These Damn Brakes

art by Kelly Archibald

By Mark Linnhoefer

The damned brakes were not working anymore, and had not been working for quite a while.

Still, we were three people huddled together on a small electric scooter doing about 28 miles per hour on a freeway in the middle of the night, all heavily tripping on some over-the-counter medicine and a variety of uppers. I was fully dissociated and could not make out any differences between reality and hallucinations anymore, and neither could any of my friends for that matter. I was constantly ducking so as to avoid probably fictional branches whilst dodging imaginary obstacles, causing other travelers to honk and curse at us excessively.

“Fuck, does anyone know where we are or where we’re going?”, I screamed at the two zombies sitting behind me, not really expecting an answer.

“To the club” said one of them, his mouth almost falling off of his chin.

“To your place” said the other, whose innards were showing through a gaping hole where his stomach would have supposed to be.

Fucking hell, this was going to be a bitch of a ride – from nowhere to nowhere with the plague of the twenty-first-century riding on the back of my scooter. But this was not the time to deal with this geegaw. A monstrously large truck was stopping way too close to the beam barrier a few hundred yards in front of us, and the damned brakes were still not even remotely functional.

So I jammed my feet onto the asphalt — lacerating my shoes and blowing the protective plastic of my soles to smithereens — in order not to drive into said beast of a vehicle. Which of course did not create a big enough force to fully stop the scooter in time but fortunately reduced our speed significantly enough to leave us harm-free after impact. We actually just rammed the truck a little, shattering the headlights and the protective wheel-cover of my electric bike to tiny pieces but not causing damage to any third party. And albeit not having caused an accident per se, we were quite anxious due to our mutually heavy intake of psychoactive substances that day, so we decided to flee the scene rather abruptly, meaning that I hastily turned the electric pile of garbage that served as our vehicle around, drove wrong-way for a while, and then swirled over the median and ascended to the highway.

My erratic patterns of thought and sporadic bodily spasms that fittingly came into being whilst doing so made driving straight not only a challenge, but a downright impossibility, which, on a highway, was turning our trip into a dire health hazard and slowly beginning to make me feel queasy. But I was in need of focusing on the road, seeing as all our lives depended on my largely impaired driving skills.

But hot damn, the velocity felt good! I pushed the electric bike all the way up to about 33 mph and drove maniacally on the median, laughing into the winds of destiny, smirking at the sheer weirdness and danger we were in. We were on our way to the edge and would probably not even notice when we reached it and were propelled into a dark oblivion of death, injury, and misery.

But we had not gotten there yet, and I felt that we needed to go further. Since sobriety was still far away, and my friends were still zombies, I was free to do whatever the hell I pleased anyway. I would not hold back any more I decided and roared down the highway, still almost losing control of the bike every couple of minutes due to either muscular spasms or wet spots on the road. Actually, the bike was not the only thing I was losing control of. My mind was going rogue as well, and all sorts of weird monomaniac obsessions took hold of my thoughts every few seconds, making decision-making utterly impossible.

“I need to go faster and harder on the curves to clear my mind,” I shouted back at the two silent zombies. I did not know why these fucking decaying cadaver assholes were not talking, but I did not concern myself with it all too much and boomed on along the highway until I saw a serpentine exit route and, wanting to push my luck, decided to take it. Zoom, zoom, zoom! I rushed downhill, barely making the curves and now even less in charge of the scooter’s movements, but exhilarated and cranked up, hungry for more action.

When we finally descended from the highway, I  did not have any passengers anymore, which enticed me to stop and find out where those damned zombies from earlier had gone to. I got off the scooter and looked around  a bit, when all of a sudden my friends materialized behind me out of thin air, no longer being zombies.

“You rotten bastards, what kind of sorcery is this?” I shouted.

“What the fuck are you talking about? We need to head back to your place, man!” and “Where the hell are we anyway?” were their answers.

I did not know about any of that, so I lit a cigarette and pondered the issue at hand. We were in the middle of nowhere, the bike’s battery was running low, and any of us could fall back into a drug-induced craze that might lead us into the next disaster at any point. We were somewhat fucked. But I didn’t want to think about that for the time being. I remembered that we had some high-percentage whiskey and a lot of cheap grass stowed in the storage compartment of the scooter, so I decided to get both, and while I struggled to roll an awful-looking joint my friends opened the bottle of scotch. We finished the bottle and almost an eighth of the weed and decided to just drive back in the direction we came from in order to try finding my place. We crammed ourselves back on the scooter, and, due to the now drained battery, drove down the road at about 15 mph. After what felt like at least ten hours of slow-mo crawling through the swamp of outskirt-roads we finally got back to somewhat familiar surroundings. We decided to hunker down at a cheap internet café — they charged about 5 cents per hour — that was near the crossroads in order to come back to reality a bit using the remainder of the grass whilst playing Counterstrike 1.6. As we were all still insanely on edge from the journey, we decided not to play a game that consisted of us shooting each other after all, and rather put on extremely loud Rock’n’Roll music and smoked a couple of blunts. A few hours went by, and when we were high enough to be calm again, we got back on the death-trap scooter without brakes, and headed on to my place.

Alas, our feeling of sobriety was a falsity. As soon as we hit the road again, I sensed a dizziness slowly building up in my subconscious and quickly drifting towards the conscious part of my cerebrum, instantly deluding the differences between the both of them and thereby catapulting me back into a daredevil speeding-frenzy: I needed to go west. I did not know why, but west was the way to go. So I looked at the road sign which had the cardinal directions inscribed into its plastic surface, discovered the small W on the left-hand side, and turned the run-down electric scooter in that very direction. Whilst driving down the avenue I needed to avoid weird flickers of light that were scattered across my vision and sometimes randomly materialized into other drivers. Upon arriving at a crossroads, I checked the road sign to see whether or not we were still going west. To my surprise, it was the same road sign again; it was the same fucking crossroads!

This had to be a question of mere focus I thought, and so I pedantically re-examined the sign, found the small W once more on the left-hand side, and once again turned the scooter into that very direction. I pushed the electric vehicle to its remaining maximum velocity, hurrying down the avenue until we got to yet another crossroads. Which, after examining the road sign for a while, turned out to be the exact same spot again. I was getting desperate, and my friends’ faces had completely melted for some reason, so they would not be very helpful either. I repeated the same steps as earlier: I made sure I was driving in the proper direction, took off, and arrived at the same place. Over and over again. After the fifth or sixth time, I was coming close to a nervous break-down. My friends’ status had deteriorated even further, they had by now melted down to mushy globs of skin-colored mud, so still no help there. I decided to just say Fuck It and drive east this time. And just as I managed to slowly rotate the steering wheel to the right – I blacked out. When my brain reattached itself to my central nervous system and consciousness, we were already nearing my place. Or rather – I was. No-one else was there. But what the hell, I reckoned that they must have taken a taxi or something like that.

A few more minutes of unstable driving ensued, and I finally pulled into the driveway of my place, happy to be home at last. I locked the scooter, plugged its charger into it, and entered the house through the door that was located inside of the garage. I went straight to the kitchen without switching on a single light, opened the fridge, went blind for a minute upon seeing the brightly lit white inside of this temple of cool freshness shine through the darkness surrounding it, got a large bottle of water, closed the fridge again and went downstairs. When I entered my room, I sat down and instantly took a five-minute-long gulp of the water bottle, almost draining the entirety of its content. “Ah!” I breathed out, feeling replenished and freed of thirst. Afterwards, I rolled another small J, smoked it, and proceeded to sleep for almost eleven hours…


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