I quit my job. I guess you could say I am recovering. There were some issues with the management. When I started writing this blog my intention was to make at least two posts every month. I wanted to write about people, and the strange nuances that go along with cab driving.
I did not imagine myself being part of the story. Most nights I was too busy trying to sort everything out to put pen to paper. I've got stories, most in notebooks, but so much has happened and I feel like I'm jumping all over the place. I mean I brought up Delilah as a footnote, and then skipped unknown weeks or months ahead to the soul-baser...and you don't even know what that means...fuck, why should you?
The truth is I don't know where this story started and I can't promise much of an ending. Chronology is completely out the window at this point. If you can piece these things together, I congratulate you. Believe what you want.
They don't usually send us too far out of town. If someone wants to take a cab out of Peoria, they can go anywhere they want as long as they have the cash. But sending a cab out of town to pick someone up is always a risk. You never know what you'll find when you get out there.
I was headed to Edwards, a small town about ten miles from Peoria, and it seemed like an opportune time to spark a joint. Bad idea.
You have to understand, weed does very little to impair driving ability, especially on an experienced weed smoker and a professional driver, such as myself. If you're familiar with alcoholics, you may have heard some similar bullshit about their "high tolerance" and "driving better with a buzz." I never drink alcohol before driving, and I never will. If you don't smoke weed, take my word, alcohol is a completely different monster.
Two dark lanes of pavement extended out as far as my headlights would reach, constantly being replaced by another identical strip, every second, like an endless ribbon flowing under me, looping beneath and ending up on the horizon again.
Things started to get creepy out in the country. One minute there were lights, traffic, headaches, and college students, the next...the purple speckled sky towered brightly over the black corn fields stretching toward a solitary tree, barn, or farmhouse. They looked so vulnerable and isolated out there in the black; the open space could either crush or swallow them whole. And me just as easily.
A green highway sign that read Edwards was ominously twisting back and forth in the wind. A barren old tree extended its branches over the road and framed the last portion leading to a rickety old bridge that felt like some sort of border when I crossed it. I remember thinking This is probably what it feels like to be going the wrong direction over that bridge in Sleepy Hollow.
There wasn't much to see of Edwards at night. It was a small town. The upright citizens were sleeping, and their modest homes seemed quite safe and cozy on a cool, windy night. They should be eating soup, I thought. Cooked in a big, black pot. This town needs more fireplaces...and cobblestone.
I should have been thinking about the address I was looking for...I began frantically looking for house numbers, to no avail. The houses were too dark, most of them not at your typical distance or angle from the road. The mailman probably knows where everyone lives in this town anyway. And he doesn't have to work in the fucking dark, in a town where no one uses yard or porch lights.
The street signs were one typical word after another without the benefit of labels like North, South, East, West, Street, Avenue, Boulevard... Just white letters on forest green metal: Elm, Lincoln, Taylor, Main, Second...did I miss First?
A loud clunk from the front passenger side brought the car to a quick stop and scared the living shit out of me. Normally I may have thought it was just a pothole, but weed makes you a little paranoid.
I was immediately certain the same person who'd called the cab had planted some sort of spike strip in the road, blown my tire, and was currently waiting in the bushes with the rest of his inbred family, coven or biker gang. The second I stepped out of the car they'd have me...or worse...my eternal soul. What the fuck?
With my trustee mag-light in hand and pocket knife equipped as secondary, I journeyed out into the darkness. I let my eyes adjust and surveyed an empty street, the silence was paramount. I know I don't usually bust out the five dollar descriptors...but something about the solitude of the country makes you really remember the weight of the fucking Earth.
There was no time to be poetic. I was there to do the god damn job. First thing's first, check the tire...I shuffled over in Sub-Zero fashion, keeping my eyes on the side of the road until I was hovering over the flat...which was not flat at all, but a completely healthy tire.
"Well that's got to be good news," I said to no one in particular, just to break the silence. A woman screamed behind me. I jump-turned and frantically shined my light into the trees on the other side of a white gravel road. Nothing.
There was no one there, and I still could not hear a thing over my own heart. I waited a few long moments to confirm that I'd imagined it, before "Oh my God! No, no, Jesus!"
It was further away than it seemed the first time. She was somewhere in the woods, and without thinking much about it, I started jogging down the street toward the white gravel bordering the forest.
When I got close, I found a cement driveway leading up a small hill, to a large, two story brown house, almost completely invisible among the trees, a single window hovering in yellow light guided me up. At some point I rationalized that they probably called the cab since it was the only light I'd seen. Then I immediately wondered what they would think when I told them the cab was down a few blocks...
