Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Recalculating By Chris Clement-Green

I can feel my blood pumping, banging against my temples. Continue fifteen miles. The sat-nav makes no acknowledgement of my current state. In one mile keep right on to M1. Ignoring instruction I turn into a service area; I need to stop and think. Detecting this detour the sat-nav tells me turn around when possible. I enjoy over-riding its direction. Recalculating – I switch off the engine, cutting the metallic-voice mid-word. Getting out, I head for a coffee. I need to do some recalculating of my own. Sipping a super-expensive latte, I watch two couples. One pair keep their eyes locked; they are continually touching, oblivious to the world. The other two sit in silence; no eye contact, no conversation. I wonder what physical contact that second couple share; his tight jaw and her wary eyes make me think it might not be good.

I pull back out into the speeding traffic, recalculating, no further forward than when I pulled in. Continue for fourteen miles. If I continue it’ll be the same as before. If I continue he’s won. An exit appears on the screen and the sat-nav tells me to keep right. I indicate left. At first it’s fooled as the slip road runs parallel to the motorway but, like Mick, it soon catches up with me. It’s clever enough to know I can’t turn around now and so it recalculates.

Approaching a roundabout I’m told to take the third exit. The screen shows me the intention; I’m being forced back down onto the motorway. I’m not going to go. Without signalling, I turn left at the roundabout and wait with growing excitement for my disobedience to be registered; after all, a sat-nav has no fists.

But the silence is scary. It reminds me of the palpable, tortuous mental calm, before the physical storm erupts. In three miles turn left. The lack of emotion makes me hear – ‘look what you made me do!’ In two miles turn left, I hear – ‘take off your clothes’ and I close my eyes against the memory of so many rapes. A horn brings me crashing back into the present as I swerve to avoid a tractor. Hitting a grass verge I brake and the engine stalls, but Mick is insistent – In one mile turn left.

‘Why left?’ I yell. ‘What’s on the left? Why not right? I am sick of being told what to do!’ Silence. The sat-nav does not react to my raised voice. Taking a deep breath I decide I’m not going to turn left. I may never turn left again. In one mile I’m going to keep right – I’m going to do what’s right for me; I’m going to keep right on going. From now on I’m going to go where I want, when I want, how I want, dressed as I want and with whom I want. I start up the engine. Recalculating.

Bet your sweet arse I have! Power off. (493)

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