head at the challenge.
Time to visit the altar at the Temple of Speed. Time to pay our respects to those who have gone before us, those who have played the game. I nod at the hot asphalt in front of me, roaring past us like a swollen black river. I reach down, patting the side of this horse that I'm now riding.
This horse I ride, it is ready to run. When I loose the reins, it will run at full breath and gallop in a head long rush in any direction I spur it on to.
Even into oblivion ...
The road calls, tauntingly. The spectral shimmering beckons more enticingly now. Only it holds the answers to my burning questions.
Fatum iustum stultorum, "the just fate of the foolish".
A pause of indecision, a unfamiliar twinge of hesitation, and then no more!
I must know what it is that I've lost. I ignore my personal demons and decide to fly with the angels once more. They have always protected me, is this time to be any different? This road is seducing me so sweetly I find that I can't ignore it. Hypnotized by the call, the monks at the Temple are chanting the mantra of speed now. They know my name! I heed their call, for am I not Icarus? I will find out now.
Like riders of old, I spur my steed forward, digging in with my heels as I work the reins, grabbing tighter. My body goes into motion, remembering from experience, acting on instinct. My left hand closes on the clutch, my left foot works the transmission, six gears, every one of them nothing but smooth. My left foot levers down, once, twice. The transmission jumps from fourth to third, to second. My left hand lets the clutch lever go as my right hand rolls the throttle back to its full stop.
Yah! I shout.
My spurs dig in and I let this horse run!
I open it wide. Full breath and high gait, a head long rush across the hot asphalt and burning tarmac.
The four hungry Khein carburetors under the cowl scream to life, sucking air through the twin ram air snouts of the Ninja, like the flared nostrils of the thoroughbred race horse that it is. A thoroughbred race horse at full gallop, this horse and I, we are headed for the Temple of Speed. There I shall find the answers to my burning questions.
I will find peace and serenity for my troubled soul.
Or I will find oblivion.
But the Temple of Speed is far away, hidden on the far right side of the clocks. Only fools go there. Fools and pilgrims!
I spur my mount on, faster and faster!
The engine under my legs howls like a banshee seeking revenge. The bike surges forward, almost leaping ahead. My grip tightens as I lean down further over the bike. My legs tuck in, grabbing the hot frame and hugging tight. Twin spar reinforced alloy chassis members flex like muscle wrapped bones, flex and hold.
This horse and I, we become one.
The exhaust note rises from a roar to a howl, then to a undulating scream. Pure music. The speedometer needle flashes past 80mph in the blink of an eye, then the ton two eye blinks later, then climbs on towards the far upper right of the gauge.
Numbers no truly sane person would ever appreciate. I hear the engine scream, it's wail growing louder as the tachometer needle climbs higher and higher. Nine thousand RPM. Ten thousand. Eleven thousand. Twelve thousand.
I'm listening to a different song now, a song the engineers have warned me never to listen to for this song is not of this Earth.
It's the Devil's favorite hymn, it is the gospel of Hell.
It's verses start at the far upper right of the tachometer and the chorus is clearly marked in red. It is a song of mechanical and engineering nightmares that exist beyond normal physical load limits, beyond factory specifications, beyond test limits and engineers calculations.
A realm of mechanical hell where insanity reigns supreme and the works of Man fail!
A song of incredible pressures and extreme temperatures. A song of instantaneous fluxes, broken materials, exceeded limitations, and hidden stress fractures. It is a song of deep harmonic vibration and pure mechanical torture. A song of unwarranted plasticity allowances and the upper limits of mechanical tolerances.
It is a song of metal and alloy and fuel and oil and electricity and fire. It's verses sing of ranges where materials that were solid just five hundred RPM before now become elastic and warp, exhibiting the properties of a liquid. Each verse sung invites greater degrees of calamity and misfortune. Brave deep into the song, third stanza, right before the chorus and you'll find hard metals and alloys that turn soft with the extremes of heat in the realms of physical abuse. Sixteen valves begin to float in their tapered seats in a macabre dance of impending destruction. Keep singing and connecting pins start to distort, bending under the centrifugal stress load of the weight of the pistons that they are slinging at speeds of over 200 RPM per second.
Catch your breath between lines as the piston slugs become unbalanced, tearing through the nightmarish soup of fuel, air, and artificially generated lightning, all spun into a super hot tornado-like swirl, at pressures twelve times greater than that of the air that you breathe. Deep breath, join in mid verse, and listen as the pistons scar the cylinder walls, super critical contact that etches the word destruction with each revolution, machined edges glow yellow, then red, then white, and the piston dish surfaces grow pitted with the craters of ill-timed detonations.
The song plays and plays, harder and faster the longer you sing it, but it is such a beautiful song... Seductive, like the sirens on the rocks calling to the sailors of yesteryear.
