Klepto-Mobile

I wrote this short story way back in June for a competition.  The competition required a fantasy story exploring a new world, in under a thousand words.  This version, the first one I wrote, is nearing two thousand words.  While I did cut it down for the contest, I prefer the longer version.  There’s a sentimental value to any short story you write at midnight in pink pen.  Enjoy.  If you’d like to read the shortened, polished version, you can find it here: http://writetheworld.com/groups/1/shared/2767/version/5257


Stealing cars was more fun when they weren’t magical.

Stu leapt into the third one, pressing the ignition button and the brake at the same time. The cars were all new, meaning his hotwiring techniques set off more alarms than Stu actually ever tripped. They were all magical, meaning at least two of them had tried to melt his eyebrows in creative ways. Stu had never seen such an angry llama.

Stu held the key fob close to the dashboard and tried the button again, with nothing but a beep in response. He had found the key in a tray by the door— it had to fit one of these. He couldn’t survive many more hotwire attempts.

Definitely not this car. The speedometer had a rooster stenciled into its face, and after the acid-spitting llama…

Stu kicked open the door and dove into the next car. He had little time. He could thank his stars, though, that none of these “alarms” had alarmed anyone but him. He was—

The silver convertible screamed.

Stu could feel it through his seat. He needed to run for help or just run in fear— wait. This was a car.

The voice was too human. Stu tried the button only once before ditching it. Convertibles were for slicked-back losers anyway. Stu liked himself protected from things like golf balls, bird poo, and stale cupcakes. You never knew what could fall out of the sky.

This garage was enormous. How many cars did he have left? Too many. This key probably fit the last one in the line, with his luck.

The convertible was still screaming. Stu squeezed himself into the coupe— the cars only got smaller as he went— and enjoyed the luxury noise canceling. He could still feel the scream through his seat.

This coupe had an actual ignition slot, not just a button. Key fob wouldn’t work here.

Stu had considered pressing the panic button on the key— the only feature it had, blast these rich bozos for minimalist design— but he hadn’t thought of it until after he’d attempted hotwiring.

Somehow he didn’t think a car with potential flash flood defense systems would react well to panic. He left the button alone.

Maybe the fob was out of battery. That would raise the chances of accidentally hotwiring something fatal. He never should have taken this job. Whatever had forced him into it— debt, depression, deep-dish pizza— could go meet a car alarm.

He had spent too long in this coupe. It had soft seats, but he’d better leave before the leather drained his fluids or something. He grabbed the handle.

Locked. Great. He looked for an unlock button, but…

Yes. Figures. All the buttons in the car were gone. Including the gas pedal. He certainly wasn’t stealing this car.

The coupe lurched forward. Too right he wasn’t stealing it— it was stealing him. That wouldn’t cut it.

No buttons, no pedals, no crowbar or car-tailored kryptonite to use to break out. The coupe smashed into a column as it drifted sideways.

This was a very good time to panic.

Stu pressed the button. The car stopped.

The world seemed dead for a moment after Stu peeled himself off the dashboard, until he realized he couldn’t feel the convertible’s screaming anymore. The SUV that had displayed bright green and pink lights as its alarm (almost more effective than the llama) had fallen back to darkness.

That was a useless panic button. It only stopped the panic.

Stu pushed open the door— unlocked, replete with buttons— and examined the garage. Nothing. All the cars were still.

NO THEY WERE NOT. Stu clamped his hands over his ears as the convertible gave a bloodcurdling scream twice as loud as before. The SUV flared in putrid disco colors. He could hear the llama bellowing.

This was panic.

So the key worked for all the cars— would it even work as an ignition key? He had to keep trying, but he could feel hope fading. He turned to the next car.

Okay, this proved someone had a twisted sense of humor.

The Coupe of Death reeked of money, though it looked like a ten-year-old clunker. The screaming convertible was probably antique. This?

Plastic. Bright pink. Two feet tall.

What was a toddler’s play cruiser, with stickers for a radio and fake clear headlights, doing in a rich man’s garage?

Well, it looked unmagical, and it might not need a key, and the makers had added a plastic gearshift and a fake clutch, so maybe he could make it work. Stu loved a good stickshift.

He climbed in, perching on the back of the seat and worming his foot down to the pedals. His running shoes barely fit down there. He rested a toe on the clutch for security and flipped the tiny switch by the gearshift.

