This story of mine was recently published in the anthology A Flash of Dark Volume 3, edited by Scott W. Williams.
One thing that Scott Patton disliked most about attending St. George’s College of Magic was the lack of transportation options. There were no roads through campus, for one thing, only footpaths. In fact the only road that came near the campus was the one that ended in the parking lot in front of the Administration building. Of course, most of the instructional buildings were near there so it made sense for the faculty and staff, but it did nothing for Patton, whose cabin was about as far away from there as you could get and still be on campus. Some students had parking permits and parked their cars in that parking lot, but even if his car hadn’t been totaled in the spring, and his motorcycle crushed in the summer, that wouldn’t solve his problem today. He was simply exhausted, and didn’t feel up to hiking clear across campus to get to his cabin.
Someone had suggested another way. Maybe he should give it a try.
He pulled out his phone and opened up the Ryde ride-hailing app. He had been told that, although it didn’t have nearly as many cars as the larger competitors, and it only served limited areas, Ryde was Mage-friendly and covered St. George’s College and the surrounding village. He figured what the heck and called for a car.
The vehicle that arrived looked like it belonged in Los Angeles or Japan, not here in Vermont. It was a classic Low Rider, a cut down and souped up version of an old Lincoln Continental with suicide doors.
The driver leaned over and called out the passenger window as she pulled up. “Hey, sailor, ya looking for a ride?”
“You’re with Ryde?” asked Patton.
The car hopped on its suspension in response. “Of course, honey!” said the driver. “Climb on in!”
Patton reached for the rear door. “Oh, you don’t want to sit back there,” the driver said, and patted the seat next to her. “Hop in front with me and tell me where you want to go.”
Patton climbed in as instructed. The first thing he noticed was that everything was covered in fake fur or velour. The second thing he noticed was that there were lots of statues, all of which looked to be asleep.
“So, cutie, where to?”
Patton gave the address of the Coven’s farmhouse, which was near his cabin.
“Damn! I have no idea where that is. Means I have to wake up the navigator. We’re not gonna like this.” She reached over and tapped one of the statues on the head. “Wake up, Jonny, and tell me how to get there.”
The statue opened its eyes, and after a lot of blinking pulled a tiny map out of its pocket and unfolded it. “Calculating route. Proceed to the entrance of the parking lot,” it said.
“Gee, I coulda figured that out on my own!” The driver headed the car out of the lot.
“You better wake up Buddy Boy there!” came a voice from the back seat.
“Here it comes,” said the driver.
“She doesn’t need him,” came a second voice. Patton turned around and saw a line of figurines across the rear deck. One looked like a porcelain dog staring out the back window, the others were assorted caricatures of people unknown to him.
“I didn’t want to do this,” said the driver, “but at least you’re sitting up front so they won’t be shouting in your ears.” With that she tapped a figure right in front of her that looked like a caricature of Jackie Gleason in a bus driver’s uniform. “Better wake up, Ralph. You got some driving to do.”
“To the moon, Alice! To the moon!” said the statue.
“No Ralph, to wherever Jonny is sending us.”
“All right, Jonny me boy, which way are we going?”
The Jonny figure looked up from its map and said, “In half a mile turn left.”
One of the voices in the back added, “And don’t go whipping around the corner like you did last time! I nearly went flying out the window!”
“Would have served you right,” came another backseat voice. “Make you walk home. Would have served you right.”
“Are they always like this?” asked Patton.
“Oh heck, they’re just getting warmed up,” said the driver, who was fishing around in her purse, having evidently turned the driving over to Ralph on the dash. “Hey, do you want some weed?” she asked, pulling a large joint out of her purse and pushing in the cigarette lighter.
“No thanks, but you go right ahead.”
“Thanks. Helps keep me calm when Ralph’s driving.” The lighter popped out and she quickly lit the doobie, filling her lungs and holding her breath until her eyes started popping out. She finally let it loose and the car immediately filled with pungent smoke.
“Somebody back there wake Fido,” shouted the hula dancer on the dash. A doggy yelp was heard from the back.
“We’re good,” came a voice from the back. “No smoky is gonna sneak up on us now!”
“Turn left! Turn left now!” yelled Jonny as the car flew through an intersection. Patton was thrown into the door, and then back across the seat as the car started to make the turn and then gave up and resumed its previous vector.
“Too late!” was Ralph’s response.
“Recalculating. In half a mile, turn left,” said Jonny, accompanied by a rustle of paper as he refolded his map.