A Crash And A Misstep

Chapter 1

Sixty MPH. Sixty-five MPH. Seventy MPH. A screaming crowd, banners waving, flags fluttering, the wind gushing through his hair. He tightened his grip and put all of his effort into it. Thirty metres. Twenty-five metres. Twenty metres. He was nearly there! In a few moments, he would be the winner of a worldwide motorbike racing championship! Three seconds. Two seconds. One second!


Then he stopped. His bike came to a complete halt mere inches away from the finish line. No-one seemed to notice his dilemma, no-one seemed to care that he couldn't move. Other racers, other bikers, his opponents flew past him on either side. Sat dead in the centre of the track, watching as his dreams were demolished around him as if they were houses and the other racers were bulldozers, Joseph Turner could only look at one thing: a single sharp-edged rock which stared at him, piercing his soul with the point. What could he do? Joseph felt trapped, felt as if he couldn't move a muscle and that if he tried, the rock would grow, making itself a grotesque, personified version of a simple stone. It would slice him to pieces, ripping his skin, piercing his veins, his arteries, his body.


Then he awoke to the sound of his alarm chirping at him, the beeps gradually becoming louder and louder with each passing second. Joseph stared at the spiral pattern on his ceiling, sweat running down the sides of his face, forming a pool of salty water at the edge of his pillow, creating an outline of his body on the mattress cover. His bedsheets would stick to him if he didn't move; he was unbearably hot. Silencing his alarm clock, hearing the beeps dissipate into nothingness as he felt around for his phone, Joseph grabbed it when his palm touched the edge of the screen. He unplugged it from the charger, pulling it to his face, hoping that the alarm clock was broken and that he could have another hour or so to sleep. Half-past seven in the morning. Time to get up.


Joseph slid out of bed with a sigh and immediately headed to the bathroom. If he had learned anything since the nightmares had started, it was that he needed to have a shower afterwards otherwise he would spend the day revolting his co-workers with the smell of his dried sweat.


The nightmares started a few months ago, only a few days after the accident. There was no warning, no sign at all that he was going to be terrorised, and suddenly he was having visions about the crash that had caused him to lose a major tournament. It wasn't a horrific crash. It wasn't as if he was left with a fractured spine and a wheelchair, though he was left with a broken toe, a fractured wrist, several bruises, cuts and grazes and a severely damaged self-esteem. The doctors had instructed him to stay away from racing for a few weeks while his injuries healed, and after two weeks he was called back to the hospital for a check-up. Though he was told that he could return to racing if he wished to do so and despite the fact that Joseph wanted nothing more than to redeem himself, to win multiple races within the next year, slapping anyone who was laughing at him, he couldn't bring himself to do it. The thought of racing again made his spine tingle, it made his fingers stiffen and it made him distort his face in a way which hurt sometimes. It wasn't as if he had developed a trauma from something as trivial and as common as a minor crash, but it was as if he had managed to dispel any urge to race from his mind and his internal instinct. Joseph Turner, a previously fairly known racer, expected to win the tournament and proceed to participate in worldwide championships, had given up.


The cold water hit his face, ran down his neck at a speed unfathomable to humans before it covered his body. Joseph ran his hands through his hair, shivering slightly as the water almost burned him from being so cold, frostbite gnawing at his hands and feet, slowly creeping towards the rest of his body. Moments later, the water started to warm up and was a pleasant temperature within seconds, steam starting to rise and condensate the glass doors of the shower.


With his eyes closed and his mind racing, Joseph started to think about the day that laid before him. He had a report due by the end of the day and he was half-way through it. It was obvious that he could finish it within a few hours and spend the rest of the day leisurely breezing through small tasks that his floor manager would undoubtedly thrust upon him before considering anyone else for the job. Joseph didn't know why, but his floor manager both seemed to like and dislike him at the same time. It was a mystery, a complete contrast, though it was the truth, or it practically screamed that it was the truth, at least.


