Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dark Parkway

(The true ghost story of notorious Wakehurst Parkway in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.)
Narrabeen of Northern Beaches.
I USED to drive cabs almost four years for good old Manly Cabs between 1997 and 2001. The insular peninsula, well known as the Northern Beaches, is the most pleasant area in Sydney for its pristine beaches on a long sandy coastline.

Like many other Asian migrants I initially lived in Western Suburbs when I first came to Sydney in the late eighties. I worked as an auto-mechanic in a car dealer’s workshop and also drove taxis part-time to pay for our mortgage with 17.5% interest rates during Hawke-Keating labor years.

Then in the middle of the recession we had to have, I lost my job first, later our little fibro house in Campbelltown, and I started working as a middleman between Prawn meat traders here and exporters back in Burma just to survive. Those were the bad and sad times for a lot of struggling immigrant families like us.

Making the story short, a few years later my business failed and I had to take a factory job again but this time in Brookvale and started driving part-time for the Manly Cabs as we were renting a flat in Dee Why, now a fashionable yuppie suburb but back then the Blacktown of the Northern Beaches. According to the locals, Northern Beaches was the God’s Country and Dee Why was the ugliest flats-city in the heaven.

For most of the long-established locals, south of the Spit Bridge was a foreign country and I even knew a little old lady who had never crossed that bridge in her long life. People were quite eccentric in that part of Sydney and sometimes I even thought that plenty of sun and sand got into their heads. But the relatively rich peninsular was a nice place to live and raise a family, I had to admit, compared to the poor south-western suburbs I used to live many years before.

At that time, driving for the Manly Cabs was not really bad at all, provided you didn’t mind getting fewer fares and putting more into your pay-in envelopes, compared to the driving for the Combined Cabs in the city. It was a completely new experience for an old city cabbie like me. In the city I didn’t even need to sit on a rank as there were always plenty of street-hails, but in the Manly area most jobs were from the radio and the ranks. If you drove around non-stop like in the city you would just waste your gas and see not a single fare.

Work the bloody radio hard, mate, that was the first ever advice I received from late Frank Martin, for whom I drove for four long years. You just moved from rank to rank waiting for a fare at the same time keeping a keen eye on the computerized radio screen for a plum airport job. If I were lucky two of them would be enough for the pay-in. Then were the good old days before bloody Silver Service cabs took most of the good long jobs out of Manly.

Manly Taxi Rank.
For any night I drove I took the cab from the base on the Pittwater Road and straight away headed for the Manly rank to join the long queue. Let’s say, if I got a fare to Dee Why after a long wait, I would straight away join the long queue at the Dee Why rank on Howard Ave, as soon as I dropped off the fare from Manly. Busy suburbs like Manly and Dee Why were fine for the rank jobs.

Only problem was when the fare taking me to a quiet place like Belrose or Terry Hills and I had to come back a long way to the busy ranks like Warringah Mall or Manly. Then on the way back I must keep an eye on the radio for jobs. Sometimes I had to try our usual trickery to get a fare from the Radio.

For example if I was in Frenchs Forest in late night and I knew definitely that something was happening at the NSW Sports Academy in North Narrabeen I would log myself into the Radio as I was in Narrabeen. It was a white lie but good for both the fare and me as I could get there in a very short time by using the Wakehurst Parkway.

Wakehurst Parkway

Sydney Northern Beaches.
Cut through the huge Garigal National Park the Parkway was one of many great shortcuts in the area. Single lane either way, the road was good enough to do over 100 for a lot of local boofheads even though the speed limit was only 80. If you did a slow 80 on that road in the middle of the night the honking car behind you would run into your arse unless you let him overtake you at 120.

The long and scary road has two parts, one between Seaforth and Frenchs Forest and other down to the North Narrabeen. From the Forest to Narrabeen there were no streetlights once past the only traffic light intersection at Oxford Falls where the vast compound of the Christian City Church was.

