No Sleep Till Deadtown by Michael Haynes
Char drove up to the toll booth and rolled down her taxi’s window.
“Damn, girl. You look like shit,” said Frank, the old man working the booth that night.
Char reached out with the coins for the toll and avoided meeting Frank’s eyes. “I’m better off than him,” she said, tilting her head toward the stiff in her passenger seat, all dressed up in his Deadtown suit.
Frank didn’t take the coins. “Maybe not for long. Maybe worse off, Char. You look about ready to go sleepy-byes. That ain’t gonna do. You got a boy at home needs his mother.”
She turned then. “A boy who needs his mother to get paid so she can buy food. So she can buy medicine. And every other damn thing. I didn’t get to be a five-star driver by fucking around, okay?”
Frank pursed his lips. A moment later he stretched his arm out and took the coins from her palm. The gate slid up, revealing the bridge to The Between.
“I hope I see you again. Soon.”
Char rolled up her window and drove away. The bridge stretched out above the last edges of The City, the far end obscured by the mists of The Between. Her eyelids were heavy and she did, in fact, feel like shit. Nevertheless, she’d taken the fare, so she was committed. Those five stars painted on the hood of her hack didn’t just mean she hadn’t ever lost a customer; they meant she could charge a little more than the other drivers. And since one or more of those stars could be stripped away by the Transportation Bureau for any number of offenses, turning around and dumping her passenger on another driver just wasn’t going to happen.
The smooth pavement of the bridge rolled under her tires. The last smooth ride she’d be having until Deadtown. Soon she was in the mist, and the bridge arced down toward The Between itself.
The paved road turned to gravel, and her passenger awoke.
“I snuffed it, huh?”
Char didn’t answer, eyes fixed on the road ahead, the narrow, twisting path through the mire of The Between. The road here was never the same twice. It kept her on her toes. As if she needed another incentive to stay alert besides eternal damnation hovering over her head with every eighth of a mile.
“My heart, maybe?”
“I got no idea. They just tell me that there’s a stiff to pick up, and I do my job. I don’t even know your name.”
The car was silent then except for the sound of the engine, the tires on the road.
“It’s Darrell.” More silence. “My name.”
“Yeah, I figured.”
The road took a sharp left; Char worked the brakes and navigated the turn.
“Have you ever seen it happen? Lost a passenger?”
“My wife didn’t make it. Her driver said that the road was too long that day, that she didn’t fight hard enough against the stupor. That it wasn’t his fault.”
Char shrugged. The road stretched straight into the distance, yellow-gray mist curling along its edges where the mire met the road. “Driver can only do so much. Stay on the road, make good time, say a prayer or two if she is so inclined. They can’t stay awake for the passenger.”
The Line of Fate
No Sleep till Deadtown
Pigs Fry; Pigs Fly
Ripples From The Weather Aggregator
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