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Fuel Season 1: Episode 8: The Cursed Conundrum

Can one man alone, shunned by society find victory behind the wheel? Find out tonight!

In Formula-X, every racer's vehicle has a name, in essence giving it an identity. The bond between a racer and his engine can mark the difference between victory and defeat. One looks after the other and the other looks after the one.

21st of October – Season 1

As Sylvester Sithole drove through the main entrance of the Fuel Speedway in his green Toyota 86, he couldn’t help but wonder how lucky he was. He was on a weekly show that aired all across the country and not only that but he was also one of the most popular racers on the show. But Monday Night Fuel wasn’t an ordinary motorsports show. Sports Opera, Moodswing called it. While Styles hadn’t said it at the time, he kind of liked the idea of that: a show the combined auto racing with soap opera drama. And boy, oh boy was there drama. 

As Styles parked his car and walked under the huge FUEL SPEEDWAY sign into the old airport, he passed Penny Potgieter and Dime: the newest relay team on the block. He remembered hearing how Penny had betrayed Brenda Koek and replaced her behind Brenda’s back. But that had only been last week’s news. The week before that, a fellow racer he’d teamed with once had verbally attacked Jim Kieck in an effort to get The Playboy to race him. Styles would only find out later that Touch had done it on purpose in order to secure the winner’s paycheck and buy himself a car.

Indeed, the drama was just as interesting as the racing around here. Unfortunately for Styles, he was lacking in drama as much as racing as Moodswing had announced that all races this week would be sanctioned to hype up the next pay-per-view: Hallow’s Eve… and he wasn’t part of it. And after his absence from Arbour Games last month, it was beginning to get to Styles. 

“Hey man.” It was Touch who had greeted Styles. “How’z it going?”

“Not well, actually,” said Styles. “Mfwethu, I need a race.”

“Then why don’t you go and ask Glen?” he suggested.

“That’s if he’ll even care.” The person that spoke those words came up from behind them. Brenda Koek was currently chowing her way through a hamburger.

“Hey, where did you get that?” asked Touch.

“Catering,” said Brenda. When Touch went on to argue that he thought that that food was only for staff and Brenda corrected him, smiling, Styles rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers.

“Guys, stop it. Brenda, what are you on about?”

“Well, apparently Penny and I aren’t interesting enough to warrant us as a team. Hell, we’re not even interesting enough to warrant us as a rivalry.”

“What does that have to do with getting a race tonight?” asked Styles.

“She has a point,” said Touch. “Moodswing wants to see drama. If your race doesn’t have a narrative, as he calls it, it’s not likely to happen.”

Styles thought about that. “Okay, so how do I create a narrative?”

“Easiest way,” said Touch. “Find a racer and pick an argument with him.” Touch shrugged. “It worked for me.”

Brenda scoffed. “Oh please. Remember, that only worked because you have a big mouth and you were already a pain in Jim’s butt on social media.” Brenda fought off Touch trying to bite her burger before continuing. “Face it, Styles. You’re too nice.”

As the two racers left him with that nugget to mull over – with Touch playfully chasing Brenda around the paddock area, going after her burger – Styles pondered what to do. As the night went on, he definitely wasn’t short of ideas as the first live segment of the night brought fresh drama. Watching on one of the big screens, Styles saw King Thawn and the Number One Claimant – as Moodswing insisted the Number One Contenders be called – Solo Magubane engage in a contract signing for their upcoming title race at Hallow’s Eve right on the stage in the middle of the infield of the race track.

“Who signs a contract for a race?” said Styles to himself. Of course, Styles knew that this was just one of those wrestling ideas that Moodswing was obsessed with. The irony of it all was that it worked as the King and Solo nearly broke into a fight right there in front of the live spectators and cameras. However Moodswing – adamant that there be no fistfights among the racers – offered them a consolation prize: combat by champion. Both King Thawn and Solo would pick one F-X racer to race for them in the feature race of the night.

Styles beamed. This was it. This was his chance to get a race tonight. As Styles waited for the King and Solo to make their way back from the stage and into the paddock area, Styles thought of who to approach. But he already knew the answer. With the King being the dick that he was, he could only approach Solo.

A few minutes later, Solo entered the paddock area and Styles made a beeline for him. “Nkomose,” he said calling him by his clan name.

Solo barely seemed to notice him. “Hawu, Jose,” he said, using Style’s own clan name. “How’z it going, man.”