The road was so dark and cars were speeding so fast that countless number of possums and whatever wildlife crossing the road were mercilessly run over every night. Not just eerily dark the road also had the dark history as a dumping ground for the murder victims of Sydney. Just after I moved into the area a jilted lover from the western suburbs brutally killed his former fiancée and dumped her naked body in the bushes by the Parkway.

It was the biggest news of the year and so notoriously well known that many women drivers refused to drive along that road at night if they were alone in their cars. I even got into a sticky situation once with a young woman passenger for going down that dark road in the middle of the night.

That night I picked her up from Forestville and came down along the Warringah Road to drive her to Narrabeen. Time was well after midnight and she was a bit drunk and slumped on the backseat once she got inside the cab. I turned left into the Parkway and we were almost at the Oxford Falls intersection when she suddenly woke up and screamed alarmingly at me.

“Where are you taking me? Turn back, turn back now! I hate this bloody road,” she screamed and screamed and I had no choice but did a U-turn and took her to Narrabeen by the Pittwater Road, definitely a much longer way. She was basically freaking out on me for taking her along the dark Parkway without asking her first. She even called the radio room and lodged a complaint against me just after I dropped her off at her house almost an hour later.

In my honest opinion there was a big difference between a ten minutes trip and one hour trip but she didn’t seem to care. So, since then I always asked my fares before I went down that road late at night especially a young woman alone in my cab. But I still used the Parkway as a shortcut to reach to the northern parts of our territory.
Hitchhiking Nun

As usual, one Friday night shift in year 2001 well after the Sydney Olympics I happily took a job from NSW Sports Academy to a City hotel late at night while I was in the Forest Way on my way back from a Belrose drop. Time was almost one in the early morning and the job was perfect as I could easily get a fare back to Manly area from the City. I just turned on the radio and started dreaming of earning at least 80 bucks in the dying hours of my night shift.

I turned into the Parkway and had to stop at the Oxford Falls intersection for the rare red light. Normally at that time the place was always deserted and the lone traffic light was in a permanent state of green unless the pedestrian button was pressed. I had never seen a red light at that intersection at that time and it sort of annoyed me. Also there were no one on the kerbs or the crossing but the green walking-man was brightly lit as if someone had pressed the pedestrian crossing button well before I got there.

I patiently waited as the red man started flashing and then floored the accelerator as soon as the light turned green. With 180 hp under the bonnet my cab lurched forward and the speedo was pointing at 80 in a few seconds time. Immediately I sort of felt like somebody jumped into the cab and sat on the backseat.

You know that feeling you always get whenever someone suddenly opens the back door and gets inside the cab as you are daydreaming behind the wheel sitting idle at a quiet rank. That was totally impossible as I had no passenger in my cab and there was none outside and I was now travelling at 80 km per hour. I instinctively eyed the cabin mirror and what I saw shocked me as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up straight.

There was a grey silhouette of thin young woman in the mirror, apparently sitting on the middle of the rear seat and sort of staring straight back at me. She was in a kind of white gown and head-dress like a Christian nun. I couldn’t really see her face clearly, just the shape of her face and her deep green eyes, yes the sad green eyes, but she was definitely real and sitting there and staring back at me at that precise moment. I slammed the brake hard.

Old Falcon shook violently on her four retread wheels, dangerously veered off to the left, skidded noisily on the gravel-covered shoulder, and came to a sudden screeching stop just before a big gum tree. When I looked into the mirror again, she was gone, vanished into the cold thin air instantly filled with that familiar smell of burning rubbers and overheating brake pads. I turned my head around and saw no one in the back of my cab.

My chest was pounding fast with my heart almost in my throat as the blood rushed into my head. Now I had prickly goosebumps all over my body reminding me of our belief back home. Folks back home believe that anyone who died of violent deaths were turned into the wandering spirits stuck forever in the purgatory and you will feel their presence nearby by having goosebumps all over your body. 

She was definitely a ghost and I didn’t dare to stay there any longer and immediately drove off into the darkness. I turned up the radio really loud, switched the high beams on, and deliberately refused to look at the cabin mirror again as I accelerated deeper into the bushy darkness of the eerily misty Parkway.

