A short story from my college creative writing class.
*Red text indicates changes/additions made after our first class workshop. Not all workshop critiques have been put into effect at this time.
The Roller Blades that Reached the Stars
Speed is everything in this sport. People believe the key to success is the tricks, well they’re dead wrong. Gaining the momentum to soar, to go up the halfpipe and find yourself in mid-air, that’s what it’s all about. When I’m up there it’s as though time stops. It’s a peaceful feeling that ends with you falling back down to Earth, but in that precious moment you’re free to do as you please. That is why I need to get faster. Time just needs to stand still for a moment longer for me to show them the truth… that I am the best. For me, it was never a choice. Blading is what I was born to do. With my rollerblades and speed, I’ll reach for the stars.
I stretched my arm up and grabbed at the air while lying on the cold concrete, exhausted and dripping in sweat. Breathing heavily, a quick glance at my watch showed me it was 9:16, I had been training non-stop for about two hours now. First period was already starting. I wonder if Sarah is pissed I didn’t show up again today. She just doesn’t understand, not like she used to. I remember in sophomore year, not long after we started dating, she would come watch me practice every day after school. She didn’t know anything about blading but she said she just enjoyed seeing me go. Honestly, I also enjoyed having her there. Now she just tells me I should start thinking about going to college with her. I don’t have time to worry about college. My training comes first.
Despite my aching legs, I used a nearby rail to help balance myself back up. You don’t win gold at the X-Games by being a tired wimp. As I worked my way up, my legs had another plan for me and I slid backwards on my blades, my butt landing firmly on the ground. Maybe I’ll take a quick breather, after all. As I sat there, I took a moment to survey the abandoned skate park I found myself in almost every day. It had been a long time since I actually looked around. From the worn-out half pipe full of deep scuff marks to the rails dull from the excessive scratching of my blades, the place had begun showing signs of age. I found my little “sanctuary” not long after it was built. They made it to attract filthy skater punks but soon realized no one wanted to come. Having been built so close to the pier, as you skated you would catch the occasional whiff of raw fish. Turns out people don’t like that too much. Luckily for me, people eventually just forgot it was even here. No one ever comes to check it out so I’m able to practice freely, without interruption. Or so I thought.
As I sat on the ground resting, the heavy metal door to the park flung wide open. I quickly jerked my head in its direction, half expecting to see Sarah, ready to drag me across town. Instead, I saw something even worse. A thin man entered wearing an overly tight red spandex body suit, so tight it made me feel a bit claustrophobic. He wore a long black helmet with a “shooting star” decal along both sides. To top off the strange getup, he had a pair of black rollerblades on, each with a similar star decal as the helmet but with the word “Ricki” placed in front of the stars. The outfit was only the beginning of what made this man strange, in fact, it was nothing in comparison to his face, light green eyes, brown stubble, a slightly crooked nose, and a grin that made you want to punch him without a word. His face was fairly older looking, around late 30s, but it was a face I was all too familiar with. A face that followed me where ever I went. It was my face.
“Ha! So you are here. Hot damn, my memory is like a hawk.”
“Wha… what??” I couldn’t help but just stare at his face. How was this possible? I had trouble forming the words I wanted to say but managed to blurt out, “Who the hell are you?!”
“Ha! Good one! Isn’t obvious from these stunning good looks and mesmerizing charm? I’m you, Tony. From the future! Hahahaha!”
“The future? What?!” I shouted out. What the hell is happening right now? “That’s not possible! Why do you have my face!? And why in the hell is all this funny to you?!”
“Ha! Well, Tony, when you’ve entered the ever expanding void, an abyss of darkness that both does and does not exist simultaneously, you end up getting a pretty good sense of humor, you know? Anyways, don’t sweat the small stuff. Oh, and you can call me by my rollerblading stage name, Ricki Stars.”
My head was beginning to ache. I closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath. “Okay, so that sounds like a porn star name. What the hell, man? Also, why the first name, Ricki?? If you are me then our name is Tony.”
“Shut it. I got a good theme going here, Tony. Don’t question my/your ideas.”
“Jesus… alright whatever. So, how did you even get here?”
“You know, I don’t have a real great grasp on it but it seems I blade so fast and so hard that I rip a hole in the time-space continuum and just kinda travel through time. It took me a few tries but I managed to get to this general timeframe. Pretty neat huh?”
“Really? You’re telling me you’re from the future and that’s your explanation of how you got here? Wow. Okay, why did you come back to this time, then? What is it you want?”
“Ah, I’m glad that you asked! Now listen closely to what I’m about to say, Tony. I don’t want to repeat myself, it would be a waste of time. Not that that matters if we really think about it. Ha! Good one Ricki, you time traveling fiend.”
“Okay, get to the point already.”
“Right. So, here’s the thing… We eventually made it into the X-Games and well… we lost. Didn’t even get a lousy bronze medal. Hahaha! I know it’s crazy!”
“Um, wait. I don’t think I heard you right. Say that again.”
“We lost, Tony. We failed.”
