We drove out to the old routes, the old roads, the paths across woodland and beyond the railway line, the fields where silage had been sealed in rolls of black plastic, a squat redbrick church, an old manor house converted to a retreat for affluent addicts. I remembered how we would often rove (that word, no other) in the afternoons and evenings through this area, out for air or cigarettes, testing the limits of our sense of adventure, given that neither of us could drive. A small copse, littered with chopped logs. The pale clouds, with denuded trees dark and hairy against this white definition. Once, along these backwoods paths, by a small crossroads where the villages were named on corroded metal sign like a white key, we came across a motorcyclist. He revved his engine as we approached, dressed in black, the day reflected on the sheen of his helmet, a sinister, enigmatic presence on that drab country lane. As we stepped closer, he lifted his visor and we saw that he had been horribly burned, the scars livid, mottled and raised across his face, an effigy of disaster. He watched us pass by, and then gunned his engine, leaving us to imagine him, even now, as a hallucination of death, or some lost emissary warning us about the necessary cost of experience.

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