[This is the prologue to a novel I wrote many years ago titled Godspeed. I never published it anywhere, but since it is to do with the Olympics, I might just edit it and put it on Amazon. Maybe.]
I am running on the edges of sheer cliffs where cairns are touched by red tendrils of a dying sun, a last goodbye until tomorrow. My shadows against the sunset atop wave-and-wind buffeted cliffs look like frozen images of monks and priests and samurai facing uncertain destinies. This is the stuff of soap-opera title sequences. Of dreams.
Only it isn’t really a dream, exactly. More like a memory. A memory superimposed over the great bloody red sky. I am running, but it feels like flying. I’m no longer on the cliffs of Malibu, but racing on the track, where I come off the backswing and fly through the straightaway. I’m making the crowd levitate: they are on their feet, shouting my name.
The landscape is a blur but I can see the finish line with absolute precision. My vision narrows: space and time have contracted to this, the love of the game, these last few seconds. The love and the terror collide inside my heart and the climax comes just as I cross the yellow finish line. Just in time.
Maybe it’s like a dream for you too. To have been an American girl in this, the last year of our century. Maybe you barricaded yourself up in your bedroom with your best girlfriends, watching the news on television while outside your windows and down the street police and rescue workers searched for some trace of evidence, some bit of cloth or skin. Even years later, you remember the throngs of volunteer teams in orange windbreakers searching up and down the Hollywood Hills, blocking traffic at peak hours. Day after day, the airplanes and search helicopters buzz in the air, droning endlessly as they hold siege over Los Angeles like big predatory insects. Maybe you watched the debates on television that lasted all night long. Maybe you even took a side: those who waited for a ransom demand an those who waited for a body.
Searching her out, desperate for any mention of her name. How many candle-light vigils at the UCLA track can you attend like a pilgrimage for a forsaken saint until you just give up? Or: finding yourself in Tower Records buying CDs in the middle of the day and suddenly it occurs to you she is still part of this city, and that you should maybe pay a bit more attention to the crowd. It’s foolish, you know, but you’re like that sometimes, thinking maybe she will snap into focus from a reel of pedestrian foreheads. You try and scan the crowds long enough to pick out a nose or set of eyes, some mark of individuality.
No Natalie though. Just a glint in the mirrors of salvation on what should be an Ordinary Day, leaving just a thought-shadow where she should be.
I know. Of course I know.
My name is Natalie. I’m the one you’re looking for.