I bumped into her up at the Mount Vic Lookout. At first, I didn’t recognise her.
‘It’s Kay,’ she stated, pulling back her hair.
‘Fuck, so it is,’ I said.
‘Still swearing,’ she noted, rolling her eyes.
‘Of course,’ I smiled, instantly remembering some of the sweet little reasons we’d split up all those years before. Still, I want the world to be a place of peace and love, so for five minutes I did the small-talk thing, feigning interest: How nice to see you, What are you doing here?, How long are you staying?, blah blah blah blah.
It turned out Kay was having a midlife crisis. Her beloved son had grown up and moved out of home as soon as he could, so she was making a solo trip to the other side of the planet to ‘find herself.’
‘So, you’re here alone?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ she said proudly, ‘being on one’s own builds character.’ Adding quickly, ‘It’s so good to see you.’ She grabbed my arm. ‘I haven’t spoken to anyone in days. Let’s go for dinner.’
‘I was on my way home,’ I explained. ‘I just came up here for some fresh air.’
She gave me a sad look that at one time would have sucked me in, but now just looked like she had something wrong with her lips.
‘Plus look at me. I’m not dressed for dinner. I’d have to go home and change, first,’ I said, secretly planning on driving home and hiding there until she’d left the country. ‘We could meet later? Maybe next week?’
She smiled with a mad desperate look in her eyes. ‘I can come with you right now. I don’t mind waiting for you to change. Seize the day. It’ll be fun.’
So it happened that I was driving home on a Thursday evening with my long and happily forsaken ex, Kay. It was nice to see her in a way, mainly because every time she opened her mouth I remembered another reason why separating was the best thing we’d ever done.
From the Lookout, I drove down Alexandra Road towards my house. By the time we’d reached the end of the street, Kay had criticized my driving, the narrow roads and steep hills of Wellington, the driving ability of everyone we passed, New Zealand architecture, the pedestrians, New Zealand fashion sense, and everything else she could see. Negativity oozed out of her like slime oozes from a dead slug. I’d decided I’d park on the street, leave her waiting in the car. That way she wouldn’t be able to guess my house number and I could protect myself from any future unexpected visits. Then I’d nip down to my house and change quickly. We’d go to the restaurant nearest to where she was staying (so she had no excuse to linger). We’d eat and make polite conversation. No drinks, after all I was driving. Then once we’d parted, I would avoid her for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, my street was too busy to park, which meant I had to use my garage.
My garage is actually a double, shared with my upstairs neighbours. Mine’s the door on the right. There’s a space for my car and I’ve managed to neatly stack some items down the far end. My neighbours have their own roller-door too, but I don’t know how they’ll ever get anything else in their half because their side is a hoarder’s dream.
The biggest item is an old, white car. By the looks of its square lines, it’s from the early 70s. The windows are darkly tinted, although it’s hard to tell. Everything is covered in a thick, nasty, yellowish dust. There’s other stuff too: an old bookcase; a bag full of those little, white, polystyrene beads that go inside beanbags; lots of mouldy-looking packing boxes; random pieces of broken furniture; an old mirror that doesn’t reflect much apart from weirdly-shaped shadows; and countless other random items. I’ve had a glance, but it’s their stuff, so I leave it alone.
Kay, however, is the nosiest fucker I’ve ever met. So even before I’d opened the garage door, I knew her being there was a bad idea.
Pressing the remote control, the electronic roller-door on my side curled upwards. I drove forward and headed in; a manoeuvre I’ve managed faultlessly hundreds of time, despite the row of cars parked far too closely on the opposite side of the very narrow road, allowing minimal turning space. But as I turned, Kay instantly piped up. ‘Careful,’ she said. ‘Move a little to the left. The other left. Yes, the right. Stop. Stop. Be gentle. No, more gentle. Now just ease it in exactly like I direct. Now, hard, turn hard,’ she said pulling at the steering wheel and bringing back memories of another reason we’d not survived as a loving couple.
