By Dillon Luong
April 27, 2024

Godhood: it’s at a hundred miles-per-hour.

I slam the car door shut. The summer heat is oppressive, taunting me as it settles on my tanned skin. I close my eyes. Breathe. My phone is still fucking broken. How am I going to explain to her why I’m late?


Ten minutes ago I beat Google Maps directions into my mind like a migraine. Now, my breaths pulsate throughout my body like a wasp, and a headache circulates my consciousness with a noose. The heat smothers my face with sweat—plastic wrap pulling me into the headrest, waiting until I stop resisting.

It’s pointless. I won’t make it in time.

I open my eyes. I was born in this car. The hood is the jaw, the seats are the tongue. The heat swallows me whole, and I feel the thrum of the engine rattle with a heartbeat. I’m in it, a place where power manifests with the ignition. With a click, I become omnipotent.

Kill it.

I steal the wheel. Crank the shift until it digs a groove. Slam. The. Gas.

And I rip the road, and I burn the sun. The car explodes forward, exhaust plunging terror into me like a heart attack.

It’s time to die.

At the traffic light, with time to kill, I think of her. I remember when we first met we talked about horror films. It was awkward and my head spun. When I spoke I stalled mid-conversation, and when I acted I sputtered aimlessly. When she asked for recommendations, I screamed inside instead.

I always feel this way, choking on doubt until I crash and burn. Everywhere I go there are traffic lights and roadside signs in my warbly mind, and every forward effort stops short with detours and distractions. I can’t help but stop myself before I get the chance to try. People and cars are equally chaotic and destructive, but reading between the lines is not the same as racing between lanes; the pit in my stomach is still out of fear, but what fills it?

I look up at the red traffic light. It beckons like a lighthouse.

Impulse. For me, driving becomes a beating, roaring impulse to act.

My hands shoot out for the wheel. I don’t know how, but I’m on the highway. The truck ahead of me bungles forward. My tires have become jagged teeth, and as I zip past the air throbs with a ripcord. My body belongs to the car—a hive mind. Each rumble is a rhythm, a pattern I read through the grooves in the steering wheel. It is what metaphysically bonds me to the monster I reside in. When the car speaks, I listen.

What sounds like a bomb goes off in the engine; I turn left.

Like true rebellion, danger is liberation—release, from thought, from inaction. Often, I feel like I look through myself. I shrink and shirk at the future and its consequences. Frozen abstractions take hold of my day-to-day, and pin my moment-to-moment. I crucify myself for the imaginary acts I could’ve done and will do, and the inner me dies as I get stuck to the what if.

It’s part of why I love this; I find it hard to breathe. My body has to fight back, pull me from my incandescent mentations into the present reality. The future and past have no meaning and time finally becomes a construct. Driven by fear, I am free from it. Adrenaline becomes hypnosis, my mind nothing but the road just so I can act with my wants and needs. It is these moments I am possessed by some otherworldly knowledge: that though I drive straight towards it, I escape my death.

I roll the window down. The wind screams, and I scream back. Traffic tears past me like razor wire, and I barely avoid bleeding out. Here, I have no time to think, to speak, to hit the brakes. I’m riding a metal monster, already in its maw, the belly of the beast. It whispers in my ear it wants to kill me, and I cut lanes and cinch skin tight gaps to stay one step ahead. It takes everything to focus, to be in this moment so I can be in the next. I am paranoid, but I am self-aware and present. Speeding and navigating is as natural as breathing, and on the Highway River Styx, it’s all I need to cross the afterlife. I have never felt more part of myself, never more alive.

When I’m like this, catatonic and cathartic, I am just a vessel. The old me, full of fear and worry, has molted off. I’ve killed myself. The car is on fire. My new skin sticks to the seat as I melt into madness; I knew the summer heat would get to me. I’m not actually dying, but light whirs by me and the sun speckles my vision and I’m stuck in an oven. Hell is hot, and like a lighter to lips, I want to get as close to the fire as possible.

I’m all but ashes now, and I misremember whether I came here to destroy or cleanse the self.

I am falling apart. The summer spell distorts my glare; when I breathe, the car heaves. It doesn’t matter, this thrill brings me structure. It holds my hands on the wheel because I can’t feel them anymore. It tells me to take over the left lane as it binds my skeleton to our frame. We, metal and me, are not paralyzed to act. Like a miraculous cure, it grants us hyperfixation on the task at hand—a slice of time so small at a hundred miles-per-hour, all in the grip of the wheel. We can race the echoes of my ethos until the road becomes an obsession. This is how we love ourselves, the closest to godhood we’ll ever get.

We are seething. An 18-wheeler has taken the left lane. It is almost as if the car, speed, the road, suddenly shout, tail it. Shame wipes off the windshield. We see a gap in the traffic ahead, we need to pass it. Slam it. We run the length of the side, a little more, carving deep into the pedal. PUSH IT!

Another truck turns in front of us.

We must have been in a blindspot. We look out the rearview, fidgeting for another route forward. Another truck appears behind us; my heart pounds like engine pistons and my hands clam slick around the wheel, out of control. Out the side, I see another. Everywhere I look there are labyrinthine, shifting sets of metal hulls closing in on me unknowingly. Soon, inches ahead and behind a truck, I just stare at a wall, and I realize we’re driving straight into it at seventy. It’s a hall of mirrors, and the only way out is shattering glass.

There are two kinds of people. Those who stay on the road, and those who stray off of it—the roadkill. The traffic line separates us, and we must revel on this tightrope because it is the only way across.

The truck walls oscillate. They’re so close together that they exude this immense pressure. Within the vehicle, within ourself, within me, I feel the crux of who I am, compacted into one core purity, free of limits and false intention.

Roadkill is dead. Yet, I find myself drawing closer, identifying further, to see what’s on the other side of the line. I know I shouldn’t, but the closer I get the more in-sync I become with myself—it’s intoxicating. I shouldn’t stop short again, it’s all I do, I should push my urges. I need to see what I’m capable of.

A gap opens ahead. Narrow, but enough. We’re at terminal velocity and our entire being, the car and I, shake uncontrollably. Within this liminal space, I am the animal backed in the corner, and I am nothing but impulse. I make my choice.

I want to be roadkill, if only to live.

We shoot forward. The world crashes aloud like a drum, but I am deaf to it all.

We see the sky again. My eyes are rolling back into my head. This is omnipotence; this is a hallucination. My body stiffens and twitches with rigor mortis. I am dea—

I turn into my exit, careening down the bend.

Stopped short. I always stop short. It’s never enough. It will never be enough.

I am empty.

Stopping at her house, I step out into the hot sun. I’m reminded why I came here in the first place: I should be here for her, not the road. To want to throw it all away for a car ride, it must be a terribly selfish thing.

She’s already walking over. “You're early… you didn’t speed again did you?”

A pause. “Of course not, there wasn’t any traffic today. Why would I?”

I say the same bullshit every time. I slam the car door shut. ■

Layout: Kaili Ochoa
Photographer: Aaron Castellanos
Videographer: Noah Silber
Stylist: Divya Konkimalla & Vi Cao
Set Stylist: Lauren Muñoz
HMUA: Averie Wang & Juniper Luedke
Models: Otofu Ayaku, Faizan Firdaus & Josemanual Vasquez

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