My head was spinning so fast I thought it would just twist off. This was all too much for me handle. How can he know these things about me? My name? My dreams? Maybe… maybe he is from the future. Ha! Now I’m the crazy one. Here, standing before me, is a man stating to be a roller blading time traveler. To make things worse, he’s telling me that everything I’m working for is going to be all for nothing. Telling me that I’ve failed and then just laughing it off, as if it’s nothing. Roller blading is all I care about. It’s everything to me. He treats it like a joke but at the same time, here he is standing right in front of me, in front of himself.
“Heh… like that could happen. You’re full of it, Ricki. Nothing is going to stop me from winning those games. With my speed, I can’t lose.”
“That’s what I thought once. Now I’m a near 40 year old man working in a laundromat, full time.”
His entire presence shifted. In fact, it felt as though the atmosphere in the room changed. It felt dark and quiet, as if we were the only two people for miles. I looked Ricki in the eyes, he was no longer smiling or laughing, he was serious. His eyes were empty, as if the life had been sucked out of him. Whatever I was feeling in this moment was nothing in comparison to how he must feel. If what he’s telling me is true, he’s been broken for a long time. His life was already over and now he’s in front of me looking to get it back.
“If… if I’m going to change our future, I’m going to need to know where we went wrong,” I said, my body began shaking and my chest sunk at this thought.
Ricki let out a sigh and turned his head away from my gaze. “Unfortunately, I don’t truly know. It was so long ago now but I know everything we worked for was perfect that day. We soared above everyone. The stars were in my grasp and yet when I made it back down, I was met with nothing. Our scores were so low the judges questioned how I even made it to the games.”
“That doesn’t make any sense! With our speed we should have done better than that. We understand more than anyone that speed is the key. With no leads to go on, what am I supposed to do? How do I make sure I don’t make the same mistake again?”
“Tony, I’ve had a long time to give it thought and I may have an idea. If you keep going down the path you’re currently on, you won’t focus on anything except speed. We both know what it feels like to be up in that air, it’s remarkable, but maybe it’s not enough to just be fast. Maybe our tricks need to be even better as well. Maybe we have to train even harder. Do you know what I mean? I’ve had a long time to think about where I could have gone wrong and maybe it wasn’t the tricks but it couldn’t hurt our chances to consider it.”
“And if it’s not the tricks? If it’s something else? What then?”
“Ha!” He gave me a cocky grin. “Then we’ll keep coming back as many times as it takes. We’re Ricki Stars, after all. Time is no obstacle for us. We won’t give up until we reach out and grasp those stars with our own two hands, Tony!”
Ricki extended his fist out towards me before saying, “You and me, Tony. We’re taking our future back.” I hated the thought that I could be wrong, the idea that speed training might not be enough. Everything I thought I knew was being questioned as I looked at the face of my future. It was all happening too fast. I extended my fist out and bumped his. With a big forced grin I yelled, “Let’s do this!” I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want this future. Ricki’s smile was wide and in moments his entire existence dissipated, it was like he turned to dust and vanished into the air. I was alone again in my sanctuary. I took a deep breath before talking to the empty room.
“I… I’ll figure this out, Ricki. For both of us.”
I began blading around, warming myself up, when the sound of a large crash made my heart sink. I turned around to see the metal door swing open yet again with Ricki standing in the doorway.
* * * * * * * * * *
The appearance of Ricki did not stop there. One after another, they kept appearing, failure after failure. Somehow, we were stilling missing something. We continuously shifted our focus from one area to the next but were met with the same end result. When Ricki said we would keep coming back I thought it was just a joke. I never expected to actually go through with it. After each one dissipated, it seemed my timeline was shifted. Each time Ricki walked through that door, he was a completely new version from a separate timeline. There was no connection between them besides their knowledge of each visits from the many Ricki that came before them. It was chaos and I was at its center.
“Ricki, we’re getting nowhere with this. What if you were to video tape the games so we can study them?”
“I’ve already tried that. The issue is if I weight myself down with anything more than this outfit I can’t reach the speed I need to tear through time.”
I just couldn’t seem to catch a break. Whether it was Ricki #5 or Ricki #11, there seemed to be no end in sight. It was starting to really wear on me. Sarah and I were starting to get into fights over any small thing, I was always feeling on edge never knowing if and when a new Ricki would show himself, and I was having more and more trouble getting motivated to blade. I think this was starting to show in Ricki as well. Each new Ricki was starting to look younger. Now they’re finding their way back here in their early 30s and late 20s. Maybe it was because we were getting smarter about time traveling, sharing more information with each trip back. They could also be getting younger due to desperation. Feeling the need to travel back sooner, disgusted with how things turned out in their own timeline. Regardless of why, I felt like I was beginning to lose hope. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a blader, after all.
It had been a few months since the very first Ricki walked into my skate park. I was sitting alone up against the half-pipe, head hanging low like it was barely attached to my body, just waiting to see if today another me came to say hello. The hope is that one day I can just stop expecting Ricki to appear. It would mean that we had finally found a future worth staying in or I suppose a future where we died before making it back. At the rate we’re going, I guess that’s a more likely possibility. As if given some sort of cue, the metal door opened and Ricki #18 walked in, or maybe #17, who really knows anymore.
