An extract from The Alice Factor by Fyn Day...

Sean knew he was driving too fast along the lanes, some of which were artificially narrowed by overgrowth of the hedgerows lining both sides. He knew lives could be ruined and lost, including his own, and his inability to slow down frightened him. He'd woken early, restless, but now the day held a balmy dusty noon hanging idle in fields and thickets impatient to see off the morning.

Sean changed down a gear, letting the drag of the engine slow the car as he roared into another bend, then pulled away quickly, accelerating into the straight, up into top, then changing down again for the next bend. As the road unwound before him, only occasionally wide enough for two cars, he adopted a racing line, hugging the hedges for the left-handers, and flirting with poor vision and not knowing what's to come with right-handers. The tape player was off. The noise of the engine, the road, and the rush of air, cut by the top edge of the windscreen, then tumbling down onto the back of Sean's head, was music enough. He drove hard.

The small rear-view mirror was heavily convexed to give an all round vision, enhanced by the panoramic absence of a roof. This backward-seeing eye gave Sean sight of himself every glance he made. He crouched distorted in the bottom right-hand corner, his left shoulder bulging towards the glass, prominently concealing his torso, just his arms reached out to grip the diminutive steering wheel. His head was large, his beard black, his hair divided at the crown, some tugged backwards flapping in the broken air, some pressed flat against his forehead. Each gear change Sean grimaced, white teeth split his beard, and as his head moved so it bent, bulging out towards the mirror. When he looked straight at his image, he recognised a monster, with an elastic proboscis reaching out, smelling fear.

Sean reached a T-junction and barely slowed before turning left. The new road was wider, two lanes, but heavier traffic moved in both directions. He was heading for Goodwood hill, it was Thursday, and he had time to kill before his clinic, he had no reason to hurry, no one to meet, but the slower traffic annoyed him, and it was difficult to pass.

The MG C had a four-speed gearbox, with overdrive on third and fourth. Sean had developed an overtaking technique of changing down to third when beginning to pass a car, but still in overdrive. Then, when moving out, with the accelerator hard down, flicking out the overdrive controlled by a stem switch on the steering column. The effect was similar to kicking down with an automatic gearbox: power bit in a thrilling way, and the burst of speed left all others standing. Sean had no idea what effect this had on the mechanics of the car. He was more concerned with the effect it had on the drivers of the cars he passed. He hoped it was stunning.

Sean turned right, picking his moment rather than waiting for a safe gap in the oncoming traffic, and pulled away up a steep road which would have carried him to Goodwood's horse racing stadium. Instead, at the top of the steepest part of the climb, he turned right once again into a narrow unmetalled road that continued his ascent.

This track was a tunnel of leaf-laden boughs, which opened out into a clearing. Two gravel car parks cut into the chalk hills, a bridle path led away left to the summit of Goodwood hill, whilst Sussex, the Solent, the Isle of Wight and half of Hampshire carpeted out before the bonnet of his car. Sean stopped the engine and blessed the silence. He forced his breathing to deepen, his heart rate slowed, he closed his eyes and still saw the road rushing towards him, then under him. Some time later he loosened his grip of the steering wheel.

The Alice Factor
Fyn Day

ISBN 0 95 44983 0 5

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