by J. G. Ballard / CRASH
Liquid crash by justoneartist
I SAW no more of Vaughan. Ten days later he died on the flyover as he tried to crash my car into the limousine carrying the film actress whom he had pursued for so long. Trapped within the car after it jumped the rails of the flyover, his body was so disfigured by its impact with the airline coach below that the police first identified it as mine. They telephoned Catherine while I was driving home from the studios at Shepperton. When I turned into the forecourt of my apartment house I saw Catherine pacing in a light-headed way around the rusting hulk of Vaughan's Lincoln. As I took her arm she stared through my face at the dark branches of the trees over my head. For a moment I was certain that she had expected me to be Vaughan, arriving after my death to console her.
We drove towards the flyover in Catherine's car, listening to the news broadcast on the radio of the film actress's escape. We had heard nothing of Vaughan since he had taken my car from the garage. Increasingly I was convinced that Vaughan was a projection of my own fantasies and obsessions, and that in some way I had let him down.
Meanwhile, the Lincoln lay abandoned in the avenue. Without Vaughan's presence, it rapidly disintegrated. As the leaves from the autumn trees settled on the roof and bonnet, sinking through the broken windows into the passenger compartment, the car sank on the flat tyres. Its derelict condition, the loosened body panels and fenders invited the hostility of passers-by. A gang of youths smashed the windshield and kicked in the headlamps.
When we reached the accident site below the flyover I felt that I was visiting, incognito, the place of my own death. Not far from here, my own accident had taken place in a car identical to the vehicle in which Vaughan had died. A massive tail-back of traffic blocked the flyover, and we left the car in a garage forecourt and walked towards the revolving accident beacons half a mile ahead. A brilliant evening sky lit the entire landscape, exposing the roofs of the cars caught in the hold-up, as if we were all waiting to embark on a voyage into the night. Overhead, the airliners moved like observation planes sent up to supervise the progress of this vast migration.
I watched the people in the cars, peering through their windshields as they adjusted the frequencies of their car radios. I seemed to recognize them all, guests at the latest of an unending series of road parties which we had attended together during the previous summer.
At the accident site, under the high deck of the flyover, at least five hundred people had gathered on every verge and parapet, drawn there by the news that the film actress had narrowly missed her death. How many of the people there assumed that she had already died, taking her place in the pantheon of auto-disaster victims? On the descent ramp of the flyover the spectators stood three deep along the rising balustrade, staring down at the police cars and ambulances at the junction with Western Avenue. The crushed roof of the airline coach rose above the heads.
I held Catherine's arm, thinking of the mock attempts Vaughan had made upon her at this junction. In the glare of the arc-lights my car lay beside the coach. Its wheels were still inflated, but the rest of the car was unrecognizable, as if impacted from all directions, internally and externally. Vaughan had been travelling along the open deck of the flyover at the car's maximum speed, trying to launch himself into the sky.
The last of the passengers was carried from the upper deck of the coach, but the spectators' eyes were fixed, not on these human victims, but on the deformed vehicles at the centre on the stage. Did they see within them the models for their own future lives? The isolated figure of the screen actress stood beside her chauffeur, a hand raised to her neck as if shielding herself from the image of the death she had so narrowly avoided. The police and ambulance men, the crush of spectators squeezing themselves between the parked police cars and ambulances, were careful to leave a clear space around her.
On the roofs of the police cars the warning lights revolved, beckoning more and more passers-by to the accident site, across the recreation grounds from the high-rise apartment blocks in Northolt, from the all-night supermarkets on Western Avenue, from the lines of traffic moving past the flyover. Lit by the arc-lights below, the deck of the flyover formed a proscenium arch visible for miles above the surrounding traffic. Across the deserted side-streets and pedestrian precincts, the concourses of the silent airport, the spectators moved towards this huge stage, drawn there by the logic and beauty of Vaughan's death.
On our last evening, Catherine and I visited the police pound to which the remains of my car had been taken. I collected the gate key from the officer at the station, a sharp-eyed young man whom I had already seen when he had supervised the removal of Vaughan's car from the street outside our apartment house. I was sure that he realized that Vaughan had been planning his attempted crash into the film actress's limousine for many months, assembling the materials of this collision from the stolen cars and the photographs of couples in intercourse.
Catherine and I walked down the lines of seized and abandoned vehicles. The pound was in darkness, lit only by the street-lights reflected in the dented chromium. Sitting together in the rear seat of the Lincoln, Catherine and I made brief, ritual love, her vagina drawing off a small spurt of semen after a short throe, her buttocks held tightly in my hands as she sat across my waist. I made her kneel across me as my hand gathered the semen flowing from her vulva.
Afterwards, the semen in my hand, we walked among the cars. The beams of small headlamps cut across our knees. An open sports car had stopped beside the gatehouse. Two women sat behind the windshield, peering into the darkness, the driver turning the car until the headlamps illuminated the remains of the dismembered vehicle in which Vaughan had died.
The woman in the passenger seat stepped out and paused briefly by the gates. Watching her from the darkness as Catherine straightened her clothes, I recognized Dr Helen Remington. Gabrielle sat at the controls of the car. That they should be drawn here for a last glimpse of what remained of Vaughan seemed appropriate. I visualized them touring the car-parks and expressways marked in their minds by Vaughan's obsessions, celebrated now in the gentle embraces of this woman doctor and her crippled lover. I was glad that Helen Remington was becoming ever more perverse, finding her happiness in Gabrielle's scars and injuries.
When they had gone, Helen's arm on Gabrielle's shoulder as she reversed away, Catherine and I moved among the cars. I found that I was still carrying the semen in my hand. Reaching through the fractured windshields and passenger windows around me, I marked my semen on the oily instrument panels and binnacles, touching these wound areas at their most deformed points. We stopped at my own car, the remains of its passenger compartment sleek with Vaughan's blood and mucilage. The instrument panel was covered with a black apron of human tissue, as if the blood had been sprayed on with a paint gun. With the semen in my hands I marked the crushed controls and instrument dials, defining for the last time the contours of Vaughan's presence on the seats. The imprint of his buttocks seemed to hover among the creases of these deformed seats. I spread my semen over the seat, and then marked the sharp barb of the steering column, a bloodied lance rising from the deformed instrument panel.
Catherine and I stood back, watching these faint points of liquid glisten in the darkness, the first constellation in the new zodiac of our minds. I held Catherine's arm around my waist as we wandered among the derelict cars, pressing her fingers against the muscles of my stomach wall. Already I knew that I was designing the elements of my own car-crash.
Meanwhile, the traffic moves in an unceasing flow along the flyover. The aircraft rise from the runways of the airport, carrying the remnants of Vaughan's semen to the instrument panels and radiator grilles of a thousand crashing cars, the leg stances of a million passengers.
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