I picked up the patiently waiting passenger, an athletics coach from Melbourne, at the well-lit main building amidst the pitch-black darkness. First thing he jokingly said to me was that I looked like I just saw a ghost. He was dead right, but I wasn’t in a chatty mood and luckily he asked me to go by the Pittwater Road on the coast, as he wanted to smell the ocean. I was so scared shitless that I didn’t say a word to him during the long trip to city and that night was the last time I ever drove alone on the Wakehurst Parkway.

I didn’t really believe in ghosts before. So, that incident shocked me as well as confused me so much that I didn’t even dare to say to anyone including the wife and kids about the ghostly encounter. But the whole thing wouldn’t go away quietly as I wished. It came back to me in the form of a group of young Goths I picked up one night from the Manly rank.

Manly Goths

You know them if you see one of them Goths in the wharf area. Distinctively dressed in black T-shirts, tight black jeans and Nazi jack boots, they usually gathered by the wharf and meaninglessly hung around the area. From the rank I could clearly see them mucking about among themselves, mostly young girls and boys my two kids’ ages, fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen. Girls had many colorful hairstyles with a lot of rings on their faces and boys usually had either punkish long hair or outrageous Mohawks.

One of the pretty girls always had a T-shirt with Cemetery Bitch written on her chest and we started calling them cemetery bitches just among us cabbies. Sometimes the beat coppers would ask them to move on if they became rowdy and started intimidating the travelling public as Manly Wharf with its bus interchange was the busiest place in Manly during peak hours. But them Goths didn’t scare us Asian cabbies like the Skinheads used to before those thugs became out of fashion.

That night was slow and all the fares I got were short ones and I had to keep on coming back to the Manly rank. At about 9, four of them Goths from the wharf area came up to the rank. One big boy and three big girls. They didn’t usually take a cab as they normally caught a bus to wherever their homes were. I was third on the queue but first two refused them and they ended up inside my cab. Being a part-timer I never refused any fare, as I had to make as much as possible for a shift or two in a week.

“So where’re we heading?” I started the engine and asked the desto.
“We’re going to Narrabeen, cabbie, but we want you to go by Wakehurst Parkway!” replied the big boy beside me and I almost sighed but managed to quickly hide my fear from them.
“That’s the long way, mate, it’ll cost you more, much more!”
“That’s okay. We have money. It shouldn’t be more than 50?” They seemed okay and I did a U-turn on the wide road and headed in the direction of Warringah Mall.
“Good man, cabbie. Other guys said no to do U-ee here.”

So that was the reason other two refused them. Wide Pittwater Road, where the cab rank was, ended at the wharf and to get out of Manly you had only two choices. Either turn left and go through busy traffic at the beach or go right and do two more right turns to get back onto the same road on the opposite direction. Years back, we had our own little left turn onto the Whistler Street immediately after the rank and by that way we were out of Manly in a few minutes.

But some dimwits from the Council decided to block that left turn without even asking any cabbie and since then we were in a perpetual war with every possible passengers trying to get out of Manly in a taxi from the rank. Since the taxi short cut was blocked, sometimes as long as ten more minutes and at least 5 bucks was added to the usual fare by having to go around so many blocks.

Understandably, everybody resented and they all wanted us to do a dangerous illegal U-turn right at the rank. The biggest cops shop in the Northern Beaches was right before the rank and if a nasty copper saw us doing it they often gave us a quick chase and a hefty traffic fine always followed.

“Can you go through Allambie Heights. Much quicker, I think,” the girl in the Cemetery Bitch T-shirt kind of ordered me as I was turning into Kentwell Road towards Allambie Road. She was now sitting in the middle of back seat and she seemed to know the area quite well.

