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The Dead Lonely

Image by Jan Kideborn from Pixabay

To be fair, the seller did warn her that the car was possessed. But Libby neither believed her, nor cared. IT WAS A CAR. And it was cheap.

Libby even signed an agreement that said:

I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS CAR HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN. NO RETURNS.

But how bad could it be, really? It was a pale pink little Fiat, cute as a marshmallow.

“Stick with me, little car,” Libby said, as she waved to the paranoid seller, through the windscreen.  The woman did not wave back. Instead, she touched her fingers to her lips, her nails perfect, her eyes wide, like she was watching Bambi getting shot, in slow motion.

Libby shrug-smiled, and then fastened her seatbelt and set about connecting her phone via Bluetooth.

“Oh yes!” she said, starting her specially made playlist.  ROADTRIPPING 1.

She patted the dashboard and declared. “I name thee Flo.”

As Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’ pulsed through the not too shabby speakers, Libby released the handbrake, rolled backwards, down the slope of a driveway, and started the car up with a lurch.

How was this even happening? Such a cute car. Under budget. And it was hers. Sure, she’d have to take on extra shifts at Starbucks on Sundays to pay for the petrol. But still…

“Freeeeedommmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

The car shuddered and stalled. Libby started her up again and drove slowly back towards the main road. Now, this was style. She waved to the pavement that she’d walked down on the way here. And the bus stop she’d got off at. Then she patted the wheel.

“You and I are going to get along great.”

She turned the stereo up and jiggled in her seat, following in the wake of a dull blue Volvo. Flo was way cuter.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” Libby sang.

The music cut out. And a thin voice came through the speaker, on the passenger side.

“Mouth closed. Eyes on the road.”

Libby stamped on the brake, and felt her skull bang against the headrest.

“Watch it!” screeched the voice.

A horn sounded behind Libby and a cold sweep of adrenaline rushed through her.

“You watch it!” Libby roared back, glaring at the speaker. Cheeks burning, she turned over her shoulder, and waved apologetically to the driver behind her, then restarted the car.

On their second outing, later that evening, a short trip to the petrol station, Libby was torn between acknowledging the….voice? And just willing EVERYTHING TO BE FINE.

“You good Flo?” she said, turning up her playlist.

The music cut out.

“My name is Gwyneth!”

Libby shuddered and rubbed her temple. Her head hurt. Her shoulders were wound tight, up around her ears. This was…A LOT. Cars should not talk.

But Libby was stubborn. It turned out they both were. On a rainy trip to Birmingham the next week they duked it out on the motorway.

“You’re a bad driver!” The voice cut right through the swoosh of windscreen wipers, and the hum of the heater.

“And you’re a bad car.”

“You’re a bad person too.”

“Said the hitchhiker!”

“I was here before you.”

“And I’ll be here after you’re gone. I’m going to have you…exterminated!”

They drove along in a rain beaten silence.

So it was that the following Sunday, before her shift started, Libby navigated her way to a nearby church and snuck some water out of the font. Back at the carpark, she undid the top of the tablet bottle and sprinkled half of the holy water over Flo-Gwynn’s bonnet. Then she opened the passenger door and tipped a little on the dash, for good measure.

Libby drove to work in awkward silence. A little guilty. A little hopeful. But mostly just tense. Listening. Waiting. To see if the voice would come through the speaker. It was a long five minutes, but then the tight bubble burst…

“You’ve made yourself late for work.”

Libby groaned, smacked the wheel, and slowed for the traffic.

Over the next three weeks Libby tried everything she could think of. She tried ignoring her, but then Flo-Gwynn just said the same thing, on repeat. Libby tried all the Googling… (Talking car/Sentient car/ Help me please, there’s a ghost trapped in my engine?) Nothing of use. She played twenty questions, but only got to number two before Flo-Gwynn started shrieking. She bought a cleansing pine air freshener, and hung it from the rear-view mirror, but it cleansed jack shit. All it did was make Libby feel like she was in a mad forest. She even threatened to push Flo-Gwynn over a cliff, and claim the insurance money.

“Like I said. You are a very bad person!” Flo-Gwynn said primly.

That’s when Libby parked her next to another Fiat and waited two hours for the owner to return, a sleek looking woman in fitness gear.

….“Has my car ever what?” said the woman, clutching her water bottle to her chest and taking a definitive step back.

By week four Libby was resigned to the interruptions, and the carping, and the criticising. But she was tired of not being able to have anyone else in the car.

“Flo-Gwynn,” she said firmly, as they headed to Libby’s grandma’s bungalow. “I want to drive my grandma to Morrisons, but I can’t risk you stopping her heart.”

