Brushing the Black Veil

This is an actual event that happened when Dad was in his late teens/early 20s.

Everyone has a close call with danger once in a while.  Sometimes it is close enough to require evasive action.  On those occasions when I have had to take action I have experienced what I see as a black veil.

It is as though I am seeing in two different dimensions, or perhaps with two different sets of eyes. With my physical eyes I see what is happening in real space-time world, but, with my inner eyes I see curved space and objects that are hidden to physical vision and I can see future time—at least by a few seconds.

Once, back in my college days, I was enjoying an early spring morning ride on my motorcycle.  It was cool and crisp.  This type of weather always added vigor and a heightened level of alertness to my senses.  On this particular morning I was full of myself and rushing eagerly into life.

The machine I was riding was in fine tune and I was testing its performance as well as my own skills on the curves of an old winding highway that runs through the East Tennessee hill country.  On one long hill with a lot of blind curves I was forced to slow down and take a place at the back of a long line of slow moving cars.  A position I didn’t like, but I knew I might soon have an opportunity to pass everything after we topped the hill and rounded the next curve!

There were about six cars in front and if the highway was clear between the upcoming curves I knew my machine would pass them like a flash, but I would need every second.

My body was taunt with nervous energy and all my senses were on full alert.  I was cracking the throttle, ready at the first opportunity.  The moment came and in one well-coordinated motion I performed several highly-synchronized actions.  Almost instantaneously, my left hand flipped the clutch, my left foot tapped the shifter into low, my right hand twisted the throttle into full open, and I leaned hard left to swerve into the passing lane and a split second later a hard right to straighten the machine. As the engine began screaming up to 6,000rpms I tapped 2nd gear and shifted forward to hold the front wheel on the pavement.  In a matter of seconds I was doing 70 miles an hour and was ready to shift the screaming engine to 3rd.

To go from thrill to alarm requires only 4 nanoseconds.  For the body to react to total change of program seems to take ages after the brain has already registered danger- even when only a split second is involved.

A car with no blinker and no brake lights was making a left turn in front of me.  Just as quickly as I had taken the machine to 70mph I was going through the actions required for bringing it down.  Motorcycles, however, do not stop quickly or in short distances from high speed.

I sensed the surroundings: the rocks and tree stumps on the bluff to my left; the rolling wheels, hard chrome bumpers, and glass of the row of cars to my right; the car turning slowly across my path ahead.

In those days crash helmets were not mandatory and seldom used, so you wanted to protect your head.  This means you did not want to slam straight into the side of the car, but at this point the side of the car looked softer than any other option.  Who wants to have his brain lobotomized by a tree stump or limestone outcropping? Nothing glamorous in that.

At that speed, if your skull slams the pavement it’ll crack just like a nut and pop your brain right out of your head.

Senses had done what they could do! I was looking ahead at future action and I could see the point of impact.  Beyond that it was black.

I knew I had to get the machine down flat on the road and between me and the car.  With both brakes locked hard, it went into a slide.  With a little twist and a slight shift of weight it went down easy in a shower of sparks as metal met pavement. (I always hated having that gas tank in my face). It was on its left side and slowly turning so that it paralleled the car: my wheels would hit broadside. Gravity would hold the machine down, inertia would hold it in trajectory, and I would hold on!


The veil closed just beyond the point of impact.  The motorcycle was a total loss.  It had gone under the car and was crushed.

I had gone headfirst through an open window and stopped unscathed largely inside the car.

The veil was not penetrated!

The adventure was over!

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