His thoughts fluttered from work to Caitlyn, a girl that he was on good terms with but didn't know well enough to invite her out for drinks or lunch one day. While everything in the known universe pointed towards him having feelings for her, it was still something that he was trying to figure out. Joseph thought of her as attractive. She had long, blonde, curly hair which ended at the base of her elbows, deep blue eyes which he almost found himself lost in once and, even though she was barely average height for a woman, she was confidently feisty when she needed to be. Otherwise, she was pleasant and caring.


He'd met her at her workplace and they talked over the bar, treating themselves to more alcohol than they would have usually consumed. While Joseph was much more confident then as it was prior to his accident, the thoughts of the events from that day kept him from being overly flirtatious, the two of them leaving as friends, swapping phone numbers and promising to talk more as they'd taken a liking to each other. While it never escalated into anything, Joseph couldn't help but wonder what life would be like had other events taken place.


While rinsing the shampoo from his short, brown hair, the idea of a date felt appealing. It had been a few months since he and his previous girlfriend had split up and he was, honestly, starting to feel slightly lonely. Maybe it was driving home after work, debating about whether or not he should cook or get fast food and then proceeding to drown his sorrows in the endless amount of episodes of bad television, though it could have been the blissful idea of having someone to hug and kiss him every morning, every night, every time he left for work and every time he returned. Whatever it was that was making him feel lonely, it was as confusing as the idea of time travel to him.


Joseph watched as the soap from his body span around the drain, trapped in the torrent of water which later dragged it into the pipes. Sometimes, just sometimes, he envied how easily soap and water could disappear into a drain, never to be seen in the same state again. Wouldn't it be better for him if he could do the same? Coming out on the other side as a glorified version of himself: a better figure, no self-hatred, confidence which could make the most narcissistic people in the world turn to look at him with curiosity.


With a sigh, Joseph clambered out of the shower, grabbed his towel and started to dry himself. As he did so, he glanced at the door to his bedroom. In that room were the clothes which he would have to adorn to work: the work which he despised compared to racing. Though nothing, not even the will to leave such a boring, average-salary occupation could give him enough courage and confidence to climb onto a motorbike again. He felt as if he didn't deserve the luxury of racing. He had managed to destroy his chances of winning a major tournament, his chances of fame, his chances of a better life. It was crushing when it happened, when he looked at the other racers speeding by, whenever he thought about it. Joseph theorised that the reason why he was having nightmares in the first place was a sense of shame and embarrassment which he was forcing himself to relive every night. After all, he’d disappointed his scarce number of fans. He’d made them believe that he would win and, while he was so close to succeeding, so close to winning, Joseph felt as if he’d led them on, given them false hope. Joseph wouldn’t have been surprised had the small following turned to the real winner of the tournament instead, leaving him figuratively and literally on the floor.


The remainder of his morning was the same as it always was. After noting that the dark shadows under his eyes weren't improving, he shaved hastily, added some aftershave and deodorant, brushed his teeth, combed his hair and got dressed before he headed to the kitchen, deciding between toast and an apple for his breakfast. Joseph ate before making sure that he had everything he would need for the day. Wallet, phone, car keys, half-finished report, lunch, bag. He was ready to start another day in his life.


The journey to work was also the same as usual. Listening to the radio, he heard that there was a stabbing not far from where he lived and that there was a traffic pile-up around the corner from his workplace as a result of a brutal car crash. Nothing out of the ordinary for a regular day; at least one thing had to be a minor inconvenience to keep him from being completely happy.


Grimacing as he drove past a local motorbike store, Joseph tried to divert his attention, attempting to focus on listening to the man informing everyone about recent crime. He had to pass the shop every day, his reaction being similar each time as flashbacks attacked him from his nightmares. It wasn't as if the sight of any motorbike gave him intense reactions, the problem was that the store which he was required to pass was where he purchased his first bike; the one that he crashed.