How did a car that small and plastic make a sound that full? Forget about the screaming— he could feel something choking on its own horsepower through his bones.

He rested a palm on the gearshift, almost at ankle height. It rattled with power.

He slammed it into first gear, almost stalling as he pushed immediately for second. The tiny car jumped forward, almost launching him from his precarious seat. He —— himself into the space behind the wheel. This was it. This was his car.

The shifts were different, since the space between third and fourth was too small to lose a penny in. But he could find the sweet spot for any manual transmission, steel machinery or plastic beast. The speedometer was a sticker, constantly at a safe 12 mph, but the way Stu was passing cars, he was at least three times that.

For stealing? Scary fast was good fast.

A flicker caught his eye. Also a sticker, the rearview mirror nevertheless gave him a view of the galloping llama keeping pace— no, gaining on him. Yes, the car was plastic, but at 35 mph? Really? This llama had almost as much dedication as Stu.

Llamas in mirror may be closer than they appear. Stu glanced over his shoulder. It was only ten feet away— three or four car lengths for this little tub, but well within the range of the acid-spitting animal.

Ahead of him, the garage doors loomed, securely shut. The llama would overtake him by the time he reached them, long before he could get them open. In the mirror, Stu saw the llama’s neck undulate unnaturally— it was going to spit.

Let’s see if the brakes work as well as the engine. Stu stomped.

The brakes worked. Exercising traction they never should have possessed, the plastic tires scraped to a stop only ten car lengths from the garage doors. Stu ducked, covering his neck.

He had never achieved inner peace and might never again, but as the llama’s hooves passed inches by his ear, he felt like it was, at least, possible.

The llama cleared the car in self-defense. Stu gunned the engine after it. The acid flowing like dragonfire from the llama’s belly struck the doors of the garage and cleared a space for the llama to race through.

Ten seconds later, Stu and his plastic-mobile were through as well.

The llama was smart. It reared, pirouetting on its hind hooves and angling for Stu. Letting go of the bucking gearshift for a second, Stu pressed the panic button.

The llama stopped. Frozen in a stance impossibly off-balance, it glared at Stu with eyes of glass. The plastic mutant, bereft of any magic but its blistering speed, thundered through its legs and down the driveway.

Stu expected this to be the smallest car in which he had ever received a speeding ticket.

The steerin locked. The wheels skidded. The throaty roar changed to a high-pitched, unhealthy whine.

Stu wrestled with the gearshift until it snapped off in his hand. He stared at it. Nothing but plastic.

The pedals were just plastic. The engine was only electric. The brakes didn’t exist, and Stu was coasting at 30.

What a lovely fountain dead ahead. Pity if someone were to impale themselves on Poseidon’s little stone trident.

Stu extricated his feet from the cramped footspace and planted them on the seat, crouching a tiny bit. This was going to hurt.

The car shattered on impact. Stu jumped on impact. Poseidon frowned on impact. Stu considered apologizing on the way by, but he landed in the swimming pool before he could make up a good excuse.

“Well excuse you,” said a barechested man in green sunglasses as soon as Stu surfaced. His curly blonde hair made him look like the kind of llama that could spit acid.

Stu pulled himself out of the pool and pulled at his soaked t-shirt. “You saw all that?”

“I did,” said the man. He had the rich South accent that allowed him to own so many cars. “I expected you to push the Piglet faster, but probably wise you didn’t.”

Stu glanced at the other side of the pool. The little pink car’s back half floundered in the shallow end. He was lucky he hadn’t landed there. “Why did it stop?”

The man waved a key fob like Stu’s, with only one button. “Shuts down all the magic soon as I press it. You needed shuttin’ down.” He slowly rose from his chair. “For the first time, that’s not half bad. Now what say you actually earn my money, instead of playing?”

“The llama was a good touch, sir,” said Stu, walking to join him.

“But not enough. I feel that these cars can take more magic. You need to tell me what would be most useful.”

“What would you like to do, sir?”

“Eradicate the plague o car theft,” said the man, meeting Stu’s eyes with mirrored lenses.

“I’m the best,” said Stu. “If you can stop me, you can stop anyone.”

“Go back and steal another one,” said his employer. “This time I’ll add a couple more llamas.”

“Stu sighed, but turned toward the garage. “You have a crazy world, sir.”

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