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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The Passenger took the steps two at a time, bracing himself against the bannister as he descended. It felt like his chest was on fire and his breath rasped horribly but he dared not slow even slightly. He jumped the last few steps of the staircase onto the fourth floor and hit the ground hard. One of his legs gave way and the Passenger stumbled, almost fell. He steadied himself just in time and raised himself up once again. He looked up and found himself staring into dark grey eyes, felt sick as he saw that sneering grin appear once more.

“Where do you think you're going to go?” the Driver asked, leaning nonchalantly against the wall as if he had all the time in the world.

The Passenger did not wait to hear if he was going to say anything more. He took off down the next flight of stairs, even faster than before, faster than he believed he had run in years. An acute terror had gripped his muscles and was lending them strength. As he rounded the corner of the staircase he started and almost toppled down onto the third floor. A perfect clone of himself was leaning against the bannister smoking a cigarette. He looked up almost lazily as he saw the Passenger.

“I wasn't lying when I said I was the projectionist,” the Driver went on, blowing out a thin stream of smoke. “But a projectionist controls the flick, doesn't he? Should the mood take him, he could alter the film. Put a piece where it doesn't belong. Stop it altogether.”

The Passenger began to run again, trying to shut out the words. He tensed as he went by the Driver but no arm shot out, no move was made to try and stop him. As the Passenger's feet hit the next flight of steps the Driver's voice called after him.

“I'm in control here, friend. You can't get away.”

The Passenger tried to focus his mind on running and shut all else out. He tore down the staircase and tried his best to ignore the individuals whom he saw consistently on each level. Standing, leaning, smoking, grinning. A tall man with a beard, a beautiful woman with long eyelashes, a youth dressed all in black. The Passenger just kept running, not even fully knowing what he was going to do when he got outside. Hijack the car? And go where? Este demonio would follow him wherever he went with ease.

The Passenger was sure that he had descended many more flights of stairs than just the five that there should have been, but just as he was beginning to think the staircase would never end he emerged into the grey lobby once again. Taking only a few seconds to catch his breath, he bolted past the receptionist, still typing away intensely, and burst through the revolving door.

The sunlight almost blinded him and he raised a pudgy hand to shield his eyes. The tall, looming figures of the skyscrapers and the thick blanket of shadow they casted seemed to have vanished. As his eyes adjusted to the brightness the Passenger saw in front of him a park, full and green with a lake at its centre. Children could be heard playing and birds tweeted high overheard as if it were the height of summer. It would all have felt real if not for the lack of smell; no scent of fresh cut grass not sweet aroma of ice cream. This reminded the Passenger that all he saw before him was just his memory of a place which, for him, no longer existed.

There was a bench just ahead of him, and the Passenger could see the silhouettes of two people seated upon it. They were huddled close, so close in fact they looked more like one person. But the Passenger knew better. He remembered the girl vividly, or he had thought that he did. He could not see her face from where he stood and for the life of him he could not conjure up her features in his mind. But he remembered her name.

In the blink of an eye the silhouettes were gone and they took the sounds of the children and the birds with them so that the park fell silent. There was not even the sound of the wind rustling through the trees any longer. The Passenger took a few cautious steps across the grass until he reached the bench. He looked at its wooden form and smiled before seating himself comfortably. He stared out across the lake and remembered when he had last been here, all those years before. He was glad that he still remembered it.

“Pretty girl,” said a voice directly beside him, but this time it did not make the Passenger jump. He had been expecting it.

The Driver reclined on the bench beside him and took a long drag from his cigarette, back in his original guise. His eyes had even returned to their original deep blue.

“I don't remember what exactly she looked like,” the Passenger told him. “But I remember thinking that she was beautiful. When I was here. I remember that.”

The Driver nodded and flicked away the end of his cigarette. He stood up, dusting himself off.

“We'd best be off. My hay fever's playing up. Could get ugly.”

This he said with his usual sidelong grin but the Passenger did not notice it. He was still staring out at the lake, lost in his memories. The Driver cleared his throat.

“Sorry to break up this touching little moment, but I did mention an itinerary-”

“I know who you are,” The Passenger said suddenly.

The Driver folded his arms and cocked his head to one side ever so slightly.

“Is that so?”

“Usted es la Muerte.”

At this, the Driver sighed and made his way over to his car again. It was parked up on the pavement next to the park, a little way behind the bench on which the Passenger sat. He rested both hands on its roof and for a while he said nothing. Eventually he turned back toward the Passenger.

“I'm not Death,” he said. “I'm just his driver.”

The Passenger turned over his shoulder to look at him. The Driver opened the passenger-side door of the car and gestured inside.

“Your chariot awaits.”

 

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