Sweet Builder be buggered! Emerson thought. I’m sitting in the middle of a minefield! He noticed how the rapidly dissipating smoke tended to blur salient details, as if a fog had descended atop the wreckage of Malus’s Go-Devil.
“Martin!” Emerson called out across the expanse. He had called Malus’s name so often over the past several minutes that it seemed pointless to expect a response, and yet he continued to call with precisely the same degree of earnestness, desperately clinging to the dubious hope that if his friend were dead the world would somehow feel different.
Indecision stood shuffling nervously beside inaction.Time didn’t really stop the way people often say it does, Emerson simply forgot about it. At some level he really did want to race across the field like some legendary war hero ‘woo-hooing’ as he miraculously avoided all explosives between point A and Point B – but common sense held him in place long enough to break free of the reflexive snap-action that ends more often in tragedy than triumph. Was it cowardly?
Once the decision was made, he wasted no time turning his Go-Devil to retrace his own tracks back to the main path. From there he turned to the north following the tracks left by Malus’s vehicle until he finally came upon the blackened and scattered Go-Devil wreckage.
Malus was standing there, staggering slightly to maintain his balance . He stepped towards the approaching Go-Devil but it appeared more of a lurch. Despite the shell-shocked daze the squire seemed uninjured. The singed scarf he held in his hand had protected his face while the big gloves and thick jacket had spared him any significant burns to the body and hands.
“Hop on.” Emerson said not even trying to hide his relief. Malus, quickly recovering his senses, rolled his eyes then climbed into the back passenger seat.
The pleasant discourse that followed in the wake of discovering Malus was alive and uninjured had lasted only a few minutes…
“…. Still,” said Emerson with a wicked smirk to punctuate his rather officious tone. “It must suck being in the lead for so long only to lose it at the very end.”
“You’ve lost it Lighthouse!” Malus shook his head while projecting the warning: don’t be a dick. “Do I need to point out that we are arriving together.”
“Not quite, squire.” Emerson clearly didn’t mind assuming the: ‘okay, I’m guilty of being a dick’ – what are you going to do about it? posture. “You are riding in the backseat. As someone mathematical you should recognize that technically you will cross the finish line second.”
Emerson couldn’t help but snicker. He was about to retort when something in the distance caught his eye. After a moment of squinting he pointed to a farmhouse barely visible as a speck on the side of a knoll about two miles ahead. “I see Cleetus’s farm a couple of rises over.” Sharpley, Emerson turned the Go-Devil off the trail in a more direct route to the farm.”
“You idiot!” Malus shouted, more out of alarm than in criticism. “Don’t veer off the track.”
“You worry too much, son.” said Emerson. “We left the mines far behind.”
“You really have no short-term memory left, do you?” Malus snarked, though a part of him wondered: could Emerson possibly be playing a part? Or is he just unintentionally so obtuse? “You are heading right for a giant bear trap!” he prompted. “The giant bear trap we crashed into last year.”
Emerson hit the brakes just in time. The two men climbed out of the vehicle to assess just how close they came to repeating an error. The Go-Devil had come to a stop just five feet before a large hole in the ground. Broken at the bottom they could see the wreckage of a small number of ursine automata. Unfortunately for Emerson, the scene entertained his morbid curiosity with just the right level of distraction to provide Malus with the opportunity to act.. Emerson spun at the sound of the Go-Devil’s engine revving.
“Hop on.” Malus called over to Emerson. “You don’t mind if I drive do you?”
“That’s my Go-Devil.” Emerson shouted petulantly while pointing towards the back of the vehicle. “See, it has my name written right across the side.”
“Suit yourself!” Malus shrugged lowering his goggles. “Looks like a storm is moving in.” He then opened the throttle but the Go-Devil suddenly coughed and fell silent, refusing all attempts at a restart.
“Ha!” Emerson laughed. “It’s out of gas!” The two men stared at each other for a moment then, as if someone had fired a starting pistol, both turned and ran for the farmhouse atop the distant knoll.