Copyright June 23, 2014 SB-TFC
All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The Peculiar Passenger
Forty three years today I had been driving cab in this thriving city, young and old have slid across my back seat, most were quite engaging while some had a less than pleasant disposition. Countless lives whom in passing shared with me a tiny glimpse into their fragile souls. I spent my life living vicariously through my passengers, sharing in their successes and failures. Through them I travelled the world, through them I experienced love and loss. I had spent a lifetime living the lives of my passengers that I never gave much thought to experiencing it myself. I had no need or desire to do so until now.
It was on this rather blustery evening in late fall as the wind brought solid sheets of rain pelting across my windshield, I listened to rhythmic sound of the wipers whooshing back and forth lulling me into a melancholy mood as I came to terms with the realization that this would be my last time in the drivers seat. I had no plan, no direction, I never prepared for this day. Maybe I was delusional thinking this day would never come. I was such a stupid old fool. I was to be retired like an old vinyl record. I had no family, no special person to spend my golden years with. I was alone. What will become of me?
I was manoeuvring through the slick wet streets when I passed the railway station. A rather meager looking man in his black rain slicker that looked a few sizes too big for his spindly stature flagged me down. The hood of the raincoat covered his head leaving his face in murk obscuring his features. It was when he slid into the back that I noticed he was holding a plain brown package no bigger than a shoe box that was wrapped tightly in clear plastic. He spoke barely above a whisper as he informed me of his destination.
We left the throng and glare of the beating pulse of the city letting the horn blasts and random shouts fade into the night. Eventually the unforgiving pavement reluctantly retreated and gave way to the rougher uneven terrain of the countryside. A crisp freshness replaced the heavy exhaust fumes and the soft pungent scent of earth drifted along the passing streams of air currents.
The rain had subsided and the thick black clouds parted floating off allowing the starlight and moon to cast a muted glimmer along the deserted roads. I glanced in the rear view mirror to check on my eerily silent passenger who began to lower his hood. As the moonlight shone through the glass his complexion appeared to have a waxen glow in the gloomy shadows. His eye sockets were hollowed as his translucent skin stretched across his face lending him sharp piercing features. I felt a twinge of sorrow as I got the impression that he was in extremely poor health and that there was a possibility he was nearing the end.
My thoughts shifted to the package that sat in his lap. Maybe he was delivering a rare antique. Possibly he kept his life savings stored in that box. Perhaps it contained all his worldly positions or it could even be the remains of his lost love. He suddenly spoke sending an electric volt resonating through my body shocking me out of my reverie.
“Would you like to know what is in the box?”
His voice was still barely above a whisper, as his words felt like a soft breath in my ear. His tone had an odd echo that vibrated through my head. I instantly glanced up in the mirror. He was still leaning back in the seat, appearing not to have moved at all.
“Pardon me?” I stuttered, as I was still foggy from being so lost in thought that maybe I had just imagined that he had spoken to me.
“Would you like to know what is in the box?” he said again, although now there was a rough raspy tone that had etched into his speech.
“I suppose I do.” I answered so shakily that I could barely get the words out.
“Pull over and I will show you.” he said as he indicated to a narrow pathway that cut through a corn field up ahead.
The moon was as round as a saucer as it glowed high in the heavens above. The slightly soggy earth glistened in the moonlight from the recent rain but was solid enough so that the tires held their grip as I made my way a few feet from the road along the path. The spent stalks of corn towered along the edges of the path disappearing over a small hill and faded into the inky black horizon. I put the car in park and leaned over the back seat.
Never even hearing the faintest sound, my passenger had already removed the plastic from the box as I turned around. He held the box up with long thin fingers that were more bone than flesh. “Open it” he said as if he were offering me Christmas present.
My heart started thrumming in my chest and I felt a wet trickle of sweat run down my armpit. I stared down at the box about to lift the top with my aged spotted hand when I paused, just hovering above the lid and I looked up at my passenger. He met my gaze with an intensity of a raging fire burning in the depths of hell. Before my mind registered what my hand had actually done, I was holding the lid. I tried to scream but the sound caught in my throat only producing a gagged croak as thousands of shadows flew up out of the box and swirled around my mortal vessel and began to squeeze my essence from me. My arms flailed about banging into the steering wheel and smashing into the rear view mirror shattering it, spraying tiny shards of sharp points into my pallid skin, but I could no longer feel anything as the maelstrom of shadows frenzied rampage began to consume every inch of my being.
I opened my eyes as the sun was beginning to peak up over the hill in the distance. The corn stalks slightly rustled as a light breeze brushed over their dried carcasses, I quickly turned around and my passenger was gone. All that remained was his black rain slicker sprawled out across the back seat. Next to me sat the plain brown box with its lid securely in place. My head hurt, but patting down myself all seemed to be in order. I got out and opened the back door and grabbed the raincoat and put it on. A perfect fit.
I felt exhilarated as I drove back into the city and dropped my cab off at the taxi stand for the last time. I collected the box from the car and tucked it under my arm. Today I was officially retired, and today I had a new vocation to pursue. I was anxious to get started as the collector of souls.