Driver for the Dead
The first person I ever drove was my mother, a few days after her funeral.
She came to me while I slept. I was blurry eyed and still half asleep when I agreed, fetching my keys and wandering to the car. It was once in the car, with only the moon and the green of traffic lights scattering color across sodden blacktop, that I realized what was happening.
She didn’t speak much, just said she needed to get to the airport.
That’s how they all are, I’ve found. Only half aware, they ask for a ride to the airport, or the ferry, or sometimes the train station. They show up in the dead of night, or in the early morning dawn standing alongside my bed. Once I get them to where they want to go they just disappear, no words, not even a gesture.
I guess it’s their way of moving on.
Most are peaceful, calm. They had died of old age, or some sickness. Sometimes, though very rarely, they’ll have died from some tragic accident, then they appear in the manner they died, broken, torn apart.
I try not to look at them too closely, especially the broken ones. It’s not just that the sight of a bloodied, ruined face sitting calmly next to you in the passenger seat is unnerving, it’s the chance that I’ll recognize them.
It’s easier when I don’t think of them as people, they’re just … lingering pieces of a lost soul looking to depart this world.
That became my life, until I met Harriet.
She was my light, a singular flame that beat back the darkness, and for the very first time I found real purpose. Together we had a child named Thomas, and that single flame became two. I still continued to drive, not often, just a few nights per week. Harriet knew of course, and she told me she understood, though sometimes I felt as if she were simply humoring me.
And then Thomas died.
We knew it was coming. Leukemia. He was diagnosed too late, not long after his seventh birthday.
He lived for two more months.
I took to drinking, hard. But it completely broke Harriet. She would sit up late into the night, staring at the darkness at the end of our bed. I’d drink downstairs, alone, until I passed out. One night she found me there. She woke me, clawing at my shirt, her eyes bright, frantic.
“Sam, you’ll see him when he comes to you? You’ll see him. Let me speak with him, Sam. Please.”
I told her that I had never seen a child, only people our own age or older. She wouldn’t believe me. She started screaming. She got violent.
I had to leave, I had to, I couldn’t take it, but I wasn’t in any condition to drive.
I woke in the hospital, barely lucid. Machines hooked to my flesh, wires threaded through my veins, but Harriet was there. I saw her through the haze as doctors surrounded me, as they fought to keep me alive. The police were there too, asking questions that I couldn’t answer. Through it all Harriet stood beside me.
It was days later that I finally woke in the dead of night, still in the Hospital, the dim green light of those machines casting fractured silhouettes across the wall.
I turned to my side and Harriet was there.
I held out my hand and asked her what had happened, why was I here?
For a long moment she was quiet until finally she reached out to me. It was only then I noticed that the skin of her wrist had parted, her arm bloodied. Her hand slipped through mine.
“Sam,” She spoke softly. “I need a ride.”