The Unusual Driver

A lady returning from office, late at night on a desolated street, trying to find a cab but finds goons instead. Read on to find out how she manages to run away.
… …

The telephone rang after ages and its ring seemed extra loud, as if it was screaming for proving its existence.

Riya got surprised on hearing that unfamiliar sound. The call was from her home, they were tired of trying to reach her on her ever-silent cellphone.

It was half-past twelve, mid-night. By this time, the helper staff would have left the building and security personnel would have slept in their cabins. And Riya knew about this. She forgot to look at the clock in making the presentation more appealing. After all, it was her first big prospective order from a reputed client and she had to give her best.

She left the building after closing her office, rather reluctantly. She never liked to lock this building as she had grown a special attachment to this place. It was from here that she had started her own business, that was all hers – no dependence on anyone. But her business was growing and so was the need for a bigger office.

It was a business street and was covered with offices all the way to several intersections ahead. So, at night it seemed deserted and a little scary to people not familiar with this road.

Riya wasn’t afraid of this road, the darkness. She had walked on this street for all her life. She took the second exit from the first crossway. It was very easy to find a cab on that street, had it been a normal office leaving time. At this time, the street looked more deserted than the desert.

She went on walking while trying different apps to find a cab. But she couldn’t find anyone operating in that area at that time. And she could call for cab only if the cab is operating in the nearby vicinity. Technology has its limitations after-all.

She was desperately trying to get some service online when a gang of vagabonds appeared out of nowhere on the next carrefour. It seemed through their behavior that they were probably drunk. And it still wasn’t very safe for a lone girl pass by a group of men in this country.

She was wondering what to do, whether to take another road or to walk through that situation strongly, thinking positive or to walk while calling someone or pretending to do so… when a car horn startled her.

At once, her mind started shooting different thoughts – whether it’s another mob of trash people who have come to kidnap her or whether it’s just another patrol van, which will be more grievous for anyone at night as they will hypothesize a filmy situation of crime and adultery and will demand proof for one’s righteousness without having evidence of any offense.

When she turned she was happy to see the yellow colored number plate on the car. Finally, a cab had arrived on that forsaken street.

The cab stopped ahead of her and the driver looked directly at her without saying anything. She looked at him, saw the green light saying ‘Available’, was about to hop in the car, when thoughts started pouring in her mind again. Riya found it hard even to trust the cabbie.

The cab blew a squeaky horn that got her attention. She stopped again, and considered taking the cab. She saw those drunk strangers up ahead the crossway and found somehow more safer to go with a single stranger instead of a bunch of ’em.

She sat inside the cab and told him her destination. The cab driver started driving without a word. He didn’t even look back at her. However, Riya was constantly looking directly at him and then at the navigation in her cellphone. She kept an eye out for any wrong turn the cab might take.

He wore a normal sweatshirt and rugged pants with a not-matching cabbie hat. His dashboard was unacceptably clean for a taxi. And there was a small family picture pasted on the only empty space on the dashboard. The backdrop looked ancient, and the driver was weirdly young comparing his picture and his current face, Riya thought. The cab had a distinguishing smell, as if the upholstery was polished recently. The dashboard design was also very old compared to the cab nowadays.

“How come you don’t show up in the taxi app? I tried searching for cabs, but there weren’t any on the app.” Riya’s suspicion was still on.

“I haven’t connected my services with those apps. I still believe in the old ways. Streets were more safer back then.” driver replied without looking at her.

Riya looked at the antiquated taximeter, which was working surprisingly. She was comfortable to be sitting in an unregistered cab. But, she hadn’t enough options. She didn’t ask any further questions to the cabbie, and hoped to reach some active street, if not crowded at this hour.

All the things were causing her to be suspicious but then…

“Don’t worry madam. You’re safe now. Those drunk people, or anyone for that sake, won’t be a problem to you anymore.” Cabbie said.

Finally she trusted the cab driver enough to sit without suspicion. The cool breeze and the calm ride took Riya into a quick nap, unknowingly.

After a while, when she woke up, the engine sound was off. The car had stopped. She abruptly got up to see where she was. But then calmed down to see the familiar neighbourhood. She had reached her destination.

She turned to talk to the driver but stopped when she saw the driver was sitting without any movement or any motion whatsoever. She saw the meter for the fare and shuffled through her purse to get the money out. She dropped the amount in driver’s box without looking at the driver, where something caught her eye. The box was almost empty, but had a few old, outdated currency in it. That currency wasn’t in circulation since years.

“Thank you madam. You’ve paid generously.” the driver spoke in a weird voice.

Riya almost got a heart attack when she heard his husky, changed, broken voice. She dropped the currency notes that she was examining from the driver’s box at his abrupt break, and looked up to find that the driver had turned to look at her – for the first time all this while.

His face was deadened and a large, slant cut on his face that ran through his eyes agitated Riya. She stopped ajar at the sight of him, but she didn’t ask anything to him. She just smiled and hurriedly left the car. On her way out, she saw the rear-view mirror just for an instance but she couldn’t see the driver.

She panicked and ran a few steps. But then, she must have seen from a different angle, the driver must have shifted while she saw that mirror, or she might have just imagined that in her mind. She just wanted to take another look at that scarred face, to see that vintage cab again and feel that smell of new polish, she wanted to ask the cabbie how he got that scar, she wanted to take another look inside that mirror… she wanted to thank him from dropping her at the right place.

Having walked just a few steps from the car, she gathered all her courage and turned back towards the cab. Out of all the things that she could imagine, she wouldn’t have imagined this.

The car had turned from a vintage car to a scrap, and was broken into trash as if a truck had hit it. The windows were broken and sparks were flaring up the car. There was once a moment that she could see the driver burning inside the cab. The driver’s head turned back in his seat and saw directly towards Riya through the rear window.

Riya was terrified deep down to her every nerve that she couldn’t even move an inch at that horrific sight.

Just a blink and everything in front of her disappeared. As if the car was never there, the cabbie was her imagination and all these events were just pen downed by some horror-stricken writer; the street ahead of Riya was as clean and as empty as ever. The night was calm and silent again.

But then, she had come all this way from her office to her home. It just cannot be an imagery all inside her head. Can it?

There are many streets untraveled by people at night. And this cab lurks around those roads, not to harm anyone, but to prevent a harm.

But would you trust it? …If you find one that is, or if it finds you…

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