“Good now. Listen, I need to speak to you. I saw what happened out there and I know you’re looking for a racer or a champion to race Thawn’s champion. How about you chose me?”

Solo finally seemed to see him for the first time and looked at him before answering. “I’m flattered that you’re looking out, brother by I’ve already got someone in mind to face Thawn's guy.”

“Who?”

“I’m going to ask Stevie.” Solo explained that he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from the Diamond in the Rough over the past 6 weeks and he believes that she’s one of the top contenders and that he needs to make an impact in tonight’s feature race. “Sorry, brother.”

As Solo locked eyes on Stevie and went to ask for her services, Styles glanced around and managed to catch King Thawn talking to Jim Kieck. Styles swore. He couldn’t help but feel how he used to feel when he was a kid and was picked last for a friendly soccer match… back when he was an outcast. But those days were gone. Long gone. He’d quickly found his passion for racing and turned the hobby of making his own clothes into a successful local clothing business and was nothing like the outcast kid he used to be… except in this moment.

Styles heard someone else swear and turned to see John Kloof. Now here was a man who knew about the drama of the Fuel Speedway. “Not liking what you’re seeing there, John?”

John looked at him. “Argh no, it’s just that it’s not fair that a guy like that gets to be in the feature race of the night instead of me.”

“Don’t you have a race for the night?” John shook his head. “Why not? You’re on the racecard for Hallow’s Eve and Moodswing said he’s using tonight to market the event.”

Kloof nodded like he knew all that. “It’s my lack of opponent that’s a problem.” He gestured at him. “And you? Why no race?”

“Not on the pay-per-view.”

Kloof then pointed at the big screens. “Neither are they.” Kloof was pointing at a pair of racers who had just lost to the debuting Penny & Dime. To add salt to the wound, they were quickly replaced by two other racers he’d never seen about to take on Longitude & Latitude. These races were clearly designed to tease the big PPV race between Penny & Dime and Longitude & Latitude for the Relay Baron/Baroness titles.

“What are you saying: that if I had a partner, that I’d have a race tonight?”

“Couldn’t hurt.”

Styles thought about that then laughed. “Well, it’s better than the advice I got earlier.” Styles saw the curious look on Kloof’s face. “Someone suggested I start some beef with someone to get a race.”

Kloof joined him in laughing. “Well look, I don’t think it’s fair that the most popular racer on the show doesn’t have a race tonight and I’m looking for a chance at getting some momentum so what do you say? Me versus you, tonight?”

Styles liked the part about being the most popular racer. He wasn’t surprised by the remark considering how the F-X reporters were always beaming about his races in their weekly newsletters. “You want to face me tonight?”

“It wasn’t my first choice. I see how you drive and the idea for tonight was to find an easy opponent that I can beat and walk into Hallow’s Eve with a win. But, seeing at Jim Kieck is about to get the feature race and all the glory that comes with being the main event of the night, it seems only fitting that I counter by going up against the most-talked-about racer on Monday Night Fuel. So, what do you say?”

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

Styles struggled to hold the wheel steady as he drifted around the turn just a few centimetres ahead of Kloof. Even with his helmet on, he could hear the roar of the crowd as he nailed his power drift. There was a reason that he was considered one of the most popular racers on the show. It was because of his ability in putting on a show in his races. That was what led to his critically acclaimed race against Touch Mkhize a few weeks ago that became known as the Tale of Curses and Whispers.

Unfortunately, Styles had yet to turn his fancy driving into a winning formula. A part of him knew that he might have to change his strategy up. But another part of him didn’t care and looked to continue doing this until he eventually won. Currently, he was leading and all he had to do was lead the next few laps and he could convert his lead into a victory.

Unfortunately for Styles, he was facing a man that really needed to win if he was going to walk into Hallow’s Eve with clout to his name. John Kloof was currently flooring The Big Boot, his vehicle and looking for the first opportunity to overtake Styles. Following the turn, Styles straightened out and put the accelerator to the floor.

As the laps went by with Styles barely hanging onto the lead, he thought about his vehicle. It was a mean machine with green African tribal skull design. He loved this vehicle. Even now as he watched John Kloof take the lead, the win and the race, he still loved this vehicle. In truth, it was the reason that he’d needed to race tonight. It was like it embodied his personality. For years they’d called him an outcast, he’d eventually settled in to being an enigma. And his vehicle was no different. Its name: The Cursed Conundrum.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright © 2020 by Sphu "Beesting" Kubheka
All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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