Short Story: The Obsession

He always bought red cars, because he honestly believed they went faster. It was a myth he’d heard in his early teenage years, relayed with wide-eyed enthusiasm by another boy who had not understood his own father’s sarcasm at a rising car insurance quote. He had laughed with the rest of his friends at the time, but the seed found fertile ground in his eager mind.

What had begun as a joke stuck like a catchy tune; and every knowing laugh or passing reference watered it so that he couldn’t tell you when it changed from a catch-phrase within the group of friends to a heartfelt belief.

He painted his bicycle red when he was sixteen. He and the small gang tore around the estate, in and out of pedestrian areas, always with him pedalling quicker than anyone else to be out at the front. The rush of wind in his hair and cutting across his eyes didn’t bring as much colour to his cheeks as the belief that his magical colour choice continued to work.

The first car he stole was a black Ford, and he blamed his capture on the fact that it wasn’t his preferred colour. He worked his community service in a sullen funk, and then made sure that the first car he bought was a bright cherry red in colour. It was only a small Fiat, but it was light and the engine gave it a tremendous burst of speed from a standing start. He maintained his belief in the face of quiet ridicule from his oldest friends. He didn’t care.

It was perhaps inevitable that he would gravitate towards working in logistics. He loved the speed and risk of driving bikes and vans to deadlines, and the challenge of a difficult commission completed. He may have been forced to drive white vans after the Royal Mail shed most of the drivers at his local depot, but his pride and joy was a deep red Subaru. The throaty noise of its passage always made heads turn. He saw no dissonance in tuning up the car to match the potential implied by its colour – the one fuelled the other in his mind.

I still maintain it was the obsession that colour was linked to speed that led him to superstition. His pre-journey habits became pre-race rituals as he engaged in drag races late at night on the motorways and main roads heading out of town. He had his car re-upholstered and detailed in as many shades of red as he could, and took to wearing red in some form or other in his clothing.

His friends gave him a new nickname – the Flash – after his favourite show, and the mantra of the main character that he adopted for himself. “I need to get faster” became his rallying call, and “I’m not fast enough” a lament when success eluded him.

Obsession can warp perceptions and, when strong enough, the world. And he seemed to prove that point with faster and faster speeds set. People began to not want to race the vision in red that left smoking tyre tracks and outran police patrols. They were there for a challenge and a thrill, not to be trounced by some avatar of velocity.

I’m told that the night he disappeared he was trying out a new mixture injected into his cars systems. There was a throaty roar, a blossom of flame from his exhaust and every window in a block’s distance shattered as he broke the sound barrier from a standing start. Everyone assumed and then reported that the car had exploded or crashed; but wreckage was never found.

I think he’s still out there, pushing faster and faster, a red flicker in people’s rearview mirrors before the storm front overtakes them. I kind of hope he is, it makes for a better story I think. I hope you agree