Day 18: Cause and Effect

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.

Noth­ing happened.

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.”

He waited.

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?”

A day.”

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.”

Huh.”

Know what it is?”

No.”

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.

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