Flying at Night

In this moon-shadowed narrative, a deserted California highway is the road to one man's strange transcendence.

I’m riding my Harley up near the foothills of the San Gabriels. It’s night. I’m a little drunk. 

Sunny and me, we had another fight over some nit-picky thing I did, or didn’t do, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so instead of punching another hole in the wall, I took off. Hit the tavern for a couple hours, sitting up at the bar and staring at all the bottles without really seeing them. Now I’m just riding, trying to make myself right before heading back. 

I’m cruising through this little pocket of forest between all the cookie-cutter housing developments with their identical orange-tile roofs, humming a blues song from the jukebox at the bar. I’m finally starting to feel good — loose, kinda peaceful, know what I mean? Kinda like I’m flying. Like I can go back to Sunny and the kid now and I won’t blow up as soon as I walk through the door. Like maybe things’ll be better this time. 

The wind feels a little cool, and there’s a green forest smell in the air. The Harley is roaring along beneath me, and it feels alive, like I’m riding a big jungle cat, a tiger or a big panther … 

The road busts out of the forest and I’m up higher than I realized and the fog is rolling in from the Pacific, I’m looking down over this sea of fog with the moon shining on it — just this endless sea of fog. The Harley really is a panther now, and it’s running with these big bounding leaps along that deserted highway. This is weird but at the same time, it feels right somehow, I don’t know why. 

I can feel its muscles beneath me, bunching and releasing, bunching and releasing, just bounding along, and I lean forward with my head down next to its big solid muscular neck and my hands clenching its fur. There’s a smell to its fur, musky and warm, almost a sweetness to it. 

It takes two more big leaps and it’s up over the guard rail, and we’re soaring over the fog. I’m free now, nothing’s holding me down, we’re soaring, and I let go of the cat, let go of everything, I’m flying in the moonlight, flying —

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Scott Stolnack

Scott Stolnack

Scott Stolnack has published in a wide range of forms, including science fiction, travel and adventure writing, book reviews, scientific reports and peer-reviewed research, poetry, and literary fiction. His award-winning short plays have been produced in the U.S. and U.K., and are seen regularly around Seattle, while his longer dramatic work has been finalist or semifinalist in national playwriting competitions. He holds degrees in English (summa cum laude), biology and fisheries ecology from the University of Washington. Between 2008 and 2019, he was a senior biologist coordinating recovery of endangered salmon in the Seattle area. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Pacific Play Company’s Next Wave Playwrights Project.

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