Johnny leaned back a little and smiled; he loved this part. He tilted his foot forward and the rumble of the engine thickened in his chest as the black Chevy convertible gained speed.
His narrowed his eyes against the flicker of the late afternoon sun as it blinked rapidly through the passing roadside trees. He turned the wheel ever so slightly to the left, allowing the car to gently drift on to the soft shoulder. Ahead, the hitchhiker lowered his outstretched thumb and took an uneasy step back. Johnny adjusted and flicked the steering wheel hard to the right. The Chevy’s rear whipped out in a vicious arc. Time slowed.
He closed his eyes for a lingering moment and the drifting motion gave him a sense of floating. The screech of rubber on asphalt and the whoosh of gravel sang to him.
He listened. He waited and was rewarded with a grunt and the familiar thud of flesh on metal. Johnny opened his eyes and saw the hitchhiker sailing over the car.
Bare feet with blackened soles swiveled loosely on broken legs. Arms clutched a shallow spot on his ribcage, and blood trickled up a sunburned cheek. In that split-second, their eyes met.
That’s right, Johnny thought, this is real and you are never going to know why.
The hitchhiker continued to sail from view. The world rushed back out of Johnny-time and with practiced precision he righted the Chevy and eased it to a stop. Johnny filled his lungs from the warm breeze, then exhaled. Oh, that felt good.
In the rear-vision mirror, he could see the hitchhiker’s body slumped at the end of the long gashes the Chevy’s wheels had carved in to the gravel.
Johnny heard a groan and smiled.
As the car reversed, Johnny began to whistle a tune. He couldn’t remember the name of the tune, or where he had heard it before — perhaps a classical piece? It didn’t matter. He liked it; low, slow, and soothing, then up to a spine-tingling crescendo with the moist crackle of bones as the car came to rest upon the hitchhiker’s body. Johnny couldn’t whistle through his grin. He loved that sound.
He drove on.
He knew he should just enjoy the countryside, but he couldn’t help but think that if the hitchhiker had simply made the effort to jump or run, he would have gotten away with no more than a grazed knee and a cool story to tell. Johnny shook his head. Death by complacency, he thought. Another victim of a stagnating world.
The Chevy topped a rise and Johnny saw a gas station ahead. He began to whistle again as he turned into the service lane.
The elderly man, stretching his legs outside his motor home, stood back, but Johnny waved him past. The old man still had most of his hair, but his belly appeared to put a considerable strain his large, Texan-style belt buckle. He waddled towards the Stop’n’Shop, raising a hand in thanks as Johnny shifted his foot back on to the accelerator.
The old man sounded drier than the hitchhiker as he rolled under the wheels. Johnny steered back out on to the road, gasps and screams quickly lost in the rushing wind.
The sun sank a little lower in a purpling sky and he marveled. Its beauty seemed amplified every time he made road-kill of Darwin’s leftovers. Humans needed a natural predator, and Johnny… well, see a need, fill a need.
A loud crack jolted him out of his musings, as steam spewed from the bonnet. Johnny slowed the car and pulled over. He pictured the elderly man’s gaudy buckle lodged in the radiator.
Johnny lifted the bonnet and waved the steam away. Liquid pooled under the front of the car, but there was no buckle, or bone shards, just a neat, round hole in the Chevy’s grill. He stood slowly, calmly, and looked to the right, down an embankment where he saw three more cars. It didn’t seem like they had been parked there; it looked more like that was where they had just stopped. Johnny raised a hand against the setting sun and saw them. On the ground, in front of each of the cars, was a body. To say that their heads were missing wouldn’t be entirely accurate; the heads had undoubtedly been removed, but then appeared to have been pulped and spread over the cars’ windshields like some demented child’s finger-painting.
Johnny turned from the black Chevy and nodded, smiling. “Bravo,” he complimented to the hills. The reply came as a small flash in the distance and the world shifted. Angry stars and oily, copper-scented flowers spun and whirled around him, darkening with each revolution. Johnny’s time, he thought, and felt like he was floating again.
Max lifted his head from the scope of his fifty-caliber sniper-rifle, rolled over, and stretched out on the red and white picnic blanket. He was careful not to knock his plate of bread, olives, and cheese as he poured himself another glass of wine. He sipped and allowed the wine to linger on his lips for a moment, and then he frowned. He could have sworn that guy was looking at him when he pulled the trigger. Served him right for just standing there like some sacrificial goat; people were getting too complacent with their lives.
When the sound of another car drifted up from the highway, his spirits lifted and he began to whistle a tune. He couldn’t remember the name of the tune…
Words by Sebastian Wolfe