One Eye opened his good eye, breathing heavily, sweat trickling down over his patch. Heart racing like a 2249cc engine, he tried to get his bearings. Next to his head was a black pool ball, which he knocked as he turned. ‘Ow!’ He watched it roll into the pocket. A bottle trembled on the edge. Then the room shuddered as though a massive juggernaut had thundered past and several toppled onto the stone floor. The smashing seemed unreasonably loud – like he’d just kicked in a plate glass window. Yet the shuddering subsided, and the heavy snoring around him continued. Groaning he slowly sat up, every sound, a needle to the brain. His leathers unpeeled from the baize, and his tongue from his gums. His mouth was drier than a camel’s cunny. Not that he would know, although there were some in the club who probably would. A few of them lay sleeping it off around the bar. It must have been quite a party last night. He wished he could remember it.
One Eye slid off the table and tried to defy gravity. It was a mistake. Gripping the sides, he waited for his head to stop spinning. Then, crunching through the broken glass, he staggered to the toilets. He was busting.
Bladder empty and face splashed with water, One Eye felt a little better. He inspected himself in the grimy mirror. What a magnificent specimen! Fuck, he looked old. Every party took its toll, which was every night with the Wild Hunt. He had a reputation to maintain. Standards. He was their president after all, and if he couldn’t out-drink them, out-fight them, and out-ride them, then some other fucker would, and that would be that. And now he was having these crazy dreams. Same shit every night. An infinite extended cut of some apocalyptic flick, but starring him, which he kind of liked. Sometimes he felt like he was meant to be something else, something bigger. Like there was a whole other life in their waiting to be lived. Yet for many, just being president of a club would be enough – the pinnacle of a biker’s ambition. They all looked a mess this morning, but when the Wild Hunt took to the road, you knew it. What a sound they made! Folk gave them space, gave them respect.
One Eye straightened his cut, and smoothed back his grey mane and white beard. ‘You’ll do,’ he said to himself. He’d have to.
Stepping outside was a big mistake. Daylight. He reached for his wraparound shades. The northern sky was a grey ragged cloak of cloud, but it still hurt his eyes. The bracing wind woke him up a bit, but tasted foul. Something mean was on the air. He hawked a good one onto the concrete, hoping to get bitterness out of his mouth. The bikes were all racked up – three hundred, at the last count, with more joining them every day, gleaming beasts every one of them. Better looked after than their owners. It was the back of Chasey’s, one of their favourite stop-overs, Nearby the mountain road snaked downwards towards the haze of ‘civilisation’, well, Manchester. Soon they’ll be on it and heading west. They had a Gathering to get to. It was going to be a big one. Colours from all over. Deals struck, scores settled. Road races, rock’n’roll, and … more partying. He groaned a little inside.
Sounds from the kitchen drew his attention. Talking. A television. Clattering and sizzling. The reek of hot fat made him nearly gag, but then the thought of a fry up suddenly seemed appealing.
The fire exit was open and he popped his head round. Sitting at the metal worktable were four ‘survivors’, who happened to be his closest crew: the massive bulk of his daughterson, The Hammer, the club’s enforcer; Rig, his solid, reliable road-captain; and hot-tempted Tear, their one-handed sergeant-at-arms. Balder lay with his face smushed on his arms, snoring, and displaying his shiny tattooed pate to the world.
‘Behold, our glorious leader!’ roared Tear.
They cheered, the Hammer spitting out bits of her breakfast. In each hand she held a greasy butty, dripping egg yolk and ketchup down her thick forearms.
‘Morning, chief. Coffee?’ Chasey was working the grill, rolled up sleeves revealing his ex-army ink.
One Eye nodded and sat down heavily.
Chasey grabbed a mug and the coffee pot and hobbled over. Since he’d had the spill and the pins, he’d stopped riding on two wheels. He sometimes came out on the trike, but he was a businessman now. Had a bar and grill to run: the classic pit-stop on Serpent Pass, as the popular biker run was known – offering thrilling twisties over the Pennines. A beer and a burger at the halfway point was a tradition for many bikers in the area. For the Wild Hunt, it was a useful stopover on the way to the west coast and the ferry to the Isle of Man.
‘Cheers,’ said One Eye, gratefully accepting the mug of steaming joe.
‘Full English?’ asked Chasey, shifting his weight to his good leg.
‘How about a full British?’ he smirked. ‘I’ve got lots to soak up.’
‘Mmm, a challenge! I like it! I’ll see what I can rustle up!’ He hobbled back to the store cupboards.
‘A great night, gang. Skol!’ One Eye raised his mug.
Rig and Tear did the same, and The Hammer raised a butty with a grin. ‘Skol!’
They had a few Nordic affectations – all part of the club’s mystique, making out like modern day Vikings.
Then One Eye remembered his dream and shuddered.
‘Someone walk over your grave, chief?’ teased Tear.
He feigned a laugh, but the feeling spooked him.
Nobody noticed. They seemed distracted that morning, and One Eye followed their gaze back to the TV on the wall. ‘What’s happening in the world, then? More shit from that Koil guy?’
Tear shook his head. ‘Not this time. For once his idiotic babblings have been blown out of the sky.’
‘The guy is entertaining, I’ll give him that,’ said The Hammer between mouthfuls.
Rig was glued to the set, watching the shaky live footage from a helicopter of a mountain spewing out fire and ash. ‘There’s been a big eruption in Iceland. Katla, or something. Might explain that rumble we just had.’
One Eye’s good eye widened. He remembered. He remembered it all.
Extract from ‘Thunder Road’ by Kevan Manwaring, (c) Copyright 2020