Joseph took a different route to work in order to avoid the traffic, taking the first turning after the motorbike shop. When pulling up outside of the office building, Joseph sighed as he stopped the car, placing his arms on top of the steering wheel and resting his head on them as if he were desperately trying to catch up on sleep. The nightmare had drained him mentally already, as always, and, considering that he had a report to finish hours before it was due, that wasn't ideal.


Mustering all of the energy needed, Joseph opened the door and climbed out of his car, making sure to grab his bag before he closed it and locked the vehicle. Nine hours of work laid ahead of him. With an excessive amount of forced enthusiasm as he tried to convince himself that he was okay, Joseph practically waltzed his way towards the building, only catching wind of his strange and exaggerated movements as he reached the front door. Taking a moment to compose himself, Joseph opened the door, greeted a colleague who was walking outside for a cigarette, and entered the building.


The lift wasn't operational. A light not illuminating when the button for a specific floor was pressed was apparently a good enough reason to render the entire elevator unfunctional. With a sigh, Joseph turned to the stairs and begrudgingly started to wander up them. Why did his cubicle have to be on the fifth floor? He almost felt as if the building had decided to cause him some irritating inconveniences independently.


Passing each floor, Joseph started to notice how bland every day was for both him and everyone in the workplace, maybe even the city or the world. He hadn't noticed it previously, but it suddenly clicked in his mind, almost as if he couldn't see until a light was turned on: his life was boring. His life was so boring that he found something as inconvenient though irrelevant as a single lift being out of service fundamentally frustrating. Even though he tried his best to avoid succumbing to the excessive amount of work that was available, trying his utmost to keep himself entertained, he was failing; he was bored. Joseph knew that he hadn't felt that way before the crash, not for a long time, something which made him feel as if he’d been punched in the gut. Everything seemed to tie back to the crash. Everything.


Joseph tried to shake the thoughts of the accident from his mind. It was bad enough dealing with constant nightmares, but thinking about it on his own will, multiple times in a single day? He'd much rather be crushed by stacks upon stacks of paperwork that was due hours later. Despite his best efforts, however, he couldn't stop thinking about it. It was that crash that landed him in such a life-draining job. No. It wasn't the crash, it was him. He was stupid enough to let embarrassment and low confidence prevent him from racing again. It was only a minor crash! Every racer had dealt with a minor crash at least once in their lives! Maybe it was the thought of what that accident had caused him to lose, maybe it was the idea that he was a bad racer for slamming his face into the concrete, or maybe it was the pain of watching everyone else speed past and leave him behind. Maybe it was the idea of letting everyone down. Whatever it was, it pained him to continue thinking about it.


"Are you going to keep walking?" Came a voice from behind him. Joseph spun around, confused. There wasn't anyone behind him when he entered the building, let alone when he started ascending the staircase. Where did the man come from?


"S-Sorry," Joseph stuttered, dumbfounded turning around again and continuing to walk up the stairs, walking faster than before. He felt a little embarrassed, though he had no reason to be. The man could simply believe that Joseph was tired and nothing more.


"Are you okay?" The man asked, appearing by his side after rushing to keep up, giving him a look which clearly showed a small amount of concern. "You were stood there, not doing anything at all."


"I was?" Joseph asked, bewildered, looking at his feet as he wanted to avoid the man's gaze. Had he been thinking about the crash so intently that he put all of his focus into it, failing to walk as a result? If so, why? It wasn't a big deal to him anymore, he had constructed a new life for himself that was miles away from racing.


The two of them walked in silence past the fourth floor, continuing towards the fifth, Joseph taking in the man's features as they walked. He was slightly shorter than Joseph, maybe by an inch or two, though if his dark hair were gelled to stand on end, he would be at least three inches taller. Even though he wasn't muscular, he would have appeared slightly intimidating due to his rugged stubble, though his nonchalant facial expression suggested otherwise.


Joseph strained for something to say but nothing came to him. It was almost as if he was destined to be known as "strange" by this man, not being able to start a small conversation to pass the time and keep the situation from becoming increasingly awkward.