“Shut up, Bitch. He knows where he’s going. He’s a good man,” the big boy beside me shut her up and asked me, “So, what’s your name, cabbie?”
I usually didn’t tell passengers my real name. So I lied to him, “Jack.”
“Jack, who?”
“Jack Oo.”
“Wow, I like your name. Very short one and sounds good. My name is too long.”
“Is your name very long like Longbottom?” I tried to be funny.
“Yeah, bingo. That’s exactly my name.” His answer shocked me.
“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?” I didn’t believe him.
“Nope. My real name is Longbottom, Damien Longbottom. Nice to meet you, Jack.” He then pulled out his wallet and produced his driver license with that name on it.
“Shit, I was just kidding. Sorry,” I apologized to him after a quick glance at his license.
“That’s okay.”

By that time we were almost at Frenchs Forest Road and the Parkway was just around the corner. “So what’s the reason for the long detour?” I tried to satisfy my curiosity.
“Nothing much. I just want to show my new friends how scary the dark Parkway is at night. I’d been telling them we could even see a ghost or two,” the boy replied and laughed but it sent a cold shiver through my spine.
“Maybe that nun will hitch a ride with us, provided you were not bullshitting us all along,” one of the girls in the back seat interrupted and hairs on the back of my neck stood up straight again.

“A nun? This time of the night!” I couldn’t hide my fear any more.
“Yeah. Haven’t you ever heard of that legend, cabbie, sorry, Jack?” the boy asked me and I decided to play dumb.
“What legend, a ghost story?”
“Yeah mate. A visiting nun from Scotland was run over at the intersection where the church is, about 30-40 years ago. You know, there was another church well before the Christian City Church. She’s been hitchhiking the passing cars since.” By then I was gobsmacked as we were fast approaching the green light at the same intersection where I saw the green eyes ghost.

“Did she have green eyes?” I shouldn’t have said that as I immediately regretted the slip of my tongue to a group of strangers.

Now was their turn to be gobsmacked as they all shut up and the boy was now staring at me like he was on the verge of freaking out on me. Only then I noticed his eyes were kind of a deep green too.

“You saw her. You did see her. Didn’t you?” He alarmingly asked me and I just nodded.
“Yes she did have green eyes, like me. But not many people know that and you know that, unbelievable. Tell us, tell us about that!” the boy demanded.

They all kept on asking eagerly and finally I had to tell them all about my first and only encounter with a ghost.

“You should meet my sister. I am calling her now. Just give me a minute.” He then pulled out a late model Nokia out of his black long overcoat pocket and started dialing. I could hear the faint ringing tone at other end but nobody picking it up.

“She isn’t there. But I’ll definitely tell her about you.”
“So, what is it about your sister?” I asked him.
“She’s been so obsessed with that nun for a long time now since she was at primary. She is my big sister, 6 years older. We were originally from Glasgow and she thought we were in a way related to that dead nun. I still remembered, at one stage she drove with me in her car on this road, up and down, almost every night at around midnight for about six months just to look for that bloody nun. I was only twelve then and she used to scare the living shit out of me.”

They got off at the Domino pizza at Narrabeen after coercing me to give him my mobile number. I gave him a false number and sped out of there in no time. I didn’t drive for about two months to avoid them at the rank.

One strange thing about people’s memory was that nobody really remembers the cab driver’s face unless they saw him again immediately or many more times later. I didn’t want him or his weird sister come looking for me at the rank. But the two months time was too short for a determined person. I discovered that later when I started driving cabs again.

Green Eyes Girl

It was the first shift after my forced break. The freezing winter night was a very quiet one for us as the intermittent drizzle also kept most people at home and by midnight I decided to end the shift and go home early. As usual at the Manly rank, the long line of cabs reached almost to the end of coppers’ joint and I was at 5 cars away from the first cab.

As I was about to start the engine to get out of the queue I saw a tall figure in a hooded black long overcoat approaching the first car. He stayed at the window for a few seconds and then moved down to the second cab. After a few more seconds he walked down to next car and finally reached my passenger side window. He bent down from the waist and asked me through the window crack.

Ghostly green eyes.
“Are you Jack?” He was not a man. He was a tall thin woman with deep green eyes now staring at me straight into my eyes. I immediately remembered that Damien and I knew straight away that she was his sister. “Nope, sorry. Ask the guys behind me.”

