One last race
A figure sat unmoving, gazing into space without really seeing. Memories flickered behind the eyes.
I remember… I remember the good times.
It felt like yesterday that he'd been waiting anxiously, waiting out each day hoping and praying for someone to notice him. To give him a chance. He knew he could be the greatest driver anyone had ever seen, but day after day went by without a flicker of interest. He'd began to despair - why couldn't they see? - when the man had come. Without hesitation, he'd suddenly found himself at the end of his waiting. He'd found a backer!
His heart had soared. His car was the most beautiful machine he'd ever seen, a long, low silver bullet that sped along the track as if the wheels were wings. A feral smile curled his lips as he tore around the track, sliding the rear around each corner. He knew he never wanted to drive anything else: this car and he were the perfect match.
The first race had been tough. He'd thought he was used to the car, thought he knew it well enough to race it. Rudely re-educated, the car had spun off at the first corner into the barricade. He remembered the feeling of his heart twisting in his chest with despair as he felt the car slide out from under him, hurtling into the red and white that flew at him like the vengeful fist of a god.
Fortunately no major damage was caused and the car was pushed back onto the track, but he'd lost too much time. He drove the best he could, the car flying around the corners as if there was no possibility he could lose control. A not very illustrious fifth place of eight was his lot, though he did manage to claw back a little of the time he'd lost. Not good enough.
He ended the race dissatisfied, though his backer seemed pleased enough with his first outing. Fifth place! Hah. Every moment away from the track he spent itching to get back out there, the faces of others barely touching his attention. His backer allowed him to take the machine out a few times, but not nearly enough for his liking.
Finally, the next race meeting loomed and he was out practicing in earnest. He'd embarrassed himself last time - this time would be different. The tyres melted to perfect smoothness under the heat and roughness of the track, laying rubber over every imperfection until the world was a mere speeding blur, to which he reacted without thought as a tiny abstract part of his mind watched with a sense of wonder the stream of colours and the rush of wind.
He smiled internally at the memory of that race. He'd never driven better, riding the rush of adrenaline he felt like a young god, all speed and power and indestructibility. No one could match him: to a man they fell behind, falling further with every lap. He tore across the finish line and slowly cruised to a stop, slowly returning to reality. He was pleased to see his backer exuberant, glad he'd proved he was the right choice.
And so it went, for a while. He raced at every meeting, winning some, losing sometimes to another. He no longer raced against the same opponents he had to begin with, their backers had moved on and obtained new cars, new drivers. His backer stayed up for night upon night, working with the car to try and keep it's edge, to give it one more advantage that would let it stay ahead of his increasingly overpowering competition.
Deep inside, he'd known a creeping feeling that clawed at his spine with cold fingers. Sooner or later, he'd no longer be good enough, the car too out of date to compete. He bemoaned the passage of time for a while, denied angrily he could ever be out of date. Too old to drive any more.
Finally, there was the deciding race. Field of eight cars, amongst which the glittering simplicity of his vehicle seemed antiquarian, a relic. A smoothly curved red Maserati lay to his right, self confident and smug in it's superiority. He'd not done so well during the last couple of races, simply unable to keep up with the Maserati and it's driver. Third place, fourth. He was losing it.
The lights lit with their ruddy glow and his attention narrowed to a razor's edge, ready. On the brilliant green the entire field left the blocks like athletes, accelerating into the first corner. He was ahead of the pack, accelerating recklessly hard to keep ahead of the Maserati. The curve of the first corner loomed up before him and suddenly he knew he'd gone too far. The car gave a warning lurch, then suddenly lost traction and he slid across the track, crunching to a stop against the barrier.
Against the thudding of his heart in his ears he heard his backer calling the marshals to get him back into the track. For a fleeting moment he wondered if it was worth trying. Perhaps it was batter to give up in a race he couldn't win. While locked into his internal monologue the marshals had pushed him back onto the track. No. This far, and no further. The car slammed forward as he gave it everything he had, hurtling down the straight towards the next corner and flying around it as though it weren't there, accelerating hard all the way.
The shape of a yellow Porsche swelled before him as he gave the car it's head, watching it slow for the corner. He barely touched the brake as he sped past the Porsche on the inside, powering around the corner. The silver car sped down the track as if it was part of it, whipping around the corners with perfect, fluid grace. Another car down. A third. The laps were ticking down, a distant part of his mind catching the lap numbers as they were shouted.
He paid little heed to the shapes of his opponents as he overtook them, one by one. His mind was focused to a single bright thread, flowing with the shape of the road ahead, without a single vocalised thought to impair him. When finally the red Maserati hove into view, he responded at a level deeper than thought. This was the enemy, this was the one he had to beat. To be the best.
Two laps left. The pair hurled around the track, the Maserati realising the danger and pulling out the drive of his life. The paired streaks of red and silver flew past the blur of track and spectators, as if connected by an invisible force that would let neither be free. One lap left.
The Maserati was still a fraction ahead. They came around the final corner, a dead run for the finish line. This is why I was created. This is why I am here. No choice. The silver machine leapt forward, far too fast to slow for the end of the straight. It ripped past the Maserati, lunging ahead and across the finishing line. Unable to stop, the car hurled itself at the corner.
For a moment it seemed as though it might make it, hanging on the lip of traction… then broke free. The car slammed into the barrier hard, tipping up onto it's side before falling back to the track. Through the ringing in his ears, he distantly heard cheers.
That was the end. The car was never the same, and tell the truth, neither was I. My backer decided it was time to retire the vehicle, and I went with it. I don't regret that. So now I sit, and watch the dust fall like snow, slowly burying my car and me, and remember.
A man approached a shelf, long fingered hands sliding aside a glass panel and reaching within to the ranks of models arrayed in line. His fingers closed over a battered silver model and lifted it to his face, blowing the dust off. He smoothed the remains of the dust away, the helmet of the driver coming up a fresh red as if it were new. The scrapes in the paint reminded him of the crash it'd taken, when he decided it was time to put it away, before it got more damaged.
He smiled fondly at the model, and thought of the track he had laid down in another room. "Come on then." he said aloud to the tiny figure of the driver. "One last race."