Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 199 Needs and Wants

It did not pay much to be a cab driver by night, the day shifts and in that the ones that overlapped with the rush hours was where most of the money was but I could not deal with traffic snarls and the heat. I did not mind being a little poorer if it saved me the discomfort of an already uncomfortable life.

Seven years since my wife had passed away. It was nothing dramatic or long drawn out. She passed peacefully in her sleep. There wasn’t a day that I did not think of her and there wasn’t a night when my arms did not ache physically to hold her close. The night shift could even be a reason to escape the aloneness of a home without her, without my Laura. The light turned green at that moment of my reminiscing but before I could heave it off the block a young man, no more than thirty, sprang out of nowhere and yanked the back door of my cab and sat himself in with a tearing hurry.

“Drive! Just drive! Please just drive! They will catch me and won’t allow me to run away from here! Please!”
I had waited for something like this to happen to me since I began to drive a cab all those years back. The movie scene where a man sits in your cab and points a gun at you and screams, “Just drive!”
This guy had no gun though. Years of looking at people who sat in my cab had given me a fair amount of idea of recognizing trouble when I saw it; it had also given me the gift of seeing the person who was in trouble. This man was definitely in trouble.

I scrambled the car to a dash as fast as I could but before turning around the corner I saw the Man’s pursuers in my rearview mirror. Dressed in all white, they looked like orderlies. Was I driving a mad man around?

Fifteen minutes later, he asked me to stop the cab where he thought it would be safe for him.
“I have no idea what is safe for you,” I told him rather plainly. He nodded and asked me if I could take him to the waterfront. I agreed. I already knew there was going to be no money for this joy ride but I had never asked anyone to get down from my cab and I wasn’t about to do it now.

We drove around in silence for a bit and then the Man broke it, as if he was reading my mind. “I am not a mad man. I know you think I am but I’m just an aberration. A mistake. I was born without memory cleansing.”
Now he was beginning to convince me that he was indeed out of his mind. From a little bag he was carrying he took out a bunch of papers that he had filled with his own writing. “This has everything, everything that every human being wants to know and has to know and I see no choice but to leave it with you.”
I had enough. I brought the cab to a halt by the side of the road and looked at this Man, “Look Mister….” He did not let me finish.
“Listen to me carefully,” he hissed barely above his breath. “We, everyone of us, on this planet are prisoners of another planet. This planet Earth is… is a jail. It’s a penitentiary for that planet. Like how you guys from England sent prisoners to Australia. Something like that!” I could just stare at this man in disbelief. “When we are sentenced to prison on their planet our minds are erased of all memory and we are then put into these bodies and sent here, to this planet, to live out our sentences.”
I was clearly drawn to this Man’s imagination even if he was a raving lunatic. “Where are the prison guards if this is a prison? Why does no one want to run from here?” I asked vehemently.
The man smiled even through his urgency, “The people on that planet are very smart. They implanted something in all of us called needs and wants. It is so simple, don’t you see? We are our own prison guards. Our need to want everything and our want to need everything on this planet is so much that we don’t want to leave this planet ourselves. So clever of these people, get it?”
This guy was a mad man of a different kind, of that I was certain.“You must have this book printed!” He continued unabated. “It is a simple way of getting out of this planet. There are areas like the Bermuda Triangle, the Marina’s Trench, The Great Pyramid, The north face Mount Everest and so many more. These are portal. You can get the hell out this planet if you want to be one of them. Have this one printed. I sense them coming after me. I must run but if you get this book printed people would not want to remain here. They can run!”

Then he looked back all of a sudden and sensing some danger threw the door of my cab open and ran into the night. Somewhere in the distant darkness I heard a man scream. My bet was, the Mad House guys had caught up with him.

I sat there in silence for a full fifteen minutes, imagining what it would be like if the Man was indeed telling the truth. Then I picked the bunch of papers that the man had left behind. What I read on the first page took my breath away, “I know who you are my dear Cab friend. I know your soul from the other planet. I know your wife, Laura, passed in her sleep seven years back. I know you are lonely. If you had a way of following her through these portals would you not take that chance and follow her? Get this book printed! Only you can do it!”


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