She watched the young service attendant’s grease scarred hands do things to her engine she only vaguely knew about. He swiftly and effortlessly moved from one engine part to the other, his hands oddly separated from his body and seen only through the small space between the hood and the engine, checking fluid levels and refilling when the mark showed empty or low. She wonders how he can do it with such casual ease and yet be far too young to have any real experience. He just carries on his work as if everything is normal, wiping his dirty hands with a blue rag and chatting with the other attendant working in the next bay of the Fast Change oil changing place.
The hood slams and the young man picks up the clipboard with her invoice and scribbles on it with one of those pens that strip a sexy lady of her swim suit when you hold it upside down. He tucks the pen under the clip, looks over both shoulders as if he doesn’t want to get caught and hands her the clipboard.
“Just sign the bottom” he says in an forced and too loud casual tone. His eyes dart to the scribbles on the invoice and quickly back to her. Holding the young mans gaze, trying to see through his acting and figure out what he’s after, she snaps the sexy pen out from the under the clip. He looks again at the invoice, this time with a slight and almost imperceptible nod, and pushes the clipboard a little closer. His forehead leaks a drop of sweat and he shifts nervously, looking over his shoulder again. He’s definitely up to something, she recognizes the suspicious behaviour. She’s still staring and clearly making him nervous, so she apologizes and signs the invoice. She pulls off her copy and just as soon as she hands the clip board back, the young man disappears to the next bay and she zips up her window quickly and tightly.
She signed too quickly to notice it and he clearly wanted her to read it, so stopping before the entering road she grabbed the invoice. In dark blue ink, the words ‘you’re being followed’ we’re printed across the centre of the page, forcing the details of her purchase to take second priority. Oh god, this can’t be happening again. Can it? She scans the street, a side road in a busy commercial area close to where she works, and spots a dark pickup truck idling at the curb near the exit of the Fast Change. The glare of the sun off the windshield shielding her view of the driver.
She pulls out into the street. She should go back to her office, although she’s not sure what good it would do. Whoever it is that’s following her most likely already knows where she lives. It doesn’t matter; better safe than sorry, right? The headlights of the idling pickup occupy her rearview. He’s right behind her. She takes a few unnecessary turns, hoping to shake him off. He stays with her, pulling right up behind her at a red light.
She’s in the centre lane and will need to cut out in front of someone in order turn and loose the pickup. There’s a lot of traffic and she doesn’t have many choices. A man in a hunters jacket and ball cap stands on the corner, just standing there. He doesn’t cross, instead he looks straight at her and makes a phone call on his cell. He sees her checking him out, and without hanging up turns and walks back from the direction he came. Did he come from that direction? He must have because he’s part of it.
At the changing light she drives through the intersection and the pick up turns right, a delivery van swoops in to take its place. Thats three following her so far; this is bigger than she thought. She turns down an alley and sure enough the delivery van follows. Knowing what she has to do, she grips the steering wheel with sweaty and shaking hands, hits the gas and squeals out of the alley straight into traffic and heads for the Fast Change.
The young attendant is the one who tipped her off, he has to know more and she’s going to find out what. There’s no lineup, she pulls right in. The attendant recognizes her and nervously approaches as she rolls down her window.
“Is everything ok”
“I want to know why you wrote this message on my invoice”. She grabs the paper off the passenger seat and takes another look before handing it over. The dark blue ink letters were still there clear as a bell, but before she looks away the letters begin to vibrate and move, mixing themselves up on the page. Her heart stops and she holds her breath. A tiny smile threatens her shocked face.
The terrifying realization that your mind no longer belongs to you, for most unsuspecting people, marks the beginning of a long and frightful journey through the dark halls of denial, fear and self loathing, but for the woman in the Fast Change the fear of the journey itself, having taken it a number of times in the past, consumed by the choking maw of crazy and then spewed back into sane, the dancing letters are a clear blue reminder of the real nemesis that follows her.