Photo courtesy of Ashwin Rao (via The Angry Hourglass Round 18)
He meets me at the door; suit smart, whip thin; touch of grey at the temples. No distinguishing features, weathered with wrinkles. Seasoned, at a guess. “Welcome to the society. I’ll show you around; show you the ropes. This is where you’ll be stationed.” He gestures to the double doorway at the end of the corridor.
We move through to the hub of the action, where the machines stand ready. The one nearest the doorway has no rider, whereas the others have men seated at the saddles, peddling at pace. The motion is frenetic, feet moving, seeking speed at a blur. Sensors capture their progress; careful calculation and conversion on pedal power.
“Here you go. Have at it.” Before there is chance for questions he is gone.
The machine in front of me blinks; the red light on the monitor, on and off. Insistent. I figure I’ll humour it. That’s my job; what I signed up for. I climb onto the leather, legs astride the frame; seek to set a steady speed, without undue pressure. Presumably, technique counts in this game.
There is no talk, no banter from those to the right, who peddle incessantly; look towards the parent machine and progress chart it controls, displayed on the farthest wall.
It’s a strange set up. Despite the bikers’ speed, which causes sweat to drip from their brows and coat their clothing, there are breaks as they change position; swap from one machine to another. It doesn’t last long before they continue apace. The pause is perfunctory; practised. No debate; no discussion.
It takes time before I get it; the price for my sign up. The nudge from my right as we shift rows, bike to bike, is my cue. The guy furthest from me sways on his feet; seems likely to fall, before he masters himself. He passes through the right hand door and beyond.
Later, he returns, suit clad, from the left, bringing an unknown face with him, towards the last machine. We make eye contact briefly. I know I will not see him again, where he heads. Know, the exit through which I, too, will leave, in time.
Another one of my recent weekend flash fiction pieces for the Angry Hourglass "flash frenzy" challenge.