After the boy said that, the temperature in the car dropped to below freezing down, and the driver's face turned ashen.
"Just missing one hand?" The driver thought he had heard wrong. He had a hard time believing that he would hear something like that come out from the lips of a young boy. His pupils shuddered, and he glanced toward his phone. The article did not detail the boy's cause of death-it only mentioned in passing that the boy had been brutally murdered. Due to one comment by the boy, the atmosphere in the car changed.
The driver's hands that gripped the steering wheel were slick with sweat. The woman next to him was silent, and the boy on the backseat gripped the black plastic bag tightly, his face plastered with a smile that did not match his young age.
Of the few 'people' in the car, only Chen Ge could be considered relatively normal. He seemed like the only one to have everything under control. He nudged closer toward the boy. His voice was soft and warm, but what he said made the driver squeeze out a fresh bout of cold sweat.
"You're only missing one hand? Does that mean the other parts that you've found are all inside this plastic bag?" Chen Ge pointed at the bulging bag. "Do you mind letting me take a look inside it? And if you need help, I can help you look for the rest after we get out of the car."
"There's no need." Seeing Chen Ge turn his target toward the black bag, the smile on the boy's face slowly disappeared.
"Actually, we're not so different, you and I. We're both looking for something." Chen Ge picked up his own backpack, but his bag was much bigger than the child's.
"You're also in search of something?" The boy could taste the light trace of blood coming from inside Chen Ge's bag, and he realized that things were getting dangerous. This was different from what he had anticipated before he got into the car. "What are you looking for?"
"Actually, the thing I'm looking for is in this car with me. When the time is right, I'll shove all of them into my bag."
Chen Ge played the role of a strange uncle scaring a child perfectly. It was a common joke for adults to play pranks on innocent kids, but the boy next to him did not show a trace of a smile at all. This was because the boy knew that Chen Ge was being serious.
"All of them?" Different from the boy, the driver overheard Chen Ge and almost mistook the gas pedal for brake, almost driving into a tree. He thought what Chen Ge meant by that was that he was going to murder everyone in the taxi and then cram all of their body parts inside his backpack.
He was unable to follow the conservation of his passengers at the backseat, so the only passenger who could give the driver some semblance of security was the young woman next to him. From his point of view, the young woman was soft and pitiable, and if an accident happened, he decided to take the girl and run. That way, at least they would be able to be on the lookout for one another.
The situation is becoming worse. All I can do now is help as many people as I can while maintaining my own personal safety! The driver came to that decision in his mind. He sneaked a glance at the young woman next to him. The young woman seemed to notice the problem as well, and she laid her fingers lightly on the driver's knee.
Chen Ge had no idea of the role that he had been cast in the driver's mind. All of his focus was placed on the boy next to him. Since they had met by chance, he figured that they should be friends, and he planned on inviting all of these 'people' to come to his Haunted House as guests.
The taxi continued to move for another stretch of the road, and it soon came to a T-junction. One of the roads would lead them away from Jiujiang to another district while the other road would take them to White Dragon Cave Tunnel.
"Which turn shall I take to get to your home?" the gentlemanly driver asked the young woman. The lady slowly raised her head and extended her finger to point at the direction of the White Dragon Cave Tunnel.
"White Dragon Cave Tunnel?" Jiujiang locals knew about the stories that surrounded this particular tunnel. The place was technically a stretch of cursed public road. Car accidents happened there as often as rain, and various ghost stories and urban legends were made with this place as its setting and origin.
The driver's face blanched. He forced himself to calm down. He turned to ask the boy who was holding the bag, "Child, can you still remember which direction your home is?"
The boy was not happy to have been placed next to Chen Ge. He nudged his chin in the direction of White Dragon Cave Tunnel expressionlessly.
"Your home is also that way? Looks like you two are indeed from the same village." The driver tried to find a logical excuse to explain the whole situation, to try to comfort himself. He forced a smile as he turned to Chen Ge. "What about you?"
"That is where I'm going as well, but I advise you to stop and turn back now. Let the two of them out of the car and drive me back to the spot where you picked up this young lady." Chen Ge wanted to protect the driver. If he got out of the car with the woman and the boy and allowed the driver to go back alone, then on the way back, the man might run into other accident. To ensure the man's safety, Chen Ge volunteered to accompany him.
However, the driver did not see it that way. He sensed danger from Chen Ge, and he thought that Chen Ge was trying to get him alone so that he could strike. The more the driver thought about it, the more afraid he became. Chen Ge was out alone at night to take a cab, going to the middle of nowhere with him a backpack that had the smell of blood drifting out of it. One could write ten horror stories about what Chen Ge was doing. He believed that he knew what Chen Ge was planning, and there was no way that he was going to stay with Chen Ge alone inside the car.
"I don't think so. Since you're all going the same way, I should just drive all of you there." The driver sent a coordinate triangulation message on their company's chat group, but the connection was so bad that he saw the message loading for a long time before failing. He slowed the car down and typed two more messages, but they too failed to send due to poor coverage.
His car was filled with people, but strangely enough, the driver did not feel safe at all. He thought about calling the police, but he was afraid that might provoke his passengers, causing them to do something irrational.
Just as the driver was thinking about what to do, an old man appeared in the middle of the road. He trundled down the slope, moving toward the T-junction where the taxi sat idle. He carried a medicine basket on his back as he shuffled along with his limp. He appeared to be a herb gatherer. Most of Eastern Jiujiang was dominated by mountains and lakes, so the economy was not so good. However, also because of that, nature had been left mostly untouched, and many valuable herbs that could not be found elsewhere grew vibrantly.
Different from the plants cultivated in labs and farms, wild herbs were valued much higher, and the older generation that remained around the nearby villages depended on harvesting them to keep their lives afloat.
The old man appeared to have tripped on his way back from the mountain. His right leg was limping, and his shirt had many tears made by branches and bushes. There was even a blood stain on the edge of his pants.
When he walked past the taxi, he glanced absent-mindedly into the car, but when he did, his eyes slowly grew big, and he suddenly picked up his pace, shuffling away from the scene. Seeing the reaction on the old man's face, the driver only got even more panicked.
He rolled down the car window, wanting to ask the old man for help, but when he turned to look out the window, the limping old man had already disappeared.
"How did he manage to move so fast with a limp?" The driver shivered involuntarily when he felt a cold caress on the back of his hand. He turned to notice the woman had moved her hand to place on the back of his arm.
The woman pointed in the direction of White Dragon Cave Tunnel, signaling for him to start moving.
When the driver made the turn, Chen Ge also spoke up. "Did someone pass the car earlier? Who were you talking to?"
"There was an old gentleman with a limping leg. He carried a bamboo basket on his back, didn't you see him? He even paused to look inside the taxi when he shuffled past it!" The driver could not stop the shrillness from entering his voice.
Chen Ge shook his head. There were only shaking tree limbs and their shadows outside the car. He did not see any old man.