Suggested Audio Fuel
 Howard Shore “Crash”
 Prince “Little Red Corvette”
 The Primitives “Crash”
 Gary Numan “Cars”
There is a good reason why the word carnage was ever invented. You see, well over a million people die in road accidents each year and an additional 20-50 million are left injured or maimed as a direct result. That’s a staggering statistic but not one that greatly surprises me as, having spent almost twenty years of my life behind the wheel, I can vouch for the amount of idiots on the road. I know as much as I have previously been one such numskull. Though I may not possess an automobile currently and have learned my lessons over the years, I started out like a bull in a china shop and had no respect whatsoever for the rules of the road. A twenty-year-old buck cannot be expected to know how to harness such power and no amount of driving lessons prepared me for the moment when I received my license to drive and promptly introduced pedal to metal. Today’s exercise entails recalling one particular near-death experience and there seems no better way to start our engines than by tipping the hat to David Cronenberg’s 1996 masterpiece Crash.
Crash is a piece of scientific art that resonates on multiple levels. As well as being a simply wonderful movie and arguably Cronenberg’s finest work, it tackles a perversion which exists in many of us – our appetite for destruction and its consequence. Raise those hands if you come off your accelerator a little when traffic is halted on the other carriageway. I expect many hands to be held aloft and if not then you’re either full of shit or Miss Daisy. Admittedly, fewer arms would be flailing if I asked who became overwhelmed with a desire to spank the monkey at the scene of a fatal wreckage but you get my drift. Crash caused a massive stir on its release and its detractors labelled it both irresponsible and downright lamentable. Perhaps his film hit a little too close to home for some but it certainly wasn’t either of the above. He has always been fascinated with body horror and this was no different. However, it fused the flesh with twisted metal and explored mankind’s fascination with automotive carnage quite beautifully.
So about my own experience behind the wheel then. I have actually been somewhat fortunate as I’ve only been involved in one serious accident during my 18-year tenure as a designated driver. When you consider that it took no less than eight driving exams for me to be deemed roadworthy, that is pretty good going. The fact that I failed repeatedly only served to sharpen my skills and, had I been unleashed on the asphalt before then, things may have been a lot different. I’m not about to suggest that I’m the world’s most adroit motorist as it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I’ve scuffed plenty of fenders over my years and applied the brakes with insufficient time to evade various obstructions. At least one cute fluffy bunny has felt my number plate against the back of its skull in no uncertain terms and a handful of girders have left their mark on my paintwork. However, only once have I truly feared for my mortality and I’m about to relive that incident as we speak. Gentlemen, start your engines.
I’d only been legally driving for six weeks and was still relatively wet behind the ears as I set out that fateful night. I had myself a co-pilot and it is worth noting that he weighed in at around 225 lbs as that will become more relevant as my story unfurls. The novelty of possessing my own set of wheels hadn’t yet subsided and we decided to embark on a short road trip to make the most of our new-found freedom. The destination was a moody little place by the name of Copped Hall, deep in the heart of Epping Forest, on the outskirts of London. Outings such as this were commonplace as we both shared a fascination for supposedly haunted derelict buildings and loved nothing more than to get the adrenaline pumping by double-daring each other to push our fascination that little bit further. Once we arrived at our destination at the dead of night, we took a brisk stroll across a foot bridge which overlooked a bustling motorway, in search of this shabby structure. Eventually we reached our coordinates and I remember my sphincter slackening the very moment it came into view.
Had either of us watched The Amityville Horror beforehand, then we may have thought twice about this expedition but something had drawn us back there after a brief assessment some weeks earlier. We hadn’t ventured inside previously so the goal was to survey a little deeper this time. A loaded bladder isn’t something one wishes to carry into an establishment like this so we relieved ourselves in some nearby bushes before making our way into the dilapidated building. I recall the pungent odor of dread as though it was yesterday and, in the history of warm welcomes, this wasn’t one of the more hospitable. The walls were spattered in deep red, likely just paint, but we interpreted it in the manner that two young horror enthusiasts invariably would. Stepping through the rubble, we reached the build’s inner sanctum and, with each hesitant step, we began to feel increasingly exposed. After around five minutes, our appetites for the macabre had been sufficiently sated and we were ready to head for our evac-point, with a fair deal more haste than previously.
