The black sedan makes no sound as it comes into view.
The sort of car you might see parked behind any number of offices across the country. Its shape somehow conjures up all car manufacturers and none. Your gaze trawls over its sleek onyx curves. It could be a Mercedes or an Audi or a custom job from a nameless government-employed garage.
It rolls down the street at the precise speed limit. Not slower. Not faster. Bang on. It signals when necessary, and stops at all the lights and crossings. It gives way to other vehicles but does not hesitate when its turn comes. It provokes neither fear — as some boy racers are wont to do — nor frustration. As is often the case when behind some doddery old dears who consider anything above 20 as drag racing.
You watch it approach. It crawls forward like a spider, and something cold stirs in your gut. As it draws parallel to your position, you have the time to gawp at your reflection in the mirrored glass. A slack-jawed head above your S-shaped body, warped and rippled in the polished surface of the door.
Its engine purrs, the low rumble of a contented cat. It’s not a noise you can hear per se, more something that vibrates in the hollow of your bones. You wonder what it would sound like if whoever — whatever — is behind the wheel decided to put the pedal to the metal. Would it roar like a lion? Would it zip and zap like a spaceship from those science fiction magazines? Would it stay at that subsonic flutter? You wonder.
The black sedan pulls into one of the many parking bays of the street. It lingers in its space like a shadow — half in the sun, half in the gloom of a building. Like the very absence of light. A hole in the fabric of reality. One of those things in space that swallow all nearby objects. You note that the car sits well within the lines — each ruler-straight to the doors on either side. Almost as if a machine guided it into the spot. It is, you think, the perfect textbook example of how to park.
The driver’s door opens. A muted clunk-clunk. Darkness yawns. As dark as the black paint, but without the bright reflections. Matte. A viper’s gaped mouth. You imagine a hiss and the rattle of a tail. Fangs extended, slaked with liquid venom. Stay away. Stay away.
You glance around and your pulse thumps in your ears. But there’s no place to hide. At least, not in the available timeframe. Nothing behind which you could obscure or disguise yourself. A lampost and a road sign nearby, but you won’t kid yourself that your form would disappear behind those.
You stand there, frozen to the spot. Your legs no longer work, your body rejects your demands for control. Breaths stop. Your eyes forget how to blink. All moisture evaporates from your mouth. It’s a goddamn miracle that your heart hasn’t given up the ghost, too. Spasmed to a halt right there in its bone prison. But onward it pumps, dutiful as ever.
Out steps a man in a suit. An ordinary man. An ordinary suit. The man is white. The suit is black. He has a head of nice brown hair. It’s not too long, not too short. The perfect length. The sort of haircut that wouldn’t look out of place in any era of history — from the sixties to the current millennium. His face is handsome in a plain sort of way. Shaved and tidy. No surprising or key features jump out. When he stands up, you note — without surprise — that he is of average height. About five foot nine, you’d estimate.
“Howdy,” he says as if a character from a western. Or that animated cowboy from that movie about sentient kids’ toys. The one that always gave you the creeps, for reasons you couldn’t pin down. The notion that inanimate objects are alive, that they could spy on your every action…
It’s only now that you notice he wears shades. Shades as black as his car. You cannot make out the eyes behind the lenses, and a drop in your gut tells you that’s intentional. He offers a relaxed grin, and your core turns to ice. He shuts the car door — another muffled clunk-clunk — and walks around to the rear of the sedan. A coiled cable spirals from his ear down the back of his shirt, which is pristine white, ironed and starched.
He stops for a second. He seems to have noticed your observation. His smirk widens. The teeth behind those lips are perfect and white, straight and square. You get the idea that if you were to measure them, every length would be uniform, every angle would be 90 degrees. Not so much as a coffee stain on the enamel.
He opens the boot and pulls out a briefcase. Its surface is smooth and black — not dissimilar to the body of the car. The man shuts the trunk lid. It makes almost no noise as it closes. Briefcase in hand, he walks back around the car and up onto the pavement, a few metres away. He doesn’t lock the car, but you think the doors wouldn’t open if you tried anyway. The man stops and stands there, shaded eyes drilled into you. You can’t see them, but you know that his gaze is on you. That at-ease grin hasn’t left his countenance once. He raises his hand and offers you a salute. “See ya,” he says.
And then he walks past you. His shoes make no loud footsteps on the concrete, even though it seems as though they should. Polished and black, of course. What else? He walks down the street and doesn’t get a second glance from anybody. Why would he? There are better-looking men on this street. And others with fashion instincts that draw more attention. If you were to get up close and personal, you’d bet your life that he’d smell of nothing — neither body odour nor aftershave.
He disappears into the crowd. Another man in a suit on a workday. Going from someplace to somewhere else. You try to keep track of him, but soon there are ten others with similar appearances. It becomes akin to that magic trick with the ball under the three cups.
You turn back around to inspect his vehicle and a winded rush of air wheezes out of you.
The space is empty.
Your eyes dart to the bend in the road far ahead. Cars move, to and fro. Black, blue, silver, green, grey, red. Sedans and people carriers. Sportcars and hatchbacks. Some with their sunroof down. You think you spot it on the horizon — a blob of black against the shine of the Sun.
Then it too is gone, and you’re left to wonder what you saw. Should you tell somebody? Someone in charge? You think about how the hell you’d explain this. You imagine the police report: man got out of the car. Would anyone even believe you? It’s hard to say. A chance they would. “Okay,” they’d nod, “a businessman got a lift into town from a friend. So what?” But they won’t understand what troubled you so much.
After all, there’s no sane way to say that something is too ordinary.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
I loved this line: "Spasmed to a halt right there in its bone prison." I'm a little confused by the ending though...no licence plate on the car or buttons on the briefcase doesn't seem ordinary? Unless this is what the future is like?
Thanks, Rachel! I appreciate the feedback. Yeah, you're absolutely right. I took out the oddities of the car, and I hope it flows better now! :)
Wow, love your story Joshua. It uses such vivid descriptions and world building 👍
Thanks, Josephine! :)
This story is great! You have such an attention to detail, and I love the metaphor about the car being a snake. The decision to use second-person was wise, and the last line thought-provoking. Well done :)