The SatNav

“No change from yesterday?”

“No.  None at all”

 

The satnav shows a dark blue line; an almost straight line disappearing at the edge of the screen – and yet – constantly growing as the vehicle, a red triangle, though remaining constant, eats up what must be the road.  Edging the blue line, pale yellow roads veer off – my eye attempting but failing to read their names.  Green blocks of colour represent forests, or pale blue – lakes; rivers and streams flow past, never reaching the sea.  I suppose I should look around me, but something keeps my eyes glued to the small curved screen perched on the dashboard.

Where are we going?  I really don’t know.  And feel I cannot ask.  I am the mute passenger, strapped into my seat belt and being taken, I can only assume, to a destination I am unaware of.   I don’t mind this at all; in fact, it is relaxing – comforting – somewhat reassuring. Passivity sweeps over me and I let myself be driven.

After some minutes of staring at the screen, almost hypnotised by the red triangle eating up the ever-growing dark blue line I glance out of the window.  No hint of recognition, no familiarity at all.  And yet – the endless treadmill of the road, just like it’s dark blue representation, is reassuring.  All roads look similar, and the verges and hedges have a consoling sameness too.  Even those dark tunnels that overhanging trees make or the wide vistas, suddenly opening up like some flower as the sun warms it, hold no real surprise.  It all seems one, one winding and slowly unfolding ribbon – just like the screen, which I never tire of – the road is all.  This dark blue line on the tiny screen fills my consciousness.

“Just a few minutes more”

“But maybe if I stay something will change.”

 

But the line continues on its flat journey across the screen, an ever growing, never changing line.  Representing nothing.

 

Glancing to my left I notice we are approaching something, for the first time I am aware of change.  The satnav shows the same dark blue line but the red triangle – me, I can only assume, is almost at the edge of an expanse of pale blue.  Then my vision is distracted by thick black zig-zagging on both sides of whatever vehicle I must be travelling in.  Slowly the criss-cross patterns space out and I realise that we must be on a bridge.  I hadn’t considered that we might cross a river.  I cannot see the water, maybe it is too far below us.  What is on the other side?   I don’t have the energy or even the curiosity to try to work it out.  I am in safe hands, I know that.  No danger of dropping over the edge.  I look back at the satnav and am reassured that we are approaching what I can only suppose is the far shore.  I relax and close my eyes.  But even closed I can still see the dark blue line we are travelling on.  Maybe my eyes have been shut the whole journey.  It doesn’t really matter.  All that matters, is that we keep moving.  I am reassured by the absence of any small chequered flag hovering somewhere in the distance of the little screen.  I really don’t want this journey to end.  As long as we are travelling, I feel safe; as long as I can see the dark blue trail spooling out before me, I have nothing to fear.  I can relax.  I can even sleep knowing no dreams will come to disturb the calm image of the red triangle, which must be me and the blue ribbon I am threaded on.

 

 

“Time to go now”

“I know, I was just hoping – you know.”

“We must continue to hope.  Sometimes hope is all we have.”

 

 

I must have drifted, maybe I was sleeping.  Trouble is, I don’t really know when I am asleep or awake.  It all feels the same.  My eyes begin to focus once more.  The screen emerges out of dim greyness.  The satnav rises to meet me, the blue line is still there and so am I – the red triangle. We seem to be moving slower now.  Maybe we are hitting traffic.  Traffic?  I wonder what that looks like?  But I cannot, I dare not look away from the satnav.  If I do the blue line might stop, the red triangle which is me, might stop too.  Or even worse to imagine – not be there at all.  Then I might not exist.  I only know I am here because the sat nav shows me.  I have no sensations, no consciousness of being save as the red triangle moving more slowly now along the dark blue ribbon.  I stare hard at the screen and I am shocked to see that we, I, the red triangle – has stopped.  The blue line is not growing any more. No motion, no reassuring engines hum, no gentle rumble of tyres on tarmac.  We have stopped.  I have stopped.  I am frightened now.  Is this the end?  The end of my journey.  I felt safe while we were travelling, while the satnav was eating up the road, the blocks of green and blue, the occasional chequered railway line passing under our road.  But now all is quiet.  I feel as if my time is up.  Maybe this really is the end.  You know – my death.  We all know it is coming, we just don’t know when.  All is stillness.  I cannot see the screen anymore, where has the satnav gone?  How am I ever going to find my way back, get back home, without the satnav.  I must try harder.  I just want to see its dark blue line unfolding again, I’ve got to find it, I just need to know I am still alive.

 

“There.  His eyelid was flickering.  Nurse, come quick. I think he’s waking up.”

 

  • johnny eighto

    Adrian hi – hopefully you get a note that I have posted this. So my comments:- I read this knowing that the satnav is the monitoring equipment so that element of surprise was removed – its a great premise notwithstanding – BUT it therefore means that I knew the punchline before you’d told the joke when reading. Your piece gets the whole story over very economically and that’s to be applauded. I like the use of the unattributed dialogue – this adds to the air of mystery. A couple of picky comments – I think you overuse the dashes and in some places you use them when you shouldn’t and vice versa – might be worth reading back and checking. One thing also jarred with me – you mention a shore after having described a river (I know I know super picky!) and that confused me which meant I had to pause and regroup my thoughts – you probably should have used another word as shore implies sea. Also it might have been interesting to introduce more of the other senses – smell perhaps and definitely sound – a ping ping might have been enjoyable!