by Tim Britto
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Lou is a taxi driver who begins to see his passengers’ true selves in his rearview mirror. The visions frighten him at first, but he soon begins to enjoy his views into people’s lives. He even begins helping some passengers with kind words and deeds. But one passenger’s dark secret terrifies him, and he decides to do something about it.
My neurologist called with my test results a week after my appointment. I’d forgotten all about my visit to his office, but it was nice to hear that my brain was perfectly healthy.
I was feeling so good about life in general and myself in particular that I began talking with Lauren for longer and longer stretches of time. At one point, it seemed like she hinted at us going on a date. I was ready to finally ask her out. It was better late than never, I supposed. But her cell phone rang and she had to take the call. I decided to wait for another opportunity.
Then, more than a month after it all began, I began to wonder if maybe I wasn’t being shown these images for some reason. Was it all just some coincidence? Had the perfect set of circumstances come together to allow me access to people’s secrets for no reason whatsoever? Or was I supposed to do something with my insights?
I gave advice and cheered people up when I could, but was I meant to do more? Or, as I thought equally as often, had I simply read one too many Spiderman comics as a kid? Had Spidey’s Uncle Ben’s adage: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ wormed its way into my thoughts and found a nice home there? I struggled with these questions.
And then I picked up Kyle.
I didn’t know his name was Kyle when he first got into my cab. He was just an odd guy who showed too many teeth when he smiled and seemed to cut his own hair. He was close to my age and had long fingers that he constantly moved.
The first thing he did that made him stand out was sit in the front passenger seat even though there was no one in the back seat. A lot of the guys I work with don’t like that. It makes them feel vulnerable or something not having that Plexiglas divider between them and the customer. Some would have even asked him to get into the backseat before they started driving. But I kind of liked it. It made it seem like I was driving a friend around who would throw me a few bucks at the end of the trip rather than a customer who had to pay me. I had an empty, plastic takeout container on the seat from a late lunch. He moved it to the floor with a smile.
He also talked a lot. That’s not so odd, I suppose, but it’s getting rarer and rarer. Most people say their destination and that’s it. A few, mostly out-of-towners, ask if this restaurant is as good as they’ve heard or where the single girls are most likely to hang out. Some others, usually after a few drinks, will start going on and on about their problems or triumphs. But they’re getting less frequent by the day.
This guy wasn’t drunk. He just wanted to talk.
“Ya gotta be careful with them girls, my man. They’ll take everything from you without a second thought. It’s all just part of their cycle, I’m pretty sure,” he said with no preamble once we were heading towards the address he gave.
“Well I don’t know about that. Sure, some girls are just after money. But I think most are just looking for someone to spend their days with. If they’re looking for anyone at all, that is.”
He was shaking his head so violently I thought he was gonna sprain his neck. “No, no, no, don’t let ’em fool ya. They want people to believe that they’re looking for a husband to share their bed and help raise kids. But it’s a lie. A lie the media and Hollywood help perpetuate.”
“OK, then what do you think they really want?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Am I the only one who sees it?” He shook his head in exasperation and gave me a look like I was to be pitied. "They’re after our very souls, my man. They want what makes men, you know, men.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Of course not, you’ve been brainwashed! All these reality shows with girls wetting ’emselves over wedding gowns and flowers. Nicholas freaking Sparks making every real-life romance seem like a watered-down pile of turds when compared to the romances in his stories. Even Oprah’s in on it.”
“Yes, even Oprah. They wantcha to believe that women can be trusted. They wantcha to let your guard down. You’re supposed to take a girl out for dinner, open the door for her, pull out her chair, and invite her back to your place. All just so the girl can take what makes you uniquely you.”
By that point it was already one of the weirder conversations in my eleven years. But it wasn’t so much weirder than the guy who tried to convince me that Elvis was alive, well, and trying to hack it as a graffiti artist going by the tag line Blu Fox. Or the two women who were convinced the government built an underwater city in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They told me with solemn expressions that it was being stocked with provisions and the smartest one percent of the population in expectation of the world ending.
What really bothered me was the fact that I couldn’t see his reflection because he was sitting in the front. I tried moving around to get a glimpse but that didn’t work. He was seated with his back almost against his door so he could look straight at me while he tried to open my eyes to the truth of the ‘girl conspiracy’, as he called it.
We were only two blocks from his destination when I could stand it no longer. After we stopped at a red light, I reached out and pivoted the mirror to the right so I could see him in it. He smiled at me and for a second. I thought he knew what was going on. But then he kept talking.
