An original short story.
Hey everybody! Thanks again for everyone reading! The Substack last week got a lot of new traffic and subscribers with the latest small press article I did about Source Point Press and the new Batman movie article I had too (which if you haven’t seen yet, you should get on that. It’s real good.) I’ve got two more interviews in the pipeline, with BOOM! Studios and Vault Comics happening later this week, so until then I’ve got to generate some content for you all. This week I’m digging into my files for an original short story I wrote one morning before work. My girlfriend Amber challenged me to write something one weekend, and this was the result.
But before you dig into that, why not download the new Substack app available on iOS and Apple thingys? With the app, you’ll now have a dedicated inbox for my Substack and any others you subscribe to (my favorite writer Grant Morrison has one too, don’t you know!?). New posts won’t get lost in your email filters, or stuck in spam, and longer posts won’t get cut off in your email app either. It’s a cool upgrade, and makes the whole thing a lot easier and cleaner. So check that out.
Unfortunately, it’s only on iOS at the moment, so if you’re an Android user, hang tight and hopefully that’ll be ready soon for you too.
But in the meantime, enjoy this little something I wrote. It’s a little bit original idea, a little bit fan fic, but entirely me. Thanks again!
Pistons firing. The steering column shaking and fighting, but I’m pushing past it. I can feel the wind whirling past my face at 600+ kilometers an hour. Everything around me is flashing past in a blur, the buildings and thousands of screaming fans in the stands are nothing to me. Everything in this moment is nothing to me, except that goal just ahead. The checkered flag. The finish line. I’m going to win.
My readings are far past what they should be, but I want this. I felt something was different about this race. From the start and now at this moment. That damned son of a bitch Kelo-Sal had the lead the entire time, him and his dirty tricks made sure of that. I can’t figure him out! Ever since he came onto the scene, he’s been tearing the rest of the field apart. He’s been unstoppable. Race after race, planet across planet, he hasn’t done anything but win. And win big. The Kalamar Eight, The Anigormi 5000, The Kexler Cup, it’s all been him atop the podium. His smug fucking face, and that look that he knows that we know he’s better than all of us. We all see it, as that victory champagne of his rains down upon us. And it makes me sick. But this time is different.
My model 12 X-K9 has been a labor of love for my team and I. We’ve poured so much blood, sweat, and tears into it. I myself have sacrificed everything for this machine. When we first started this, and I bought the model 12, Aly and I had made a promise, that she’d support me but she couldn’t watch my races. I understood, Anghelian podracing is dangerous. High speeds, fast turns, and relentless competitors. Only the bravest, or stupidest, attempt it, let alone survive on the pro circuit. Those early years felt so easy compared to now. Making the balance between Aly, and later Vanessa, and the racing felt natural. We weren’t winning all the races, but we were climbing the ladder and advancing in the circuits. Until years later, after so many heartbreaks and triumphs, the day finally came, I was called up to the galactic stage; The Pros. It was tougher for sure. Tougher than anything else I’d ever done, both the competition, and the family balance outside of the tracks. But the need, the obsession, to keep improving and making modifications to the model 12 consumed me. How to shave off precious seconds at this degree turn, how to increase fuel injection when I had more straightaways, how to push past that threshold and win. I spent more time in the garage than in the apartments, and Aly couldn’t tolerate it any longer. She longed for the days where I’d be home and could help more with Vanessa. Our daughter was growing up and I was missing so much of it. Aly wanted me where I could give her all the attention she needed. But I couldn’t do that. Not anymore. I’d worked too hard to get here and would be damned to let it all go now. Before this race, Aly left and took Vanessa off planet. I don’t know where, but now it was just me, my team, and the model 12 X-K9. I have nothing. Nothing else distracting me from winning. Good.
The race started on schedule, at 1400 hours. The Xnian Grand Prix of Kanto-3. My favorite race on this side of the pro circuit. The dual suns of Kanto-3 would shine good fortunes on me today, I just knew. It’s a long race through the city of Xnia and its jungle outskirts, the suns will have set and the moon will illuminate the streets by the end of it. And despite whatever the media darling Kelo-Sal and his winning stranglehold on the sport would have you believe, anything can happen. Just like anywhere else, you just need to be in the right place at the right time. Typically as close to Kelo-Sal as you can get.
