This story was inspired by a writing prompt: Your Tesla has stopped in the wilderness. The last thing you remember is someone hacking into the car’s computer, steering you away from the safety of the city. In the darkness, a light moves towards you…
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Hooray for Public Transport.
By Sharon Brady-Smith © 2017
The Tesla finally stopped. It simply pulled into a lay by on a B road. I had no idea where here was or how to get home even if I could get out. The route display on the dash had gone haywire for a second, a random scattering of digits and blanks, then a message had appeared:
“Sit back and enjoy the ride, the meeting would’ve been boring anyway.”
The Tesla turned left at the traffic lights but it should have carried straight on. I’d been hacked. I tried switching back to manual control. The switch flipped but nothing happened, the car turned right this time. I wondered where I was being taken and why. I pushed hard on the brake pedal and removed the access fob from the dash. Neither had any effect.
I pulled my phone out of my handbag. It had power but there was no signal. It was being jammed. What was I to do. I couldn’t stop the car or call for help. Why was this happening? The car was driving safely, following the road rules, it was just going the wrong way.
I could feel my heart racing. My palms were sweaty and I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. I knew it was a panic attack, but I didn’t know how to stop it. I closed my eyes and started taking deep, controlled breaths, counting each one. In took what felt like ages, but was probably only five minutes, for the panic feeling to fade.
I opened my eyes again. I was in an unfamiliar part of town. It was an industrial and warehouse district and it looked a bit run down. My guess was, the car was heading out-of-town. I still didn’t know why I had been targeted.
What meeting had the carjacker meant? Who did they think I was?
The car was approaching a light controlled crossroads, it started to slow as the light turned amber. It would have to stop here. I undid my seat belt. The fasten safety belt light illuminated on the dash and the ping, ping, ping warning bell sounded. Before I could talk myself out of it, I grabbed the door handle, prepared to jump out. The door was locked. I suppose I should have expected that. I couldn’t open the window either.
Another message appeared on the screen:
“Put your seatbelt back on. Safety first.”
It was the only defiance I could muster, so I didn’t. I thought a police car might see me and stop the car.
Another message appeared:
I didn’t think the Tesla had internal cameras, but the carjacker was connected to my system and could see whether I’d complied. So, I fastened the seatbelt, but sat on it. It felt oddly uncomfortable to travel unrestrained, but nowhere as uncomfortable as being kidnapped by my new car.
My options were limited. I couldn’t stop the car or open the door and I didn’t have anything to break the glass with. I couldn’t make a phone call. But, I had a lipstick in my handbag. I climbed into the back of the car and scrawled, in baby pink lipstick, on the back window:
“HELP! CAR JACKED.”
Next, I clambered back into the front and wrote the same message on the inside of the windscreen. Having done all I could think of, I sat down again. There was nothing I could do then but wait.
Two hours later, I regretted the fact that my car had been fully charged that evening when I started my journey. If I hadn’t charged the battery at work, I would only have got to the city boundary. Instead, I was on a little used country road, at night, a hundred miles from home.
As time has passed and my helplessness becomes apparent, my mood vacillates between terror and anger. Between what do they want with me and how bloody dare they.
The Tesla still had some charge left, but not enough to get me home. I still couldn’t think why anybody would want to carjack me in the first place, or what meeting they’d mentioned. I still can’t open the friggin door. I’ve been sat here now for fifteen minutes. You would have thought my kidnapper would be here to greet me.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve cried. I’m out of clean tissues. I have panda eyes. I’m afraid and I want to go home.
A single light crests the rise behind me, it fills the rear-view mirror and the reflection dazzles me after being in the complete dark for so long. The light slows down and stops behind me. It’s a motorcycle, which explains the single light.
A silhouette appears by my window, a human shaped darkness against the night. A flashlight is turned on and shone in my face. The person steps back suddenly.
My window opens by itself, night air enters the car, cool and refreshing with the scent of hedgerows and rain. There is a field of rapeseed flowers nearby in bloom, I can smell their familiar perfume.
“Who are you?” It’s a male voice. He’s angry and in the hand without a torch I think he holds a gun. Perhaps it would be better to work the afraid rather than the angry.
“Phoebe Simmons.” I reply. My voice is tremulous and I realise I’m close to crying again.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was car-jacked on the way home from work.” Duh! He was pretty stupid if he couldn’t work that one out. Seeing as the window had opened for him, so he was my car-jacker.
“Don’t play stupid with me girl.” He stepped forward, it was a gun. Oddly, I didn’t care.
“Me stupid.” I shouted at him through the open window. Without thinking about it, I try the door handle and it opens. I get out, standing all my 5 feet nothing tall, and stand right in front of this guy with my hands on my hips. My face is about level with his chest. He’s a seriously tall chap. At the time, I was thinking about any of this. I’d been stuck in that car for hours and I wasn’t even the one they wanted. I was recklessly beyond livid. “I’m not the pratt who car-jacked the wrong person.
“Seriously, all that ability to hijack a car and you don’t check who got in it first? What the hell.”
“Where’s James Montgomery?” He said, backing away a little despite the gun.
“How the hell should I know. You’re the moron doing the hijacking.” I yelled, poking him in the chest, “All I know, is I get in my new car to go home and some great steaming pillock carjacks it and brings it here.”
“I’m sorry. As far as we knew, this car still belonged to James Montgomery, a fascist about to finance a bombing campaign.”
“Why the hell are you telling me? I don’t wanna know your misguided exploits. I just want you to give me back control of my car and piss off.”
“Wow. You’re a regular firebrand.”
“The red hair’s natural, it and my temper are courtesy of my mam.” It dawned on me that perhaps provoking the gun-toting pillock was not my most sensible action. My anger deflated like a burst balloon and with it my reckless bravado. “So, what happens now? I’m not who you want and I’m not worth anything in ransom. Are you going to shoot me?”
The motorcycling kidnapper looked at the gun in his hand, as if he’d never seen it before and stepped away. He raised the gun and pointed it squarely at me. “Turn and face the car. Kneel down and put your hands on your head.”
I did as commanded, expecting every moment to hear the gun fire and feel a bullet entering the back of my skull. Then the motorcycle engine roared into life and like that both bike and rider were gone. I waited another minute, counting to sixty slowly inside my head, then got up.
Was it over?
It was so hard to climb back into my traitorous car. I reached inside and pulled my handbag out of the foot well. I walked to the opposite end of the lay by and got out my phone. Signal. Hooray. I could have laughed and cried in equal measure.
Instead, I called the police and told them my story. I don’t know if they believed me of not. But, it was the truth. Another hour later, a police car arrived and a tow truck. The car went one way, good riddance, and I and the officers went the other.
They took me to the station where I made a statement, then they sent me home in a taxi. I didn’t want the car back, I was glad the experience was over. If the car came back from the police, I would sell it.
Public transport for me from now on.