When Joseph reached the fifth floor, he turned to walk through the door and into the large room which contained dozens of cubicles when he saw the man following him. "You work on the fifth floor as well?" Joseph asked, stopping to turn to him as he did so. He knew that it was a stupid question but wanted to continue talking if they were heading in the same direction.


"I do," the man said after a pause. "I'm new here, yesterday was my first day," he explained, to which Joseph nodded, not knowing what else to do. Why did he have to be so socially incompetent? "I'm Derek," the man said, sticking his hand out towards Joseph, who shook it after a second of hesitation.


"I'm Joseph," Joseph replied, giving the man a flash of a smile before they entered the large room. Joseph realised that was the first time he had smiled all-day. His hopes weren't high for it being a brilliant morning; he felt bored and uncomfortable already.


Derek stayed put for a moment, prompting Joseph to turn and face him, looking into his pondering, dark brown eyes as he wondered what was wrong. Seconds later, Derek exclaimed: "Joseph Turner, right?" Joseph nodded, though confused. How did this man whom he had only just met know his full name? "You were a motorbike racer, weren't you? I thought you looked familiar! God, that crash was brutal. Only time I heard of you, to be honest.”


Joseph didn't know what to do. Not only was he bedazzled by the fact that he had met this man after thinking about racing, but he was surprised that he both knew of him and recognised him. Not to mention the fact that he just so happened to be working on the same floor. Joseph felt as if the day had decided to mess with him, to take his mind and grind it into small pieces only to shove it back into his head for the day afterwards.


"How come you quit racing?" Derek asked, walking and unknowingly leaving Joseph behind for a moment until he snapped out of his stupor and caught up.


It took Joseph a moment to decide on whether or not he should lie. Would it be acceptable to explain that he quit because he crashed at the end of a race? Would he seem weak for letting something so insignificant get to him and drag him so far down that he might as well be swimming in the molten rock surrounding the Earth's core?


"I grew tired of it," Joseph said after a moment, to which Derek looked at him, clearly shocked. For a second, Joseph felt as if he had said the wrong thing. He started to ponder about how he could retract that statement and substitute another before Derek spoke.


"How long had you been racing before you quit?" He asked as they turned a corner, heading closer and closer to Joseph's cubicle, making him worry that Derek was seated close enough to continue talking to him. While he seemed like a pleasant guy, the last thing that Joseph wanted to do was to continue discussing the thing that pained him the most.


"Professionally for over a year," Joseph replied, trying to keep his answers short and vague as a hint to Derek that he did not want to continue the discussion. Derek, however, didn't seem to take the hint and instead continued to pry for details.


"That's a shame," he stated, looking slightly solemn, something which Joseph questioned silently. "Even though that rock made you crash, I genuinely believed that you had the talent to go big when I saw the rest of the race.”


"What?" Joseph asked, spinning around to face Derek, a serious look on his face as he processed what he had heard. In his nightmares, he would always see a rock on the track yet that wasn't because he believed that a rock was the reason why he crashed. Joseph had wanted to believe more than anything in the world that a stray rock had caused the accident, but he couldn't believe it no matter how hard he tried. He knew that the marshals were supposed to make sure that the track was clear of rocks and pebbles and that there weren't supposed to be any dips or bumps on a track unless they were there because they fit the setting and made it more challenging. Joseph had wanted to believe that a rock had burst a tire and that was why he was sent flying from his bike, but instead, he could only believe that he was an incompetent racer and that he merely lost control of the vehicle. What Derek was saying to him was almost enough to fully reassure him that it wasn't completely his fault for crashing and letting everyone who supported him down.


"That's why you crashed, isn't it?" Derek asked, trying to confirm though Joseph had no clue. "People have discussed it online and most people think that you went over a rock or something similar because there was nothing wrong with the track and it wouldn't make sense for you to crash in such a way otherwise."


