Thursday, April 10, 2014

J: Biker's Jahannam

It's Flash Fiction Friday, and our assignment is to write about hell.  Desperate to tie this to the letter J, I did some searching and found "Jahannam," which is the Islamic concept of hell.  The rest of the story was inspired by a conversation I had on the road while riding last weekend.

Biking in Hell

"They're always there," Phil said.  "If you get up enough speed to have fun, they'll nail you."

"How does he do it?"

Phil shrugged.  "I used to call those things the spawn of Satan.  Turns out I was right."

The two cyclists struggled up the hill, which grew steeper as they neared the top.  By the time the summit was in sight, both stood on the pedals, straining every fiber to make any headway at all.

Jim sighed with relief as he topped out, but even as the riders settled back into their saddles the wind hit them.  Both faltered and swerved, then stood up once more, with a sort of resigned determination.  All the way across the rolling headland the winds buffeted them, often shifting to attack from unexpected directions.  Every few minutes an oversized farm truck raced by, belching diesel fumes and passing within inches of the swaying riders.

At last by unspoken agreement they pulled off for a break.  Jim unwrapped an energy bar, studying it without enthusiasm.  "Whatever it says on the wrapper, these are always the same."

"I know," Phil agreed.  "And banana power bars are the worst.  Remember chocolate?" he asked dreamily.  They forced down the disgusting paste.  However unpalatable, the bars did restore the energy depleted by the long climb and the battle against the wind.

"We start down in another half mile.  Don't forget the blind turns."

"I'm not likely to," Jim said, shuddering.

Soon the cyclists began the descent.  The road was near perfect.  Smooth pavement and banked turns tempted ever-rising speeds.  Jim allowed his speed to creep up a bit, enjoying the first two swooping curves.

The next turn was tight and blind, and the pavement changed from smooth to rough and broken as he entered the turn.  He cursed and dragged on his brakes, heaving the bike around to stay in his lane as a giant black SUV appeared in front of him, filling more than half the road.

A moment later Phil entered the turn.  Another large black SUV appeared, blocking all but a narrow strip on the roughest edge of Phil's lane.  He braked further, swerved, and shot past, clearing the behemoth by inches.

After that, it was all hairpins, and each one held an SUV, appearing at just the time and place to cause the greatest panic.  Even when the vehicles had crossed well into the downhill lane, invisible drivers yelled abuse at the cyclists as they squeezed past, holding their speed to a crawl.

At the bottom of the hill the road straightened, allowing the riders to lay off the brakes and relax.  That was when the wind hit again.  Phil pumped hard to pull up next to Jim so they could encourage one another, but as soon as he did, he had to drop back in a hurry as another truck thundered by.  It was much too big to have come down the road they had just descended.  Moments later it disappeared in the distance.

After an eternity, they sighted the end of the ride.  Wind-burned and exhausted, the riders racked their bikes and filed into the House of Gruel for their post-ride meal.

"Just another day's riding in Hell," Phil quipped, "where you get to do the thing you love most in the ways you hate most."

©Rebecca M. Douglass 2014

P.S.  You know that blessing about "may the road rise to meet you"?  That's happened to me, and you know something?  It HURTS!  
Because you know why!


  1. Jahannam isn't in my dictionary, but it's probably smaller than yours :) It's a great word. Your pic of the road looks just like the terrain near Dervaig, Isle of Mull - exept they've mostly given up on centre lines there. You'd love Mull.

    Nice story!!

    1. I used a couple if Internet thesauruses (thesauri?) to find that!

      The road is in Marin county, just north of SF. I've often thought the coastal hills around there look kind of like parts of England or Ireland (not that I have a lot to go on.

  2. I think in every curve there lurks "Mr. Murphy and his law." I have to drive almost 16 miles to the nearest Walmart - empty winding country road. Except for the one hairpin curve. then you can count on meeting "that SUV" hogging both sides.

    1. LOL! Feels even more that way when biking, and that frustration of not being able to let yourself go is immense! Not to mention that my arms and hands wear out when I have to ride the brakes.


We want to hear from you! Tell us your reactions, or whatever's on your mind.