Fourth stanza, deeper still into this hellish song will bring holes melted in very surface of the piston slugs. The chorus will vocalize connecting rods reaching their terminal elastic point and snapping, letting go, separating with a scream of tortured alloy that instantly chills the blood solid and adds background harmonics to this hell-spawned symphony.
Those who have sung the song to it's bitter end can tell stories of broken crankshafts, twisted in half like a warm stick of taffy, spun journal bearings and twisted mains. The canticles are full of burnt valves frozen solid in their seats, broken valve springs turned brittle, shattering under the horrific physical hammering; pushed past their tolerances, the pieces of fragmented spring coils ricocheting around the interior of the valve covers.
Bells! Gongs! Every musical instrument of Hell is being prepared for the grand finale.
There comes the accompanying harmony of stripped teeth on the timing gears allowing the chain to float and spin off of its carriers, the cams, free know of their bridle, stampede away, wrecking destruction in their wake. Valves bend and snap, rockers flex and warp, bolts are stripped smooth.... The departing roller chain adding it's own shrieking voice to the symphony that includes the Devil's own harps. The rough touch of lobes on camshafts ground smooth from super critical contact, a liquid shower of sparks and torn metal cascading across the tops of the cylinders. It's all part of the same insane, seductive song.
The engine screams beneath me but the world has stopped.
There is only me.
And this screaming horse I ride, nostrils flared wide as it's heart beats two hundred and fifteen times a second.
And we're singing the redline!
This horse and I, we are singing the redline together!
Oil begins to coke and solidify into flakes. Fluids turn to solids and solids to fluids. Liquids turn to vapors and vapors escape broken seals. Coolant breaks down into its primary components, unable to carry away the extreme temperatures being generated in this mechanical Hell. Seals break down, gaskets leak, plugs foul, contacts score, insulation burns. Metal on metal contact begins. Fuel begins to vaporize in the feed lines, the flow becoming unstable. The tornado-like swirl in each chamber grows ever more frantic as each of the thirsty Kheins draws what it can, unbalanced, unsynchronized, each fighting with its siblings for any and all that it can drink.
A demonic chorus that is a culmination of all the voices in the choir of Hell singing.
It's the Devil's favorite hymn.
It is a song of metal and alloy structural tolerances beyond normal operational parameters.
A song that is sung only outside of the envelope. A song sung on the very Edge.
Insanity made physical and manifest, the more so the faster you go. Insanity. You can see it forming before you, like a shockwave, rushing toward you, to greet you with open arms and welcome you to oblivion.
It is a song on the Edge of the envelope. It is the call of the sirens, luring you to the Abyss.
... it's a place I used to call home.
But I know this song, I've sung it many times, and though I'm accompanied by all the choir of Hell, I dare not sing more! I force the engine faster and faster, deep into the redline, until I feel the engine stop making power. Deep into the redline, I can feel the engine living there, amid that mechanical Hell, there, alone, it's own song amidst the demonic chorus. This horse's song, distinct, ethereal, the vibration through the frame, strong now but going soft, fading, falling away and then going flat. This song has no more power, it's seduction has faded, and now all I hear is the Devil singing. The Devil takes over with his favorite hymn and like that the engine stops pulling. There is no more power up here, only torture. The song turns sour in our mouths.
I can tell, I can feel it stop pulling, the power backs off, falls away like Icarus' wax wings.
The choir in Hell shouts alleluia to their fallen angel king but I ignore them.
This horse and I, we are dancing on the Edge.
I react automatically, without thought, this horse that is not mine and I, we are one. My reaction is its response. My left hand works the clutch, my left foot levers the transmission gear selector up a notch, and my right hand rolls off the throttle. All synchronized, automatic, symbiotic. The Ninja, this horse, is an extension of my body, where it ends and my own nervous system begins is a hazy, cloudy, indistinct line drawn on some engineer's drafting table.
We are one entity, a Siamese twin joined at the wrists and ankles.
And we sing again, the song coming back sweeter than ever on our tongues.
So sweet, this song... Oh, so sweet. This song, it calls to my soul like nothing else ever has. This horse. This singing horse and I, we ride faster and faster, climbing toward that elusive altar at the Temple of Speed. The tach needle drops out of the redline. Hell's voices die away, lost in the distance. The minions of that far away place look up in confusion. Is the song finished?
Nay! Sing on, you hellish choir, for I am riding the Edge!
Sing for me, horse!
I snap the throttle open hard. The tach needle starts toward the redline again, the sword of Damocles swinging in an angry arc, that delicate thread threatening to break at any second ... That wonderful vibration in the frame comes back strong, taut, like a metal wire stretched to the point of snapping, to the very limit. The frame oscillates, grows taut, and the power is there again. I can feel it, and the power comes back on strong. Dead in the power band, and I'm riding it all the way back up to the redline!
The twin spar reinforced aluminum bones of this horse's skeleton soak up the power, transfer it. This horse breathes deep and we ride!
