The countryside was quiet in the black of night. The bitumen had cooled hours ago and it looked like a menacing  ebony snake that split the mountain, and embedded itself in amongst the green hills. In the distance some street lights flickered. The cold winter wind stirred the trees atop the embankments that lined the road. The rugged interior of brown earth revealed the roots gripping hard, as if to stop from floating away. One particularly menacing gumtree stood out from the rest. Its thick white trunk was twice the size of any around it, and it stood firm atop the shoulder of the road. The silent watchmen of the black zone.  The road hadn’t seen a traveller for near an hour and it felt lonely.

He hadn’t been driving long. In fact it was only last week he passed his driving test and was issued his provisional license. The feeling of freedom from the past week of being able to go anywhere, with anyone, at any time, was refreshing. He had grown up twenty minutes outside of town and spent most of his life requesting lifts from family and friends. This was a new kind of autonomy and he loved it.

It had been exactly fifty-five minutes  since he had waved goodbye to his father and best friend. He loved seeing his dad again, and it was nice to see he’d lost weight. Hopefully next time he’d be lean and mean again. It had been an eventful trip and he knew he was going to miss being on holidays. He had left town around midnight to avoid all traffic; the idea of many motorists still worried him. Taking advantage of the lack of others he wore his pink and blue stripped pyjama bottoms and a “Save the whales *but instead sleep with a guy wearing a save the whales T-shirt”. As ridiculous as it was the pyjamas were doing enough to keep him warm tonight. He normally couldn’t feel the cold but something about the trip tonight made him put warmer items on anyway. The car swung around another bend and he noticed the trees swaying in the wind. All he could hear was the sound of the So Fresh 2003 cd playing from his stereo, as he sung along to pass the time. The trip was going to be slower than normal tonight. He knew he was driving through the black zone and he refused to speed in order to get home.

Music could be heard just off in the distance. The music was heard before the lights began to break up the gloom. The wind whipped through and all the trees moved with it. It was in almost perfect unison and it made it look like the snake was moving, twitching almost. The black scales of the road twinkled under the moonlight, brimming with anticipation. It had company.

He knew he was nearly through the worst of it. As the chorus played for a second time he realised he’d already heard this song tonight. The thought crossed his mind, “What exactly is ‘Murder on the dance floor’, and why isn’t she getting arrested for it?”. He came around another bend and after completing the turn he leant in to change the song. “That is enough of Sophie for one night”, he thought as he looked up again. When he realised he’d pulled the wheel with him panic immediately set in, and his breath caught in his throat. The rugged embankment was coming up fast and he steered as hard as he could to the right. The wheels squealed on the bitumen, fighting to hold on, and the car swung away, barely avoiding the rocks that jutted out from the mountain. He had no time to regain his composure. In the excitement he had hit the accelerator and was now speeding across the highway. He tried steering clear and breaking but it was no use. He had already cleared the opposite lanes, and try as he might there was nowhere to go. He hit the embankment at 100 kilometres an hour and sped up it into the tree line. The car let out a piercing screech as it flew up into an enormous gum tree and slammed into it’s pearly white trunk. His voice broke as he screamed aloud to himself “Please not my neck. Please not my neck. Please not my neck.” The car toppled over and fell back down the embankment flipping again, and again, as the metal bent and the glass smashed. He was flipped five times before the now pulverised car finally came to rest in the middle of the highway. It now lay on it’s twisted roof two lanes over. It’s blue metallic body deformed and mutilated from the crash, and the boy hung upside down inside.

The wheels of the car were still spinning but the world around it had returned to stillness. All that could be heard was the sound of loud, disruptive music, and the wind in the trees. The scales glimmered in the moonlight. It loved to play this game.

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