While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, the taxi driver took out his phone to look at the message in the chatgroup. He had just dropped Chen Ge at Huai Hua Street and listened to a series of ghost stories along the way, so his heart was quivering with fear.
"The car is fitted with a driving record, triangulation system, and security rails, so everything should be fine," the driver said loud enough for the passenger at the back to hear when he replied in the chatgroup.
"Things are rather chaotic at night for the past few days, so you be careful."
The light turned green, and the driver put his phone aside to continue driving the car. The scenery on the side flashed by, and the number of cars on the road dwindled. The driver snuck a look at the passenger in the back. The person could not be considered tall, and he was wearing a black jacket on top of a faded red t-shirt.
The person had jumped into his car in a hurry and had not said anything after giving the address. The weirdest thing was that he did not remove his jacket or his hood even when he was inside the taxi. Due to the angle, the driver could only see half of his face.
"Brother, we have some unspoken rules among us late night taxi drivers-we normally wouldn't go to those kinds of places." Out of fear, the driver started to ramble. "But since you're already in my car, of course, I won't kick you out. However, I can only drop you close to the address, and you'll need to walk the remaining hundred or two hundred meters, is that okay with you?"
He had acted similarly when he drove Chen Ge for the first time. He had a small heart. Before they arrived at the destination, he had started planning his retreat route. He was going to turn and leave once the passenger left his car.
"No, I just want to go and grab something. My house is back at the city." The man raised his head, and his voice did sound normal. "If you leave, it means that I'll be stranded at the crematorium. How do you expect me to get back to the city? Will taxis come to the crematorium at night?"
Driver Zhang thought about it, and he had to concede to his passenger's point.
"If you drive me there and then drive me back, that'll earn you two rounds of payment; won't you earn more compared to driving back with an empty car?"
Ol' Zhang was slowly convinced by the passenger. Indeed, why should he give up on the extra money?
If this was before driving Chen Ge, he would have agreed readily, but now, he was a lot more cautious. "That sounds doable, but I'll wait for you at the end of the road, and you come to find me after you retrieve your stuff."
"Sure, as long as you don't mind the wait." The male passenger placed his hands into his pockets, and he looked like a permissible man.
Other than his insistence to keep his hood on, this man sounds perfectly normal... at least much more normal than the dude who went for a date at an abandoned school,
Ol' Zhang grumbled internally. There were so many late-night taxis at Jiujiang; how come he kept running into these weird passengers?
He had run into the same mental patient twice already, which was already rare enough, so it should have been time for his luck to turn already. Ol' Zhang tried his best to console himself, but his hands that gripped the steering wheel still sweated.
He drove fast and reached the vicinity of the crematorium that was situated at the outskirts in ten minutes. The people started to disappear, and the neon lights of shop signs could not be seen anymore. Only Ol' Zhang's taxi sped down the lonely road.
"We're about there."
Ol' Zhang kept glancing at the passenger in the back. The man sat patiently and had not moved throughout the journey.
"Please move slightly forward. Don't need to drop me at the door, just a little bit forward," the passenger in the back said. His voice sounded weirdly raspy, like he was taking in his breaths while speaking.
There was no light in the surrounding hundred meters, and the place was eerily quiet. The taxi moved slowly on the road like a moving black coffin.
"You can stop here." The night breeze slipped in to the slightly ajar window, and Ol' Zhang's hands that held the steering wheel were shaking.
"Okay, give me two minutes."
"Wait, the fare!"
"I'll come back to pay you," the passenger said lightly. There was something different about his voice.
"You..." Ol' Zhang thought about getting out of the car to reason with the man; he was afraid that the passenger might escape from his payment. However, the thought of leaving the car was too much for him.
Jesus, who would come to the crematorium at midnight? Does he work here or something?
Ol' Zhang looked at the time-it was 11.56 pm.
Keep running into these weird customers who want to come to these places. The only good thing is that I don't need to worry about traffic.
He looked at the man who ran away. He thought that the man's movement was rather awkward, like he was not used to walking. The passenger entered the crematorium through the side door. Ol' Zhang sat alone in the taxi. He closed the windows, and the enclosed space gave him the security that he needed.
He's taking too long.
Ol' Zhang was unsettled after ten seconds.
Is he cheating me? Will he not come out again?
He thought about it, and his expression slowly changed. He realized something horrible.
The passenger who went to Huai Hua Street didn't pay his fare either!
When Chen Ge was fifty meters away from Huai Hua Street, Ol' Zhang had already urged him to get out and refused to move forward anymore. When Chen Ge got out and wanted to pay him, Ol' Zhang's taxi had already left.
He tapped himself lightly on his face. Ol' Zhang grumbled internally,
Started work an hour ago but earned nothing, even got to pay for the fuel. Oh well, as long as I do not run into him again, those few notes are nothing.
Ol' Zhang was flustered. He turned on the radio to distract himself, but it only made him more nervous. Outside the car was the crematorium. It was completely dark and silent. The sound inside the car only made him feel like he was being watched. Before the song finished, he switched it off and gripped the steering wheel as he looked around.
Why isn't he back yet?
It was one minute to midnight. Ol' Zhang had a bad feeling; he felt like something bad would happen. He picked up the torn talisman, mumbled a few prayers, and shoved it back into his shirt.
In a pure coincidence, when he lowered his head to pick up the talisman, his eyes swept the backseat. To ensure comfort, Ol' Zhang had placed a cushion on the back, and there was an inconspicuous blood stain on the white cushion.
Was this there before? I was sure this wasn't there when I started the trip tonight.
Ol' Zhang turned to look behind him, and he was suddenly reminded of his passenger's weird outfit. There was a faded red t-shirt under his jacket.
The red on that shirt wasn't even, could that be...
Bang! Bang bang!
Someone knocked on his car window. The passenger had returned from the crematorium and was holding a package wrapped in black cloth in his hands. Ol' Zhang was scared and quickly pulled his gaze back.
"Found the thing, let's go back to the city." The passenger's tone was completely different from before. Something had changed.
Ol' Zhang glanced at the black package that the passenger was holding via the rear-view window. His rubbed his palms on his shirt-they were completely drenched with sweat.