Joseph was dumbfounded. People were discussing it online? If what Derek was saying was the truth, then did that mean that he wasn't a horrific racer as he thought he was, but that it was a simple accident that could happen to any participant? For the first time since they started talking, Joseph wanted to continue the conversation with Derek, wanted to progress it further and discover more details, but had to begrudgingly enter his cubicle, bidding farewell to the man who restored some hope.

A Crash And A Misstep


Chapter 2

Joseph's day was tiring, to say the least. He had spent the first half of his workday drowning in a mixture of stress and curiosity. After what Derek had told him that morning, he was almost bursting with a will to sprint to his apartment and research the articles and blogs that Derek was referring to. Despite his best efforts, however, he was becoming overwhelmed by the stress which came from his previous procrastination and his short-attention-span. He tried to bury his head in his work, knowing that he had to finish the report otherwise he would be scolded by his floor manager and thrown multiple steps away from a promotion. Even though the threat of a verbal beating was enough to make him write with increasing speed, Joseph couldn't shake the thoughts of the crash from his head. This time, unlike every other reminder of the incident, he wasn't ashamed, embarrassed, bombarded with a will to curl into a ball and hide in the corner. Instead, he was almost excited to discover the truth, all the while nervous about what the truth would entail. He could have been correct all along, crashing his motorbike because of a lack of skill, or he could have been incorrect, a somewhat amusing, typically non-impactful detail being the only reason why the accident happened. Either way, it was both frightening and adrenaline-boosting.


After his lunch break, Joseph returned to work and started to tackle the last quarter of the report with a fresh mind. Having thought about the conversation with Derek sporadically throughout the morning, Joseph had managed to come to terms with the fact that it wasn't a dream; that it wasn't one of the only pleasant things to occur to him for a while only for it to be revealed as fiction. It may have taken him a few hours to realise, but he had managed to overcome the shock and the majority of the excitement.


With his new-found focus, Joseph managed to complete his report within the first hour after lunch, valiantly sliding it away from him, watching as it collided with the wall of the cubicle that sat behind his desk. Deciding that he had done a fair amount of work already, Joseph turned to his computer and opened the internet, wondering about whether it would be a good idea to start researching the articles that Derek had mentioned. Though, even if it were a good idea to get a head-start in restoring his confidence, where would he start looking? In the depths of websites and accounts, where would he find what he was searching for?


After a minute of thinking, his head in his hands as he rested his elbows on the desk, straining to think of something which would lovingly envelope the results he wanted to him with a pink, frilly bow, he decided to start with a logical first step.


Typing the name of the tournament he participated in into the search engine, Joseph took a moment to take a deep breath before almost slamming his finger onto the 'enter' key, watching as a glorious list of results loaded. As he scanned through the titles, disregarding almost all of them as they were either the wrong dates or racers, he decided to search using different keywords and phrasing.


Though, unfortunately, as Joseph was about to type his name into the search engine, he heard footsteps growing gradually closer from behind him. He closed the engine and hastily debated with himself about what to do. What could he do to make it look like he was working? As he struggled, stress building slowly as he tried to find a solution, he felt a heavy hand slam on his shoulder. Joseph spun his head around, a wave of shock and surprise rushing through his body, jarring his mind for a moment as he almost jumped out of his skin.


"Turner!" Joseph's floor manager exclaimed with what seemed to be a forced expression of happiness plastered on his face, almost as if looking anything other than happy would cause the world to implode. "Have you finished that report yet?" He asked, his eagle eyes scanning Joseph's desk in an attempt to locate the hastily finished record.


"I have," Joseph replied slowly, reaching towards the back of the desk to grab the paper, sliding it towards him and his floor manager with confusion evident on his face. "I thought you wanted it at the end of the day," he stated, making it clear to his floor manager that he was prying for information as to why he was being asked for the report four hours early.


