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by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Chapter 21
'Error' synopsis

One day, Jonas, who has recently migrated to the city, discovers that all his records — including his assets — have been erased somehow. No longer able to get work, buy anything on credit or sell his now legally non-existent car, his life becomes a unique adventure.

The Hyundai Accent has a four-cylinder 1600-cc engine and weighs in at just under a ton. It generates around 100 horsepower and has a 5-speed gear box. It goes from 0 to 100 in about a week.

The Toyota Land Cruiser has a 3-litre diesel engine and weighs in at just over two tons. It has 163 horsepower to work with and an automatic transmission. It goes from 0 to 100 in roughly a month, give or take a couple of days depending on wheel size.

Jonas had an edge, as long as he did not get caught in snow. Lucky for him, it was not snowing. It was cold, as it had been for the last week, but not much had fallen from the sky. It was not even slippery, and he got good traction.

The guys in the Land Cruiser would not have to worry much about snow, for they had such large tyres. Their car was made for driving in snow. And it could easily crush Jonas’ car like an empty Coke can if he decided for some reason to stop.

Jonas knew that. And he worried about fuel. He had only pumped in 1000 things worth of fuel. That was not much. Good for about 100 kilometres or so. And how much distance had he driven since then? He figured it must be over 50 kilometres; maybe even 60 — perhaps even more. The fuel gauge showed he was low, but the low-fuel light was not blinking yet.

At least he was outrunning the thugs that were after him — for the time being. He was pretty sure they could match his speed, but they could never match his manoeuvrability. Once he reached the city he would win. He could use his distance as best he could and get lost. Ditch the car and run. They would never catch him on foot. He would just hide somewhere.

The speedometer was reading 140 and the front wheels were beginning to wobble violently. They were balanced, he knew, but apparently not well enough. Under normal circumstances he would not be pushing the car this hard. He was probably getting 15 litres per 100 kilometres at this speed. He knew he would get 8-10 in the city. He calculated that the mileage would round out at 5-7 at between 90 and 120, but then increase rapidly as the engine started to turn way too fast. He had calculated that once too, when he had a short trip up north.

The city was not far away. He would make it and have enough fuel left to disappear into some narrow street.

Jonas stopped planning when he saw something approach. Was that what he thought it was?

It was. The dark green Ssang Yong was coming toward him on the opposing lane. That car could catch up with him, he was sure. It had a bit more power than a stock car.

The Ssang Yong was turned around on the asphalt before it crossed the median and began to give chase. It came in just behind the Land Cruiser but quickly caught up with it and overtook it.

Now Jonas had a problem. That car was much faster than his. It was pretty clear that it would catch up with him before he could exit the freeway to safety, and it would run him over before he could exit the car. He would stop, and the big cars would take turns running over the wreck.

Jonas would have floored it even more if he could have. He considered changing gears, but the only one left was reverse.

There was not much traffic, but Jonas had an idea: would they chase him if he went to the other side, and started driving against traffic? He turned. The car jumped around on the median, and he had to slow down considerably to remain in control, but he got over, and drove against the flow. He met just one car and was honked at. That guy was probably calling the police when the other two cars followed suit, crossing the median. The Land Cruiser crossed it again after a second, for some reason. Perhaps because the driver thought crossing the median was fun.

The super mountain car caught up with Jonas, and made its presence known by hitting his car gently in the rear. Jonas was unfazed. The bandit would have to do better than that, he thought, and tried to be calm.

He thought about how he would much rather be at home, sleeping, than here, being bullied around by thugs on the road.

The mountain car turned to overtake him, and as it did, the driver let his front tyre rub against Jonas’ car’s rear fender.

Jonas did not much like to have Dick Cepek engrave his car, so he turned away. The mountain car turned with him, but he was going rather fast and had a more stable car, so the driver of the mountain car had to slow down and fell back as result.

Jonas went back to driving on the middle of the road. He was approaching the Riverfield hill, the steepest incline on the way, and he figured he could use it to gain speed for his flight.

A light on his dashboard caught his eye. The fuel light was on. Damn! That was unexpected! He must have been driving more than he thought. It is hard to live in Smoky Bay and not drive way too long without noticing it.

Jonas sank into deep worries. What could he do now? He would run out of fuel as he went down the hill, he was sure, and he would be caught and tortured by the thugs chasing him. Foul.

He got shaken out of his funk when the mountain car began rubbing against his passenger side.

“Hey! Stop doing that! That’s my good side, you punks!” he shouted at them before he turned away. The thugs turned after him, but he turned back. As he did, they also turned and hit his car in the rear as he passed in front of them. It was a sharp impact, and it shook the mountain car. It rapidly veered to the right, and with all the weight suddenly transferred to the left front wheel, it flipped over.

The mountain car rolled over and over down the hill. Parts came loose, passengers were flung out and a cloud of broken glass spread out in plumes.

It was beautiful to behold.

After the roll the car was an unrecognizable jumble of metal, and debris from it could be found for tens of meters around. One of the tyres went off the road and into a river. One of the most expensive salmon rivers in the country, located well within city limits now had a 35-inch tyre floating around in it.

Jonas was overjoyed. Then he saw the fuel light again, and remembered the other mountain car.