I hear the chorus of Hell getting louder once more, reaching a crescendo. Second verse again, repeated now, pulling hard, this horse is singing so sweetly. I can taste the song. Smell it. Feel it through this horse's bones. I could listen to its song forever, riding it right on to the finish of the demonic hymn and into the open arms of oblivion.
Damocles' blade arcs high and right. Guided by Fate and Luck, it connects, and draws blood across the face of the clock. The cut is deep, almost to the mechanical stop.
The horse beneath me sings, screams its songs with everything it has to give. I haven't lost anything in these long months. My skills haven't left me. My abilities haven't diminished. I know my machines almost instinctively.
It's a shared empathy that comes only from being this close to something mechanical.
I feel a rush, it's an adrenaline surge, a wave that rises up and crashes back down on me, sweeping me along in a rip tide of natural chemical produced bliss. If you've never ridden fast, if you've never climbed past the ton and over it, if you've never been called by the Devil's hymn of the redline, if you've never dropped to your knees before that altar at the Temple of Speed, if you've never climbed all the way to the right and pushed it as far as it would go, then you can't understand.
You simply can't understand and until you make your own pilgrimage, you never will.
It's a fatal attraction, like Circe, it lures all men who would chance its seductive beauty. It's so very easy to get lost in the euphoria of the adrenaline rush. Of a million tactile and tensile sensations invading your being and very soul. So easy to succumb to because it calls like no lover ever can.
It knows you by name! It knows your soul!
I listen to the scream of the engine as it makes a power climb to redline. Twelve thousand revolutions per minute, two hundred revolutions per second, faster than the eye can follow, in the realm of imagination and the mind.
Thirteen thousand RPM.
Two hundred and fifteen revolutions per minute.
The song is deafening!
The speedometer needle arcs past the 150mph mark, climbing, spinning like a clock's hand out of control. The Abyss stretches before me, but something is wrong. Something is missing. The answers I'm seeking, they're not here! It's a feeling, an instinct, but I can tell that already, even this early, just barely skating the Edge of the envelope, something is missing.
It's not here, what I'm looking for.
Maybe it's just higher in the redline. I'll have to look a little harder, a little further up, a little faster. My horse, it knows that I am still questing and it makes no indication of stopping.
Yah!, I shout as I twist the reins of the throttle to the full stop.
I roll the throttle back all the way, and pull as hard as I can, twisting the rubber as hard as I can, trying to warp the grip with my strength, maybe there is some more left beyond the mechanical stop. I try to find it. A little bit more, an extra horsepower or two, a few more miles an hour. The engine adjusts without protest, this horse was born to run and it is willing. I squeeze every single bit of power out of it that I can, pushing it to go faster, willing it with my very soul.
The choir in Hell is approaching adagio.
How can you describe this feeling that I'm experiencing while traveling at a velocity of two hundred and thirty five feet a second? It's like being on the jagged ledge of a vast chasm, a narrow precipice, looking forward into the Abyss. Nietchze once said if you stare at the Abyss long enough, the Abyss will stare back at you. Right then, the Abyss and I were looking eye to eye, in a staring contest, neither of us blinking. For the first time in my life, I saw everything and I saw everything clearly.
I understood everything.
I was everything.
The speedometer needle crept towards the north side of 160mph, the tach needle hovered halfway into the redline, moving deeper. Slowly. If I'm lucky, I can pass one sixty five but I realize that I am simply reliving my past, a dream, something that I have to let go of.
Insanity. I'm dancing with insanity. Memories. Flashes like a strobe light, ripping through my soul. I am a pilgrim at the Temple of Speed. I drop to my knees before the altar and bow my head. I need answers!
I find nothing.
The engine whines, the horse remains stable. A thousand, thousand tactile inputs course through my being and my soul. I am caught in the Abyss. It is all so familiar. I shut my eyes to clear my thoughts. The forces of the Abyss wash over me, cleansing, scouring, welcoming. The whine of the engine between the frame and my legs, the vibration through the frame transmitting itself to my bones. It starts at the feet and the hands, dances along my skeleton, jumps from neuron to neuron, tingles my pleasure centers of my brain, and invades my soul. I listen to the wind screaming past my helmet.
Bliss and a tinge of .... could it be sadness?
The ram air ducts in the front cowl feed cold, super dense air to the pressurized air box and the four thirsty Khein carbs locked therein.
Man-made tempests in a teapot.
Sixty-five millimeter throats screaming for air, mixing it with high test fuel and spitting it down the cylinders in a witch's brew. The air is boiling in the cylinders, the 93 octane atomizing in a tornado-like swirl, whipped there by the action of 750cc's worth of alloy slugs hammering the mixture against two intake and two exhaust valves per cylinder, in turn being spun by double overhead chain driven hydraulic camshafts. Driven at speeds where mechanical parts in motion appear to flow like liquid, movement so fast that the human eye can not make out details other than a fluid blur.
