When I picked Mona up from the airport, she complained about the turbulence. “It was awful! The captain said it was supposed to be calm, but we hit a rough patch that lasted twenty minutes!”
“Sorry, that’s probably my bad,” I said ruefully. Mona looked at me, waiting for a punchline. “No, I’m serious. It’s been a while since I’ve changed my oil. Whenever I let it go for too long, weird things start to happen. You remember when that rash of tongue pox went around last fall?” Mona nodded. “I hadn’t changed my oil for like ten months. When I finally got around to it, everyone got better. This time it seems to be weather-related. You were out of town the last couple weeks, but we’ve had freak lightning storms, sudden rain, and even a snowstorm.”
Suddenly, hundreds of hailstones pelted the windshield. I pulled over and lifted my arms in an exaggerated shrug. Mona stared at me, eyes narrowed and mouth open. “You… you really believe this, don’t you?”
She shook her head. “Okay then. Tomorrow, you, me. We’re taking this car to Jiffy Lube.”
“Ehhh, I’m kinda busy tomorrow.”
Her eyes widened. “Dude! I don’t believe a word of this crap, but apparently you do! What are you gonna do, wait for a tornado?!”
I sighed. “Fine, we’ll do it tomorrow.”
There weren’t any tornadoes the next day, but there was news of an approaching hurricane. Luckily we got the car in before the shop closed. A few hours later, the weatherman reported that the hurricane had been downgraded and had also changed course.
It was about a year later that people started disappearing. At first it was just a handful of randos on the news, but then it started being people you knew — the barista, your coworker, the weatherman. Mona called me.
“This is so weird. I’d think it was your fault again, except that you got your oil changed four months ago.”
I didn’t say anything.
“You… oh my god. You didn’t, did you? I can’t believe you!”
I shrugged, as though she could hear that through the phone. “I’m sorry! It’s just, you kept nagging me about it, and I wanted to get you off my back. And then nothing bad happened!”
“Well, something bad’s happening now! You have to change your oil tonight!”
“Everything’s closed now.”
“Fine! Tomorrow! I’m going to come over first thing and drive your car myself if I have to!”
Mona never came. I guess I could have gone without her, but it was hard to build up the motivation. And then it was another day, and another. Now I’m sitting at the window, watching the empty streets. I don’t even know if anyone at Jiffy Lube is still around. I should check. I really should.
Tygan Shelton writes in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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