The Driver

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  • Published: 7 Jul 2014
  • Updated: 7 Jul 2014
  • Status: Complete
Just another day at work for the Driver. He's waiting for his next Passenger, who's in store for quite a surreal road trip. Which should be starting soon. It looks as if he's about to jump. Because you know how they say as you die your life flashes before your eyes? Well, it's sort of true. It's just not how you imagined it.

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When they next stopped the Passenger knew exactly where he was. He had so hated the building that the features of it were seared deep into his brain; except here the angular shapes of the doorway were emphasised, elongated, and the Passenger could see not a drop of colour gracing the entire structure. He was positive that back in the living world (he resented himself for using this terminology, both as he was not fully ready to admit that he was dead and because it was the language used by the devil himself) the place had not actually been so completely drab and unpleasant. But when he woke up in the morning and, after a few blissful moments, realized that he had work to go to, this was the place that loomed up out of the fogs of his mind to sneer at him, not the call centre which had really stood.

“It's kind of film noir, isn't it?” came the voice of the Driver, jolting the Passenger out of his thoughts. He had already killed the engine. When the Passenger said nothing in return, he opened the car door and got out, slamming it shut behind him. The Passenger came after, tentatively looking around him as if he expected another horrific surprise to reveal itself any moment.

The Driver took a pack of cigarettes from within his jacket and put one into his mouth before offering the packet to the Passenger. He looked at them blankly and said nothing.

“Come on,” said the Driver, shaking the packet. “Live a little.”

He cringed and slid the cigarettes back within his jacket.

“Sorry. Would that you could, am I right?”

Still the Passenger said nothing. He was looking at the ugly grey building once again and did not even seem to have heard. The Driver shrugged and lit the cigarette, and then he began to make his way toward the entrance. He sensed that the Passenger was following behind him with timid steps. As he pushed through the revolving door and into the foyer he almost laughed. Everything in here was some various shade of grey too, down to the potted plants in the corner. Even the surly-looking receptionist at the desk had skin the colour of new-laid tarmac.

“Well, this is just me taking a wild guess here,” grinned the Driver as the Passenger came through the revolving door. “But I'm getting...boring. Mundane. Monotonous. Mind-numbing. Stop me when I get warm.”

The Passenger flashed him a disgruntled look but pushed past him toward the elevator. He seemed to know where he was going. The Driver watched him for a few moments before turning to the receptionist.

“Excuse me, my dear,” he said as he leaned over her desk to stub out his cigarette in an ashtray. The woman herself did not seem to have heard, and her grey eyes remained locked on her grey computer screen, her grey fingers dancing over the grey keyboard furiously.

“Suit yourself. I won't ask you what time you get off work then,” muttered the Driver with another grin. As he made his way over to the Passenger there came a soft dinging sound and the elevator doors swung open.

The elevator was tiny, and there was barely enough room for the both of them to fit. The Driver found himself squashed up against one wall.

“So, what floor-,” he began, but he looked down to find that there was only one button, for floor 5. The Passenger noted this with a grim expression and pushed it. The elevator lurched upwards, and it was an uncomfortable and slow seven minutes before the doors slid open once again. The Driver darted out as soon as they did so.

“Jesus,” he said. “I think we would have been better taking the stairs.”

Many low voices were talking on floor 5, all with the same robotic, emotionless tone. The Driver looked up and realisation dawned on his face. Floor 5 was massive, ridiculously so. The Driver strained his eyes but he could not see the wall at the other end of the room. Between him and it (if the room even ended at all) were dozens and dozens of little booths, and it was from them that the voices came. The Driver began to walk alongside them, peering into each one as he passed it.

In the first he found a portly man of various shades of grey with a headset on, seated on a chair much too small to properly support him at a desk with a very old computer. In the second booth he found a similar man, seated at a similar desk. In the third it was the same story, as it was in the fourth booth, as well as the sixth and seventh, and in all the booths the Driver walked by until he eventually stopped and turned back toward the elevator.

“Christ. How long did you work here?” he called back to the trembling figure against the wall. The colour in the cheeks of this portly figure had drained, but this had left him a pale pink colour, rather than the surly grey of the rest of floor 5's inhabitants.

The Driver stood on tiptoes and looked out over the sea of grey booths and grey men, stretching out as far as he could see. Their voices were a garbled mess in the Driver's ears. He felt a twinge of pity for his Passenger, although it did not last long.

The Passenger had not looked into any of the booths but he knew from the too-familiar tone of the voices clustered in the air what he would find if he did. His eyes were wide and staring as he backed up against the wall, searching for the elevator. Eventually his fingers found cool metal and he whipped around to find that the doors were closed. He scanned the surrounding wall rapidly, desperately, but there was no button to summon it. A cool dread settled over the Passenger. Despite the gargantuan room he suddenly felt very claustrophobic. His hands went to his collar, fighting to loosen it quickly.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a dark green shape, standing out against the colourless tones of the rest of floor 5. He turned slowly to get a better look at it, barely moving his head at all. There was a door. The Passenger found his legs had turned to jelly and would not grant him haste, but he edged slowly along the wall toward it, his eyes fixed upon on the plastic bar which would grant him freedom from this...hell. The term was unavoidable. Eventually, after a few minutes which seemed a few eternities, he found himself before it, and, breathing a long, slow sigh, his sweaty palm went to the push bar.

Suddenly the voices on floor 5 all silenced at once and every grey man in every grey booth leaned out and looked at the Passenger standing at the exit. The Driver jumped back and cursed, surprised, but then his eyes followed theirs and he saw what had interrupted them. The Passenger gave a yelp as he saw that the Driver had caught sight of him. He pushed open the door hastily, and, almost tripping as he did so, disappeared through it. The Driver gave a thin smile.

“They always try to run,” he said dryly. 

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