Heedless drivers surf the track that dips and rises like rough waves; a few have wiped out already, when steep Turn 3 tossed them four stories down or the Wall accepted their hasty offering. In that sea of heat and din one flinch, one luckless blink ends the game, if not in flames then sudden crush: 160 to nothing in half a second, weight of galaxies punched into a teaspoon.
As the starter's stand sails past once more, Ganesh perches atop waving a blue flag. Shiva checks his mirror, sees the black Fusion cut across his tail-- she's back: red-silk warrior girl, hot fury with flaming fenders. She tries to knife her way between him and the Wall--impossible, suicidal stab. He squints ahead at the gray unfurling road, he can't bother with her--remain in bliss--but she nudges forward, backs off, nudges forward again, keeps coming, coming so close and so fast a touch would smash them both. He guns it, finds a hole, and moves over, rocking on his own forward motion and the tides of her speed.
She's swishing her ass side to side, spoiler ablur, daring him to retake the lead. He feels a stirring: anger? battle thrill? lust? Are these possible for the Lord of Dharma? He should just lay back, let her chase her illusion: he is complete in himself. He lets off the gas a little and inertia tickles his groin. Right then #83 slams past, hurtling into the next turn, bursting the Lord's reverie. Shiva stomps the pedal through the floor.
The grandstands shimmer with waving hands, flags, cans of beer; the crowd is on its feet dancing, cheering the duel -- a cyclone of kazoos, bells, vuvuzelas joins the engines' giant Om in a roar that shudders the roof beams of the cosmos. 83 angles for position like he's sliding in oil, but however swiftly or subtly he tries to edge around the Fusion, she fends him off. It's Kali, then 83, then Shiva into the Superstretch, all other contenders carlengths behind as the stands pulse and writhe with one life, one voice. She's getting away now, pulling so far ahead that Shiva thinks she's doped her gas or welded a nitrous tank in her trunk. The Lord's hands tighten on the wheel.
He rockets to a hand's breadth of the second-place car, eases off-- at this speed, a tap of bumpers could tangle them into jagged flame, wrench them into ruin. He'll dance on 83's tail, psych him out, force him over or into a mistake, into the Wall if that's his fate. Shiva doesn't see her anymore, doesn't see that way up ahead she's had the same idea in reverse-- but no restraint, no care for calm or Lordship. She's doing the one thing you don't do: her foot's off the gas, she's in horizontal free-fall, looking dead still as Shiva shifts his gaze from 83, who, too eager, grazes her, then jerks away in panic, nearly sideswiping Shiva.
He whips out and around 83, half in the grass, wheel in rock-wall grip as, just behind now, she floors it. Cars piling up behind them: 83 t-boned, plowed before a surge of twisting metal as smoke rears up like Vishnu's cobras. Tires, fenders fly; a yellow Dodge vaults porpoise-like over the massing ruin and tumbles away across the infield as, above, the sky pinks with sunset.
A few cars make it around the pile-up, but Shiva isn't worried about them--it's Kali he wants. Not winning, not the checkered flag; order must be restored. Shiva must smooth the waves, must rise above them to take his throne once more in serene Himalayan cool. She's back in front but not for long.
Easy motion, add pressure on the gas, hands firm on the wheel but not locked. He speeds up to catch her as she nears the next turn. The turns are banked 31 degrees, steep enough that drivers coming in too fast climb the track and hit the Wall, and those coming in too slow slide down into other racers or onto the grass. He knows her MO, knows she's going to enter the turn low, edge up the incline, then shoot out faster than she went in.
She slows as the turn looms, he closes the gap between. They go in like beads on a chain: Kali in front, Shiva just behind. He eases up a little as she starts to climb, miming loss of nerve. He has five seconds: give it some gas, climb closer, nudge her fender, then let off and slide down to safety, smoothly accelerating out of the turn as Kali spins out behind him. No other cars near; she'll bang the wall and it'll look accidental and she'll try to right herself and then fishtail and wipe out in the time it takes a yokel in the stands to whoop or sip some beer.
Four seconds: they're neck and neck in the turn: track lights strobe through Shiva's window net, the stands crackle and spark with a hundred thousand flash bulbs. He drifts up, closer; Kali swerves his way in warning. He backs off to psych her out, just enough time now to come back up fast and wallop her. He glances over to begin the assault but the black Fusion fills his window as a cricket bat smacks his solar plexus.
The chest punch wrenches him over and aloft and balls-dropping high, wavering, floating as the car's thin metal catches air, wavering aloft as blood catches up with car mass and threatens to squirt out his eyeballs. His flying car slows, drops, and with spine-crunching thump lands an instant, bounce-whirls, smashed and flying again in skies of lacerating noise. She's with him, must have hit him when he landed; he's hammered to pieces by what must be the ground and the Fusion. Eyes burning and blurring with sweat and smoke, he sees raceway lights and moon spin into streaking sparks as his mind's eye plays a video of their cars locked in tumbling embrace across the track, across the grass, into the night, over all walls and into eternal, black Nothing.
The crowd roars, yawps, wails--not to mourn, not for mirth, not for blood, but because they are here, here now, together, wavelets who rise and flow in matrimonial joy of this night, of moon, of Mom and Dad whose flames light their hearts-- the crowd cries for Now, brief now, now so soon it can't be said, just shivered in like skin.