She didn’t immediately walk away from my window but still staring at me for a while. Only a few minutes later she continued her desperate search for me towards the cabs behind me. I looked at her in my passenger side rear view mirror till she disappeared. For a young woman she had a very narrow hip and broad shoulder like that tall skinny models on the catwalk. I started the engine and then the feeling of dejavu came in the form of that young woman suddenly opening my front door and swiftly seating herself beside me.

“You are Jack, I know. I’ve been looking for you over a month now. Please, I need your help, please!” she begged me.
“You are Damien’s big sister, aren’t you?” I couldn’t lie to her any more.
“Yes, I am. I desperately need your help!”
“So, how can I help you?”
“You have to take me to the exact spot where you met that nun.”
“You’re asking me too much, miss. Last time she scared the living hell out of me. I’ve promised myself I’ll never go there again alone.”
“Don’t worry, she didn’t mean to harm you or scare you.”
“How do you know that?”
“Trust me, Jack. She’s just sending a message through you. Okay, how about that, I’ll give you 100 bucks if you take me there, okay?” She waved a green plastic note at me and I couldn’t resist anymore for the night was so quiet I made only 50 for myself so far.
“Okay, just shut the door and put the seatbelt on. I’ll take you there.”

She did and I checked through the mirror to make sure that no copper was outside the station and then swiftly did the U-turn. Only at the middle of the road over the double unbroken line I saw a copper car coming up fast from the wharf towards me. It was too late and I tried to speed up but they saw me and quickly turned on the loud sirens after flashing their headlights at me.

“I am fucked now. Bloody coppers!” I swore aloud as I pulled over slowly into the kerb side lane, at the same time thinking about the dreaded 180 dollars fine.
“What’re you doing? Aren’t you taking me to the Parkway?” she alarmingly quizzed me as I stopped by the kerb.
“Don’t you see the cops? They’re now chasing me for doing an illegal U-turn! They always do to us, bloody coppers.”
“No! They are on their way to the beach. Nothing to do with you!”

She said that confidently and I didn’t believe her. But she was right. The cops didn’t even slow down as they sped past me and then slowed down only at the Raglan Street’s lights and carefully turned right towards the beach. Probably some fights broke out at the Steyne Hotel by the beach and they were needed there urgently. She looked at me and slightly smiled from the corner of her thin-lipped mouth like saying I told you so. I just floored the accelerator and in a ten minutes time we reached the Allambie road.

Only there I slowed down and tried to have a quick sideways glance at her. Under the black hood I could only see part of her blond locks and green jade earring on her right earlobe. I came from a jade country and I knew very well that the flawless big stone on her earlobe was a good quality jade with a rare deep green color.

Then I noticed the jade rosary beads on her right wrist resting on her thigh. It was quite common to see that kind of expensive Buddhist rosary beads back home, but the difference was that it had a silver cross dangling from the middle. A strange combination of two faiths, I reckoned. She also had a black scarf around her slender white neck. Except for her very pale complexion, there was nothing unusual about her.

We reached the Parkway and the traffic light was a usual green at the church intersection. I drove through and stopped at the spot well before the big gum tree. She turned her head with an asking look and I nodded. She first handed me the brand new 100-dollar note from her hand and took the rosary off her wrist. She then surprised me by opening the door and getting out of the cab.

“What’re you doing? Can you get back inside, please? I can take you home now!”

She bent down and told me to leave her alone there. As she was straightening herself back to the standing position the scarf around her neck became slightly loose and I saw a nasty ragged wound on her neck just below the jaw line and the sight of it frightened me to the bone. I immediately did the U-turn but stopped on the other side of the well-lit road worrying now that she shouldn’t be here alone in this deserted stretch of the Parkway in the middle of the night.

By then she was standing by the wire fence of the church compound. A bright mercury streetlight was right at the intersection and I could clearly see her face. I reversed back a bit so that I was directly opposite to her. When I looked at her again she stared back at me and her deep green eyes immediately reminded me of that nun in my cab. Her eyes were now exactly like that ghostly sad eyes and I didn’t dare to stand there any more.

