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Wheels by Isaac Fellows



In October the city got snow, sudden and violent. The streets were emptied--no one was prepared for such a squall. Pedaling north I felt nothing. All I owned I left behind. I had myself only and I was weightless.

The snow too was weightless, falling because it wanted to fall.

I rode twenty-five miles to Saints Hollow Hill in just over five hours. It was some time after midnight, and the snow had stopped. Directly overhead hung a bone-white oval moon; everywhere everything glittered in its light.

I walked up the hill the back way, pushing my bike ahead of me through thigh-deep snow. When I reached the top I had no breath; I lay down and waited for it to return.

"Now it's decided," I said. I looked down the slope's steep expanse, gone silver in the moonlight. Three hundred yards down sat the old wall. From the top of the hill the wall was black and appeared cavernous.

"Right," I declared, "I ride East. Left, West." I lowered my head a moment, praying without direction toward any deity. And I put my bike before me on the lip of the slope.

It seemed to hum, the metal beneath my fingers a bright and distant singing in the snow-chocked silence all around.

"Go," I whispered, and let it.

At first my bicycle almost toppled wavering wildly as it slid through the snow. But then it righted itself as if mustering some kind of mechanical will and flew down the hill barely breaking the snow's surface. Ice sparked off its tires. It hissed, a hidden sound like water being forced through pipes.

I watched. I waited. I did not breathe. I gnawed my lip bloody.

My bicycle traced a slight arc to the right. It missed the wall by no more than five feet, colliding into a snarl of vines with a sound of muffled sighing.

I also sighed, and I lowered my head and went to reclaim my bike. "To the East," I muttered.

It took a long time to slog down the hill. I stood there staring at the entangled bicycle. Naked of snow the vines appeared a black scrawl. "I should've ridden it," I said. I righted my bicycle and returned to the crest.

Stars above, stars below in a shimmering glitter, the hill's face scored by this lone incredibly straight line, my footsteps hissing whispers, my face blank--I lowered my head and prayed again wordlessly to nothing and I mounted my bicycle. The slope looked so much steeper. My bike's track was black and raw-looking--it stretched before me down the hill aligning my vision.

I closed my eyes and dropped.

The speed was incredible. The snow crackled flying from beneath me. I breathed once, a single great gasp, and my eyes flew open.

All I could see was the wall. I was racing irrevocably toward it. I braced myself, and in the dark behind my eyes I was already adrift in the void.

At last I fell. I shouted, a great primal outpouring, a bloody tatters of a sound. I opened my eyes.

I was still atop my bike, held fast as if I'd been welded to it. Behind me was the wall, blocking the hill from view. All around were the spindly fingers of the alder thicket.

I stood and raced around to the front. I saw the track I'd made--it ended cleanly at the wall's face. I raced to my bike. It was there on the other side. I was there on the other side, the snow beaten down all around.

I found again I couldn't draw breath.

Clouds drew together blotting the moon. I stared at the wall for a long time, absently touching my face as if to assure myself of its solidity. I touched the wall. It felt impossibly dense, like a wall of ice. The moon was now completely veiled, and a thick darkness dripped over everything. Slowly, so slowly, the wall merged with the rest of the night; it became indistinguishable from the hill, from the sky, from me. I climbed onto my bicycle and started pedaling.



Isaac Fellows was raised in the shadow of Mount Diablo. As a child he constructed elaborate fantasies of himself as a writer. As an adult his time is spent in reflection upon these fantasies, further elaboration, and daily arts-centered play with children. Isaac will marry Iris in May 2005. He hopes both to eat more kale and to one day have a collection of his short fiction, Compression Tricks, gathered into print. His work can be found in various outposts of the small press.


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