Angels could never sing sweeter than the music that the 750cc liquid cooled in-line four is producing now. The carbon fiber muffler is a speaker, broadcasting our song for the whole world to hear.
This horse is singing so sweetly that even the hosts of Hell are listening now. It's song is drowning out that damned hymn, sweeter, louder, deeper.
But something is different.
Something just isn't there this time. The answers I need elude me! Somewhere on the far side of the ton, in the realm of high triple digits, and it isn't there. It should be, it always was before, but it isn't there now. I can't describe it to someone who hasn't been there before.
Something that lives in the redline. Something that was always there before, with me every time I came this high up. Something worth the climb but that something isn't there now. It's gone and I can't find it.
The Devil is starting to dance now, his cloven feet tapping on the hot asphalt. I hear his laughter as he waltzes across the tarmac.
The choir in Hell comes back stronger now, their voices drowning out the song of the horse.
One hundred and sixty miles per hour and still pulling strong.
This horse and I, we are moving at two hundred and forty two feet per second, per heartbeat. Nine tenths of a foot per second per revolution per minute. Complex strings of numbers, formulas, and the basic laws of physics are all around me, swirling in the tempest that surrounds my headlong flight into oblivion. It's a physicists fantasy, a mathematicians dream, a engineer's exaltation, and a simple pilgrim's footsteps.
There comes a strange peace upon me know. I'm at the top, the Temple sprawls before me. The monks look up in silent admiration.
I have been missed but now I have returned! I have questions! I require answers!
The monks can give me no answers now. One of them turns to me, a tear rolling down his cheek, he lowers his head. The monk next to him does the same. The monks, they are all crying!
The altar is awash with tears.
My stay here must be brief. I look but I can't find what I'm looking for. It's gone, it's finally gone. I've climbed all the way up here, to the inner sanctum of the Temple of Speed, to the very altar at which every pilgrim has prayed. I've looked around this last time, and I didn't find what I was looking for.
The Abyss is empty now, hollow.
The Temple darker.
What was I looking for?
Why do I feel sad now when I never did before?
This horse is singing as loud and as fast as it can, yet no answers can I find. I decide to climb back down from my lofty velocity. I am saddened and questioning. Something is missing from the Temple, something is lost to me, but what is it?
Could Milton have really known?
I back off the throttle gently, respectfully. The horse stops its headlong flight, seems to float, and then starts to slow. It's song grows softer, and starts to diminish. This horse and I, we're both filled with sorrow. I've been here before, redline, but it was on a different horse.
My own horse.
Such beauty and power, my horse, now five long months dead.
I notice that too much air is getting in past the visor shield and under my Ray Bans ... That's all I'll ever admit to as how a tear formed in my eye while riding a heavily prepped '97 Ninja ZX-7R at over 160mph one Monday afternoon, late in January of 1999.
Pilgrims don't cry...
I let the envelope go, I pull away, I turn back from the Edge, turn my back to the Abyss, not really wanting to, but doing so nonetheless. The sirens call is a strong one, not easily forgotten or ignored. The Edge draws away, farther and farther, beyond my grasp now as I fall away, arcing gently back down.
Insanity begins to falter, lessens.
I let the throttle return to its normal stop, the carburetor slides roll back into their bases, the cables relax. Fuel which a moment ago was a rushing cascade into the cylinders now slows to a shower, then a trickle, just enough to keep this horse's heart beating. The engine parts slow, RPMs drop, mechanical stresses are relieved, temperatures start to decline, incredible internal pressures fall, the gushing rivers of oil and coolant that are the blood of the engine slow in their passageways, turn to streams as the loads decrease. The throttle grip gently rolls forward in my palm, caressing my gloved hand with the touch of a cherished lover.
The clocks begin to spin in reverse, the choir in Hell is singing backwards now, getting ever farther away. The Devil isn't dancing anymore, and he's not happy.
He feels cheated.
This horse and I, we're still faster than he is.
We're still better dancers.
The tach needle leaves the redline, and begins to walk back down the numbers. Black background and white numerals. Twelve thousand RPM. Eleven thousand RPM. Ten thousand RPM. Nine thousand RPM.
The speedometer slowly falls toward the ton, like the sword of Damocles, it slices through the triple digits, and then cuts deep back into the doubles. The world comes back to me in a instant snap, like a bad editing clip on a video. The world moves again and I am a part of it once more, we are a part of it, this horse that is not mine and I.
I cherish every second.
It's a victory for my long troubled soul and spirit. I haven't lost the capacity to ride at the limit. I haven't lost the ability to push the envelope and skirt the Edge. I can still look at the Abyss and laugh! I can still dance with Death and Fate and Luck and Chance and yes, even the Devil himself. I miss them, all of them, I miss this dance, I miss this song, but it's time that I moved on. I've suddenly found that I've simply lost the desire to keep their company anymore.
