August 30, 2012
This is a true story.
For Saarah (who hated it.)
Gather around my children, and listen. Draw in close; this is a fine night for a ghost story. It is dark and stormy, and- that sound! No my children, don’t startle so easily, it is only thunder. I can see quite well in the flashes of lightning, it is only us here. Please, move in, tighten the circle. There is strength in numbers when you are in the dark.
This tale happened quite recently. Saarah and I had left the theater very late. The show ended hours after midnight and we walked through the still night, past the empty and vacant lots where the trees cast odd shadows in the lamplight. The late evening, soon to be early morning, was still and quiet. It was a summer night, silent and stark under the glow of the full moon above. Our car was parked down the block from the theater, below a single dull light, a short walk really. We walked down the street lost in our conversation, sparing not a single glance at the odd shapes of the tombstones and crypts to our left, and as we neared… why the shiver, my child? Why the fright?
Did I neglect to mention the graveyard?
Yes, this theater was located directly across the street from a cemetery. As we laughed and thrilled to the show on the screen, the dead lay in the darkness not thirty feet away. And as we walked alongside the necropolis, there was a hush. Our talk quieted and our laughter died. On such a black evening, the dead do not care for the laughter of the living. And although we made it to the car without encountering a single charnel specter, I was later given reason to wonder if we had really not disturbed some ephemeral presence. Perhaps we laughed too loudly. Perhaps we did not show the proper respect. I’ve never been sure……
We drove home, shaking off the chill of the graveyard with music and talk. The streets were quiet and other drivers scarce. We had all but forgotten the shivering touch of the dead when a vehicle ahead of us drew our attention. It was a taxi, a typical yellow New York taxi, much as hundreds or thousands of others appear. But taxi cabs are not that common a site in Brooklyn. The big fares are in Manhattan. But that alone was not enough to draw out attention, because as we drew near, we saw that the driver, the driver of the taxi, sitting alone in the automobile, all alone with no passenger, was- but I am getting ahead of myself.
The taxi was not far in front of us. As we watched we saw that it was not stopping where it should. While it stopped at the red lights, it would stop midway into the intersection. The car seemed to dare the other traffic. It positioned itself so that it seemed to invite, no children, it seemed to dare Death himself to take the driver in his embrace.
Did you see that? In the flash of lightning, did none of you see that? Just beyond the trees? No, none of you? Perhaps the eaves of an old house, or maybe just this old storyteller’s imagination. Of course you could not see it, the lightning was behind you. But now all seems dark and quiet again.
We drew close to the car. It was not driving as it should at all. It drifted from one lane of travel to another. It crowded the rare car that came too close. It slowed in oncoming traffic and stopped in the center, the dead center, of intersections. We were keeping a respectable distance from this dangerous car, for at first we suspected that it was driven by a drunk, but we quickly noticed something that was not right. I softly pressed the accelerator and we inched closer. We followed, getting inch by inch closer, slowly gaining a better view of the interior.
We spoke not a word. But we knew each other’s thoughts. And one close glance at the car ahead and another in each other’s eyes confirmed that we had not left behind the specters and haunts of the graveyard, that we had not escaped the notice of the undead evils of the tomb. For when we drove close enough, and when the moonlight lit up the driver’s seat, we saw the truth and forever longer shall we wonder when we will next encounter the otherwise normal-looking car and its unearthly driver.
For what Saarah and I saw in the dark, just as we now sit in the same darkness, alone now as we were then, and I ask you children to draw close, press in very close my children, for I can only whisper this blasphemy, and pray I no further disturb the unliving…
When we pulled close to the car which invited Death, we saw that the driver…… the driver of the taxi…. had no head.
But wait! Again, the lightning! I see it! Do you? Look, you can see it! You can hear it! No, don’t wait for me, I am doomed! He has come to take me! The Headless Driver has come! Saarah, oh Saarah, I pray you are not next! He nears! He nears! Run my children! RUN! For I am doomed! Doomed!
Police records indicate that the camp counselor was found three days after being reported missing by camp officials. A search of the woods later turned up his body.
It had no head.
Rumors of a headless taxi driver have been reported during each full moon for the past decade but few dare to drive close enough to be sure.