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Short Story 45

He had always thought that the back of the cars looked like faces and when he was behind them it always felt as if they were laughing at him or making snide little faces. That was what was called paranoia. Or so he was told whenever he spoke about it. Others said he was just good at seeing faces in things. What was that called? Yes, he had pareidolia.

It didn’t make him feel much better to think about it that way, but it did make him hate traffic more. There was nothing like having hundreds of faces staring back at you. Some laughing, some sneering. It wasn’t like you could tell them to stop. They were inanimate. Their faces set in stone by some sort of poor expression they must have made during manufacturing.

It was a wonder why cars bothered him so much. He didn’t feel the same way about anything else. It was as if his pareidolia ended and began right there. There was also a slight amount of comedy to seeing faces on what could only be considered a car’s backside. That, however annoying, didn’t totally escape his sense of humor.

Sometimes he had dreams, or rather nightmares, where there were thousands of cars just stranded everywhere… On the grass in front of houses, in open garages, on the streets. He would spend the entirety of the dream walking around them and all of them would have these horrified expressions as if they knew that they wouldn’t be able to get away on their own. It felt as if they looked at him to do something like he had some kind of magic gas can. A can filled with fuel for them to eat and go on their way, but he was refusing them somehow by continuing on. With every car he passed a great moan came out emanating low, like what someone might expect from a specter forced to wander the land endlessly. Once the moaning had begun it wouldn’t stop. It just kept going on endlessly in different tones and intonations. Chasing him, following him through the streets whether running or walking, panicked or calm, it was the same. Always the same.

It was as if he were trapped in a movie where all the people had turned into cars and they screamed from those mouths made of license plates incapable of saving themselves, of moving. Sentenced instead to wallow on the road. Disintegrating in aged rust and peeling paint.

It never made sense to him why this happened. It occurred every single time he closed his eyes, every time he tried to sleep. That dream would repeat over and over again. There was something strange about this dream. It often came on when he was sitting in traffic. The bodies of those driving appeared to disintegrate totally into the upholstery of their vehicles. He could see straight through every car from back to front. No flailing children, no expressive drivers. Nothing but emptiness for miles and miles. Always those metallic faces screaming at him, laughing at him. Staring back at him through the glass of his own aluminum prison and always with the impression that it would soon be his turn. That he too would soon be gobbled up.

It was a strange thought always repeated by the voices in his head. He would return to the world of the living by a halfhearted honk from the car behind him and he would then shift his foot from the break to the gas. Inching forward at a snail’s pace on a road where you were supposed to be able to go a mile a minute. He would pause yet again, pause, and stare, and forget, and see that vision he always loathed so much. It was on replay behind his eyes when he blinked, when the sun blinded him.

It began to become rather a curiosity to him, the idea that one day it might actually happen. That all of humanity might just fade into nothingness. Then there was the larger horror, the more personal one. Maybe, one day he would fall into one of these daydreams or go to sleep one night and never be able to wake from it. His body would be left behind while his mind wandered in torment. He would fall into that place and have to travel through an abandoned world that had been turned into one large parking lot. He’d be sentenced to walk it for the rest of time, while all the cars laughed at him or moaned their misery.


Thank you so much for reading everyone!!

Prompt Sentence: He had always thought that the back of the cars looked like faces

Word Count: 771

©DecemberKnight 2023

Special thanks to Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash for the use of the image!

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