For am I not Icarus?
I am not Icarus.
I let off the throttle, work the clutch, and downshift a gear, roll back on the throttle again, slowly, gently, lovingly. Mechanical braking, the engine whines, and I ride the horse on down to well below the ton. I watch the engine RPMs and the forward indicated speed needles fall backwards down the clock faces.
I can't stop smiling. I taste salt on my lip, a trail leading up my cheek to my eye...
Everything about this horse, this Ninja, is pure energy. It's sensual, sexual, spiritual, physical, mental, feral, olfactory, auditory, tactile, perceptual, instinctual, primal, visual and visceral. It's everything all at once, clenched into a giant fist that hammers your body and soul. It is a drug of the most addictive, most potent, most lethal form. It is liquid, solid, and vapor at once. It invades your every possible sense and forces itself into your very being like some great karma powered crowbar.
Speed is a visceral seduction, the call of the siren, luring you to brave the Edge of the envelope again and again.
I'm stronger than that. Some would say smarter. Wiser. I've learned to ignore the song now, there are far sweeter songs in this life, and it is those that I fill my spirit with. Ah, but I remember how we danced to the music, my horse and I! To be old and wise, you must first be young and foolish ...
I am no fool. I am a simple pilgrim, returning from a sojourn to the altar at the Temple of Speed.
Reality snaps back again for the second time, there is a thunderclap of this exact instant in time as the world rushes in to fill the void of the Abyss. I blink away moisture in my left eye, like a camera shutter adjusting, trying to focus.
My vision clears.
It's got to be leaky helmet seals and the force of the wind.
I'm too jaded to ever cry ...
Much too jaded.
The 750cc power plant beneath me beats like a race horse's heart. The four Khein carburetors are breathing faster and deeper than any horse ever could. The exhaust note is pure opera, but the fat lady is singing, and my speed falls down below 60mph.
My own personal adagio.
Damocles is sheathing the sword in triumph.
The thread did not break.
This time. But what of the next, the Devil asks?
The scream of the wind becomes a howl, a cry, and then finally a dull roar in this helmet that is not my own. Whispers screamed among the air stream, could they be the angels approving or the demons lamenting their loss? The Devil's own mechanics throw their wrenches down in disgust and shake their heads in disbelief.
Their song is over, never to be sung again by this horse and I.
The sun breaks from a bank of clouds, and washes over my face plate, glazing it in liquid gold fire. Images dance on my retinas, odd colored primal shapes and purple splotches that slowly fade. My breath, hot against the vapor shield of the chin bar, amplified and echoed in the confined space of this helmet that is not mine.
This horse settles back down into an easy gait at 45mph, the run to 160mph didn't even cause it to breathe hard. This horse likes to be run wide open, it has a lot to give. It's pastures and fields lie on the far right side of those wonderful, beautiful precision crafted clocks. That is where it likes to hang its head and graze. That's where it likes to run and play. That's where it runs free and hard and unbridled.
This horse that is not my own, this horse is quiet now.
It's song is finished, a wonderful melody that echoes in my soul.
God, I love moments like this, I truly do!
I live for them!
They are few and far between, and like the greatest of pleasures, they are memories and experiences to be treasured until this life is finally finished and there is no more.
The Ninja slows, and I kick down a few gears to first, feeling the horse lurch with each surge in engine RPM, bucking, walking on down, slower. Slower, until I lead it in a gentle trot. I pull to the side of the road, stop. My left hand and foot work the clutch and transmission. Neutral indicates in a green lit button on the dash and I release the brakes.
This horse sighs and settles on its suspension, I in the saddle, hands on the reins. I am a simple pilgrim with many questions and few answers. What did I find way up there, way over there, on the far right side of the dials?
Did I find the answers to my questions on my pilgrimage?
I look at the orange ball that is the late afternoon sun as it slowly starts to sink behind the purple clouds. I kill the engine and turn the key in the ignition. I run my fingers over the warm plastic guard of the key.
Tactile input for the soul, stirring it gently.
I settle the bike on it's side stand, remove the helmet, and work the gloves off. I run my hand through my hair, take a deep breath and sigh. The air smells different. Lighter, fresher, purer, charged! My body is at once tensed and relaxed. My blood flows slower now, the adrenaline wave breaking against my soul, leaving my body thirsting for more.
My own heart begins to slow.
But this is my last ride, and more I will not give to my soul, for I am spiritually tired.
The setting sun is magnificent. I never grow tired of watching it. I sit there, on one of the fastest horses that I've ever ridden, a horse that I helped to break in. The pings and creaks of the frame as the engine and exhaust cool like drops of water in a mountain cave. Metal contracting, naked heat flows across man made surfaces. Engineered shapes and machine formed edges shimmering as the spectral hands flow over the surfaces, spectral fingers caressing this horse's heart and body in adoration and affection, grooming it after a hard spirited run. The bike settles on its suspension softly, adjusting to my movements in the saddle. In three minutes, the carbon fiber exhaust can will be cool enough to touch with your bare hand ... So loud, so light, such a beautiful voice this horse has.