After arriving in the open air once more, nostrils flared and underwear near-breached, we came across what appeared to be a stone figurine protruding from the foliage directly parallel to the structure. Many would have run a mile at the first sight of such an anomaly but not a pair of hardened Grueheads such as we. Instead, we brushed ourselves off, puffed out our chests, and made our way over chop-chop and in disorderly fashion, to examine said curiosity further. As we pulled back the lifeless branches, our pulses quickened and we continued to unveil a sight neither of us had prepared for but both had secretly harbored hopes of. Our initial observation was validated, it was indeed a statue. What we hadn’t envisaged was that the effigy in question would sport a pair of cloven hooves, long horns protruding from its temples, and a twisted look of menace on its contorted face. I shit you not; its gnarly features hit me straight in the duodenum. We stood motionless, like it was some sort of perverse game of musical statues, daring each other telepathically to hold those branches back for as long as endurance would allow. About a minute later we replaced the shrubbery and briskly vacated Copped Hall for what would be our final time.
The ghoulish fun didn’t end there though as Pandora’s Box had been opened, the lamp rubbed, and we were about to receive our penance for snooping in places we had absolutely no right to. The hike back to my car may well have broken our previous personal best and, as we reached our getaway wheels, I fumbled with my keys like a prison warden in a full-scale riot. One thing I distinctly remember not doing was falling over repeatedly while flailing my arms about like the final girl in a slasher flick as we weren’t about to go out like that but, needless to say, we were straight outta motherfucking Compton bitches and burning rubber like a pyromaniac in a Trojan factory. Ordinarily my friend and I were not short of dialogue and, having just experienced something truly unnerving, you would expect rather a lot of fat to be chewed during transit. Not this time however, an ominous silence hung in the air for the first few minutes as we attempted to fathom what we had just been made privy to. Unless we were mistaken, that contorted gargoyle was Beelzebub himself, and sometimes it’s not better the devil you know.
Eventually the quietude subsided as we had far too many points of discussion to mull over and weren’t about to let this chance go begging. This was where it all turned awry as, while we nattered away like a pair of senior citizens at a barber shop, I foolishly engaged auto-pilot. Had I called to mind Total Recall, then I would have remembered how lousy a chauffeur Johnny Cab was and perhaps what happened next could have been avoided. You see, it suddenly occurred to me that we had run out of motorway, something I hadn’t previously considered feasible. We had unwittingly veered onto a hard shoulder and promptly been spat into a slip road, where we hastily approached an imminent roundabout at a speed of around 120/KPH.
Anyone who has endured a brush with death should be aware of the notion of having your life flash before your eyes and this is one spiritual experience I certainly wouldn’t endorse to another. That split second felt like an hour but my reflexes didn’t see it that way as I hurtled towards an outcome most unsatisfactory.
Not procrastinating for a further picosecond, I tugged at that wheel like a teenager in a lingerie store and we narrowly avoided total decimation. I use narrowly very loosely as my poor primary wheels, let’s call her Maude, were left as distorted as our faces upon the inevitable impact. Within a moment of the realization setting in that we had beaten our fates, we began to see the funny side. Then, in a further moment, our shit-eating grins had transmogrified into full-blown laughter. Still cackling like two witches in massage chairs, we decided to assess the damage. The hull had been breached and the whole car was perched precariously on the weight of my buckled driver side wheel. After flipping a mental coin, we stumped on attempting to make it back home in our compromised chariot, which amounted to thirty kilometres give or take. Maude bravely took our combined weight of 350 lbs as we ambled along at snail-like speed for in excess of two hours until she wobbled onto the driveway battered, weary but not broken.
I say not broken when that is not strictly correct here. As I presented Maude to my mechanic, his response was something along the lines of “It’s a write-off, the chassis is FUBAR” and I would be required to pay more than the car’s overall worth if I ever hoped to return her to her former glory. Alas, Maude never fully recovered from the traumatic evening’s events and continued to lean ominously to one side for the rest of her short life but I’m glad we got to share in each others’ company for a few more precious months before she eventually headed off to the great scrap heap in the sky. In the words of my old friend Forrest Gump, “she died on a Saturday”. As for my co-pilot and I, we never again revisited that cursed hall as one brush with death was sufficient for two lifetimes. However, the morbid fascination with destruction that Cronenberg instills in his seminal masterwork is still very much alive in us both to this day.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2016
Crash and Burn: Automotive Anarchy
Four wheels equates to six million ways to die. Here is a small cluster of classic deaths by car from the annals of film. As aforementioned, statistically an overwhelming percentage of deaths occur on the road and horror cinema is there to remind us that figures don’t lie. Even individual components such as a vengeful tyre can be deadly as attested in the following optical homage although that one may be stretching it a little. That said, whether you’re Dennis Weaver, Keith Gordon or C. Thomas Howell, the fact is that it really is safer to walk.