Thursday, 20 September 2012

Part 1

It’s 1am and I’ve got 15 wretched hours of traveling under my belt by the time I arrive.
I feel wrung out. No other way to put it. Like I’ve been pummeled around in a dirty washing machine while bleach burns, and the sides of the drum paint my body blue with bruises. I feel like any greasy son of a bitch with stones enough to take advantage of me could have my worth, though I think to myself I’ll be dammed if I’m going to let these thieving bastards get me that easily. But like a bloody fool whose eyes are red raw and burning from ammonia and lack of sleep, I stammer a dimwitted yes to the first man that approaches and addresses me as sir.
He is a skeleton, tall and dark, sporting a thick moustache, an ill-fitting suit and shoes too big for his feet. He smells faintly of spice and petrol, an odd marriage of flavours –though not offensively so. He wrings his bony hands together and introduces himself to me. He is a taxi driver. He narrows his right eye, glances over his shoulder quickly and whispers something to me. With a firm resolve, I answer his question with the same question any self-respecting man would have asked in my place.
“How much will it run me, by god?”
And before I know it I’m packing my bags into a rusted old tin can, heavy as twenty goddamn sacks of bricks and reliable as a neglected lover. How did I get here? Where am I going? Is this man friend, or foe? What on earth compelled me to embark on this terrible odyssey, and why is it only dawning on me now? No time for such thoughts though, only rash decisions.
Another man approaches and snakes his head in through the window. He licks his lips and extends his filthy hand.
“Fifteen hundred rupees, sir,” he exclaims.
My mind races. Do I haggle? I know he’s a crook. Who does he take me for? My head is spinning.
“You’re not getting a cent more than a thousand, you leech!”
Did I say that or just think it? I blink heavily, and study his face. No reaction. I reluctantly throw him fifteen hundred rupees and his head vanishes from the window. No sooner than it is gone, I am bouncing down a dark concrete abyss, pocked with potholes and sleeping dogs and hooligans, traveling a hundred thousand miles an hour, horn blazing and temper white-hot.

After a grueling thirty minutes, we pull off the main road and slowly make our way down an overpass beside a small river. It feels significant, like we’ve reached our destination. I glance around. Something is wrong. There are no hotels here. No buildings at all, in fact. Hell, this is barely even a road! I sit up and force my eyes to focus. Almost dozed off there.
Through the fog and headlights, I can barely make out two men staring at us. Criminality and murder leeches into the air from their hungry silhouettes like the stench rising from a carcass in the midday sun. I can smell desperation and darkness on them. I can taste the eager chatter of bone on bone as their teeth grind and click in expectation.
Then it hits me. I don’t know this driver, this midnight ferryman. This isn’t a taxi. This is a death cab. This is a two-ton wrought iron coffin. This is where the Brutus licks his bloody blade and screams fire and madness into the air, croaking and praising the foolish trust of the man whose throat he feasts upon. This is it. This is where I’m carried off and pulled apart, kicking dust and breaking bones until I lie still and am left for the magpies, or worse. This is where it all begins.             
“Where in god’s name am I?” I think to myself as I feebly grope around in the darkness until my hands clutch my precious passport, and the money I have stashed inside. How did it come to this? I stuff everything into my socks like a madman, though above the divide of the seat in front of me I feign a cool interest in my surroundings and attempt to stifle a fake yawn with a short, nonchalant exhalation.
The ferryman’s left eye twitches in the mirror as he sniffs and switches gears. His gaze comes to rest on me, reflected in the rear view mirror, as we come almost to a halt in front of the two men, still cloaked in a shadowy mirage just beyond the pale blue of the headlights. My ears burn. My stomach is a string, pulled just shy of snapping and it is giving off the acrid aroma of skin licked by acid. There is a dull thudding. I can’t quite place it. I glance around, and the thudding becomes a thick taste of bile in my throat. Then the horrible realization washes over me like a dank and salty tide, carrying unfamiliar and exotic filth from treacherous foreign lands. The thudding is in my mouth. It IS my mouth. My heart is so far up my esophagus that it feels as though I’m choking on the taste of a rich, congealed copper.
The two men fall into the headlights and I catch a flash of their teeth, yellow-stained from tobacco, and crooked. I make eye contact, allow a breath of precious oxygen and steel myself.
“I’ll have those rotten teeth in my knuckles before the night is finished,” I think to myself.
The driver winks at me in the rear view mirror, as if in agreement, then the tires sing a beautiful crescendo and the road places giddy kisses upon the spinning, heavenly notes.

No comments:

Post a Comment