The chorus of hell's choir is so far away now, an echo in my ears, the Devil has closed his hymnal and stopped singing. His dance is over now, just as this horse and I have completed ours.
I haven't lost my edge.
I haven't lost my skills, and my abilities.
I smile, the Abyss is silent. I can't hear the angels now. Or the demons. Or the Devil himself. Or his song. There's only the roaring silence. So loud and so quiet. And the pinging of the cooling engine, now bridled fully and tied. Restrained, I let this horse graze here on the side of the road as I dismount.
Stepping away, squatting, I admire this horse that is not my own. This is a spirited horse, with a wild streak and a will to run, but I expected no different. Still, it is not my horse and that saddens me further ...
And what was it that I was searching for in my pilgrimage? What did I lose? When did I lose it?
I step toward the setting sun in deep thought. I achieve a stasis of will, a frustration of my soul. Did I lose something in those five long months since the bitter accident?
Answers! What are they? My thoughts come rapid fire through my soul and into my heart.
Did I lose something five months ago at that time when flesh and leather and plastic and alloy and rubber merged with asphalt in a unintentional marriage of the wrong materials? A marriage conducted at seventy miles an hour, a macabre bridal kiss consummated at a hundred and two feet per second ...
Did I lose something when two lives, one wild, one mechanical, ended in a torrid, horrible impact?
Did I lose something when pure kinetic energy transferred itself into a force strong enough to stop a wild beating heart? When a mechanical entity and a living entity both kicked savagely in their final throes and then were deathly still?
Or was it when my horse threw me from the saddle ... ? When we as one became two again?
A moment of calm, the rush of air derived from uncontrolled, unwanted wild flight. Freedom of a kind never experienced before, but freedom that had a heavy price to pay at the end of the journey.
Was it when I hit the asphalt with enough force to wrench my shoulder in its socket? Enough force to tear muscles? Skin? Bone? Sinew?
Was it when I hit the asphalt with enough force to tear my leather body armor asunder?
Or was it when my helmet impacted the angry, unforgiving road, when my visor tore itself lose?
Or was it when the dust of my helmet's own destruction against the jagged pavement forced a cloud of hot shaved particulates into my eyes, water clouding my vision?
Was it when the very air that gives me breath and life was forced suddenly from my body? When it was lost and I couldn't find it no matter how hard I tried?
Was it when the material of my denim jeans disintegrated and the skin of my leg ablated against the force of friction generated by contact with the hot asphalt?
Or was it when my own momentum flung me wildly, limply, like a leaf in the wind, tossed to land where Fate, Luck, and Chance would have me sit in this dark dance, against my very will?
Did I lose something at the instant of impact?
Or did I gain something when I realized that somehow I had been spared? When the hot dusty air rushed back into my vacant lungs and I blinked away the dusty water that clouded my eyes?
When I felt pain and realized how wonderful pain can feel, was it then that I gained something?
When I forced my dislocated shoulder back into place and the pain came back with a vengeance, was it then? At that instant?
The simplest of all answers is the answer to all of my questions.
It was all of those things.
Each in turn and all in an instant.
I know now that I did lose something long ago and I smile, hanging my head low in reverent understanding. I also gained something, something that is worth more than anything I could have ever lost. It's all so clear now. My pilgrimage to the Temple has been rewarded with insight and wisdom. I can almost see the monks nod, I, the pupil, achieving understanding at last! I realize that five long months ago, five soul wracking tortuous months ago, I know lost what I considered to be the two greatest things in the world at that time. The two greatest things in my entire life.
I lost my horse.
I lost my desire to ride.
My desire to ride that horse; an unquenchable desire that died with my horse.
That's what was missing in the Abyss!
That's what I couldn't find no matter how far into the redline I rode!
I couldn't find my desire!
All the answers find their questions.
So simple, and so hard to understand. I lost my desire! It wasn't there for me when I looked for it, looked there in the Abyss. Why? It wasn't there for the one simple reason that it had never been there before. My desire had never called the Abyss home, it lived in my soul, and I took my soul to the Abyss every single time. I took it there and dangled it over the Edge, and ran it outside the envelope and held it up as a prize for the Devil. Dance! Dance better than I, and you can have this prize!
He never could!
Desire, that hot, lustful wind that blows through the heart and soul, screaming for adventure and danger and satisfaction. I had always carried my desire with me into the Abyss, I just never understood that I did. My desire had burned brighter and hotter the closer to the Edge and the Abyss that I had gotten.
Now it's gone. I've lost my desire to ride. I've lost my desire to worship at the altar of the Temple of Speed, to fling myself headlong with my horse into the Abyss. I've lost my desire to skate the Edge, to skirt oblivion and to dance with the Devil. I've lost my desire to listen to the choir of Hell. I've lost my desire for singing horses and the siren call of the Devil's hymn.