With blue lights flashing in front of him, Jonas thought it might be prudent to start driving in accordance with the law. So he slowed down and took an exit off the freeway, to another freeway that passed under. Going in the wrong direction, he almost had to turn around to do that. The mountain car came after him, travelling over the median between the lanes.

The carnage left behind at the foot of the hill did not seem to interest them very much, and Jonas wondered whether the cops would go and chase them or look at the wreck. He leaned toward looking at the wreck. He figured that was their job. But they might be more interested in chasing him and his thugs. That was where the action was. Or maybe they did not notice him?

If they did not notice him, it would be that his car was a dark colour and far away, but the big Cruiser was harder to miss.

At any rate, it did not matter. The thugs could simply ignore the authorities and cause him a whole lot of bodily harm before they would be forced to stop — that is, if they were forced to stop.

Jonas turned off the freeway he had entered as soon as he could and went up a steep hill. He knew there was a mall two or three kilometres away, and he figured he might hide there. There would be a lot of security on the premises. They could maybe spray the thugs or something. Jonas did not think they had the foresight to bring ski goggles.

Morning was coming, so technically it was Sunday now. Not that it mattered to Jonas. He had just found out the biggest disadvantage to unemployment: there are no holidays. You just get chased around a lot by murderous thugs driving big mountain cars.

The car was beginning to emit strange noises. It was like it was coughing. Jonas wondered what it could be. He hoped he was not running out of gas just yet. That would be bad. And the thugs were gaining on him. Something was definitely about to give in his car. Hours of abuse were beginning to take their toll.

Well, there were a lot of trees he could hide in, there in people’s back yards, should he decide to make a run for it. But there were many thugs, and they might be more athletic than he. Not that he knew anything about it. He had only seen some of them. They did not look so shabby.

He could take some more of Frank’s pills... Jonas threw that idea out. They would not become active soon enough.

Jonas turned off the road he had been following, toward the mall. It led down hill for a few meters, and there were two lights he had to stop at. He ignored them, and passed the car waiting there. Again he was honked at.

The light turned green as the thugs approached. They would have passed anyway, but it did give the one waiting at the light time to get out of their way. Time which he neglected to use, and he got hit for it. He lay on his horn for a long time in retaliation. He would be so pissed if he found out the thugs did not have insurance.

The mall had a large three-level parking lot. Most of it was actually on two levels, but a bit at one end had three levels. There were extra ramps up to the top, one for going up, the other for going down.

Jonas floored his car after he exited the first ramp and came to the second floor. The Land Cruiser was just a few seconds behind. He could hear the engine rumbling.

The lot was almost empty, containing perhaps a total of five cars, spread around. Jonas hit the second ramp at great speed and almost jumped. He tried to turn to go down again, but he hit the only icy patch in the whole city, and slid to the end. He hit the concrete barrier sideways, and upon impact his car’s engine gave up and stopped.

He immediately tried to turn it on again, but to no avail. He could not understand it... until he thought about how much fuel he must have had left. Out of fuel; and not out of sight from his enemies yet.

Then they appeared. They were gunning it toward him.

The driver floored it, turning from the ramp toward Jonas’ car. Jonas felt hopeless. He was trapped like an animal, with nowhere to hide. If he ran from his car, he would only be tired when they caught him and beat him up.

The big Toyota gathered speed all the way up the ramp, and the driver’s foot was still flush with the floor when he hit Jonas’ car in the side.

Jonas did the only thing he could think of: he ducked into the passenger seat.

The Hyundai had never been built to withstand a blow like that. The body collapsed in on it self as the big Toyota passed over it as though it were so much snow. It cleared the concrete barrier completely and flew off the lot — but not so far. You see, Land Cruisers are not built to fly.

But still, it did a beautiful arch when it went over. It made it less than ten meters away, ending up up-side down on a road leading to the freeway near by. It was almost completely flattened by the impact, even more so than the Hyundai before.

And all fell quiet. Not a thing stirred. Dawn had broken, and the city had lit up. People had gone home from their bout of drinking and they were now either sleeping or spewing whatever they had consumed town the toilet.

Jonas found some use for the crowbar he had with him. It took him five minutes to get out of the car. He figured he would just have had to wait patiently for the authorities to come and rescue him had he not brought it with him.

He crawled out of the car and moved his limbs. Nothing seemed broken, but he did ache all over, as though he had been in a car accident or something. Jonas looked at what was left of his car. It was crushed like a bug. There were actually tread marks on it. He had seen vehicles better looking after having been set on fire.

He could not help but wonder where the mountain car had gone. It was nowhere to be seen. Jonas looked around. He could not see it around. He walked toward the barrier. It was a possibility. He looked over.

Normally, seeing a multiple fatality car wreck does not make one feel uncontrollably happy. But there was nothing normal about these circumstances. Jonas smiled when he saw the underside of the now badly mangled Toyota Land Cruiser below him. He felt like dancing.

He believed that nobody was as happy as he when he walked down the ramp to the street. It would be impossible, he thought. It was completely impossible. It helped that he felt he was alone in the world. Sunday mornings are sometimes like that.

Jonas walked downtown. He was feeling hungry.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

To Challenge 433...

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