Dawn kissed the road ahead, casting my shadow far ahead, as if it was trying to race me. I hadn't realized what I was doing, riding the night away. Maybe it had been a blank; my memories of the past few hours were fuzzy at best. Or maybe this ride had been outside of time. A good bike had always been my wardrobe.
The sleek black puma whisked along, its steady purr gyrating against the insides of my thighs. It was a motorcycle, but not a machine. If you went looking for its motor, you would find a beating heart. It ran on blood instead of gasoline.
I didn't know whose it was or where I'd gotten it. Hell, I barely knew where I was. But I was going home, and if the puma's owner wanted it, they'd find it eventually. It was winter; I remembered the feeling of the wind, fresh and cool and cutting through the seams of my jacket, but I wasn't sure when that was. I couldn't feel anything at the moment. Not the cold that was turning my hands an amusing shade of blue, the warm mugginess of my own breath trapped inside my helmet or the heat of the animal I road astride. I barely noticed the progression of morning, that I was no longer the sole patron of the road.
The sound of the motor, of my breathing, suddenly cut out like a turned off radio. I knew the signs well enough - I was about to go blank. The last thing I remembered was wondering if the upcoming traffic light was signaling 'stop' or 'go'.
I didn't see or feel or hear the impact, but I imagined later how it must have been. Blaring horns, the sharp crack of metal on metal - or bone - and tires screeching as they swerved. Perhaps a few screams. By the time I could hear regularly again, that presumed cacophony of noise had died down. Muffled through the helmet, I strained to hear the conversations of the onlookers.
"Oh, God, is he dead?"
"Naw, look, he's breathing. He's just out."
There was light, either because I was only then registering it or because someone had pulled my helmet off. Possibly both. I opened my eyes to see several grey, hollow faces staring down at me, encroaching on the white expanse of sky above. One lady looked about ready to give me her kidney, if I happened to need it. I found that very funny, and decided to enjoy it fully, because I knew the pain was coming. A man knelt by my head, pressing the helmet between his hands. "How're you feeling, kid?"
I looked up at him, past him to the white of the sky. "Dandy," I said, and smiled. He looked back at me like I was loony. "Where, exactly, am I hurt?" I asked, trying to push myself up on my elbows. A few of the lookers-on took a step back.
"Wait," the man gasped, his hand hovering just above my chest, as if he was considering pushing me back down. "For God's sake, don't move until the ambulance gets here." When I didn't keep going, but didn't lie back either, the puzzled look crept back into his face. "Can't you... feel it?"
"Feel wh-" Oh. My leg started to burn, shooting sparks of pain up my spine; throbs from the back of my head met them halfway, and I felt like I might break right it two. I think I must've blacked out, in the normal way, because I still felt the pain, and the cold running over my hands and face, and a damp warmth soaking through the legs of my jeans. I came around for a few seconds just before they loaded me on the ambulance, long enough to catch a glimpse of the puma, lying forgotten on the curb of the intersection. She looked all right. White-clad emergency techs swarmed around me, pulling me onto a gurney. It hurt like the nine rings of hell, but I laughed, laughed until it brought prickles to the backs of my eyes. One tech asked me why I was laughing, but I couldn't see him anymore and didn't bother to answer the darkness.
"Thank God," I think I said, though my hearing was going out, so I may've just thought it. "Thank God, she was too beautiful to die."