Careful Driving

Written by Ricardo

Drive safely, and always wear a seatbelt.
Image courtesy of lovetoknow.com.

The moon nestled high in the clear black sky as Alexander’s watch hit eleven o’clock. The especially bright light from the full moon illuminated the deserted car park as he made his way across to his car, barely holding five loaded bags and a bunch of assorted flowers wrapped in plastic in his left hand while he fumbled for his keys with his right hand. He got to the scrap heap he called a car; faded blue paint, rust along the skirt and windows, the usual mess, as he retrieved his keys from his pocket. The old thing could at least lock and unlock with one of those wireless key things. Probably the first one they ever made. He opened the door and threw everything into the back, only taking care with the flowers.

He took his seat before the wheel, slotting his key into the ignition and giving it a few jerks before it started up, reaching over to secure himself in with his seat belt, which was about the only thing that always worked in the thing. It was when he had pulled out of the car park and set off down the road that the moon-light penetrated through the back window and he saw the shape of a person in the back seat. Although, from the brief glimpse, it almost looked like the face wasn’t human. Evil – skeletal. That was it. It was confirmed when another streak lit up the inside of his car.
“Don’t be an idiot” the figure said in a male voice. Yet it was muffled, like he was wearing a mask. Well it figured; it wasn’t likely that Casper had donned an evil tone and come for his soul. “Just keep driving.”

Alex kept his eyes fixated on the mirror, his arms instinctively knowing where to direct the car. Muscle memory, maybe, seeing as he had driven this route hundreds of times every night at this time and this road was always dead. After getting a good look at him by slowing down to extend the period of time the light illuminated the figure, Alex parted his eyes from the mirror and concentrated on the road. “So, what do you want? Money?” Alex asked calmly.
“Well, I didn’t break into your car and wait here in this damn itchy mask to get a bowl of corn flakes.” The man returned. “I want your money and your car.”
“Hah, this thing?” Alex chuckled. “Shit man, that’s a good deal for me, I’d be better walking than using this thing.”

The moonlight seemed to permanently illuminate the car as the figure sort of slumped forward, as if relaxing previously tensed muscles. He was getting comfortable. “So, kid” Alex started. “What’s your story?”
The figure tightened up a little then, looking in the mirror through the circular slits in his mask. “What do you care? And who says I’m a kid?”
Alex shrugged. “Well, I just figured. Guys past twenty or so generally have a job and a good way to support themselves and their families. The younger ones, well, nobody will take them on, so they gotta resort to crime, right?”
The figure let out a light chuckle as he relaxed again. “Well… Yeah, I guess. I mean, I do have a family to support. At nineteen, that’s a real task, and…”

Alex zoned out for a moment and switched his vision back to the road, eyeing the three-way intersection coming up which he turned left at every day for the past ten years. To the right was the town where he used to go drinking with friends, and in front of him was a concrete wall as solid as they come. He never could recall why it was there, maybe to block off a fall into the woods below. He looked back up at the mirror and tuned back into the man’s ramblings.
“So sometimes it just gets on top of you, you know what I mean?” The man asked.
“Oh kid, more than you know. I remember this one time, I forgot to put my seat belt on, and boy did I pay the price.” Alex said, grinning in the mirror.
“Wha-” The man began to speak before he heard the supposedly old engine of the car come into its own and let out such a loud, powerful roar, it almost covered the manic screams of the man in the back. The car easily picked up sixty miles per hour in that short bit of road and ploughed directly into the slab of concrete before him, sending the masked man hurling between the two front seats and out of the cracking windscreen, taking the full force of the impact on his temple as the rest of his body bent backwards and snapped into a fish-hook shape.

Several minutes went by before Alex unclipped his seat belt and stepped out of the car. Apart from a few small bruises on his stomach where the steering wheel hit against him, he was unharmed. He pushed the remaining glass from the back window out and leaned in, picking up the remains of the bunch of flowers. He walked back to the front of the car then, where a plume of smoke was beginning to rise from the surprisingly lightly damaged bonnet, and where the masked boy lay motionless and disfigured, blood trickling from every visible orifice. “This reminds me of the time I didn’t fasten my seatbelt. I died quite similarly to that. Still, I can never get it quite right. Well, I suppose I better go and try again, huh?” He threw the flowers onto the boy’s corpse, but they had wilted, died and crumbled to dust before they even landed on his body.
Alex strolled away, his lips puckering to begin whistling an old tune he once heard on the radio. He stopped to pull a pen from his pocket and add a line to a group of twenty-two others on a sign beside the wall. “Careful driving” was printed across it.

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0 Comments

  1. […] There’s something chilling about Ricardo’s tale of love, death and hope. Maybe it’s because space is cold, or maybe it’s just because it’s an incredibly tense piece of work that gets us worked up in such a cold sweat. We’ve chosen a neat little excerpt from Ricardo’s ‘Love After Death’ as it’s gripping and pauses in just the right moments for great effect. If you enjoyed Ricardo’s work, make sure you check out, ‘The Start of Something Beautiful‘ and ‘Careful Driving‘.  […]

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