Despite her kind assistance, I managed to get the car into the garage without a scratch.
Once I’d stopped, Kay got out and walked straight over to my neighbour’s dusty vehicle. ‘Look, a car,’ she exclaimed, as if I hadn’t noticed it before.
I sighed, exasperated, as she peered in at the windows.
‘Is this yours?’
‘It’s my neighbours. I don’t touch their stuff,’ I strongly hinted, as I gathered my things and locked up.
Kay took a tissue out of her handbag, spat on it and started to rub a small patch clean.
‘Kay, please,’ I sighed, ‘they’ll notice.’
‘Oh worry-puss,’ she laughed, waving an arm dismissively in my direction, ‘they obviously never come in here.’
At that moment Miss Fluffypants turned up. She’s nosey too, but in a different way. She likes to assess any changes to see if there’s anything she can kill. She’s a little bit psychopathic like that, although she’s a darling cat, really. She normally avoids the garage, for some strange reason, but she must have heard me talking so had come up to see what was happening.
‘Kay,’ I called, happy for the distraction, ‘come and meet my cat.’
But as I leant down to pick up Miss Fluffypants, Kay stepped forward and pulled on the car’s mucky door handle. I rose and turned, with the cat now in my arms, and to all of our surprise the door gently clicked open. It was unlocked.
Instinctively I took a step back.
‘Eughhh, it smells bad,’ Kay said, stepping forward.
I took another step back. ‘Come away from there,’ I whined.
But Kay moved in closer, pulling the door open wider.
I opened my mouth to tell Kay to shut the door and stop nosing, when Miss Fluffypants started to struggle in my arms. She’s never scratched me, ever, but this time she dug her claws in so hard that I yelped and let her go. As she jumped, I turned to Kay, and I swear to God, I saw these enormous, thin, brown, spiny legs reaching out from inside the car.
In that moment, my instincts kicked in and without thinking I tried to combat the creature with a sonic attack, well, I screamed. But Kay just stood frozen in horror. One moment the dark legs were reaching out to encircle her shoulders, the next she was dragged into the opening and had disappeared into the car. Then the door closed with a soft click.
Stunned by the sudden peace, quiet and empty space, I stood dumbly looking at the car. Then I thought maybe Kay was trying to mess with my head. After all, she was really good at that.
‘Kay,’ I hissed very softly, so the monster wouldn’t hear me, ‘you can come out now.’ But there was no answer. I considered going over to look in the car or calling my neighbours for help, but how could I explain someone had been poking around their car, or worse what if they knew what was in there? I figured the AA wouldn’t be able to help, as it wasn’t my car, so I called the police.
‘So, since the incident you’ve been waiting here outside the garage?’ one of the officers asked.
‘And when was this?’
I checked my phone. ‘I called at 6.23.’ I said, showing them my out-going call display.
The policewoman looked at me sceptically. ‘And you say she went into the car and hasn’t come out?’
‘She was dragged in, by something with scary legs.’
‘Well, I’ll just go and have a look,’ she said, raising her eyebrows in disbelief.
Being sensible I took some steps back. The policeman stepped back too. I nearly said, ‘Don’t go,’ but if she got eaten by the car-thing too, at least this time there would be a witness.
The policewoman walked directly and confidently towards the car. She looked it up and down, under, over and around. Then she peered through the clean patch on the windscreen. ‘Nothing visible in there,’ she reported. Then she touched the door handle. The policeman and I both took a deep breath and held it.
‘Please, don’t,’ I warned. But she merely looked back at us with a patronising smile and opened the door. And that was the end of her.
‘Oh fuck,’ said the policeman.
After a few more personnel losses, the police said they’d remove the car and I’d be able to use the garage and my car again. But before the police truck arrived to remove it, the dusty old car mysteriously disappeared. So, if you ever see an abandoned white Toyota Camry on the side of the road, best leave it alone.