The car slowly rolled to a halt. Black tarmac stretched to the horizon ahead and behind, heat glimmering off its surface. To either side there was nothing but the desert, disappearing into a blue haze. The landscape was empty, save for a few rocks here and there, large and small, some plants which looked dead and not much else.
Adam slammed the steering wheel in frustration. The car wasn’t out of petrol, it had been serviced a week earlier, and it had been running just fine, until it began gradually slowing down over the last three miles or so. He’d tried pushing the accelerator harder, tried dropping a gear, tried slamming the dashboard and screaming profanities at it, but nothing helped. It got slower and nothing made a difference and finally the car had stopped.
He got out and slammed the door, looked up the road each way and then swore again. He’d been staring at his phone as the car had slowed, hoping he could rely on it if he needed to. He couldn’t, he’d realised, as the stupid thing had no signal. And it was running out of battery too. He’d charged it this morning! Piece of shit.
He had no idea what to do, he realised. He hadn’t brought a road map because who carries road maps anymore? How long ago had he passed through a town or by a petrol station or cafe or anything? He couldn’t remember. He’d stayed at a motel last night but left early. It would take him days to walk back. Maybe even weeks. He didn’t have enough water for that. There was a large bottle of sparking mineral water on the passenger seat of the car, warmed by the sun now, but water none-the-less. He had no idea how long it would keep him. Would he have to drink his own piss? He sighed and thumped his car’s roof, not as passionately as before. He slumped against the car, then got too warm and opened the car door, sitting down on the driver’s seat and making the most of the shade.
He woke up. He could hear a motor approaching. His watch told him two hours had passed and his head stung. He reached across to the passenger’s seat and grabbed the bottle of water, taking a long drink before he stood up to look down the road towards the approaching car.
It was loud. He could only just make out the car through the heat haze but already the sound of the engine was roaring over him. By the time it pulled up next to him, it was deafening. Adam had covered his ears to block it out but waved at the car, trying to make them aware of his predicament just by moving his arms back and forth over his head, but it had seemed to work as the car pulled over to the side of the road behind his and its engine switched off. Thank God, Adam thought, and waited for the doors to open.
The windscreen of the car was tinted black, as were all the other windows. Adam couldn’t see in, could only see the reflection of the desert and the sky in each of the blackened windows. He continued to wait, but nothing happened with the car.
“Hello?” he asked.
“My cars broken down and I’ve got no signal. You couldn’t give me a lift to the next place with a phone, could you? I can arrange to get it picked up.”
The car stayed still. No doors opened, no windows either. Adam walked over to it and tried to peer in but the glass seemed totally opaque. “Hello?” he said again, “can you give me a lift?”
He stood and stared in a little longer, bringing his face closer to the window and cupping his hands to try and get rid of the reflection. Still no luck. He knocked on the glass. Nothing. He tried the door handle but it was locked.
“Are you just messing with me? Say something or just fuck off and leave me to wait out here alone.”
“Fine then, asshole.” He walked back to his own car, listening for the sound of a door opening, a window being rolled down or even just a voice saying “hey, buddy, sorry about that. Just my little joke. Couldn’t help myself.” None of those things happened.
He sat down in the driver’s seat again and picked up his bottle of water, sipping it occasionally and glaring at the new arrival.
As the day went on, there was no change. The car sat there, Adam’s car still didn’t work and the only movements were the lengthening of the shadows as the sun crept down to the horizon, or Adam during his occasional walks to stretch his legs.
As the sun disappeared, Adam got completely fed up and went to the roadside to collect rocks. He held the crook of his arm against his stomach and filled it with pebbles, then walked back to his car. He dumped them in the driver’s chair and picked up a few of the stones, judging their weight in his hands. He took a few practise swings, hoping that might force the car to acknowledge him, when he’d done three and gotten no reaction, he threw one. It hit the bonnet, bounced and then slammed into the windscreen, spinning sideways from there and clattering over the road. He threw a few more and then wandered over to inspect his handiwork in the fading light. There was chipped paint on the bonnet, some chips in the windscreen and a large dent on the roof. “How do you like that, you bastard?” he yelled, then kicked the door of the car, leaving another dent.
He walked back to his car, sat down, fuming, and waited for the last of the light to fade.
When he awoke, the sun was reflecting off the rear view mirror and into his eyes. He blinked and skewed the mirror away from him. Then swivelled it back around. The car behind him was no longer there. He opened his door and jumped out.
“What the fuck?” he cried, and walked over to where it had sat. Tyre tracks in the dirt showed where it had pulled away.
Two hours later, a truck was appearing out of the heat haze. It stopped when it reached him and the driver leaned out his window. “Hey there, buddy. How long you been here?”
“Get in. I’ll give you a lift. There’s a garage about six hours away.”
As they were pulling away, the driver slowed and stopped the truck. “There’s something on your windscreen,” he said, “a note or something.”
“Know what it is?”
“Want to grab it?”
“Yeah.” Adam hopped out and walked over. He pulled out the note stuck under the windscreen wiper and walked back to the truck.
“What is it?” the driver asked.
Adam unfolded it. “What the fuck,” he said.
It was a bill for repairing body damage.