It was past midnight, those eerie early hours of darkness, when the cars collided. It was a four-way intersection where it happened in the middle of Western America. Maybe there were a few lizards crawling in the dust, even a burning bush. The tires of both cars kept turning, twisting together like lovers from some warped interpretation of Dante’s second circle.
There was a light breeze passing through this digitally uncharted geography of Americana. Their drivers were thousands of miles away, the white car’s was on break, eating something sloppy with the aftertaste of cardboard. Across an ocean the red car’s was passed out, a trail of spittle running down his lips onto the keyboard, the man-machine interface. They were engaged in ignorance of the event.
But we’re here for the two stranded strangers, not their ghosts across land and sea. The white car’s electric eye was cracked from the impact, recording a kaleidoscope of static footage. There was something intensely erotic in the way the living eye traced what was left of the red car, the bent fender, the folded hood, the shattered glass. Plumes of soiled white steam erupted from the front end, the meticulously assembled engine, each piece fabricated for a singular purpose. Those plumes resembled a bloodied nose on a broken face attached to a broken neck. The small dish bolted to the top was limply lolling around, scanning the night for topographical signals it could never record, would never send. It was famous in its posturing, like the old Hollywood Black Dahlia. Nearly severed in half, it’s interior given view. The broken electronics snapping, sparking in the dark.
But it wasn’t completely dead yet. There was still power in the back seat which had been removed to make place for the computers. Power enough to send out a faint signal, an S.O.S. to anyone or anything listening. Did it know it was dying? Did it know it would take days for tow trucks to retrieve it? Was the distress signal a form of weeping? The desert refused to answer.
On the other hand, the white car was in finer shape, having won the battle of collusion. The driver’s side was pushed in, the window shattered, and the electric eye splintered as we mentioned before. But it too was running low on power but without a distress signal to call out to the night sky. Across the pavement the bits of shattered glass shone like tiny stars in a galaxy of crushed metal and aluminum.
Understanding this car crash was going to take weeks of data sourcing and comparison. The tech giants would press their diagnostic teams on untenable deadlines. Dominating their search would be the How and Why, unable to solve one without the other. How did these random cars meet at that exact spot on a randomly programmed route? Why did their digital instructions falter and allow for collapse? What empty hands knotted their fates together? The Gordian?
The cars had stopped running into each other, now wrapped in a cooling embrace as oil and lovers spit leaked down their curvature onto the pavement. Another glitch, a last gasp in the Black, no, Red Dahlia; the radio switched on to what might have been a pirate radio station, the kind you’d find ran from a shotgun shack behind an all-night coffee house. It was free jazz, the notes weaving up, down, turn around and shiver down the spine. A grainy voice introduced the next track a coldwave release from Marcus Cholera’s 1977 Suicide Salary Man. It would now be fair to acknowledge ghosts had come to haunt this accident, these glitches. In a second-hand way, this was the closest to a eulogy either car would record before their batteries slid into emptiness, the notes of that song dissipating into the cold night air.