"Oh, is that when I asked for it?" Joseph's floor manager asked rhetorically, an evil gleam flickering in his eye for a moment. "I correctly assumed that you'd have it done early. You're such a... considerate and productive employee, after all," he added, flashing a forced smile as he took the report, not even glancing at it for a second.


"Is that all?" Joseph asked, unsure about whether or not it was wise to lightly shoehorn the man away, not knowing if it would cause him to snap and fire him on the spot. While he wouldn't expect anything less from his floor manager, it wouldn't be ideal to be kicked out.


His floor manager paused for a minute, taking an exaggerated amount of time to ponder Joseph's simple, one-word-answer question. "No," he said, Joseph feeling as if he had deliberately taken what felt like ten minutes to answer. "If you don't mind, I have some extra work that needs to be done, and it looks as if you're not busy, so would you...?"


"Of course, sir," Joseph replied through gritted teeth. What more could this man do to inconvenience him? First asking for the report early, then taking ages to answer a simple question and now punching him with extra work?


"Thank you, Joseph," the floor manager replied, flashing a hint of another coerced smile, clearly trying to make it known that he was forcing every small aspect of what was perceived as positivity. "I'll send it to you via email. I'd like it all done by the end of the day if you can."


"As long as I get a raise for it," Joseph replied, making it seem as if he was joking via the tone of his voice but meaning what he was saying. After everything that this man had put him through throughout the past few months, a promotion or a raise at the very least would be welcomed by Joseph with open arms and a bottle of the finest champagne.


His floor manager let out a sarcastic chuckle before smirking at Joseph, proceeding to wander away, leaving Joseph to silently give the man's back his middle finger, concealing it under his desk as to not risk being caught. He turned to his computer screen and stared at the email icon at the bottom. Joseph could tell that he would be left waiting for a few minutes before the work came through, and it wouldn't be an accident or for a valid reason. If there was any opportunity that the man had to inconvenience Joseph, he’d snatch it up immediately.


Knowing that he had some time to spare, Joseph started to glance around, searching for Derek's cubicle. Both of them had walked in the same direction that morning, most likely because they were stationed close together. Of course, Derek might have been simply following him so they could talk for as long as possible, but Joseph doubted it. His cubicle was roughly in the middle of the right-hand side of the room. The room was large, as well, meaning that if Derek had gone out of his way to walk with Joseph, he would be walking for another minute before he'd reach the parallel side.


A quick scan of the cubicles that he could see was useless; Derek wasn't in sight. With a sigh, Joseph retracted his head, turning to look at his computer screen. Sure enough, he hadn't received the email yet. Why did his floor manager have to be so overwhelmingly annoying and petty to the people he didn't like?


With his fingers lightly tapping on his desk, Joseph pondered what he could do to pass the time while the work was being sent to him. He could start researching again, but he knew that his floor manager would observe what he was doing on his computer remotely before sending the work. The best result that could come from that man seeing Joseph researching himself would be non-stop harassment and passive-aggressive ridicule for the remainder of the year, while the worst result would be getting fired for failing to work even though he didn't have any to do. Taking this into account, Joseph realised that his only option was to sit and wait patiently, counting to one thousand to pass the time and forget his boredom. Though, as he was about to start counting, Joseph had an idea.


Sliding from his chair, Joseph stood up and started walking across the room towards the coffee machine. As he walked, he gazed at each person in their respective cubicles. He aimed to find Derek's location, though he knew that aimless wandering would get him into trouble. Therefore, searching while making himself a coffee would disguise his true intentions.


After reaching the machine, Joseph inputted his order before he leant against the wall, gazing at the room as he waited. Scanning what he could see of the left side led him to conclude that Derek wasn't there. While he couldn't see every cubicle, he could see the cubicles which resided on the outer-wall and could tell that Derek wasn't seated in any of them. Turning his attention to the right side of the room, he investigated each person before he spotted Derek in the corner on the outer wall.