“Girls probably get a kick outta making us pay for dinner before taking our souls.”
I nodded my head as I stared at the mirror and stifled a scream.
In the reflection, my passenger was in a field of red. At first, I thought the color was because of a setting sun, but I quickly realized that the red was dripping. It was blood. Everything was covered in it, including my customer. His fingers were replaced with talons, and his grin literally stretched from ear to ear and revealed teeth belonging to a T-Rex.
There were bodies strewn all around him. I think there were pieces of bodies too, although I didn’t study them all that intently. And amid all of it, my customer couldn’t have looked happier.
His words shook me out of my trance. I looked at him before stepping on the gas. I wanted him out of my car as fast as possible. I pulled up to his address.
He smiled. “I know it’s a lot to process, my man, but it’s true. Every word of it is true. Watch out for ’em.” He moved to close the door but ended up leaning back in towards me. “Do you mind if I grab this empty container?”
I just nodded my head, not caring about the container I was just going to recycle anyway. He tipped well but, later that night, I gave the money to a homeless man near my apartment.
I drove five or six blocks before I noticed the envelope on the floor next to me. I pulled over and picked it up. It was a letter addressed to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. I considered going back to return it but decided against it immediately. I had no desire to listen to that man speak again. And I certainly didn’t want to see what his apartment was like. I figured I’d throw it in the mail the next chance I had.
I was walking to the mailbox the next day to do just that when I realized there was no postage on it. I could have thrown it in anyway, and it would have made its way back to his return address. Then the image of Kyle covered in blood while smiling that predatory smile returned to the forefront of my mind. For some reason, this made me hesitate. I put the letter in my pocket and returned to my cab. This story, not to mention my life, would have been very different if I’d done otherwise.
That envelope stayed on my dashboard as I went about my business. It seemed to be trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what.
I started driving by his address. I told myself that I was simply doing my job and looking for fares. I ignored the fact that it was a slow area for picking people up. I ate lunch at a small deli half a block away from his apartment two days in a row.
Finally, I decided I was gonna go to his apartment despite my revulsion. I’d say the letter fell under the seat so it took me a few days to notice it. It felt like the right decision to make despite the nausea it caused. I parked across the street from where I’d dropped him off.
And then I hesitated.
I sat and stared at the building. A man with a bushy moustache tapped on my window to ask if I was on duty. I shook my head no, and he walked away without another word but gave me more than one odd look. It began to grow dark, and my shift ended. I ignored my radio. I had picked up a shift for a sick friend, so they couldn’t be too mad at me back at dispatch. I could’ve gone home for the night. But I waited.
And then I saw him.
He wasn’t alone. A tall, buxom redhead walked next to him in a cheap-looking dress and too much make-up. They walked with their eyes straight ahead. The one time she spoke, he sneered at her and shook his head from side to side. They disappeared into his building just as the nausea in my gut was replaced by an ice-cold lump of fear.
I decided I’d waited long enough and got out of my car. I clutched the envelope in one hand as I power-walked across the street. I began pushing buttons on the intercom. The first two never responded. The third answered but didn’t care that I had forgotten my keys and wouldn’t open the door. The fourth never even spoke before the buzzing sounded that signaled the front door was unlocked. I entered, feeling like a criminal but unable to turn back.
The apartment listed on the return address was 3A. I heard a muffled conversation through the closed door but couldn’t make out any words. There was the tinkling of glasses and forced, feminine laughter following a lengthy discourse by the male voice. Then there was a thud and a crash as a glass was broken and something large, like an adult’s body, hit the floor.
I knew I had to act fast. I could already hear something being dragged across the floor. I didn’t think. I just lowered my shoulder and threw it at the door. The pain was immediate. In the movies doors are so easy to dislodge from their frames. I found out how fictitious that was, and my shoulder still hurts from the lesson. I grabbed the handle to save myself from falling, and it turned beneath my hand.
The door swung open, and I was face to face with my former passenger. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised. I saw the body of the woman on the floor behind him. He looked at her, then back at me, and, of all things, he smiled.
“She was trying to brainwash me, my man.”
I punched him.
He went down but bounced back up right away and began throwing fists in a furious but uncoordinated attempt to take my head off. I’d been in more than one fight in my life and knew how to defend myself. I landed two hard shots to his chin with my right hand. He went down again. This time he stayed down.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by Tim Britto