Story: Heavy Traffic

This is my second attempt at the Wednesday Write-in. I’m starting to get the idea a little bit more this week. It’s still a pretty long piece, I always saw myself as a flash writer but these pieces keep turning out longer than 200 words. Enjoyed the prompts as well. In one way or another I’ve used each prompt:

Two girls     Thick Braid     Peel         Heavy Traffic        Allergic Reaction

I storyboarded this on the way back from work, it’s pretty ridiculous so I’ll put that evidence at the end.

What to do in a jam. 

Brian was stuck, in the heaviest traffic jam he’d seen all summer. He was right in the middle of a huge metal bridge arching in subtle gradations over a river. He was a small, smart suited man, stuck upright as a pin in a pin cushion inside his car, a cartoon policeman blue Proton Savvy. Occasionally horns went off, a flashy purple model had a melodious tune it would let ring every now and then. He was late for work after his lunch break, getting later by the second. He’d tried to phone but no signal. He tapped the wheel, wrote words like claustrophobic in the condensation of his breath, smudging the second o. Then his phone rang. It’s work, they’re going to fire me-he found the screen and there was an unknown number. It’s someone selling me something. Life insurance. He answered.

Greetings, a smooth unisex voice said. Toneless. Hello? Welcome, it said. Then, still in a monotone, it began reading him updates:

Jan just ate a chocolate.

Ben is allergic to life.

Rachel’s sister is having twins!!!!

Lucy peels a banana sexually, apparently.

Who is this? Brian asked, hesitating, it felt rude to interrupt the voice’s total indifference to what it was saying.

This is facebook, said the voice. This is your news read to entertain you while you are waiting.

Thank you.

Ian has a date with the movies.

Laura is so excited!!!

Facebook continued to read to him, some of the people he matched to their faces, some must be friends of friends he’d added as he’d no idea who they were or why they’d be excited. Facebook continued its roll call of updates, minutes were ticking by, the jam wasn’t moving. Shut up, Brian said, quietly and hesitantly. The voice ignored him. Shut up. Brian tried sitting up straighter to inject confidence into his words. Facebook ignored him. Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up, he was babbling into the mouth piece now. He couldn’t hear facebook, all he could hear was himself inbetween the windows and the metal and the tyres. He put the phone down as he screamed, shut uppppppppppppppp.

He took his shoes off; he took his jacket off, and slumped. There was a girl in the car next to him, she was plaiting and unplaiting her thick blonde hair into a single braid. She looked like she had nowhere to be, nothing to do. Content. Brian wasn’t sure how long facebook had been on the phone, it was a blurry time of names and exclamation marks that he could see but not hear. He looked at his watch. He found an old pack of chewies and started peeling the wrapper from their sticky, pale pink bodies. He began facebooking himself. Brian doesn’t peel as sexy as Lucy does. Brian is bored. Brian is starting to get stressed. Brian is planning on murdering the bloke in the next car, just so he can have something to think about.

Time passes. The bridge has been cordoned off at both ends, with yellow tape. Everyone watches as the police erect the yellow tape. It doesn’t seem like they’ll be moving. No one leaves their car. A couple start having sex in an Audi, yellow. Hours pass. The girl begins plaiting her hair from the start.

After a year people begin to adapt. The ones who aren’t able to take the pressure have long gone, into the metallic looking water. The families who have children are now known as tyres. The vehicles start creeping into their language. People fish in the river, pulling up strange sting ray shaped flesh, and soggy Mac Donalds. Brian stayed in his car longer than most, on his phone, listening to someone even though the battery had died weeks ago. When he left the car he started the facebook clan, everyone delivered their emotions in flat statements in the third person. Brian felt a strong sense of acceptance, he was happy.

Word Count: 664


8 thoughts on “Story: Heavy Traffic

  1. I really enjoyed this, so weird and wonderful. I loved the way the ending crept up, without needing to be explained. You just accept that these people have made their new lives in this traffic jam. I particularly liked the different factions and the way their language changes, that was a really interesting thought.

    • Thanks Sarah, I was thinking of how in Atwood’s novels she always has small details that explain how people have adapted to their strange new world, and trying to get that sense of a mini-culture. I could go into it more even, but I ran out of time! Follow up story….

  2. There was a real nightmare quality to this, (not the least being the contents of FB being read to you). The slow ramping up of the horror was excellent; I felt the first thread of uneasiness at the line ‘the bridge has been cordoned off at both ends with yellow tape’ and it escalated in a very subtle manner from there. Excellent.

    • Haha, thank you Sandra. I enjoyed the ramping up part myself. I think perhaps the fb status updates could be better, more realistic somehow. At least with imaginary surnames perhaps! I enjoyed your story, it felt very complete.

  3. Ha ha I loved the facebook updates! I thought it was a great reflection of the most mundane updates you are usually subjected to every day. I also loved the way it turned into something completely unexpected, but seemed completely normal at the same time. I enjoyed reading this, so different!

  4. Pingback: Story: Heavy Traffic II | beccaaudra

  5. Pingback: Story: Heavy Traffic III | beccaaudra

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