“What’s her name?”

“Edith.”

“How old is she?”

“Seventy-two.”

“We’ll get along just fine.”

“I don’t trust you.”

“And I don’t trust you.”

Libby pulled into her grandma’s drive, undid her seatbelt, and sighed through her nose. Then she rested her head gently on the steering wheel.

Libby couldn’t risk her precious grandma, but she finally decided to risk her older brother, Anthony. She cornered him in the hall one Friday night, as he stumbled in, from a night out with his friends.

“Come for a drive?” she said, poking him in the ribs.

He hung up his coat and shook his head.

“I’ll drive us to the petrol station. For snacks.”

“Oh-kay?” he slurred.

She prodded him out of the house, and in the direction of Flo-Gwynn, like he was a reluctant cow.

“In!” she said.

“You’re buying?”

“Anything you want.”

He shrugged lazily and folded himself up into the front seat. Then he sniffed dramatically. “This car stinks.” He flicked the piney-air freshener, and it swung.

“And so do you!” snapped Flo-Gwynn. “Have you been drinking?”

Anthony froze, staring at the speaker on his side, and then threw himself out of the car, like he was on fire.

Libby leaned over the empty passenger seat, and yelled through his open door, “Coward!”

He got straight back in, shaking himself, and pointing forwards, but looking all around him, eyes wild.

Libby started up ROADTRIPPING 2, and Anthony wrinkled his nose at her music choices, but otherwise said nothing.

They made it halfway to the petrol station, with no interjections from Flo-Gwynn, before Anthony  shifted in his seat, and then grumbled, “You know, I could walk there faster than this.”

The music cut out.

“She’s being safe! She’s a good driver! And who are you twerp?”

“Flo-Gwynn, this is my brother Anthony. Anthony, this is Flo-Gwynn.”

Anthony reached for the door handle.

“Libby grabbed for his wrist. “I hate you bro, but don’t throw yourself out. Not while we’re moving.” She sped up.

“Let him jump! Make him walk!” Flo-Gwynn said.

“Libby, this is mad,” Anthony hissed, and hugged himself.

“Tell me about it,” Libby grinned, and pulled into one of the parking spots in front of the petrol station.

“I’ll get the snacks,” Anthony said, and leapt out of the car, faster than he could truly co-ordinate. He tripped over his own feet, and then ran, like a frightened rat, towards the light and the petrol station’s sliding doors.

“You should drive off and leave him,” said Flo-Gwynn.

“No, I’m not going to leave him,” Libby sighed.

“He hates me. He hates you and your slow poke driving. You hate him.”

“I don’t hate him. He’s my brother.”

“And what am I? You hate me.”

Libby sighed. “I don’t hate you.”

“Hand on heart?”

“Hand on heart.”

“So what am I then?” Flo-Gwynn said sharply.

Was Flo-Gwynn…a car? Just a car. Her car?

“Am I a bad person?”

“No.”

Libby felt a twist in her chest. She tilted her head and watched her brother, hovering at the till, clutching crisps and Mars bars.

“Maybe you were a person? Let’s say that you were. A lovely lady called Gwynneth. Who was on holiday, in Italy, and decided to do a tour…of the Fiat factory. You died there.”

“How?”

“You choked on a truly delicious sandwich. Ham?”

“Noooooo!”

“Ok, it was just…your time. But now you get to live forever. Or until this car rusts and gets crushed. What do you think?”

“Did I like Italy?”

“You loved it.”

Anthony shuffled his way back to the car, and slid awkwardly into the passenger seat, depositing the snacks down in the footwell.

“I’m going to rust. You’re going to crush me?” Flo-Gwynn asked.

“Too fucking right!” Anthony muttered, gripping the door handle again.

“You’re a bad person!” Gwyneth shrieked, and he froze in his seat.

“I’m not going to crush you,” Libby said, patting the steering wheel.

“Ok.” Flo-Gwynn said. “But buck up brother! If you’re a bad person, Libby will crush you.”

Libby reached over and patted Anthony’s stiff shoulder. “Hand me a Mars Bar.”

“I’m not a bad person! I paid for the snacks!” Anthony shouted at the speaker.

“Now then, everyone,” Libby said, sounding more like her mother than she liked. “Who’s ready for home?”

Anthony nodded.

Flo-Gwynn declared, “Libby. Let the music roll.”

Libby started up ROADTRIP 3, and turned it up so loudly that she had to shout over it….

“EVERYBODY GOOD?”

Week 41

I think Fiat 500s look pretty cute. But what if you ended up owning one that…wasn’t so cute!?

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