This is Episode Twelve in the ‘FEAR’ series
The previous episode is HERE
John settled into the back of the taxi and felt his body relax for the first time since he had left the house what felt like an age ago. In truth it had only been a few hours since he had received that phone call. The effects of having been on the go for so long were catching up with him. In the warmth of the car his tiredness started to take over and he slowly dozed off. Looking in the rear-view mirror the driver noticed that John had fallen asleep and smiled to himself.
Some time later John awoke with a start. He looked out of the cab window and realised he had no idea where they were. He remembered that he had asked the driver to take him to the Admiral Hotel in Waterloo Road and assumed that they would pass through the centre of town. John’s thinking being that as the centre was normally busy he would be safe. John didn’t recognise the street they were in at all and his sense shot up to full alert once more.
“Where are we?” he asked the diver as calmly as possible.
“There’s been an accident so we’ve had to take a diversion round here,” the driver told him. John thought that his answer was plausible but was still uncomfortable.
“Are we nearly there?” John still didn’t trust the driver completely.
“Normally we would have been thee already, but we’ve doubled back a bit, so it’s taking longer than normal. It won’t be long now.” The driver honked his horn, braked and shook his fist as someone ran across the road in front of the taxi startling John. The driver shouted at the pedestrian in his own language that John couldn’t place.
“Some persons are so stupid here,” the driver said, turning to John and shaking his head.
“Where are you from?” John asked.
“Now I am from the east of town, where property is affordable, but originally I am from Afghanistan, but that doesn’t make me a terrorist, OK?” It sounded like the driver had given this speech many times before.
John wondered if he had picked up on the mistrust that John felt. “No of course not, have you been here long?” he asked. He wasn’t really interested but felt he had upset the driver and wanted to smooth things over, although he couldn’t give a reasonable answer why he wanted to do that.
“Eight years it will be next month. We, my wife and me, came here eight years ago in May,”
“Would you eve think about going back?” John was slightly interested now.
“Would you live there?” the driver asked. “Life expectancy is at an all time low. If you don’t get killed by your own kind then you can expect to die from so called collateral damage. Life is worth nothing in my country. Maybe some day if things change I will return. ”
“I’m sorry,” John understood how the man felt. He too felt like his options were limited and that he was in an unsafe zone.
John took a moment to check his watch. he had only been asleep a few minuted before the memory of the scream had woken him. He considered the driver’s explanation for why they were where they were and thought that he may well be telling the truth. He pulled his bag towards him. It felt like that was all he had in the world at that moment. In doing so he noticed that the lights on the door handles were red. he was locked in. John’s heart started beating a little faster again as he realised that even if the driver was not taking him to where he wanted to go he had no means of escape.
The driver turned right at the next set of traffic lights and the street suddenly became busy. The road was jam-packed with cars and there were several people on the street despite the late hour.
“Kicking out time.” the driver said over his shoulder by way of explanation. “Is always busy down here at this time. A good place to get a fare.” He smiled at John in the rear-view mirror revealing teeth that were in need of some work.
John suddenly realised where they were. He recognised the street. The Admiral Hotel was only a couple of blocks away John realised with relief.
The road was so busy that the taxi didn’t move for two to three minutes, and when it did move it only went a few metres along the road.
“With this weather I wouldn’t be surprised if thee wasn’t another accident down there. They’re not spending much on keeping the road s safe and it’s not normally this busy,” the driver suggested.
“I could easily walk from here, If you let me out,” John told the driver.
“You’ll freeze out there, mate. Just look at those that are walking. Not a happy place. You might as well wait in here with me.”The driver eyed John in the rear-view mirror again, smiling and showing off his gapped teeth.
“It’s not that far and I’m supposed to be meeting someone, and I’m late already.” John lied
“They most probably will be late too,” the driver countered. “You might as well stay in the warm.”
“All the same, I think the walk will wake me up,” John held up the fare that showed on the meter in front adding a generous ten pounds.
Noting the large tip the driver quickly opened the diving window and grabbed the money without further argument.
John looked down. The light on the doors was still red. “The doors?” he said indicating that he was still locked in.
“Sorry mate,” The driver said clicking a button that turned off the lights and released the rear doors. “I still think you’re going to freeze,”
“Thanks.” John grabbed his bag and jumped out of the taxi. IT was freezing outside. John pulled up his collar against the cold and set off down the street. Sure enough two blocks down the road there was an accident. The driver had been right and hadn’t been any threat after all. The roads were particularly slippery that night due to the previous snow and they had frozen over s the temperature had plummeted with nightfall. John held on tightly to his bag as he navigated a safe path along the street.
‘Busy taxi drivers, busy roads, busy night,’ John thought to himself as he put his head down and trudged forward. The wind was blowing strongly down this part of the street and it too k all his strength to battle against it towards what he hoped wouldn’t be a busy hotel.