“Ricki, I’m not really feeling up for this today. Maybe you should just travel to a week from now.” I heard him let out a “sigh” as he walked over to me. Walked? Since when did Ricki take off his blades? I looked up and saw he was wearing just regular clothes and a backpack.
“I don’t really go by Ricki anymore but you can keep calling me that if you want. Better than us both throwing around the name Tony.”
“Where’s the dorky outfit?”
“In the backpack. I didn’t really want to be seen with it on.”
“Ha… I understand. Not sure why I would have ever come up with it to begin with. So, why’d you come back here?”
“At this point, it’s more of just something to work towards. A new goal. At a certain point I just stopped training for the X-Games. I wonder if any of the others before me did as well. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I just kept blading towards that goal, hoping along the way I might think of something new to aim for.”
“You ever consider going back farther than now? I’m beginning to. Before we ever met Ricki Stars? We can set ourselves on a completely new path.” Not long ago, I would have never said something that. Blading was everything to me and now I’m considering taking it away.
“Eh, it’s crossed my mind before but I don’t really have it in me to do something like that. I’d be taking my dreams away from myself and leaving me to never know any better. That’s just a copout.”
It was a copout but did it really matter? I can’t say I’m happy with the way things are now. I’m losing sight of the stars. When I started blading, I loved the rush I felt just going down hills. Sadly, I wanted more than that. I’ve always wanted more. To be better than anymore else, to win the gold. That’s why I’m in this situation now. I’m greedy.
“Show me, Ricki.”
“Show you what?”
“Show me why we do this. Show me why we’ve spent lifetimes just trying to get back and change our future. Show me why we blade, what we’re fighting for.”
Ricki looked at me for a while. I’m sure he was trying to figure out what exactly I hoped to gain from this. Eventually and without a word, he unzipped his backpack and pulled out his rollerblades. The stars still remained but his name was gone. It seems he still wanted to keep up some of the original look. He strapped his feet in, stood up, and stared moving around to warm up. Then he began. He was graceful and quick, almost like an ice skater. He curved perfectly around obstacles. Despite how we felt, Ricki still put a lot of time into practice. He went up a ramp and flew into the air. He was going so fast I was afraid that I could miss his tricks. From there, he did a 360 spin before landing on a rail and grinding it into the pool. His speed outmatched me in every way. He could manage himself and adjust the tricks to match his speed, it was truly stunning to see. In the pool, he performed a Makio Grind, grinding perfectly along the edge, along with a number of other tricks, some of which I had never seen before. On his way out, he jumped into a 540 degree spin, landing without issue. I had yet to master the 540. It was then that Ricki stopped and stared at the half-pipe. The surface worn out with all the scuff marks of our training, he was ready to end this show with the final trick. The half-pipe was the symbol of everything we worked towards. He gave me a quick glance before darting towards it. His speed was unbelievable, it felt as though he created his own gust of wind as my hair flew backwards. Up the half pipe he went, soaring in the air like a rocket. I was afraid he’d go so high he’d hit the ceiling but as he made it close he put his hand out and brushed the top. It was in this fraction of a millisecond that time slowed down for us. This was the moment. This is what it was all for. Had I blinked, I would have missed all the glory of being up there, ready to touch the stars. Just as fast as he went up, Ricki came flying down but there was no crash, no sound of the blades hitting the floor. Ricki dissipated into nothing once more.
“Ha… hahaha…” I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. I wiped the tear from my eye and smile up at where Ricki once was. “Ricki, you idiot, you were going so fast no one could see you. Only we can see the beauty up there. No one else ever saw you reach for the stars.” I picked up my rollerblades, closed the metal door behind me, and headed home.
It had gotten late, past 7:00 PM. It was cold as I walked down the main street to my home. The sidewalks were overpopulated as they usually are this time of year, it was getting close to the Christmas season. I couldn’t help smiling and occasionally laughing to myself. The mystery was solved and it felt as though the stress of this whole ordeal had been lifted from me. It was so simple and yet we couldn’t see it as a possibility. Never accept that we were wrong. From this point on, the future was mine to shape. It had never occurred to me that there was such a thing as going too fast. I had never seen myself blade and never thought to have Ricki demonstrate his full skills to me, looking back that was dumb, really dumb. I could now work towards the X-Games fully aware of my problem. Maybe if I learned to manage my speed at the right times I could actually become the very best. For right now though, I could just use a break from rollerblading, give me some time to regain the love I once had for it. I don’t think I want it to be so stressful anymore. I want to remember that I blade because I love it. As I made it close to home, I passed a store with load speakers playing music on the radio. One of the new Green Day songs, “Jesus of Suburbia”, was playing. What a great fucking song.
On my way up to my room, I picked up the pile of university brochures Sarah had been looking at before sneaking them into my bag. Maybe I can try to work on both. From that day on, I never heard or saw from Ricki Stars again.
Thanks for reading. Now that some time has pasted from it’s original conception, I intend to recreate my story from the ground up. Stay tuned for more information.