The mountainbiker charges through the forest, the soundtrack fills his head, stoking his exhilaration. The music takes him over and the rider careens down the trail, cranking like a man driven mad by the intoxicating thrill of the ride. No other bikers are in sight and he cuts through the misty morning air, the wind whistling past as he hurtles forward, unfettered by the daily grind.
Behind dark lenses, his eyes scan the uneven terrain; there are rocks ahead. He leans back in anticipation. His tires have bite and speed is his ally. The bike rolls over the jagged contours of the rough section, its suspension soaking up the punishment; and the rider grins as his wheels pound the stones deeper into the ground.
Suddenly, roots! Gnarled, broken fingers lying in wait, a pit of petrified snakes.
The treacherous serpents poison resolve, and their venom takes immediate and deadly effect: doubt sets in, concentration vanishes and commitment evaporates. His wheels slide out from underneath him, and the rider goes down with his bike, mouth agape in disbelief, arms flailing in an awkward, raggedy ballet of ignominious regret.
Seconds before impact, time protracts with agonizing clarity; the mind burning each terrible frame into vivid memory. And then, the crash: it emits the unnerving hiss of fabric tearing on gravel and tender flesh abrading onto the earth’s ragged teeth. The miserable din is punctuated by a blunted grunt as the ground brings the rider’s pummelled body to a grinding halt. It is a short but painful cacophony.
Not far away, in a powdery haze of settling dust, his bike lies on its side lifeless, contorted; a heap of twisted, groaning metal. No other eyes behold the wreckage; but even this small consolation fails to diminish the indignity the rider suffers at the hands of solitary misfortune. His head is hung low.
All is silent but for the muffled, tinny chatter of a distant melody; his left earphone swings loosely against his chest, ejected by the recent violence.
Bruised and bedraggled, he dusts himself off, limping gingerly towards his crumpled bicycle. The decal on its down tube is gashed. He has crashed before; every scar tells a story. The rest of the machine is none the worse for wear. He heaves it upright.
Arms outstretched, gloved hands on its bars, the rider pushes the bike in the direction from which he came crashing in. He hobbles past the offending root section, muttering invectives under his breath. The evil roots stare smugly back at him, daring the fool to ride them again.
The mountainbiker does not need much goading. He turns around several meters up the track, mounts his ride, steels his resolve, and charges down the path once more, towards the root-mangled patch of trail.
This time there is no inhibition, only single-minded purpose. As his knobby tires grind into the forest’s wooden veins, he allows the bicycle to carry him over its crisscrossing ridges; suspension, momentum, traction and tenacity working seamlessly to deliver both bike and rider from the perilous clutches of the serpentine pit.
Clearing the section, the biker raises a fist, defiant, into the air. Redemption.
As he pedals away, he muses on his brief episode; tempted to contort it into a metaphor for Life. There is a human condition that impels us to make villains of circumstances and victims of ourselves; it is a cretinous tendency that subverts our aversion for trite cliché and hackneyed plot.
He resists the condition and summarily dismisses the vapid epiphany.
There are no villains.
There are no victims.
There are only circumstances we recast into opportunities to prove ourselves.
He reaches down and lodges the dangling earphone back into its lobe. The music takes him over and the rider careens down the trail, cranking like a man driven mad by the intoxicating thrill of the ride.