But I could only drive off a short distance as the traffic light ahead strangely turned red and the green walking man was on again as if someone or something had already pressed the crossing button. As I stopped and waited I looked into the side mirror again and still saw her tall black figure standing alone by the wire fence.

Then the red man flashed and I drove off as the light turned green again. As the cab was speeding away from there I looked into the mirror again and I saw her still standing except now she had a company of tall white figure with a nun’s head-dress standing beside her. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the side mirror as I was trying to tightly hold the steering wheel in my now shaking hands.

Up the hill and within a few minutes I reached the brightly lit Warringah Road intersection. There were many cars on the main road and it kind of calmed me down and gave me time to think clearly without fear. Now I knew that I shouldn’t have left her alone there and I bravely decided to go back there and take her home even if she still refused.

I did the quick U-turn at the lights and drove real fast back to the spot. From the distance I couldn’t see her there and it worried me extremely. Once I reached and stopped at the spot I tried to look around without getting out of the cab. There was no trace of her and I didn’t really know what to do next. Then I saw a Manly cab with its beaming light coming up from the opposite direction.

Once he saw me on the road the cabbie flashed his headlights like asking me if I was okay. I flashed back and then I noticed a reflection from the grassy ground ahead. I got out of the cab and walked up there and saw her jade rosary beads with silver cross lying in the mildew covered short grass.

“Are you okay, mate?” The other cab with a group of passengers inside stopped and the familiar Aussie driver yelled out from his window as I was picking it up from the ground.
“Yeah, I am fine, mate. Thanks. I just lost something here earlier. Don’t worry, I’d found it now. Just go ahead. I’m going too,” I yelled him back as I was getting back inside my cab.

He left me and I immediately did a U-turn and followed him. I filled up the LPG tank and returned the cab to the base earlier than I supposed to and caught a bus back home to Dee Why. Before going to bed I nicely placed her jade rosary beads in front of my small Buddha statue at home and said a prayer for both of them. It reminded me of her every time I looked at it. I was even thinking of going to the cops and reporting the whole thing but gave up the idea later as nobody with a right mind would believe my ghost story and me.

But I always looked out for Damien or his girlfriends among the Goths at the wharf for I really wanted to know if his sister was okay after all. I even searched the local White Pages for the Longbottoms and found their number. But whenever I called that number I just heard the out of service automated message from the Telstra lady. Luckily I ran into the Cemetery Bitch girl on the evening exactly a week after that night.

Cemetery Bitch

Manly Wharf  'Poo' Fountain.
At that evening I was dropping an old lady at the wharf when I saw her sitting idly with her Goth friends on the Poo Fountain created by some wise guys from the council as a mist spraying water fountain right in front of the busy wharf. It was supposed to be a snail like seashell structure with a water vapor emitting feature, but it looked more like a huge pile of freshly warm steamy shit from a distance and now the locals called it Poo Fountain. I couldn’t stop rushing towards her once I finished helping the old woman out of my cab.

“You are Damien’s friend, aren’t you? Don’t you remember me? I once took you guys to Narrabeen by the Parkway!”
“So, what’s your problem?” She didn’t sound too friendly at all.
“I just want to see Damien. Don’t you have his number?”
“Damien’s been gone for over a week now. His family’s gone back to Scotland.”
“Really, how about his sister? She’s gone back to Scotland too?”
“No. She died last month.”
“That’s impossible. She was in my cab just last week!”
“Are you kidding? She killed herself last month. That’s why they’ve moved back to Glasgow.”

Now I remembered that nasty wound on her neck under the scarf. She was hiding the rope wound from me not to frighten me. I said thanks to the girl and came back to the cab but turned back and asked the girl to confirm my now nagging thought.

“Did she hang herself?”
“Yeah. How did you guess? Damien found her hanging from a beam in the garage. Real bad stuff. Okay, can you leave me alone now?” Her Goth friends were now staring at us and she didn’t like it at all. Knowing an ethnic cabbie wouldn’t be cool for a Goth, I guess.

