As the sun poured warmth down her spine, the chilled metal of the bike handle pressed into her palm, and the passing wind tugged at the edges of her shirt. The street before her was doused in sunlight, the pastel houses stained lemon against the approaching dusk. As she turned onto Maple, the pounding of wheels on the rough gravel path mingled with faint, laughter-lined shrieks from someone’s backyard. Something sweet caught the breeze, and, as she passed by, the scent drifted down from an open window.
It warmed her lungs for only an instant before the wind snatched it away.
She sighed, and as her hands relaxed on the handle, as the bike ambled to a stop, that same wind nudged at the small of her back. She tried to dismount, but it seemed to press her forward, to guide her wrists back to the bars, her feet to the pedals. It danced around her, a playful whisper, a freeing promise, a sudden urge to laugh. And she was back on the bike, her weight pressing down on the warmth of the seat.
Her foot found the pedal, and the wind surged around her, shielding her from the sun like a blanket. A welcoming chill took root at the nape of her neck. The wind caressed her face, and a strange calm seeped in from its touch, a pleasant drift, like a lullaby whispered down her spine or the space between two stars. It was hard to think, against the calm and the wind roaring in her ears, so as she swung up her other leg and began to ride, she let her eyes fall closed, let the wind tug her lips into a smile. Rhythms echoed: breathing, pounding heart, jolt of wheels on gravel.
In tune, in time, faster now, as she felt the bike skittering downhill. The scent of oak swelled in the air. She must’ve passed her street; she must be on her way to the forest. She wondered how; after all, only a moment had seemed to pass. Or had it? She couldn’t quite remember; she wasn’t sure she had ever known. With some effort, she managed to pry her eyes open.
The trees rose before her, their trunks looming golden in the sunlight. They seemed to beckon, but she had no time to admire them, for the wind grew louder, pulled her deeper into the woods. Dark shadows played amidst the grass and the narrowing gravel path, and a dense canopy of leaves blinded the sun, forcing it to squint through the branches. Though the crickets chirped more softly than usual, the calm itself was louder now, stronger, more apprehensive. Almost tangible, like the silence between a shout and its echo. She could feel it sliding down her spine.
The trees grew denser, the limbs lower, and poison ivy sprouted up from the shadowed grass, but still, ducking and swerving, she rode on. The grass, growing coarser by the minute, stretched right up to the riverbank; and the water raged and frothed, throwing itself against the shore and clawing at the muddy bank as if to escape its prison. Her chest tightened as she approached. At the speed she was going, she would fall in…or would she? The wind brushed against her face, whispering, and as the familiar chill came over her again, the river seemed to call. The water wouldn’t hurt her; it couldn’t. She knew it like she knew her own name…
What was her name?
She reached the spot where the grass spilled over the edge, and she came to an abrupt stop. The crickets ceased their cries, an audience held in suspense. A smile swung across her lips. It seems like a good time for a swim, she thought, and she rode forward into the rush.