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Salt, speed, legend

Icarus or Prometheus. How fast would you have to pedal to escape?

The heat turns the air into wobbling solids and the sky burns down like it’s raining fire. There’s no respite, no shadow, no cool place to lay down anywhere around here, just this invisible, scalding force driving us on, and on, and on. And then there’s the salt, like the ground’s become 80-grit sandpaper that’s trying to crunch through my boots, then my bones, and swallow them down.

I think I’ve been here five days. For five days I’ve seen cities melt into the horizon at nightfall. For five days I’ve watched the wide-open vastness of the skies. Daylight has become a burning tightrope of time stretched between sunrise and sunset. Dusk is a blessing at first, with its slow meander of colours. Then night falls quickly, like a shower of hailstones.

Too much salt does funny things to your eyes, and your eyes do funny things to your brain. It’s like it can’t comprehend this much nothing. Where are the trees, it asks? Where are the birds? Where are the skyscrapers? And so, to compensate, it builds them itself out of jangled nerves, heat, salt and my sweat.

On this salt, under these skies, we’re all the same. We’re all working on the masterpieces that will outlive us, working to write ourselves into something less ephemeral than the human body. A life can withstand time if you do extraordinary things, and if you can cram more distance into less time than anyone else, you’ll live forever. We’re artists, our entire worlds captured within drops of sweat and the salty craters they leave as they fall.

But how much salt is too much? How much sky? How much heat can be crammed into this salt pan before it ignites into a huge cauldron of fire? How fast would you have to pedal to escape? How fast to take off? 183 miles an hour? Would that be enough? And would that speed alone not make me burst into flame?

I thought of Icarus. I thought of Prometheus. I thought of the flaming Black Shuck of Bungay. I was all of them: flying too close to the sun, stealing fire from the gods and marauding, body ablaze, down this track. Nothing could hold me back.

Credits

PH Matt Ben Stone
TEXT Oliver Cable

 

April 22, 2020

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