“Can I ask you one more? Just one!”
“She had a green rosary beads with a silver cross around her right wrist. Have you ever noticed that on her?”
“Yeah. That rosary was her favorite jewelry. A Buddhist monk gave it to her when she was backpacking in Thailand. Damien put it around her wrist to be cremated together with her body. I saw it at her funeral service.”

Sometimes you could do difficult and complex things without consciously knowing what you were doing. That was exactly what I did that evening after hearing her last words. I rushed back to the cab, turned the taxi light off, sped through the heavy traffic, and reached Dee Why in less than 15 minutes. I pulled over by the kerb near our flat and ran up the six flights of stairs.

After opening the door I rushed into our bedroom where the small statue of Buddha was. Buddha statue was still there calmly sitting in a lotus position on the small wooden throne atop the bed-side drawer but the jade rosary wasn’t. It was gone. Completely vanished without a trace.

Just a couple of hours ago, before I was about to start my night shift, I saw it there and I even touched it with my own hand. Now it was gone, probably forever, and I didn’t understand why. Why me? Why not somebody else? I was just trying to make an honest living in such a harsh world and two bloody ghosts crossed their paths with mine for no apparent reasons at all.

I couldn’t force myself to continue driving that night. I just put all credit card dockets in the pay-in envelope and returned the cab to the base with the excuse of being sick in the stomach. Old Frank back at the base wasn’t too happy but he still let me get away one more time. That night I said a long prayer for both of them before I went to bed and someone from the above gladly answered my prayers a few months later.

Parallel Universes

I didn’t drive for a while and a month later I had to start again, as I badly needed money for the coming rent. A couple of months past without any incidents and I was almost forgetting my encounters of ghostly kind, when I randomly picked up a middle aged woman in the dark near the Quarantine Station at North Head.

At that night, I got a radio job just before midnight to pick up a night duty doctor at the Manly Hospital. So I went up the hill along Darley Road and stopped at the hospital entrance. But, to my disappointment, nobody was there and then I remembered a Combined cab drove past me from the opposite direction while I was coming up. Some thieving city cabbie had stolen my fare and I had to go back to the rank empty handed, bastard. I entered No-Passenger code M3 into the radio screen and drove further up to do the U-turn.

The Darley road beyond the Manly Hospital had no streetlights for some reason. As I was doing U-turn in the dark I heard the high pitched voice of a woman calling me aloud. She was walking towards me on the dark road and I was glad that I had found a fare. She rushed up to the stationary cab, opened the back door, and quickly sat down on the back seat.

“Phew, lucky me. I thought I had to walk all the way down to Manly to catch a cab. Did you see me or just dropping someone at the hospital?”
“Not really, I was just doing U-ee and you called me out. So, where’re we heading now?”
“Oh, sorry. Could you take me to Palm Beach please? Is it too far for you?”
“No, not at all. I loved going all the way to Palm Beach, especially in a very quiet night like tonight.” I was a happy cabby now as the trip was worth almost 50 bucks.

I turned towards the beach and followed the coast heading for Dee Why through a back way. From Dee Why I could get onto the Pittwater Road and after that it was a straightforward drive all the way to the end. As I was driving I started a conversation just to keep me awake, as the destination was almost an hour away.

On long journeys, I always tried to talk to the passenger otherwise I could fall asleep easily at the wheel. That was the peril of working two jobs to be able to pay the bills as my wife was then doing an accounting diploma at the Brookvale Tafe and all four of us were living on my income alone.

“So, how did you end up at the North Head in the middle of the night? Just wandering to meet a few ghosts!” I tried to be funny at the lady in blacks quietly sitting in the back seat by the window.
“Kind of, but I had to pay 25 bucks and all the taxi fares to hopefully see a few ghosts.”
“Really, now I know. You went on the Ghost Tour inside the old Quarantine Station, didn’t you?”
“Clever man, you’re right. But I didn’t see any ghost tonight, quiet disappointing.”
“So you are in that sort of stuff, like supernatural and paranormal stuff!”
“Kind of. Actually I am a professional psychic and a clairvoyant. I also teach and research about paranormal activities.”
“That’s interesting, and you live in Palm Beach. You must be making tons of money reading people’s mind.”
“Oh, no, I was just staying with a friend. I came from Byron Bay. I had a practice there. Have you ever been to Byron Bay?”
“Yes, I was there on the way to Gold Coast, a few years back. It’s a nice place.”
“Yes it is, especially by the beach. People are friendlier there too. Sydney is a big smoke and so full of snobbish people.”
“I agreed, especially in the North Shore suburbs,” I quickly seconded her words. After that I stopped chatting and started concentrating on my driving as I had now reached on the wide Pittwater Road.

