The stuttering crawl of traffic arrests, and a terminal red line on the GPS tells Gerald he should settle in. He sits straight-backed in a collared shirt, top button still buttoned, in the driver’s seat of his car, in a line of stationary cars, a still frame excised from a zoetrope.
On the passenger side, an emergency stopping lane hints at escape. It runs clear, but only as far as the next overpass. There, a massive pylon erupts from the ground like a memorial. For any who made the attempt, it would mark an end.
Gerald’s spent a lot of time on this freeway, rolling slow in the dusk, but he’s never been held up exactly here, at the top of this low rise. He’s noticed the graveyard, of course, beyond the concrete wall that serves to divide the locals (dead) and those just passing through (ostensibly living). The other side has it pretty good, with their freshly mown grass. Their gated community. Until now Gerald had never noticed the graffiti scrawled against the barrier: If you slept here you’d be home by now.
The vehicle in front of him inches forward in a restless zombie shuffle. Ahead and to the right, a transit van’s indicator light blinks like a tic. Fumes from all these idling motors start to cloy, so Gerald recirculates the air in his cabin. There: he is sealed off from the others, those commuter vessels, also static. Steel cannisters for single occupants. When the traffic flows again, they will diffuse into the suburbs. For each car a garage; for each garage a dwelling. Is that what home is? That’s encapsulation, thinks Gerald, but it’s too transient. Home should be a place to stay and sleep sound. At this rate when he reaches his destination it will be time to leave again.
More than anything else, Gerald wants a shorter commute. So he pulls into the emergency lane. He is moving, picking up speed, tearing past the other cars. He can see his new address.
Words by Andrew Roff
Andrew Roff’s first novel-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award at the 2016 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. His short fiction has appeared in Antithesis Journal and Antipodean SF, and has been adapted for community radio. Andrew’s interests in crime, politics and economics inform his writing. He tweets at @roffwrites and you can read more of his work at roffwrites.com.