Friday, May 5, 2017

Story 220: Well There's Your Problem

"You're sure you're a mechanic?" Sean asked.  Other than the ancient toolbox, she didn't look like any mechanic he'd ever seen.  Long nails, long hair hanging loose, pristine dress just begging to be ruined by a smear of grease...
She smiled and raised an eyebrow.  "Because traditional mechanics have worked out so well for you?"

They had replaced his alternator, his battery, the battery cables, the computer thing, some random wires - the car essentially had a brand new electrical system and it was still flipping out.  The third and final mechanic he had taken it to had finally given up and told him to either scrap the car or plan on buying a new alternator every two months.
"Yeah, okay.  Fair enough.  What's your name?"  He had forgotten to ask, so he only knew her user name - HedgeMechanic - from the forum he had gone to out of desperation.  She was the only one to offer assistance - the rest just told him to replace something he had already replaced twice.
"I don't give that out.  Call me Wendy.  Don't worry, you'll be satisfied with your service."

He was already regretting his decision.  Why had he given some stranger on the internet his address and told them he'd have five hundred dollars with him?  What made him think this person could somehow fix what nobody else could, when she wouldn't even tell him what she was going to do?
Wendy walked over to his car, and placed a hand on the hood.  She winced.  "Okay, yeah.  I can fix this.  Um.  You probably want to watch because you don't trust me, but if you watch you're going to think I'm crazy.  So here's the deal.  Let me do my thing, and I promise if you just allow me finish you'll want to pay me when it's over.  Okay?"
Sean nodded, but couldn't stop picturing her smashing his car with a hammer or something.  She hadn't even lifted the hood and looked inside.

Wendy opened the toolbox, and started pulling out random items.  Sean wasn't sure what was going on, but none of what she was producing looked like it belonged in a toolbox.  Chalk, a mason jar, candles, a container of salt, a bundle of twigs...
"Seriously?"
She ignored him and started to draw on his driveway, making all sorts of squiggly symbols around the car.  This was followed by a circle of salt around it, then the candles - stuck to the ground with a blob of melted wax - and finally the bundle of twigs.  She lit that on fire using one of the candles and started waving it around while chanting.  Sean nervously looked around to make sure none of his neighbors were watching.

The car started.  With nobody touching it.

The headlights flashed, the engine revved.  Sean could see the interior lights flickering.  Wendy didn't seem bothered.  He tried to remember - had she touched the car at all?  Certainly not in a way that would allow this.  Could she have come earlier and set it up, somehow?  Just as he was concocting a theory in his head involving some sort of remote control device stealthily wired into his car as he was sleeping, the sound started.  The moaning.  It was for sure coming from the car, and then... just above the car.  He could see something, some sort of ripple in the air.  The lights had stopped flashing, and the car shuddered to a stop.  The moaning continued, as the wavering air circled.

The candles all went out, except for one.  That one started bubbling all over, slouching as it started to melt.  The white wax took on a brownish sheen, like old baked-on grease.  Wendy stopped chanting, picked up the mason jar, and then fished around in the toolbox for one more thing - a spatula.  She placed the jar over the candle, scooped it off the driveway with the spatula, and then flipped the jar and put the lid on.  Somehow, the flame was still burning.
"There you go.  One minor demon, out of your car and trapped.  Five hundred bucks."
Sean couldn't stop looking at the candle, which seemed to be moving a little on its own.  "But... how..."
"Snap out of it, buddy.  Five hundred bucks or I open the jar."
"No no, hang on, I have it.  Don't open it."  Sean handed over the money, and Wendy slid the jar into her toolbox.  She started retrieving the other candles and the leftover salt.
"How?" Sean asked, "Why?"

She latched the toolbox shut and stood.  "Sean, right?  Well Sean, chances are you're an asshole."  She started to walk away, but yelled back over her shoulder to add one last thing.  "Be more considerate when you're driving.  You never know who you're cutting off."