“So, have you ever gone on that Ghost Tour?” she asked me.
“Nope, I didn’t really believe in ghosts before and probably that tour was just a waste of money unless you’re really interested in the nocturnal lives of early immigrants.”
“You didn’t before, but you believe in ghosts now. That’s what you meant?” She was very smart and immediately picked my tongue slip. I turned around slightly and tried to catch a quick glance at her face in the dark corner of my cab. She definitely had a kind of face and composure that any one would have trusted her on first meeting. May be she wasn’t really bullshitting about her profession as a practitioner of paranormal stuff.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. I didn’t believe in them ghosts until a few months ago. But now, I really don’t know what I believe in. I am in a state of gigantic confusion since I had them ghosts in my cab,” I honestly explained to her and sighed with a relief. Probably I badly needed to empty my chest.
“So you had a ghost in your cab. How did it happen?” Now she was visibly excited.
“Not once, twice. First time, she was right where you are sitting now. Second time, she sat beside me for almost half an hour.”
“Jesus, are you pulling my leg or you’d really meant what you just said?”
“That’s okay, if you don’t believe me. No one with a right mind would believe me for what I went through.”
“No, no, sorry, I believe you. I myself had a few experiences. Why don’t you tell me your story, if you don’t mind, I really love to hear ghost stories?”

So she persuaded me and I told her everything in half an hour on the road between Collarroy and Bungan Head. She didn’t say a word during my story and commented only after I finished the whole story.

“I’ve heard a similar story in Northern Queensland long times ago and I could explain to you easily about your encounters.”
“Please go ahead. Why me, why not somebody else?”
“The first time was probably a rare coincidence, just a random event. But the second time was deliberate. You basically became a doorway to other universe.”
“Other universe? I thought we have only one universe! The one we are in now.”
“Not really. There are many parallel universes in any given time frame. You see, all that beliefs about reincarnation in Buddhism and purgatory in Christianity. These are all based on other universes parallely happening with our physical universe. We as a physical being can’t really exist in these parallel universes, but our souls can. That’s where the ghost or tortured souls, whatever we called them, temporarily stay before they move again into a physical being for existence.”

By then we were already on the narrow and winding Barrenjoey road.

“That is totally out of my depth. Any way, so why were they bothering me the way they did?”
“For some unexplained reason, I don’t really know, your universe crossed her universe and you met the nun. Probably you have a sixth sense ability, who knows!”
“So, if what you said was right, that young woman killed herself and then she used me to get into the nun’s universe, unbelievable!”
“That’s what supposedly happened, I honestly think. Any way, our world is full of strange things other than we are able to sense with our physical ability. You just have to have an open mind and try to understand and accept the fact that paranormal things exist around us.”
“So, will it happen to me again?” I asked her.
“Yes, it can, the door has already opened,” she replied. “Oh my God,” I cried.
“May your God have mercy on you! Can you slow down please? Okay, just stop there by the street light coming ahead!”

That was the last exact words she told me before she gave me a fifty dollar plastic note for the forty-five something dollar fare and then vanished onto a steep concrete stairway, amidst the thick brush, down towards a group of cliff-faced houses on the shore of dead-calm Pittwater. I never saw her again.

That night was the last shift I ever did for the Manly Cabs. Next day I quitted the jobs and gave a two weeks notice for the Dee Why flat. Now I live in real Blacktown of the Western Suburbs and drive part-time for the good old TCS again in the City and never see a ghost again.