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Road Trip

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Jeff saw the lights flashing in his rear view mirror. This is it, he thought. One last chance. He knew it was risky. The last time Jeff had tried anything like this, he wound up with a fractured arm that took weeks to heal and which still occasionally hurt. But it might be years before he had another opportunity, and he might be too old by then.

The car began making its turn into the emergency lane, the steering wheel sluggish and reluctant in his hands. Jeff knew that the car didn’t want to stop, but even it was till compelled to follow the rules of the road, and that meant pulling over when the cops wanted you to. Rules were important-it allowed the car to attract less attention, and prevented him from escaping-except perhaps now.

Jeff could still remember the night he’d first seen the car in the dealer’s lot, gleaming bright and new under the lights-an Impala that had just rolled off the assembly line. He’d noticed the dealer’s nervousness over the car, but of course he hadn’t thought much about it at the time. He’d had plenty of time to think about it since.

Jeff wondered if that man was still alive. Probably not-he’d been at least twenty years older than Jeff at the time. Jeff saw his own thinning, graying hair in the mirror and remembered when he’d been younger too, and free with the promise of a new decade ahead as the year 1959 was ending.

Jeff should have known something was wrong when the car made its first wrong turn. Then the car made another, and another, taking him further away from the dealership down streets and then highways that became increasingly unfamiliar, through towns and cities that he didn’t know as landscapes flew past and the roads merged into a single line of pavement and white lines.

Of course he’d tried to escape. Even as the car drove on, never stopping for gas or allowing him to eat or go to the bathroom, which Jeff discovered he somehow didn’t need anyway, he’d pound at the windows, kick the doors and roof, trying desperately to get someone’s attention. But nobody seemed to notice or hear him, and it wasn’t until that one other time that he found out why when he saw the car’s blacked-out windows from the outside and realized that it would keep him prisoner for eternity if it wanted to, unless...

The car rolled down its window as the highway patrol officer walked over. A state trooper, judging from the uniform. “License and registration, sir?” he asked, with professional politeness.

Jeff nodded and took both out from the glove compartment. “Was I speeding?” he asked. His own voice sounded odd and unfamiliar in his ears; it had been that long since he’d actually spoken-except to the car.

“You were going a little fast,” the officer replied. He didn’t seem to look too closely at the license, but it must have been up to date-another one of the car’s tricks? “Just be more careful next time,” he said as he prepared to hand it back to him.

That was when Jeff took his chance. Without really thinking, he grabbed at the officer’s wrist, which caused him to grab the car door in response. The door hissed like a defiant animal as Jeff dove out, hitting the pavement as he allowed the cop to put handcuffs on him. The sensation of immediate freedom was disorienting, but Jeff was able to yell out “Shoot...” as the car began making a savage U-turn.

“The hell?” The officer was startled, but instinctively drew his gun.

“Aim for...the headlights...blind it...” Jeff didn’t know why he’d said that, but it seemed to work as the officer fired, the shots sounding like loud firecrackers. Its lights out, the car narrowly avoided hitting both of them before plunging off the road, almost roaring in pain as it lit up the night air in a fireball.

“What the hell just happened?” The cop helped Jeff to his feet, even though he was still technically under arrest for assaulting an officer. “Did that thing actually just try to kill us?”

“It did.” Jeff watched the already dying flames, still unsteady on his own two legs. “But it’s over...I’m free...” then he collapsed from exhaustion as the officer helped him over to his patrol vehicle. It would be one more ride, but Jeff knew that it would also be his last.

 

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