Thunder McPiston was nervous before his first big race. His engine rumbled and he felt sick. Not that he could actually be sick; he didn’t eat. His fuel was administered through the cap on his flank. How did I come to this, he wondered?
Well, came a still, small voice inside him, what else would you do?
It was a car’s greatest dream to be a racer. Other vehicles could only watch from the stands: the pick-up trucks, the minibuses, the tractors. You’re a lucky young motor, McPiston, he had been told countless times, with your sleek red paint job and your go-faster stripes. You should be all revved up and raring to go.
A buggy like a golf cart, trundled up and asked if he needed one last buff before the chequered flag. Thunder shooed him away.
Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
I shouldn’t be here – he was convinced of it. Things shouldn’t be like this.
Feelings of alienation crowded his mind. Panic rose beneath his bonnet. Everything felt wrong. The whole world felt wrong.
His headlamps flashed as he looked from side to side. If he reversed out quietly, he could back out and hit the open road. And go where? Anywhere! Nowhere! It didn’t matter. All he knew was he had to get away.
He couldn’t relax until he had put several miles between himself and the stadium. He tore along the deserted highway – all the other cars were watching the race – and didn’t dare turn his lights on full beam until he hit open country.
Perhaps somewhere, the other side of the desert maybe, he would find answers. Where did I come from? Where did any of us come from? Who made us? What happened to our makers?
The answers would come in time. But for the moment, Thunder McPiston was content to keep accelerating, pushing himself to the limits of his machinery. He whooped and hollered with the joy of being alive, his existential crisis for the moment forgotten.
Grit and gravel were churned up by his tyres as he streaked across the landscape. He whooshed by so fast he didn’t see a faded billboard, bleached by the Nevada sun. Figures were vaguely discernible, to those who stopped to look, strange, wheelless figures, with stalks like trees, and branches, waving and smiling.
Above their happy heads, lettering announced the advent of the world’s first driverless car. Let the auto-automobile take the strain from your world, it said. Sit back and let the engines takeover.