Fragments spin, spreading through night-time air at an impossibly slowed speed. They slice with deadly patience through the dark, catching and interrupting the descent of faltering raindrops. Shards of glass shine in brief refraction of creeping headlights, casting onward beams at torn metal that spreads from the evolving wreckage.
A speeder rotates in this near-timeless place, the hold of friction broken as it bursts, with horrifying patience, through the roadside barrier. It accompanies the glass and shards as they leave the steady world of order, the place where motion is confined only to our rules, and enter free-fall through the night.
Behind, in the distance, the city glows. Lives are caught in freeze-frame, millions lived with no knowledge of this dark bend on this rain-soaked road. The steady demands of unpaid bills grind to a halt, quarrels are paused. Entertainment screens cease in their blue flicker, while lovers freeze in the throes of passion.
Ahead of the speeder, as it begins to obey the inevitable call of gravity, only dark awaits. The story, here, is that of the unseen corner, the momentum, the unwise speed carried into this dark and wet night.
The bright lights cast from the speeder no longer illuminate the road and now, instead, only describe the trajectory of the vehicle as it arcs into the valley below. Rain is caught in these beams; once-dark drops now shine in a light they never should have met.
For the occupants of this speeder, life has changed. Only moments before, they though they understood their destination; they thought they were in control. But now terror grips them, and they have had no time to prepare. In this stretched-out moment they are locked in sudden grimace, rising cries of alarm breaking from tightened throats. These wails are lost to the terrible sounds of the barrier giving way. Whitened knuckles grip the steering wheel, at the dashboard, at the seats. It is futile.
Only physics and fate are in control of this speeder, anymore. The occupants fight it, as humanity always will – as humanity must in order to survive – but there is no free choice left. No outcome that can be controlled. The speeder is beholden only to gravity, velocity, and whatever awaits in the dark, ahead.
It is in this place that we find all of ourselves, in the winter of early 2021. We hope and we pray that the sides of the valley can be navigated. We hope that the speeder in which we all find ourselves will make contact with the ground, that some limp vestige of control can be found as we slip and slide and rush, without tragedy, until we come to rest. We hope that the land ahead will be forgiving. We hope that there are no rocks in the night. No trees. We hope that this is, indeed, a valley – and not, as we worry, a chasm.
We all thought we knew where we were going, as we entered 2020. As the fear and worry and terror of the year unfolded, as death’s bell tolled all around us, and as our freedoms were lost to the unstoppable rush of the virus; we know, now, how horribly wrong we were.
Our lives are captured in slow motion; every day, a small fraction of time passing. We brace, together, and we hope, together.
Let us soon come to a safe halt together, too.