I opened the old black metal screen door as quietly as I could, and decided to have a listen before I knocked. I put my ear to the door and heard a struggle...but the woman was not screaming, that worried me.
No time to weigh it over. The cops may never get here in time, we're out in the middle of no where, after all. I went ahead and turned the doorknob, it was not locked, so I pushed it open about six inches. Faded light crept out from another room, and voices, some muffled, at least three people, two of them reciting or chanting something I could not understand.
At this point I can't explain why, but I felt compelled, and I follow my instincts, so I went in.
They were gathered in the family room. It was mostly wood, big stone fireplace, high ceilings, and two grown men repeating the same Latin phrases over and over again, trying to pull a skinny, three foot tall child off of her mother's bleeding neck.
The short, balding man holding the girl's left arm and leg was dressed in black, I could tell he was a minister, probably local. The red haired man in the flannel shirt was her father, he seemed torn between not wanting to rip his little girl's right arm off, and not wanting her to bite through his wife's neck.
I ran over behind the girl, between the other two guys, and did what I could to get my hands beneath her chin. I pushed up and in with my thumbs, between her jaw and jugular, then straight back. She broke her hold and slowly the head started to come back. I didn't know why, but I began trying to put a five year old girl in a head lock.
Without warning she propelled off her mother, and we all crashed backward in opposite directions from the force. I was still holding her back tight against my chest as we hit the floor. Her skin was cold and pale, blue and purple veins striping her entire body.
A second later she was hitting me with everything she could trying to wiggle free. Elbows caught me in the forehead and temple, heels pounding me in the legs. She let out a howl and began shouting and spitting in a language I'd never heard before.
She slammed her head straight back into my nose and it hurt worse than any punch I've ever caught. Vision went blurry, disoriented, bleeding into my mouth, fuck not easy to breath...
I didn't even know I still had her when the Preacher was on top of us shouting "Hold Her! Hold Her!"
"No problem," I garbled.
He started repeating the Latin again and the girl's father joined after tending to his wife. They each placed a hand on her chest and kept praying. She kept fighting, I didn't know if the blood would make me puke or pass out first, but I just pretended I was at the dentist's: hold the fuck on and hope like hell they know what they're doing.
She started to slow down and the Preacher put a cross on her forehead, which cracked and sizzled until she collapsed, motionless.
"She's subdued. We must get her to the River."
"I'll start the truck."
"Oh, no, please, take your time. I'll just chill here."
"Hey, just who in the hell are you, anyway?" her father finally asked.
"I'm just the driver. Did you guys call a cab?"
They just looked at each other before he left to start the truck. The Preacher kept praying. He didn't say much to me, except when he asked if I'd been baptized. I said "Yeah, sure" because I thought he was just making conversation. Turns out he wasn't.
"Lift her," he said, and I did my best to get to my feet while holding a broken child against my chest. The Preacher kept his right hand on her, but he seemed too scared to get any closer.
We stumbled through a hallway, out another door and right into the bed of a pick-up truck. The second the Preacher was on board I felt the need to use the opportunity to say "Go! Go! Go!" The tires spun and we shot down the driveway, twisted and peeled around the gravel, hit the bump of the cement, around the top light of my cab and back through Edwards toward the bridge. It only took about thirty seconds doing sixty. I slid forward and my head hit the frame as we skidded to a stop on the bridge.
The Preacher began preparing to perform a Baptism. He said a few prayers, blessed the child and it was all going fine until he commanded the Demon to leave. I actually heard her eyelids snap open.
She thrashed around and growled like a beast. Her father helped me up and we were able to get a grip on her again before she could get out of the truck. The Preacher was speaking as quickly as he could to finish up.
"Get her in the water! Get her in the water!" he shouted. It was slow moving to the corner of the bridge, every step was like trying to push through an NFL lineman and there were two of us. We were two steps away from turning the corner when she broke free.
With a quick leap she was on the shoulders of the Preacher, trailing behind us, then she hopped off, behind him, on the edge of the bridge. Before he could even turn around, she had her right hand around his neck and beneath his chin. Snap. He dropped that quickly.
I ran toward her. I looked her in the eye and I saw it, not a child at all but something thousands of years old. I jumped head first and caught her square in the chest with my bony shoulder. We seemed to hover there for a minute, and I can still see that moment in my mind from all angles, just before we hit the water.
When I woke up freezing in the bed of a dark river I saw a father holding his child and I knew everything was alright.