Joy Ride

Joy Ride

Just another beautiful day spent driving through Ohio. This sentiment ran through my head as I drove past the 1000th corn field. The corn waved lazyily at me and I could almost hear it saying “Thanks for passing through”  in an overly nice, willing to please voice. I wanted nothing more than to put my hand out the window and extend me middle finger to that corn, even if it was just trying to help. Ohio and its miles of boring landscape and dreaded 65 miles per hour. I could not wait to be home in Michigan. I was lost in my thoughts when my son kicked the back of my chair for the 10th time and stifled a laugh. I looked in the rear view mirror and looked at the little human in the back with the most inquisitive look I could muster, contemplating to myself how two people as nice as my wife and I could raise such a brat. I glanced at my wife and could see she was giggling as well , she gave me her best fake exasperated expression.  I concluded that my wife,  Mia, had conspired with the angelic 6 year old in the back. I couldn’t help, but smile myself as I took one hand off the wheel to reach back pretend to swat at  Mason’s little head. He did his due diligence to dodge my halfhearted attempts. I pivoted a little to get my arm around the chair far enough, and it had given me the chance to quickly see something in my rear view mirror.

I saw what appeared to be a diamond shaped object about the size of a car slam into the soft dirt of the cornfield. I immediately pulled my arm back and blinked furiously to try and comprehend what I had just seen. I looked into the rear view at what  I thought was the impact zone, but all I could see was waving corn silently saying  ” All is well here crazy individual, no objects landing here, keep moving enjoy the lovely blandness of Ohio.” I decided the corn must be right, the drive had gotten the best of my nerves and I really had seen nothing.

I came to this conclusion just as it appeared that traffic came to a dead stop ahead. I began to brake, but apparently it was not fast enough for Mia, she threw her hands up and yelled the phrase ” Whoa, whoa, whoa didn’t think you were gonna stop.” The women in my life should have this phrase patented. My mother displayed the same level of confidence in my driving ability while I was growing up.  In some weird Oedipus Rex type luck , I went out and found a girl who also held the same belief as my mother, that 40 car lengths was the appropriate distant between cars when stopping. We were at an absolutely dead stop, not even the slow roll forward. I sensed we were in it for the long haul when I saw two high school age boys throwing a football back and forth a few cars ahead of me. There were some men milling about in shorts and sandals with socks.  These men could only be battle hardened fathers and what I had learned in my short six years of fatherhood was that I had nothing on these mother fuckers. Somebody who cares so little about fashion sense has seen / dealt with some shit I can only begin to fathom. The conscious decision was made to keep my slim fit jeans and boots in the car, no need to go poke the bear so to speak.  In order to remain sane that I would remain in the car with my little family, I didn’t need to get out and go converse with the socks and sandals guys, no need to get such a depressing look into my inevitable future.

Mia had leaned her chair back and closed her eyes to nap, Mason also appeared sleepy. He moved across the back seat of our Subaru to lay his head closer to his Mothers. I chose the Subaru over the mini van due to the necessity of owning a family car, but also fulfilling a promise to my ignorant 17 year old self to never own or even discuss owning a minivan. Soon Mason was also counting sheep. I couldn’t get the image of the crashing diamond shaped object out of my head. I tried all rational explanations; it was a piece of malfunctioning farm equipment, Farmer Pete had too much to drink and ran the ol tiller over something he shouldn’t have and pieces started shooting off. In the back of my head there was still one nagging thought backed by evidence that I tried my hardest to ignore. That object sure looked smooth, it looked designed for landing in the way it did and for the life of me I couldn’t pull anything from my memory to compare its shape too. The thing had looked alien, almost as if it came straight out of a Star Wars movie.

The thought of aliens lingered. What if this was a War of the Worlds alien scenario, one thing pop culture has taught us is that alien encounters tend to go two ways. Aliens meet and immediately they are friendly or aliens come with more of a destroy everything mindset, zapping people and shit. Traffic still remained at a standstill. I started to feel that discomfort that eats at that back of your brain every time a normal situation is disrupted. Traffic stopped on the highway, a fist fight at church, the brain doesn’t associate these things with the routine and normalcy of life. Every time this happens the “what-if” scenarios begin to pile up in my brain and eventually can lead to a mounting anxiety. What if traffic is stopped because North Korea finally EMP’d our power grid? What if traffic is stopped because my brother was driving home from vacation and was in a fatal car accident a little ways up the highway? What if aliens really are invading and one has commandeered the highway and is taking people home for testing? Mia doesn’t get it, she is a go with the flow type, I am neurotic. This allows Mia to sleep in the seat next to me while the possible scenarios continue to pile up in my cranium.

The possible alien landing doesn’t help my discomfort. This is not new territory, I always associate mundane things with my fantasies and drive myself crazy. If Mia was awake she would take a deep sigh and say, “Jess, turnaround and  look, there are no aliens” ( insert her massive air quotations made with what I have to say are very sexy fingers). I decide the Mia in my mind is right,  I will do just that, I’ll turn around to calm my nerves. I rotate my head around and everything comes to almost a stop. I can hear the white socks wearing Dad 5-6 cars up talking about how sales at his company are taking a dip, I can hear Mason and Mia breathing rhythmically, and I sure as fuck can see the diamond shaped object now mounted on four metallic, stilt-like legs in the waving corn. I rub my eyes ferociously and think to myself how this is the only time my fantasy is right and it involves what appear to be aliens? After the eye rub to end all eye rubs, the alien ( or whatever) thing is still there. Not only is it there it has sprung two more appendages, arm like structures that jut from  the sides of the structure. The arms appear to be almost more coil than anything they flow freely, but look sturdy. The top portion of the diamond is beginning to look more and more like cockpit.