That's why the Abyss was so empty.
I've lost my desire, and when I climbed up high this time, it wasn't with me, illuminating the Abyss, lighting the Edge, showing me the way.
I've lost my desire, something that burned brighter than the heart of a sun and I can't find it now. It is gone. Forever. Extinguished. Dead. Cold. Never to be rekindled.
Like my fallen horse ...
Dead for five long months now.
The purple clouds dance on the horizon, draping the setting sun in their shawls. I smile and turn, walking back to my friend's horse there on the side of the road. I thank this horse for this one last, spirited ride with a slow, gentle pat of my hand on the fuel tank and engine cowl. The touch of cool metal and warm plastic brings back pleasant memories, fond memories and feelings. Memories of a time in my life that seems so very far away now.
I thank this horse for its help, for taking me, a pilgrim, on my last pilgrimage. My last quest. My last ride. My soul needed this last spirited run, for it is at ease now. A quiet peace, serene as it washes over and through my body.
My soul sings.
I sigh as my hands caress the fuel tank, trace the lines of the alloy frame, feel the heat wafting from the thermal sinks in the cowl recesses, touch the massive fuel and vacuum lines, and slowly move across the ram air duct covers. I feel gravel crunch under my foot as I adjust my stance in the saddle.
I think of my fallen horse and I smile. I shall miss you, old friend. Oh, how I shall miss you!
I will miss our shared experience of the Rush, our long rides along the Edge, of our trips into the Abyss where even Nietchze was scared to go. I miss the far end of the clocks, I miss going where only you, my horse, could take me, riding at the very Edge of the Abyss. A razor's line, so thin, so fragile, so narrow was our path but we danced it time and time again. My horse and I, we traveled that dark path so very often.
My dearest friend, gone now these five long months.
I miss our time together, I miss everything about you.
I miss our daring rides and impulsive travels. I miss our reckless adventures and well planned journeys. I miss the danger we shared. I miss the rewards of skills well honed. I miss the lessons of experience.
How could God be so cruel, to have taken you away from me, my horse! There's a hole in my soul where you used to be stabled. You were ripped from my life! Your soul and mine, they were torn asunder at our parting!
I miss what you meant to me, my fallen horse.
How even now I miss the sound of you. I miss your smell. I miss the feel of you and how you settled under me after I swung my legs over you. I miss the feel of the saddle, you adjusting to my weight. I miss the seductive wail of the interstate beneath your rubber shod feet. I miss the smells of the synthetic oil that was your blood, the warm feel of it against my fingers, coursing boiling hot through your heart. I miss the smell of hot coolant, the cool feel of bearing grease and the click of your starter. I miss the shape and feel of the four platinum plugs that fired your heart. I miss the whine of your drive chain, and the harsh tug of your massive dual caliper vented front discs and the lessons I had to learn on how to master your rear disc. I miss the clunk of your transmission, the script of the letters on your clocks. I miss the sound of your beating heart, of how you sounded when spurred on to run as fast as you could, how that spirit of yours carried itself through the frame and merged with my own spirit. I miss leaning down into you, two becoming one, I miss our time together.
Two as one, never to be again.
You were such a spirited steed, unbridled, beautiful, powerful, graceful, and magnificent.
I liked it best when you reared up, prancing in the sun, when your front wheel left this earth and you walked forward, haughty, high strung, confident, and then gently eased back down and started into your run, lowering yourself, and galloping faster, breathing harder, faster.
You loved to run hard.
I miss resting my head against your fuel tank, cold metal beneath my scalp, holding my helmet in my lap as we sat on a back road somewhere, watching the sun set together over distant hills we could explore in the morrow. Purple clouds dancing on a hot wind swept horizon, liquid gold flowing over the two of us, bathing us in final color. I miss our chasing the sunsets, like the flight of Icarus, you and I. I was Icarus. You, my fallen horse, were my wings. Nothing was out of range of you and I, the horizon was the limit, and over it we would go if something interesting lay beyond!
Together, you and I! Always!
I miss the feel of wrenches in my hand on weekends as I took care of you. I miss the heat of your heart, the vibration of its beating. I miss your carburetors drawing in air, the banshee wail of your Kheins drawing charges for your cylinders ...
I miss how you would shudder when you were thirsty, and I would switch the valve to reserve, only to have you come back stronger than ever. You never missed a beat! I miss the sound of the delivery nozzle tapping against your fuel tank, topping you off with nothing but the sweetest, highest test octane that I could give you. God, I miss the smell of raw fuel! Sweeter than any perfume! Deeper in color and hue than any rainbow ... I miss the jingle of your keys in my hand. I miss the roll of the knob in my fingertips as I reset your odometer for our next adventure, an adventure that was just a stab of the starter switch away ...
