What if … one morning you wake up, look out of the window and notice that your car has gone? You run out onto the street, panic rising in your throat, to find that the town is eerily quiet … not a car in sight. You run back inside.
Do you scream?
Do you phone the police?
Do you get your gun?
No, you turn on your computer. There is an alert from BBC news … a spotty 15 year old from the Wirral has invented a virus which dissolves privately owned vehicles via the Sat-Nav system. You email work:
I will be late. Car has vanished. Estimated Time of Arrival 5pm.
Then you have breakfast and venture back outside. The air is unusually crisp and fresh. Kids everywhere appear on their bicycles, school bags hanging dangerously from the handlebars. You notice that today they have not had their little round heads crammed into reinforced helmets and you realise that there is no need because today they won’t get knocked over by some stressed parent in a 4×4, doing the school run.
You decide reluctantly that you will have to get your bike out too. It’s somewhere in the back of the shed …
Maybe you have an electric bike … good thinking … especially since there is a big hill between you and your place of work. You dust off your bike, pump up the tyres and set off for work.
As you cycle along the High Street you notice that little clusters of people are gathered. You realise that they are talking to each other. Children are playing in the middle of the road … even little fat toddlers who have been let off their leashes and allowed to potter about, perhaps for the first time.
You can hear laughter. Do people laugh? You wonder. Yes of course they do but you never noticed it before because the endless grumble of traffic blotted it out.
It’s a sunny day. A new street café has sprung up. People sit outside sipping chai lattes with almond syrup and reading the papers.
ELEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS LATER …
You’ve shrunk three jean sizes and have a new job digging up the car park for the proposed allotments. On the news the director of BP has just applied for working family tax credit. Apparently he complained about the increase in paperwork.
“I’m on overload” he grumbled, when the third form in two weeks arrived from the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Custom and he had to look out all of his wage slips from the past 16 years.
Other news shows BMW dealers across the world learning how to darn their own socks
and a new rash of electric bike entrepreneurs buying up luxury yachts
Meanwhile you have grown peculiarly fond of your local High Street which is now safe, fun and funky and has become more of a social centre than a centre of commerce. In fact life is rather lovely you think to yourself, as you sip café mocha frappe deluxe from the alfresco café table and Mrs Bobbit bustles past with her three Chihuahuas.
Later, strolling back down the High Street, paper tucked under one arm, whistling nonchalantly as you go, it occurs to you that the only real danger these days is that posed by teenagers on skateboards and old men on mobility scooters. Especially when drunk. But you shrug your shoulders. It could be worse.
However, unfortunately, and needless to say, a crack government team of IT experts from Ipswich have been working around the clock for three months to reverse the effects of the POVVV (Privately Owned Vehicle Vanishing Virus) and suddenly POOFF! The cars are back.
Brmmm Brmmm Brmmmmm