Rearview by Erin Brookins | Art by Dylan Fowler

Trashed – Best of Birdy, Issue 046 – by Dylan Fowler


By Erin Brookins
Art by Dylan Fowler

Published Issue 110, February 2023

“Have any of you noticed that the same car has been following us for four blocks now? Four whole blocks. That creepy gray sedan. I wish I could see the driver.” 

“We’ve just been going straight for the last four blocks …”

“But did you notice when it started following us? It was sitting at that four-way stop with its lights off for who knows how long. I thought it was abandoned, but then we drove past and it pulled out and started following us.”

“Oh no, David, not another car on the road! Your city kid is showing.”

“What the f— ? What does it have to do with me being from a city?”

“City kids are conditioned to be creeped out by the country. You’re scared because it’s a dark country road, and you’ve been told that people out here are ignorant and backwards and cruising for folk to beat up.”

“Bullshit! I’m just saying that it’s really strange and, I don’t know, stuff happens. It’s not my fault I’m the only one who happened to be paying attention and noticed. Everyone else is either driving or on their phone. I’m pretty sure Gracie’s not even aware we left the party.”

“Wha? Huh?”

“Nevermind, Gracie. David’s just got the country spooks and is hearing Dueling Banjos in his head again.”

“You’re being such a dick, Molly.”

“Am I? I’m just saying maybe don’t assume things about people so quickly. If this was happening back in Seattle, would you assume that they were ‘following’ you? It’s pretty classist.”

“And what if it turns out they are following us?”

“Then we’ll slow down, and I’ll lean out the window and yell ‘Hey shitheads! Stop following us!’” 

“What if they have a weapon?!”

“How did this just leap from ‘maybe they’re following us’ to ‘they’re definitely gun-wielding psychos’? It’s not some post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s just a small town.”

“Aaron’s friend from college had a cousin who knew a guy who got jumped coming home from a party. He was driving back and they started following him, and when he stopped somewhere they robbed him. They shot him in the leg and took his money and left him there to die.”

“Who’s friend was this again? I lost track somewhere in that six-degrees-of-Aaron-Mendoza.” 

“Aaron, will you tell her that you remember the story I’m talking about? The one your friend Brian told us at that Halloween party last year?”

“Guys, I really don’t want to get sucked into this. Trying to drive after dark makes me sleepy, and I’m already having a hard time staying focused. But I doubt anyone is trying to follow us.”

“Oh come on, don’t tell me you think this is some elitist schtick too? That car has been following us for four — no like six — blocks now!”

“I’m not saying that. Honestly, I really don’t care. I think everything’s probably fine and stuff like that doesn’t happen much in the real world.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that is exactly what everyone thinks right before ‘stuff like that’ does happen? No one ever thinks they’re going to be the statistic.”

“Yeah … but even if you end up being the statistic, most of the time there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well not waste time worrying about being the statistic.”

“Ah, the ‘Aaron’s-so-zen-life-is-all-roses’ philosophy. That works well until shit actually happens. Everyone loves those stories about how a random person miraculously survives some crazy attack. Those people worried. And then they were prepared. And that’s how they survived.”

“Okay, David. What would you like us to do?”

“I don’t know. They’re following us with their lights off. That’s at least dangerous, right? It’s super dark out here!”

“I can just flash my lights at them to give them a heads u— ”

“No! Don’t do that! Remember that initiation thing where if you flash your lights at someone then they chase you down and murder you?”

“Oooh … and while you’re at it, Aaron, please don’t say ‘Bloody Mary’ into the rearview mirror three times.”

“Shut up, Molly!”

“If you’re so freaked out, why don’t we just slow to a stop and let them pass. We can at least see who they are, and that should make you feel better.”

“No way! If they are a psycho then we’re just making it easy.”

“I can speed up if you want?”

“Yeah, maybe try that.”

“… Huh, that’s interesting. They sped up too.” 

“Oh no, not you too.”

“You know I love to give David shit, but I have to admit that’s kind of weird. I’m not saying they’re going to murder us. Just saying it’s weird.”

“I’m about to take a left turn anyway, so this fun conversation should all be over soon …”

“Look at that! They took a left turn too!”

“To be fair, there was a fifty-fifty chance they would also take a left turn.”

“I don’t know, Aaron. I’m not saying I agree with David, but I think they may be fucking with us.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Let’s just stop, and let them pass.”

“No way! That’s totally how you get murdered.”

“There are four of us in here. I’m sure between the four of us we could figure it out. Besides, it’s probably some bored high school kids. Do you really want them to think it’s okay to mess with people like this?”

“High school kids. In that weird, old sedan?”

“Yeah, it’s probably some shitty kids. If anything, we should let them know it’s not okay to harass people like this.”

“No way! Not our job. Aaron, do not stop.”

“I still think you both are making way too big a deal out of this.”

“Okay, then if you just pull over we can put an end to David’s paranoid ramblings.”

“I don’t want to freak him out. We’re less than an hour from home. Can’t we just get home? I bet whoever it is is probably tired and not really paying attention.”

“Just because David is delusional that doesn’t mean we have to do whatever he wants. We should take a vote. All in favor of stopping and confronting the shitty kids? Gracie, what’s your vote?”

