The Passenger

A flash of white light and searing pain made Ralph Perkins close his eyes and grimace. Damn it. He took deep breaths and rubbed his temples. When he opened his eyes, Ralph felt light-headed, like he was floating on air. The hell’s wrong with me? He checked himself in his cab’s rearview mirror. Aside from a bit of paleness, he looked fine. Maybe I’m just hungry. The rain was coming down hard outside, beating a furious rhythm on the windshield. Ralph imagined his wife’s steamy pot roast just waiting for him at home. He checked his watch. Almost seven-thirty. The movie theater was pretty quiet tonight, and Ralph didn’t think he’d be getting any more customers thanks to the storm.

He pulled off of the curb and drove around the Bronx while Glenn Miller’s catchy “Chattanooga Choo Choo” played on his radio. What did the kids call this kind of music? Swing? He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove down Lafayette. Saint Raymond’s Cemetery stretched out on his right. Endless rows of tombstones made the hillside jagged, like teeth protruding from a skull. A lone figure near the gates waved to him. Ralph felt the hair on his arms stand straight up. He heard stories from other cabbies about phantoms hitching rides near graveyards. For a split second, he thought about driving past the figure, but as he approached, he recognized the woman’s black and white garb. He slowed to a stop.

“Evening, Sister,” he said.

“Good evening.” The nun planted her wet umbrella on the floor mat. “Thank you for stopping.”

“No problem. Where’re you headed?”

“Philip and Revere.”

“I know that area. Not too far from here.”

Ralph glanced at his passenger from the rearview mirror. To his surprise, she was staring right back at him. Her eyes were a brilliant shade of blue. Were they glowing? Ralph felt his heart skip a beat. His palms grew moist.

“So, uh, Sister...?”

“Gabrielle.”

“Sister Gabrielle. I’m Ralph. Pleased to meet you.” He could feel her gaze penetrating the back of his head. Ralph pushed on the gas pedal a little harder. “You from around here?”

“No. Just visiting my brother.”

A moment of awkward silence passed between them. Ralph felt cold beads of sweat form on his forehead. Something’s wrong with this lady. He licked his lips.

“I’ve got a brother too. He used to be a scrawny kid, but now he’s a big shot lieutenant in the army. With the Nazis going crazy in Europe, though, I worry about him.”

“Nazis?” She paused. “That is cause for concern.”

“You ever see that new picture, ‘The Great Dictator’?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Not a fan of Charlie Chaplin, eh Sister? That’s alright. Didn’t think you were.”

Ralph forced himself to glance at his passenger one more time. Sister Gabrielle closed her eyes tight. Some of the color had drained from her face. She clutched the rosary around her neck, and her lips moved silently. Ralph gritted his teeth. Why is she praying?

He pulled up to the corner of Philip and Revere. Before Ralph could announce their arrival, he was hit with another white flash followed by a fierce headache. After recovering, he noticed Sister Gabrielle standing outside of his window.

“Ralph,” she said, “I think it’s time for you to move on.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“The year is 2010. The war is over. Charlie Chaplin is long gone.” Her blue eyes took on a sad glimmer. “Go with God.”

“Are you crazy or something? Sister, I—”

“Don’t fight it anymore. Just follow the light.” She walked up to a house that Ralph failed to recognize. In fact, the whole neighborhood looked different.

“This can’t be right,” he said.

Sister Gabrielle turned around and offered a weak smile. “We’ll meet again, I’m sure. Thanks for the ride.”

Ω

Editor’s Corner

nelilly.greententacles.com

Alive.