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
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
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
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?
The telephone rang after ages and its ring seemed extra loud, as if it was