A Body of Water in Indonesia Known as the Java Sea

The immediate problem was a traffic jam on the freeway bridge. The car crawled in the middle lane among a line of trucks carrying containers to the port. The lanes to the left and right were moving more freely, though both lead to the wrong exits. The bridge at that point gave a fine view of the central business district, a view normally glimpsed only in snatches, but which in the jam was free to be observed at leisure. LED signs flashed the current speed limit: 80, an aspiration rather than a restriction at that precise moment and for some moments after.
Somewhere up ahead a truck had broken down in an exit lane, causing the traffic to stall. A man in overalls was attempting to hitch it to a large tow-truck. This would only be visible after several slow minutes and kilometres had passed.
A low concrete wall along the edge of the bridge blocked the view somewhat but would have presented no obstacle to a person who wanted to jump or throw something over. The traffic in this section of the bridge normally moved too fast for this to be possible, though now the middle lane was halted and leaving the car would be feasible, although at the risk of being struck by another vehicle before you could get to the wall to jump. To be struck by a car while attempting a bridge suicide would be ridiculous, though it no doubt happened.
It was easy to see how a sense of panic might arise: there was no way to go but forward, and forward was blocked. Even getting into one of the moving lanes and taking the wrong exit would be risky and would only lead back to the beginning of the journey, or worse, somewhere on the wrong side of the beginning.
The only thing to do was sit in the traffic jam and wait, imagining how much less stressful, if slower, it would have been to travel by bicycle then train.
The character had existed for a long time, but needed a suitably exotic location into which he could be imagined, a time and place where the action could unfold. A traffic jam on a freeway bridge presented a limited scope for action, though a foot pursuit on the tops of moving vehicles was one possibility.
The next-to-immediate problem was traversing the freeway itself for the next period of time, once the jam cleared and the traffic began to flow more freely. The freeway was narrow for much of its length and included a considerable stretch of tunnel where, due to an effect of the light and the incline in the road, the traffic seemed to move in one spot, without traversing actual space. Illuminated flashing signs punctuated the tunnel every hundred metres, conveying imperatives about road safety to the passing drivers.
Just after the point where trucks carrying containers to the port exited, many more trucks carrying loads away from the port entered, and so trucks carrying loads were a constant, not a variable. After the usual irregular period in which it was uncertain whether anything would ever be written again, the location was furnished unexpectedly by a news bulletin on the car radio, although not in the tunnel, as it was inaudible there. Authorities were searching for a ghost plane whose last known location was on a heading for a body of water in Indonesia known as the Java Sea.
This body of water, between Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, suggested itself as a location for several reasons.
It was extremely remote from the freeway bridge, and inaccessible by road from that location. On a map it looked relatively small, as if finding a plane that was lost there would be a matter of merely looking, perhaps even from the shores of the surrounding islands. However, in reality it was a large stretch of open sea and a plane was a tiny flyspeck.
While it is reported at one source that the Allies marched their army through the body of water in question during World War II, there were unlikely to be large trucks traversing its sea lanes. Merchant shipping will be a certainty, an advantage for reasons that would no doubt become apparent.
Two trucks travelled in the lane beside now, just ahead, at a speed that was too fast to pass and too slow to let them go on. It was necessary to sit beside them, just behind the second, in the driver’s blind spot, hoping he wouldn’t attempt to change lanes. The vinyl tarpaulin stretched taut along the side oscillated in the stream of air flowing over it. There was nothing to indicate what they might be carrying.
It’s a wonder people are able to drive on these freeways every day. A high degree of attention is required to keep a car moving at 100 kilometres an hour within the lane markings, and yet thousands, even tens of thousands of people do it, often at the same time, as can be observed by levitating through the sunroof of a car to a point several hundred metres above, from where the immensity of the traffic stream, stretching endlessly along the asphalt ribbon in both directions to the horizon, becomes apparent.
That so many people do it with such low levels of attention – with radios or music playing, while talking on mobile phones, while daydreaming about something, anything, else – without coming to grief is nothing short of astonishing.
It also made you wonder: if gravity waves exist, as they are now reported to, what was the effect of the waves generated by the heavy trucks’ passage at high speed and so close by? Was a ripple being experienced even then, however infinitesimal?
Now that the traffic was moving freely, although at a reduced speed imposed by overhead LED signs, the suburbs rolled past beyond the crash barriers: green fields, the tops of trees, expanses of tile roof, railway stations, all in a kind of slow spin on an axis that was difficult to discern.
It turned out that the Java Sea was inhabited by a chain known as the Sunda Islands, and although not much seemed to be known about tourism in the islands, there was considerable exotic marine life in the sea’s shallow waters. This was not widely considered an attraction, and yet perhaps it should have been.
This would prove decisive. Now it was possible to switch to autopilot and let the car cruise at a precise speed in the middle of the lane markers, and to turn attention to a World War II naval battle that had been fought in this body of water in Indonesia known as the Java Sea. It was possible to let the vehicle go, with the pilot no longer in command of the wheel and the course set, a ghost car with enough fuel to carry it way past the intended exit following the carriageway as it snaked along the bed of an ancient river that defined the topography of the city. The radar and the robot car would both do their jobs, carrying their silent, pensive passenger, unaware, overshooting to some final resting point beyond the body of water that could be calculated by anyone who had the data. And when the traffic slowed and stopped the car would stop, and when it started again the story would continue, and if not nothing would be left but the investigators, pondering whether mechanical failure or human error had brought the story to this sudden conclusion. #


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