With a slight smile on his face, Joseph grabbed his freshly made coffee and started the journey back to his desk. He took a mental note of Derek's whereabouts, intending to talk to him when he had a chance or at least before leaving at the end of the day. If he didn't find what he was looking for by the end of the day, Joseph would give him his email and ask Derek to send it to him.


Returning to his seat, Joseph sipped his coffee before placing it on his desk and gazing at the screen. A small icon displaying a '1' sat next to the email icon, indicating that he had received the work. After opening the email, Joseph sighed and wished that he had called in sick that day even though a few details were meaningful to him.


It took Joseph three hours of rushing through everything he was requested to do before he was finally done. Despite having to do extra work, the work that he was presented with wasn't the hardest: organising lists of payments and making graphs from them was the most prominent and time-consuming task, though it was slightly satisfying to finish and gaze at the final product.


By the time that he was finished with the extra work and had sent it to his floor manager, he had more or less half an hour to go before he was allowed to leave. Taking this as an opportunity to continue his research, Joseph reopened the search engine, hastily typing his name along with the name of the tournament and the date. If this didn't yield results, what would?


Luckily, Joseph's use of specifics was rewarded as he was immediately greeted by a link to an article entitled: What happened to Joseph Turner? - The most unfortunate crash in a long time.


"That makes me feels much better," Joseph murmured to himself sarcastically as he clicked on the link. It didn't seem overwhelmingly promising at first glance, but it seemed as if it could include speculation and extra details as to why the crash happened. With any luck, it would be as specific as Joseph needed it to be, addressing every possibility that could have caused his sorrowful misfortune.


'Earlier this year, on the third of January, Joseph Turner suffered a painful loss due to losing control of his motorbike,' Joseph read quickly before pausing, feeling a spear of sadness stab him in the heart until he saw the next line: 'or that's what appeared to have happened.'


He leaned back, starting to swing on his chair a little as he braced himself, trying to keep the overwhelming excitement away. Despite the heart-wrenching opening that caught him off guard, it seemed as if the article was going to discuss what he wanted to hear from someone else. Leaning forwards again, he continued to read, bracing himself for another possible punch in the gut that would be accusing him of poor riding.


'After battling his way through the race, Turner was on the last stretch, zooming towards the finish line when the incident occurred. With no more than 60 metres ahead of him, Turner lost control of the motorbike and was launched into the air along with his trusted vehicle. It appears as if the front tire pops, making that the cause of the crash, though no one is certain why. No one has determined what truly happened, though it's speculated that a rock or a pebble had found its way onto the track, inevitably tripping Turner in the last stretch to fame.'


Joseph stared at the words on the screen, the bright light starting to burn his pupils, though his gaze showed no sign of faltering. He wanted to hear what was on his screen so desperately, though when reading, he couldn't fathom how useless it was to him. A rock had possibly been kicked onto the track and, because of that, he crashed his bike. Now that he was thinking about it more, it seemed like bad luck that he happened to be speeding directly towards a hindrance. Though, despite Joseph's sudden change of heart towards the situation, he decided to continue reading. Maybe the hypothesis was incorrect. Maybe a mole had dug into the track, emerging from the ground at the perfect time to send him soaring into the sky.


'In an interview with the winner of the tournament, Gary Chaser, he was asked about how he knew to steer to the edge of the track when passing where Turner crashed. This question was intriguing to hear as it seems foolish to ask something which would have such an obvious answer, Chaser's reply being exactly what you would expect: "I knew that someone had crashed while riding in the centre of the track, so I made sure to weave around that spot in hopes that the same wouldn't happen to me." This response was questioned as Chaser most likely hadn't seen the accident with his own eyes. The crash occurred almost straight away after Turner had rounded a corner, roughly thirty metres from the turn, and all other opponents would most likely have been preoccupied with the turning. The obvious assumption is that no other racer would have seen exactly where the crash occurred, only seeing the wreckage of the bike and a writhing Turner on the side of the track. Taking this into account, it seemed strange to the interviewer in question, Hazel Smith, that Chaser knew where to ride. After challenging his answer, Chaser stated that it was "only logical" for Turner to have been riding roughly in the centre of the track, meaning that was most likely where the accident had started.'


