Otoo twists the throttle of his motorbike.
VROOOOMMMM. Revving. Smoking. Burning rubber.
His helmet is clipped on. His augmented-reality goggles loading the map onto the interior screen of his visor. No one knows the course as it's sent out just before every race.
His mind focuses. In one instance, absorbing his surroundings. The eight other motor-riders by his side. Torn gloves from Kantamanto. Beaten boots from the old military hardware shop. The clothing minimum requirement for any racer.
Then he goes further. Takes in the blood moon, stark in the sky. Bleeding into his veins. The air heavy with humidity weighs on him. Moist forming at the back of his neck, drawn into the inner fabric of his helmet.
But in the other instance, he must numb himself to his surroundings. The lingering charge of the powder he sniffed before helps him with this. It is everywhere. This electricity. He can almost reach out and grab it.
Matilda pulls up by his side. A wild look in her eyes. She lifts her visor. He can tell that she can tell where they both are. Wired. Otoo winks at her. She mouths his nickname, ‘Automatic’. But when he tries to smile in reply, he gnashes his teeth instead. That charge. Oooh, that charge! It’s locked his jaw in.
Matilda says something again but the words are lost in the cacophony. Otoo could tell though. She had said, ‘Goat! See you for de finish line.’
‘No,’ he thought, ‘I go see you for de finish line.’
He twists the throttle again. Revving the engine of his motorbike. The one he’s inherited from his elder brother, Jing-Sing. Thats what everyone used to call him on the streets. But Otoo knew him as Nana. Nana is gone now. The fastest motor rider the ‘Okada Premier League’ had ever seen.
Otoo sees a flag suddenly rise in the near distance. The crest of which is a skull superimposed on an old motorbike used back when they called them Okada. He and the other racers tighten their race gear and pull to the starting line. He takes note of the riders tonight. Gango. Clement the Pellet. Baidu. Bullet. This is not going to be easy.
It is Manny on his new bike. His engine is singing. Pink neon lights flashing from underneath. It’s not just his bike that is new, Manny is all decked out. How?
“You dey insult my mommy?! Sia!” Otoo yells, noting all the tiny details of Manny’s new-look. But there is no time to think too much about this. The flag is being raised. Cutting the blood moon in half.
The route is fully loaded on the screen. He switches his venom-green neon lights on. His eyes are drawing a mental map of the route. American house. East Legon Tunnel. Mahama Highway. 37. Down down down. Achimota forest.
His brother’s voice echoes in the caverns of his soul. ’Twat! You dey listen? See the way but see the road first…’
Otoo nods his head. Then he asks, ‘You go dey ma side?’
‘Forever,’ Nana says.
He looks over and sees Matilda leaning in to another sniff of the powder. What he would do for another bump! What he would do for another chance. A chance at what? he asks. He doesn’t know where that had come from. That question to himself. But it is too late for thinking. It is time to race.
The cacophony. Drowning sounds of engines roaring. Metal clanging. A gathering crowd feisty in anticipation. Bets are being drawn. The flag is up at its zenith. When it comes down…
What is that?
‘Oh-ho! It is going to be one of those races,’ Otoo thinks, smirking to himself.
But this isn’t Otoo anymore, this is Automatic.
Twist — twist — twist! The engine’s rev is bliss to his ears.
Twist -twist — twist.