“Wha? I’m sorry, what are we doing?”

“Nevermind, Gracie. Just ignore her. You can go back to TikTok.”

“Look, here comes another turn. Let’s see what it does.”

“It followed us again!”

“Alright — seriously, we do need to put a stop to this. I knew these kinds of kids in high school and they’re just spoiled, bored assholes who grow up to be even worse spoiled, bored assholes because no one ever says anything to them. I’m so sick of this shit.”

“No way, that’s stupid. This is not the shitty small town you grew up in. Who knows who this person is? We should call the police.”

“And say what, David? I think a random car is following me based on … what? The fact that it’s on the same road? They’re not going to do anything.”

“It’s worth a try!”

“Guys, I’m really not comfortable with anyone calling the police or with stopping. I really think you’re both making way too big a deal out of this, and I’m tired and I just want to get home. Take a cue from Gracie. Chill out.”


“Nothing, Gracie. Just telling David and Molly to chill out.”

“We could tell them their lights are out! The police would probably come for that.”

“And what if that’s their only crime? Do you really feel good about how that whole situation goes down?”

“You were just saying they’re shitty high school kids who need to learn a lesson!”

“Yeah, but I’m saying I want to take care of the situation myself. Screw them, but if anyone’s getting up in their shit, it’s going to be me.”

“Oooh. So tough.”

“Look, if we stop, I’ll get out of the car. Just me. You and Aaron and Gracie— ”

“Huh? What’s up?”

“Nothing, Gracie. You can all stay here, and speed away to safety if they instantly start to murder me. But at least we can put a stop to this here and now.”

“You’re crazy! And that’s stupid.”

“Aaron, don’t you kind of just want this all to be over?”

“You both are starting to stress me out. So fine.”

“Right, fine, let’s pull over.”

“What, seriously? I really don’t like this. I just want to go on record as saying I really don’t feel comfortable with this.”

“Won’t really matter if we’re all dead.”


“Okay, here’s a good spot. I’m pulling over … I’m stopping … ”

“Look, it’s stopping, too!”

“Hmm. Oh, maybe I left the gas cap open or something. Or maybe one of my rear lights is out? Maybe they just want to give us a heads up.”

“Oh, this is bad. This is really, really bad. Let’s get back on the road. Now.”

“David, I’m going to go tell these kids to leave us alone, okay? I’m going to take this tire iron just in case, and … oh, it’s a scraper. I’m going to take this scraper, and if they try to give me any shit — I’ll handle it.”

“Please be careful. No, seriously, please don’t. Molly! Molly, come back! Shit, she’s walking up. Walking. She’s knocking on the driver’s side. Oh man, I can’t watch this … Nothing … Still nothing … oh my God, she put her face right up to the window! I can’t read her reaction. Can you read her reaction? I think she looks confused. Wait, no, now angry. Molly! What’s going on! I can’t hear her. Can you hear her, Aaron?”

“No, I can’t hear her either.”

“We can’t hear you! I’ve got 9-1-1 dialed. I’m going to call. Oh wait, she’s coming back. What the hell! What happened?”

“Well, not shitty kids. Not a psycho either.”

“What do you mean? Who was it?”

“Self-driving car.”

“A … Wait, what? Seriously?”

“Yeah. Its GPS must have malfunctioned or something and they’ve got programming to stay like fifty feet behind the car in front, so I wonder if it just got, you know … stuck … on us? There’s nobody in there though.”

“Huh … I’m really glad it’s not a psycho, but … So it’s just sitting there, waiting? Is it going to follow us all the way home?”

“I guess so? But it’ll probably get confused when we get to the city where there’s more cars, and, um, ‘stick’ on to one of them instead. Who knows where it’ll end up.”

“Oh, that’s so creepy.”

“It’s not creepy. It’s fucked up. Now they can just follow us? These companies are already using them to spy on people and collect data and shit, not to mention the fact that it’s putting a lot of people out of work. Ugh, it’s so dystopian.”

“Okay, are you both satisfied now? Can I please just put on a podcast and head home?”

“Yeah, sure, go ahead. But you don’t at all care that a robot is just going to be following us the whole way?”

“There’s not really anything I can do about it. And they have to learn somehow, right? One of you can try to call the company or something if you want, but I’m putting on a podcast.”

“Oh gross. It pulled out and is still following us. I don’t like it.”

“Yep. That thing is going to replace tons of jobs. Millions of people out of work. Your uncle was a trucker, right, Gracie?”

“Sorry, what?” 

Erin Brookins is a writer living in Golden, Colorado with her spouse and a dog named Lou. Her first script about a cursed flannel and the search for purpose is now a ScreenCraft quarterfinalist.

Dylan Fowler is a Denver-based designer and illustrator at Consume & Create. He really enjoys every aspect of visual storytelling, and when he’s not drawing on the computer, you can find him making screen prints in my garage. See more of his work on his site and on Instagram.

Peek Erin’s debut Birdy piece, Suckers, from our January issue in case you missed it. Check out Dylan’s last Birdy install, Home of Our Own, or head to our Explore section to see more of his work.

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