Joseph read and re-read the paragraph, absorbing every word in hopes to fully comprehend what he was reading. Gary Chaser's answers seemed logical, providing almost a fool proof excuse as to why the same didn't happen to him. It would also be expected for the other racers to follow suit, riding on the opposite side of the track, as far away from him and his bike as possible. Even though the actions of the other racers were justified, they didn't give any insight as to why the crash happened. Chaser seemed inclined to believe that there was some sort of an obstruction on the track, so it seemed likely for that to be the case. If someone so close to the crash didn't have a clue as to why it happened, then no one would ever figure out the answer. After months of pondering, nightmares and self-doubt, it seemed that the answer to all of Joseph's questions was illuminated in front of his eyes, waiting for him to re-read the entirety of what was relevant, waiting for him to jump from his seat and shout in victory.


He scrolled past an account of the race which described the crash to a sickening extent. After the recital was an embedded video which looped the crash, highlighting a dark pixel on the screen, which was interpreted as a rock, further solidifying the theory. The silent video depicted Joseph's steady approach towards the rock, noting the increased acceleration as he neared the spec on the screen before, once the bike touched the smudge, both the bike and Joseph were rocketed forwards, landing in two separate heaps on the side-lines. The video began to play again and, even though he had already studied it, Joseph proceeded to pay meticulously close attention to every detail, even changing the speed of the video to watch it in slow-motion, wanting to confirm that the dark grey pixel was in fact what caused the crash.


Once Joseph had watched the video four times at varying speeds, he smiled to himself and closed his browser, not wanting there to be a chance for him to see anything which contradicted the article. Derek had said that there were a few articles and, while Joseph had only read one, he had been told that they had the same opinion. There was no need to do any more research as he was thoroughly convinced already, and any more research would send his stress levels higher than they should ever be for something so mundane.


After checking the time, he saw that his shift was almost over. With a smile and renewed pride, Joseph switched his computer off and grabbed his bag before he stood up and headed towards Derek. To everyone else, it would seem as if he was checking up on Derek as he was new to the job, as if he was giving tips or as if he was asking for a favour while in reality, Joseph wanted to tell him that he had found the articles.


After briefing Derek on his discovery and repaired confidence, he bid farewell to his new co-worker and left the room, making his way down the stairs and towards the exit. Joseph didn't notice the journey, not being able to stop thinking about how pleasant some aspects of his day was. Not only did he find out that the crash which had tormented him for months wasn't his fault, but he had also started what seemed like a new friendship which could blossom over the subject of racing.


He jumped into his car, started the engine, and drove away, making sure to silence the radio as he didn't want anything to distract him from his new, bright thoughts.


While approaching his apartment, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Once he had parked his car and clambered out, he checked his phone and saw that he had received a text from Caitlyn. With his heart starting to beat a tiny bit faster, Joseph walked up the stairs to his apartment while his mind raced, searching for something to reply with. It wasn't as if she had asked him to go on a date, so why was he so flustered?


Joseph balanced his phone on the arm holding his bag while his other hand unlocked the door. He grabbed his phone with the hand that held his keys as he stumbled in, dropping the keys on the counter with some difficulty as he closed the door with his foot. Joseph hadn't decided on what to say as a response, though after a moment of consideration, he typed his reply and sent it, immediately feeling his uncertainty wash away, thinking that it felt similar to how water would feel flowing into a drain from a bathtub.


Joseph flopped onto his couch, dropping his bag at his feet before he turned the television on. Skipping through the channels, he landed on a re-run of one of his favourite shows. Smiling to himself as he remembered the emotional rollercoaster that came with the show, he decided to order a takeaway and have it delivered to his apartment. After what happened that day, he felt as if it could be a congratulatory gift to himself.

A Crash And A Misstep