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Series No. 03

On the Road.


It's been eight years since he last left the road, come to think about it. Although practically speaking, there was no way he could "come to think about it," since he was already dead.

Thirteen years ago. Four years after he lost his job, his wife divorced him, and took the house. Been on the road since then. In the day time, parking restrictions are severe, and couldn't possibly stop. So he kept driving while awake. At night, he used to park his car in a side road to get some sleep. But that all changed with the opening of the automatic driving lane on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway.

Once you'ree on the Express, life is easy. You'll find vendors that deal with mobilers like him, thanks to the precision platooning feature of the autorun lane. You can buy and actually get anything while running at 100km/h. Just set the vehicles to run as a platoon, and they will act as one. Payments done by card. However, you don't want to waste money by getting on and off the express. Also, you wouldn't want to waste money BUYING electricity. So, many mobilers will find an unmanned platooning convoy, hook up to one of the trucks with the arm, cut their own motor and set the battery to "Charge." Just watch out for the exit signal from the truck. Most of the day is spent charging this way, until you get enough charge to last through the night while you sleep.

You're probably seen platooning vehicles on autorun. Dozens of vehicles running in complete sync, with merely 30cm between each other. When you drive parallel to them for a while with the entry signal on, the closest space will open up like a gate, your car will switch to autorun and practically get sucked into the new space. This was a frightening experience, even after thousands of experience. Your brain knows, but you still sweat all over. After a while you might realize that you are surrounded by those huge unmanned autorun freight trucks. No one at the wheels. There is an acute sense of claustrophobia, where you feel like you'll be crushed any moment. These were the times that he felt some stinging pain in his chest.

Autorun freights were so obvious. They're all uniform white trucks. Somewhere, he saw a huge yard with hundreds of these. Where was that? He can't remember, and he doesn't care. As long as you are on the road, "where" hardly matters. Just keep moving. Moving is all you do. Everywhere is road. The road was his only world. Even the road was just a background. This small car was all he had. He had his TV, phone, and mail. That's all he needed.

July 10, 2043: 4 AM, a multiple crash accident occurred near the Hakozaki Junction, with at least 23 cars. Several gasoline vehicles were among them, causing a major explosion and fire at the scene. 3 deaths have been confirmed so far, and 8 hospitalized. Police has yet to determine their identities.

The cause of the accident seems to be an erratic platoon exit by a vehicle, which was apparently attached to the preceding freight truck by an arm structure. The vehicle was dragged through the normal lane causing mass collision. Several of the hit vehicle further collided with the platoon in the autolane, causing the whole platoon to crash.

The accident has forced parts of the MetroExpress to be shut down, which should aggravate the morning traffic rush.

Once in a while, all other vehicles would just disappear from the road. Usually, it's a road block for an accident cleanup, but sometimes, for no particular reason, there would be a total void on the road. In those rare, brief moments, he'd go to the normal lane and speed up as fast as he can (but up to the speed limit.) That was the only outlet in his life.

There was one such moment just before he died. On a dark lane, with no one around, he was running, totally alone. For a moment, he felt the road watching him. That piercing pain in the chest again.

July 15, 2043: On 11 PM yesterday, the dead body of Mr. Morisawa Ichiro (84) was found in his car near the Heiwajima Ramp of the MetroExpress. He died from a stroke more than 2 days ago, but his car continued to run in autorun mode, which delayed the recovery of the body. The car had finally been ejected from the autolane from low battery, which led to yesterday's late discovery.

His car record suggests that Mr. Morisawa came on the MetroExpress more than eight years ago and never left since then. "If this is true, this man was truly 'A man of the road'" commented the chief of police.

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YAMAGATA Hiroo (hiyori13@mailhost.net)