This story follows on from – Diary of an Uber Driver: The Note
Two weeks passed before I heard from Hillary again, though I had thought about her often. Nightmares had trolled my dreams since our last encounter. The same scene played out over and over in my subconscious. I dreamt I would wake to the sound of loud typing outside my bedroom door. My heart would jump at the crack of fingers bashing a computer’s keyboard with dark purpose:
“CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!”
Then, the sound of paper being loaded into a printer knotted my stomach; my bed sheets followed suit. I would wince and pull my knees to my chest in a brace position as the printer hummed away; the first beads of sweat rolling down my temple and dotting my pillow. The unmistakable sound of footsteps growing louder would leave me breathless. Then, one by one the notes would slide beneath my bedroom door, the piles building up around my bed. I would wake suddenly and sit bolt upright gasping for breath when the weight of the notes on my chest became unbearable; the same feelings of panic and terror I experienced as a boy being dunked and held underwater by my older and much bigger cousin, Adam, at the community swimming pool. I would not return to sleep after this nightmare. I would shut my eyes and try to count sheep and all I would see is that font, Showcard Gothic, flashing angrily in my mind.
Another sleepless night. I jumped when I looked in my rear vision mirror and saw the dark bags beneath my bloodshot eyes. I had started the early shift for Uber, a 5am rise, and the standard Bondi to airport, Coogee to city jobs rolled in. The clock struck nine and my phone sounded with a text:
“Hi, do you think you could take me to work today? I’m at the cafe’ down the road from mine. The one with the bad coffee. Please, it’s kinda urgent. Hillary.”
Urgent. What could be urgent? My stomach knotted once more as I furiously typed my response:
“On my way, ten minutes.”
I pulled up outside the cafe’ and peered through the front window. Hillary was easy to spot. Her crimson hair and pale face glowed from behind the glass. She was sitting alone in a booth and was resting her face in the palm of her left hand. I texted her to let her know I had arrived and watched her jump as the message lit up her phone. She squinted through the glare on the glass window before we locked eyes. She gave me a forced smile and a nod before picking up her bag and making her way to my car.
“Hi, thanks so much for coming,” whispered Hillary as she sat down beside me. It was like she was in a trance. She slowly reached for her seatbelt but her eyes were glazed over, just staring at the floor of my car.
“Is everything ok Hillary?” I asked softly. “Am I taking you to work?”
Hillary returned to the present momentarily and rubbed the side of her face with her right hand. “Yes, to work please. I’m ok, I’m ok,” she responded timidly, the whites of her knuckles clear to see as she gripped her handbag tightly.
“Are you sure?” I prodded caringly, although also because I was dying to know what the matter of urgency was.
Hillary let out a deep sigh before unzipping her handbag and retrieving a single, plastic sleeve with a folded piece of white paper and a silver CD. My heart stopped at the sight of the folded note. Five long seconds passed before I took another breath. Hillary looked over at me with her mouth slightly ajar. I could see her bottom lip trembling. She bit down on the corner of her mouth in attempt to stop the shaking. She handed me the note and I opened it. I was instantly relieved at the absence of the menacing font. “What is this?” I asked as I scanned the piece of paper. Hillary shrugged her shoulders and continued staring straight ahead. It was an article from a music website which had been printed off from the internet. I started reading the article, a review of a thrash metal band’s latest single titled “INVISIBLE”. It read:
“This song, unlike the majority of the band’s last album, tells a story. The sole electric guitar in the introduction is a quiet, considered soliloquy about being forgotten. The artists confusion at being left out is expressed through the dissonance of the clashing minor scales. The introduction of the cymbal which quickens the pace, explains the protagonists racing mind trying to work out why he is invisible to someone he considers special. The lyrics are honest and true and delivered powerfully by a man who has obviously felt this way. It is a refreshing progression from their previous work and I look forward to the rest of the album”.
When I read the name of the person who penned the review my face immediately contorted with shock and confusion. The article was written by……. Hillary Turner.
I looked over at Hillary, the bewildered expression still plastered on my face. Before I had a chance to open my mouth Hillary snapped at me angrily:
“I didn’t write it!” she yelled through gritted teeth. I’ve never heard of that band! I don’t know what is going on or why someone would do this!”
Hillary had reached breaking point. She started breathing heavily and I could see the veins in her neck pulsating.
“Ok, ok,” I said calmly. “Where did you find this?”
“It was under my front door this morning,” she replied, “Whoever is doing this to me knows when Andrew is away on business. The other notes all appeared when Andrew was down in Melbourne or in Singapore,” said Hillary, managing to slow her breathing and regain composure.
I was lost for words. I felt completely helpless. I searched my mind for the right words to say but came up empty. Hillary then did something I didn’t expect. She reached into the plastic sleeve, and, without saying a word retrieved the CD before pushing it into my stereo. “TRACK 1” appeared on the screen. She reached forward and turned up the volume.
There it was. The haunting electric guitar solo. It built slowly, the cymbals chiming in to quicken the pace. Then came the first verse, yelled, not sung, in a harsh, gruff, angry male voice. I had heard those words before:
“ALONE AND COLD I WALK TODAY
WILL I MAKE YOU BEG AND PRAY?
YOU TURNED MY SKY FROM BLUE TO GREY
IF ONE COULD SPEAK, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?”
I looked over at Hillary to see her reaction. She had her hands clasped over her ears tightly and was rocking back and forth. She lurched forward suddenly, gasped, then shrieked, “Turn it off! Please turn it off!” as a flood of tears poured from her eyes.
I frantically ejected the CD, my hands shaking uncontrollably. I looked over at Hillary and my heart broke each time she convulsed in pain and let out a yelp. My fear quickly turned to anger and my hands stopped shaking. “It’s ok Hillary,” I said sternly, “It’s going to be ok.” My confidence seemed to help and Hillary sat upright, taking deep breaths. She looked over at me with her glistening, emerald green eyes and nodded her head.
I knew what to do, so I pulled out from the curb and started driving toward the police station.
The conclusion to this story will be published tomorrow.