Excerpt from Storm of Self: Writings from a Divided Mind by Blake Ernst
The Night Tod Kunstler Died
“The aesthetic,” said Tod Kunstler contemplatively, and took a drag off his cigarette. He blew the smoke into the midnight air, watching it form a little cloud that slowly drifted down to the concrete, where it flattened out and vanished. He was standing in the side yard of his house, next to his bicycle.
Everything's like smoke, he thought. Everything changes shape, dissipates, and eventually melds into its surroundings. He took one last drag off his cigarette and carefully dropped the butt into a drain hole, so that his parents wouldn't find it. Quietly wheeling his bike out the gate, he hummed, “There's a bad moon on the rise.” When he got to the driveway, he looked up at that creamy white orb in the sky and thought of all the townspeople soundly asleep beneath it on that warm summer night.
Tod started to ride down the street. His bike glided along like a bird: every movement was perfect, each maneuver exact – all grooving to some beat inside of him, the beat of life. The stars were glimmering above his head in perfect tranquility; he was but a singular speck of dust next to them. But he was alive, he thought. Tod came across an old corvette on the side of the road and stopped his bike. The car was just what he was looking for. The candy apple red body with whitewall tires and headlights like bug eyes had it. This would be the one he would steal, yes. It was fast and stylish. He ditched the bike in the gutter.
It wasn't hard to jimmy the lock on the door. He climbed into the cockpit, gripping his hands around the steering wheel, and took a deep breath. Stealing a car; it was an exhilarating experience. It took him only a few minutes to hotwire the thing. He did it with great skill and precision – he even did it artfully, you could say. Soon, he had started the engine and was driving out onto the main road.
There was the moon in the sky again, foreshadowing some great doom. He roared onto the freeway, pushing the pedal to the floor. The speedometer jumped. 80 MPH. 90 MPH. 100 MPH. The engine whined. 110 MPH. 120 MPH. He kept the pedal pressed to the floor.
Finally, he made the move he had been waiting to make, and it was as graceful as a painter's brush sliding across canvas: he pulled the steering wheel to the left, and swerved into the concrete center divider. The metal hood smashed against it, ejaculating sparks and emitting a deafening grind. The car tumbled several times over the asphalt then slid to a screeching halt, bursting into flames.
Tod casually climbed out of the burning heap through his shattered window, and for a moment basked in the light of the flames, in the beauty of it all, and lit another cigarette. “The aesthetic,” he said resolutely, exhaling a cloud of smoke which drifted toward the car and vanished. He walked home that night with blood dripping from his scalp.