I miss the feel of your cool, curved cowl plastic, the pinging of your cooling engine deep within the frame. I miss your curves, your taut frame, itself a work of modern art cast in aluminum and reinforced by triple spars. The engineers who put you together must surely have felt the same way that I did. I miss seeing you when I wake up in the morning, I miss seeing you when I walk outside. I miss touching you at night. I miss running my hand over you before I leave for work and again when I return home.
I miss washing and grooming you. I miss how you shined, how the water beaded up on your finish after a rain, and how you drew a crowd where ever you were parked. You were more than my dream, you were part of me. I miss the feel of the rubber throttle in my bare palm at rest and through my gloved hand at speed. I miss your clocks. I miss the wild undulating sweeps of the needles as you climbed through the power band. I miss the echoes of your exhaust between the buildings of the downtown area, how your song reverberated down alleyways and vibrated against windows. I miss our reflection, cast in a thousand windows throughout our adventures. I miss the quick turns of the heads, your quiet purr as you danced like a jungle cat on padded paws through traffic, the envious glances, the muted nods of admiration, the hot glances of desire directed at you.
I miss the smell of my helmet, the feel of my riding leathers, the worn interior of my Kevlar gloves. I miss the smell of my gear! I miss the feel of the wind whipping at me at speed, warm and cold. I miss the wonderful smells of Spring in my helmet, the harsh chill of Winter through my jacket, the vibration of your frame through my gloves, hammering at my soul. I long for the sound of my own breathing, the rush of blood in my ears pounding like a muted bass drum, the hot highway air forced into my nostrils by a 70mph jet stream of my own creation.
But above all else, I miss our song.
Another time, another place, and we might have been chasing windmills, you and I!
My horse, my beautiful, fallen horse, dead five long months now. You are thought of every single day and sadly missed.
I still hear you singing to me in my sleep!
This faster horse that belongs to my friend, this faster horse and I remember Rosinante most fond. We remember the desire to ride, to run, to be free. A desire for adventure. A desire that burned brighter than the heart of the sun. And we miss that desire very much. Ah! There is a hole in my soul ...
This faster horse that belongs to my friend, Julian ... This faster horse and I, this horse that is not mine, this horse that Julian used to ride with my horse and I. This other horse and I, together we ride slowly on into the setting sun, remembering another horse. My horse now dead for five long sorrow filled months ...
Together, we remember my fallen horse with the most fond of memories. Together, for this, my one last ride, my friend's horse and I, we remember my own fallen horse, Rosinante! My horse was such a spirited mount ...
The back road curves and highway straight-aways whisper your name even now in respect ...
The monks at the Temple of Speed bow their heads and reverently chant your name, weeping gently.
The altar is wet with tears shed for your passing.
The Abyss grows a little brighter with each mention of your name!
I've carved your name into the Edge for all the other fools and pilgrims to see.
Tires on the pavement scream your name.
The shimmers of heat on the asphalt dance mournfully in your absence, lonely, they reach their spectral hands longingly out but you are not there to touch.
I'll never forget you, dear friend! Never!
I've written this ballad for you in my mind, in my heart, and in my soul. Even as I've ridden this other horse now, I know that you are still a part of me. Since you are here with me, even now, then I know that it is really we, you and I, my fallen horse.
Together we've written these words so that others may understand!
The wind whispers your name, it floats among the trees, across the high grass. It blows across the hot asphalt and the shimmering tarmac. It echoes in the underpasses and wails across the overpasses. It reverberates down the narrow alleyways and city streets.
Your song roars into my dreams. When I am alone, I hear your song. When I watch the sun set, I think of you, my friend. Sometimes, when I look up, I expect to see you there, parked, waiting for another adventure, another ride, another chase. There are so many windmills that we never found ... But you are gone, and you never appear, not even when I need you the most, dearest friend ...
I gear back up with this helmet that is not my own and these well worn gloves that have not been broken in by my hands. Nor is this fast steed that I sit upon an intimate mount. It is a familiar horse, but not one of personal acquaintance. It is not you, my friend.
I turn the key in the ignition and stab the starter button, cranking my friend's horse to snarling life. It whines and starts to prance in its gears. The clocks spin up, dip, and then stabilize. This horse that is not my own, I feel it's heart below me, beating with a feral authority, settling into a gentle lope. In the music of this horse's heart, I can hear Rosinante's voice singing to my soul. I can feel this horse's wild spirit carry through the frame.
It's a spirit that can't ever be broken.
Much like my fallen horse, now dead these five long months.
The sun burns its hot golden disc deep into the horizon. In the distance I can hear ninety seven wild spectral horses chasing the setting sun, galloping at full speed for the horizon and what adventures must surely wait beyond. And each one is singing your song.
I miss you, dear friend, I really do.
... From the Life Of Christopher T. Shields
Rosinante: July 13, 1995 - August 13, 1998