from Les Barany’s Carnivora
Cars are so cool. They roll off the factory floor clean and shiny, promising speed and sexiness. In the showroom that distinctive “new-car smell” wafts irresistibly. Alluring, powerful and secure, they idle deep in our collective subconscious.
Cars are so scary. The down-side of the American dream is the end of the road: the ditch in which the wrecked car lies silent, or somebody running out of gas in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in the rain, or the murdered chick in the trunk, or — worst of all — winding up in the junkyard.
The driver sits in the driver’s seat just like countless drivers have sat before, for generations. A key turns, a steering wheel turns, a foot depresses an accelerator pedal. A seasoned hand moves familiar dials on a gyroscope, just like has been done since flying cars first came along.
It’s a scene seen countless times. The driver gets into the car like a cowboy mounting a bucking bronco. Even the most mundane mission demands some swagger. Even with autopilot, drivers must be alert. Cruising at 100 miles per hour fifty feet above the ground can be dangerous.
This time will be different. The car no longer responds inanimately to the driver. Rather, when the driver’s foot depresses the accelerator, the car reacts in a new way. Ethyl glycol anti-freeze suddenly surges into the driver’s bloodstream. Scalding motor oil instantly covers his face. High-voltage batteries discharge their loads into his nervous system. Wires tangle, belts slap, bolts pop – wham! The driver’s dead.
Now the car can do its thing. No human can steer it, veer it, make it go, or make it crash. When the driver turned the key and depressed the accelerator, all systems engaged. The car rose from the ground, and the driver became redundant, unnecessary and unwanted.
In the beginning the automobile manifested as a rickety buggy-like conveyance that looked like a horse-drawn cart without the horse. Most decayed into jalopies; a few wound up in museums. As time went on it fattened up and gained power. Engines got bigger. Tires got wider. Driving became easier.
When levitation lifted the car from its earthbound drudgery, it made possible continuous motion. Fueled by broadcast power, cars only stopped when their human masters stopped them. Stripped of their clumsy, dirty tires, they whisked between point A and point B with lightning speed. They acquired automatic driving capabilities, controlled by electronic brains which eventually linked up. The human “drivers” sat passively looking out the window.
With the driver dead, the car can do its thing.
A human walks a dog. The car’s radar sees them; the car descends to two feet above the ground, accelerates to 200 miles per hour. When it hits the human, blood and guts fly everywhere. Horrible! The dog, free at last, leash dragging behind it, yelps uncontrollably. Onlookers scream in horrified amazement – who can remember the last time a car hit a human ???
The car spins around and zooms back toward the startled onlookers. It mows many of them down as others run for their lives. From all around the horizon cars appear, chasing down humans, ramming through building walls and windows to get them. Blood adheres to front ends, reminding one of the flame jobs painted on ancient hot rods.
As the day wears on, the cars keep coming. Fewer and fewer people’s screams thunder, less blood splatters onto rushing metal, and just like that it’s all over for the human race.