And I was there, after 24 laps. I was right there with Kelo-Sal. We’d been pushing eachother for the last dozen laps at least. I’d gain ground, then only lose it after a bad turn or two. Or a straightaway I couldn’t reach peak. I was hot on his tail, but couldn’t get past him, the bastard. I’d imagine his devilish grin constantly looking back at me in his mirror, he probably felt he was just toying with me the whole time. That this race was his, all before any of us got in our seats. And for the most part, it was. Nobody else was even close to us. We were pushing lap records coming back up on the starting line. Both of our pods were being tested to their limits. I knew I needed a pit stop, but how could I in this position? I wasn’t about to back off this close to Kelo and with only two laps remaining. And that’s when I saw it happen. A blow-up, a bad one. Kelo’s right pod burst into dark smoke then fire. My big break! I couldn’t believe it. Not from Kelo. He nearly lost control and slammed into the wall. I thought I was about to watch the damnedest podracer I’d ever seen explode into bits of shrapnel and gore just before me, ending my waking nightmare of constant runner-up. I managed to find my opening and shoot past him, my crew chief screaming at me over the comms for passing up the pit. I didn’t give a fuck. I was past the only man who could beat me, with a pod still in one piece, and with only 2 laps to go.
I was not going to ease up and let this opportunity slip by me. I told Z, my crew chief, to shut up about skipping the pit and just give me the fucking readings. Tell me how far ahead I was of everyone. How much lead I had. To not let let anyone sneak up and pass me. I knew I wasn’t going as fast as the pod could because of the skipped pit, but I wasn’t about to surrender this much of my lead for some bullshit maintenance this late in the race. I just told Z not to let me lose.
And now we’re here. Coming up on the end. These last couple laps have been amazing. My model 12 has been screaming and bucking against me, I definitely wish I didn’t have to work this hard to cross the finish line tonight, but it’s going to be worth it. Xnia shines so bright now in the moonlight. The dew on the trees, whirling past me. Like little stars clinging around me. I feel like I’m flying across the galaxy. Every moment has brought me here. Right up until now. On the verge of winning it all, beating Kelo-Sal, proving the doubters wrong, and validating my obsession to this sport and to this machine I’m now willing across this finish line. It’s remarkable. All of this. This moment, everyone and everything whirling past me. It makes it all feel so insignificant. The grand scale of everything in the universe. It’s beautiful. It brings tears to my eyes now.
The model 12’s dash is beeping incessantly and my goggles are fogging up. I’m so close though. I pull my goggles off coming up on the final turn to wipe my eyes and see, but I feel a jerk and sudden flash and---------
Vanessa and I are in the terminal waiting to fly back to Kanto-3. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I told Kyle so many times how I didn’t like the podraces anymore. It was exciting at the beginning, when it was just him and I. Dangerous, but I trusted him. He was quite good back then too, the best I ever saw in those early days, but I always hoped he’d see the value in us being greater than any sort of success or achievement he had out there. After all these years, we didn’t need the money anymore, and he had a family now. Did he really need to keep putting himself at such great danger, and for what? He was missing our daughter grow up and it makes me so sad for her. She asks where Daddy is, and I’m tired of making excuses for him. I don’t want her to grow up without a father, but Kyle hasn’t been present for a long time now anyways. I had to leave and get away, for my own sanity. For our daughter’s wellbeing. But goddamnit, I don’t know why I’m coming back right now to give him one last chance. He is Vanessa’s father, and the love of my life. And maybe after just one race without us home and supporting him, he’ll see how pointless it all really is.
There’s something on the telescreen now about the race. My god, this isn’t even the right channel, what could have happened? My goodness! What a wreck! And right before the finish line too? This is why I couldn’t watch his races, I hope Kyle was… wait, is that his model 12?