I breathe in time with the footsteps.

I remember I followed Annabelle. Her long brown hair sprayed from below the rim of her helmet, pressed against her leather clad back by the slipstream. Annabelle at ninety on her two-wheeled rocket.

I am nothing but my thoughts, so I think. I think about it in poetry. The corner where the eucalyptus grows sweet and tall. Black bits of Akronized doughnut scrape along the jagged asphalt, propelled by paleolithic carbonized dragon bones, horses in steel, all gives way, god's friction fist opens. Follow her line. She shoots through, pea through a straw. The adrenaline in my veins turning my blood to electric current.

Counter steer when I feel the slide. My ground comes up. Throttle to lift, a little too late.

I think about it in physics. Mist reduces the coefficient of friction. And so in the turn when I lift the normal force reduced, no longer centripidal, my motion now entirely tangential to a curve I cannot keep, the engine's gyroscope overcome. Relativistically speaking, the ground comes up to meet me. The tree moves sideways. The air pressure in millabars of mercury carries the sound of my body cracking, once whole, then broken.

I think about it on the traffic cam. Bumper-to-bumper on the Nine up to Skyline. Solo accident involving a motorcyclist, the morning dew, and a tree. First reports of one fatality are incorrect. He's still breathing and so the mess will take longer to clean up. Don't expect this one to clear for a couple of hours.

I think about it as hurt me. Annabelle screaming. My head in her lap. The taste of iron on my tongue. The smell of gasoline esters and burned oil against the sweet eucalyptus breeze. The purple blood across the body I can no longer feel. Jagged sticks of ivory and red-blue glistening rags where my knees should be.

I should have died. I wanted to, but because she was strong she wouldn't let me. I held my breath because the space in my lungs for air was decreasing. Gurgling iron meat taste where my breath should have been.

I wanted Annabelle so badly I hated her. I followed her to prove myself to her. I wanted her because she scared me and I hated myself for being afraid. How could she be so beautiful? How could she do those things so well I couldn't bring myself to try, say those words so strong I couldn't bring myself to utter?

I bought the same model bike she owned when she told me not to. Wasn't going to follow her on a kid's number. She told me I needed to learn to handle that much power by riding something smaller first. She wanted me left in her dust, smirking when she got to all the bars first. That wouldn't happen. She wouldn't say I was slow again.

Those words and Annabelle's sighs, her inner thighs against mine--I could make her scream the way she wanted to make me scream when she took the curves so tight the G's pulled the blood from my brain. First her footsteps on the stairs. Then her shadow in the doorway. Then her lips on my neck, in my room.

Now I can't shout. I can't get a breath big enough from the machine that pumps metered life into me.

Annabelle Annabelle Annabelle, please. She won't unplug it.

But she walks up the stairs smelling of earth and fresh flowers.

My punishment is the sound of Annabelle's boots on the painted wooden stairs. My room is up a flight I can no longer climb. I know her neck smells of fall breezes through ochre leaves, her legs of warm oil. Gasoline is sharp on her fingers and burns the tongue.

Annabelle is coming to tell me what it's like again.

There is a creak on the fourth wooden stair. I never tightened it down and so it rubs wood against wood. I hear the sound, a vibration like a spring tightening. A taut piano string scraped by long painted nails.

I think about her ascending. I think about it in stereo. I think about it in living color, Panavision, 3-D sensorround. My thoughts are what I am. After my body couldn't help me anymore, I made her fill me with the world.

From the stairway comes a sweet, metallic smell. The smell of dirt and grass torn from the earth, inner green water shatters out in a spray. Dark clumps of moist earth clinging to the roots.

Her guilt was unfounded and boundless. It brought her back, day after unbearable day. She made me do it, she thought. Take the curve. She knew it was too much for me. Shouldn't have led so fast. I told her she taunted me into it and validated her suspicion.

Nine-Hundred cc's of burning four-stroke gasoline pumping torque through steel through rubber to the ground the mist made slick.

She sailed through. Figured I was gone a mile later and returned. Stopped the bleeding.

"Stop. Please." Everytime she comes, the footsteps, then her, she tells me the story of saving my life. Clamping the femoral artery. One hand on my thigh, the other on my throat while I gurgle to let me die.

She usually sits with her helmet on her leather clad lap. She can't see me without crying. Makes me want to scream. I can't. The machine.

That smell from the stairs. I think it's burning meat.

"Tell me about Greg," I asked last time. She'd done him. He was my choice. Blonde hair like mine. Do it all. Go down on him in the city park, in the open where everyone can see. Listen to the birds and his groans. Make it me. Sex in the back of his SUV. Pretend he's me.

Annabelle had done it. I could still smell the musk of sex on her. She stripped off her leathers. Got out of her cotton underwear. Her flesh toward my head so I can smell. Close my eyes and dream. She shows me darkness at the top of her legs, still glistening.

She was thinking of me the whole time, she said. Just like when I had her do Bill. Just like when Joe went down on her in her office at work. Just like when she slept with Jane and Rob together.

I engineered it all. She executed. She tells me everything. I close my eyes and smell the drip that was on Jane's soft thigh, then on Annabelle's cheek. The smell of Joe's breath against her abdomen. The taste of Bill's tongue against hers.

"Don't lie."

She did what she did. She pled she had. Led me through. She made love to him at my insistence. Her hand on my cheek. My insistence.

I can't move, so she did it for me. Replayed the sex she had with Greg only an hour before. Told me step by step. Took my limp hand and pressed the warm finger against the hard spot where the edges of the opening meet and I can only imagine it sliding under my pressure as she groans.

I close my eyes and feel it. Hear her breath, her hand against herself, between her legs. I give her words. She doesn't do the poetry as well. The words are all I have. The thoughts. She's having sex for me. She'll do anything for me because she nearly killed me and now owns my life. This thinking. This machine-breathing called life.

"Did you come?"

Yes she did. Made him do what I could do before the accident. Puffs of her sigh-air against my ear. Slow, then fast.

The sound of Annabelle's feet on the stairs.

I wouldn't let go. I wouldn't let her let it go. Hate myself for hating her. Love her for loving me.

She was too beautiful, too good at what I'd never do.

She won't pull the power on the machine that makes me breathe alive.

So I will.

I want to smell the wind in her hair, I tell her. When she comes to my room and presses her head against mine, I can only smell the inside of her helmet. If the smell of his cum wasn't so strong, I'd only smell her leathers. She's got to wear less so I can smell the movement.

When she visited last, the mist was falling.

Take me with you on that corner. Back to where the eucalyptus leaves fall like razors. Take the G's hard. Remember the feeling. Report back. I want the G's.

So she dressed and left me. She did it because I wanted. In the rain I wanted. Without her helmet like I wanted.

I hated her for being so good. I hated her for handling the power I couldn't handle. I loved her because she was what I was not.

I crashed because I wasn't as good I needed to be. Never as good as Annabelle.

She took the turn, my nurse said yesterday.

I think about it in physics poetry. The graceful arc of her body, ballistic without the centripidal force of rubber against pavement. The decibels of the concussion. The tree stick crack of her skull against the trunk of the mighty eucalyptus.

She died because I wanted to and couldn't.

The smell of the pungent brown earth still writhing under a mass of shivering black insect legs. The eucalyptus in her hair mottled in the mortician's hairspray, the moss from her grave crusted on her paper white skin.

And now her footsteps climbing against my painted wooden stairs.

I can't run from Annabelle. I can't scream. Every breath, her footstep.

The machine ticking her footsteps.


With apologies and reverence to Edgar Allen Poe and Ray Bradbury in this beautiful month of October.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.