I stare in disbelief and almost out of a horror movie the machine begin to move forward, but appears to be clumsy. It lurches forward and appears to walk almost bowleggedly forward. Its almost as though whoever or whatever is piloting the machine is inexperienced, like a teenager taking the car out for the first time. Even with the lurching and starts and stops, the thing is foreboding. Almost on queue with this thought I witness two curved blades extend from the ends of the bendy arms and I know this thing has malicious intent, shitty driver or not. I look around to see if anybody else has noticed the monstrosity, socks Dad drones on about work, two young boys play tag around a car, and Mia and Mason continue to sleep. For all intents and purposes nobody else has noticed. The machine is moving parallel to the stopped snake of cars on the highway, I have a fleeting hope that maybe it will continue and just move along. Again, the machine seems to have read my mind and takes a long loping, 15 year old behind the wheel turn and heads directly towards the highway.

I roll the passenger side window down, its moving from that side of the road, I expect to hear the sound of machinery or an engine. I hear nothing, the machine moves silently and leaves the surrounding corn almost un-disturbed. And it is moving fast.  I shift my gaze to watch it hit the highway about 5 cars up right in Dad socks wheelhouse.

I watch the blades on the attached arms come down quickly and silently. The left arm blade comes down at an angle and cuts Dad socks clean in half, almost symmetrically, blood splatters his pristine calf high socks before the legs buckle.  The follow through of the slice carries his body onto the hood of the sedan to his immediate right, which I assume is his. Viscera showers the pavement and the hood of the sedan, Dad socks top half slides and plops onto the ground. In the kind of cruel joke only chance can play, his body lands perfectly up right and I can see the look of surprise on his face.  Dad socks aside, that blade had to have been half the size of the sedan and it came in quickly and accurately. I am terrified, but also fascinated. What is this thing? Where in the hell did it come from? The thing begins to swing the arm blades in a seemingly random pattern, but still causing damage to the cars directly in front of mine. One blade slices a minivan in half long ways, the top half topples to the side and I see two halved bodies in the two front seats and two alive screaming kids in the back. The kids look small; the blade must have barely cleared them.  Another blade digs a deep canyon in the highway as it slices down, sending pavement spraying onto the surrounding cars.

I see the panic set in, people begin to get out of their cars and run. I contemplate this briefly, but the machine appears to be stopped, almost as if in order to accurately run the arms the pilot cannot move the legs. The radius of the arms isn’t huge and some of the people fleeing from up the road are running directly into the random blender arena the machine has set up. I decide the best place to stay is in our car and hope it doesn’t move towards us. Us, holy shit I totally forgot about Mia and Mason. I feel sudden, deep shame, I am the man, I should have thought about them immediately, instead I did the equivalent of freezing. Miraculously they are still both fast asleep. I lower my seat as well and lay as flat as I can hoping that if a blade does come through horizontally, it will miss all three of us like it missed the kids in the minivan. I crane my neck and can still see the motionless cockpit in between the flicking blade. I scan the highway and it is complete chaos, I witness a hysterical woman running and flailing her arms. A blade flicks and the woman is only flailing one arm as the other has started to sprayed blood where it was lopped off above her elbow. The cars in the immediate vicinity of the machine are absolutely sliced to ribbons. The car in front of the machine reminds me momentarily of the famous Christmas roast beast sliced by the Grinch, it barely resembles a car anymore.

The blades suddenly stop flicking. The silence is permeated by the screaming of the wounded, the one armed woman springs passed my drivers side window splattering it with sickenly red blood as she goes. The machine has begun to move, the arms hang taut, but at the sides of the machine. To my immediate horror the cockpit pivots in our direction. It lurches to the side and I again get a glimmer of hope that it will move into the cornfield from where it came. No such fucking luck, the thing takes a loping, almost drunken turn that puts us directly in its path. I completes its turn and begins to move towards us.  It reaches the highway and I have resigned myself to the idea that if the blade arms begin again, there will be no escape.  I decide in the adrenaline soaked thoughts that only being close to death can bring that the only thing I can do is try to see what is driving this blade whipping piece of shit.  The machines four legs come down gracefully on the highway surrounding the car,they don’t break the pavement and land almost as soundlessly as the machine appears to operate.

As if answering my prayers, the legs lift up and the machine moves off of the highway onto the other side. No flicking shimmering blades, no destruction. I get a stupid, giddy smile on my face and I look up and the cock pit becomes transparent. I see a face that has vaguely human features, besides the yellowish-green horns sticking from the skull and the reptilian face. The creatures skin appears to be a sickly yellow, and it has a massive mouth. The sudden visibility of the creature surprises me and it takes me a second to read its expression. Its massive mouth is curved in the shape that can only be described as a “shit-eating grin”. This mother fucker looks like I did when I was 15 and took my dad’s car out for a joy ride. He turns and makes eye contact with me and the grin only gets wider, “ like damn I got caught, but oh well that was fun.”  I get a sudden surge of nostalgia and I feel like I almost want to shake my finger at this thing and say, “ I thought you would make better decisions young man” followed by a playful elbow to the ribs.  We break eye contact and the machine moves deeper into the cornfield. The arms retract into the diamond shaped cock pit. The front two legs retract, leaving only the back two. The diamond shape tilts toward the sky and what looks like a port opens it the back. With a massive bang that tilts the closest cars on the highway on to two wheels, the diamond is gone. Suddenly I understand why the machine lurched, appeared drunk, and couldn’t move while operating the blades. That thing was trying to be cool. That thing stole dad’s car. That fucker was on an interstellar joyride.

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