Continued from Part II.
Pierre stared, wide-eyed, his own smile growing to match hers. Then he slammed his right foot onto the pedal, shoving it downwards, his left foot gripping and dragging the road into movement beneath his tyres. The back wheel scraped against the road, then the bicycle launched forwards.
Once more he pumped his legs until his ankles became a blur, rotating rings of muscle transforming the bursting chemical power of nature into the mechanical efficiency of the machine. Again, the wind began to pinch against his cheeks, again his shirt began to billow, again he crouched low over the handlebars. No longer the boundless mind wandering into song, now he was focussed, alert, the goal central in his concentration.
The bike picked up more and more speed, his breathing joined the rhythm of the rest of his body, his spine snaked from side to side in rapid motion. The noise of the chain whirring around the gears reached his ears, and then another sound pierced through the canvas of wind and breath and spinning metal.
The banging of a drum.
A rapid and terrifying staccato.
The hooves of a majestic and powerful beast thundering towards him.
Out of the corner of his left eye he saw a large, dark shape loom by his side. He kept his head forward and low, and willed his legs to move even faster, but it was no use.
A beautiful composition of muscle and hide, legs pounding the road, breath hissing and snorting, rider and beast in a dance of speed. The horse drew ahead of him. Pierre gasped his tragedy into the ground. The rider yelled her victory to the skies. The horse ran on.
His legs slowed, then stopped. The bicycle continued to spin, the world whirring underneath, but then it too slowed, soon to a calm, gentle crawl. Then he slapped his feet on the ground and brought his metal steed to a stop. He fell gently sideways, the bicycle clattered to the ground. He lay on his back, pulling and pushing air into and out of his lungs. His head spun.
Minutes passed, then he opened his eyes. Blonde hair fluttered in the air above him. He saw a helmet held loosely between fingers. He saw blue eyes. He saw a triumphant smile.
“My name’s Marie,” she said. “What’s your name?”