The Night Taxi


Podcast Episode 1: Dylan

The background noise of a thunderstorm and traffic outside that continues throughout the podcast. In the foreground, a foot taps aimlessly. A radio crackles to coherency. The news network’s opening song plays.

Woman on the radio: …that was ‘Acta’ by listener Juno May! Things are getting pretty spooky on this fine August night and once again, we’d like to remind our listeners that if you wish to submit your own scary ghost story, call Radio Fremantle at 1800-676-980…

Radio almost fully fades. Faint sounds of a car blinker. Rain patters against the window. 

Mateo (narration): I never found monsters, ghosts, or anything of the sort scary. 

Dean Terry’s ‘I Call it Dreamboy’ plays; it’s mellow and magical. As Mateo mimics his father, his voice takes on a gruff tone. 

Mateo (narration): Since I was young, I’ve been able to see spirits. Never questioned it. My mom thinks I’m just sensitive. (pause) My dad…calls it a curse. Always says, “Mateo, you need to use your ability to do good! Or else, you’ll be cursed with the same fate in your next life.” 

Mateo (narration): (pause) So I started helping spirits fulfill their final wishes to pass on. I’ve never had to seek them out, most just find my taxi. Most times, they’re colourful, humanoid shapes. To normal people, they might look like tricks of the eye, shadows in dark corners– blink and you’ll miss them. What a world they’re missing. 

A sudden ringtone. The purr of an engine and hiss of tires continues in the background. In between the pauses, there is a muffled speaker. 

Mateo: Yes this is Mateo. (pause) Sorry, I’m not accepting any more passengers tonight. (pause) Thanks, I’ll– 

A ‘thunk’ sound from the taxi rolling over something, then, a soft grunt. 

Mateo: Sorry, I’ll call back later. I think I went over a sharp rock.

A phone hangs up. There’s an indistinct clicking of car blinkers and pulling of a gearshift. The rain thunders on. Electricity from streetlights thrum in the background. A car door unlocks, and an umbrella opens. A splash, then a groan. 

Mateo: Geez…

Mateo (narration): Luckily, there’s no damage. I must’ve just hit a rock or something but better safe than sorry. I grip my umbrella tightly as I head over to my trunk in search of a flashlight.

More water splashes, a car boot opening, and faint grunting. Low, suspenseful starting notes of Dean Terry’s ‘The Inaugural Waltz’ plays. 

Mateo: Gah! 

A simultaneous, sudden drum beat. Soft, wondrous music continues. 

Mateo (narration): I feel something tug at my jacket and I turn around to see the figure of a young child. 

Mateo: Ah? Wher-how…yes?

Mateo (narration): The boy looks about seven and barely comes up to my waist. I angle my umbrella downwards so that it covers the boy–seriously, he must be freezing out here! 

Mateo: Hey bud…are your parents nearby? 

Mateo (narration): I scan my eyes around the area. No one else in sight. 

There’s only the constant pattering of rain and an indistinct croaking of frogs.

Mateo: Do you…uh have a phone number I can call? An address or anything? You must be freezing out here, soaked to the-

There’s a sudden loud crying noise.

Mateo (narration): Oh, his wails are horrible, echoing through the hollow of my head. 

Mateo: Please calm down…!

Dylan: (through sniffles) Hhugh…you…can see me! 

Mateo: (stuttering) S-see you? What… 

Mateo (narration): Then I notice the boy’s appearance.

The mystical tune of Dane Terry’s ‘Esmeralda’s Theme’ plays. 

Mateo (narration): His faint blue body is like clear, running water, his eyes a brilliant blue. I reach out to him.

A light swoosh sound. 

Mateo (narration): There’s only a faint, fuzzy feeling being any indication that something, the boy, is there. Ok, so he’s not made of water. 

Dylan: (giggles) Hey, that tickles! Stop that! People keep ignoring me when I call out to them, probably because I’m so short… Dad says I’ll grow eventually but it’ll take a long time!

Swooshing sound stops abruptly but giggles continue. The music climbs steadily. 

Mateo: What did you say? 

Dylan: People keep ignoring me? 

Mateo: Because you’re… 

Dylan: …I’m? 

Rain gets heavier. As Mateo speaks, the music pauses, then takes on a more melancholic variant. 

Mateo: (whispers) …dead. 

Mateo (narration): The boy cocks his head to the side curiously. He doesn’t seem to have heard me, but maybe it’s better this way. 

Mateo: My name’s Mateo, what’s yours? 

Dylan: It’s Dylan! 

Mateo:  Well Dylan, if you want, I could help you find your parents.

Dylan: (accusingly) Mum always said not to go off with strangers.

Mateo: Well I can’t just leave you out here! I may be a stranger but it’s far more dangerous for a kid to be alone on the side of a road! What if a car runs you down?

Distantly, the zoom of cars and a quiet rumbling thunder. 

Mateo: And look at this storm! You’re not scared of thunder, are you? 

Dylan: (defensively) Of course not! I’m not a baby! 

A loud thunderclap. Simultaneously, a child screams and puddle splashes. 

Dylan: J-just so you know, that wasn’t me being scared! Even my Dad would be surprised at that! And he’s the bravest man I know! 

Mateo: (sighs) Of course, of course. Now, come on in.

Sound of two car doors being opened and closed successively. Throughout the scene, raindrops drum against the window, with the periodic squeaking of windshield wipers. Faint radio sounds resume. At irregular intervals, static sounds. 

Woman on the radio: (faintly)…heavy storms running through the nation, police have not found any signs of Dylan Dancaser. The boy, aged 7 disappeared last Sunday after he…krrhrhs…dog along Marmion Street in East Fremantle. He has blond hair and brown eyes and is approximately 130 cm tall. If you see any sign…krrzzth…call into our station at…

Mateo (narration): Okay, so we’re in my car, and I can probably assume that the missing boy is the same Dylan as the one in my backseat. We were driving blind, but at least now we have somewhere to work with. Marmion Street. 

Distant sounds of a GPS starting up on a phone. 

Dylan: Hey, what’s the radio lady saying?

Mateo: Just boring adult stuff. 

A content hum from the backseat. 

Woman on the radio: And with our nightly news section out of the way, it’s time to commence our late-night classical music session. As we head past midnight with ‘Aspen’, we hope that our listeners are safe at home…

The radio tunes out and a gentle piano duet plays softly from it. From behind a pane of glass, the beeping of traffic lights. 

Mateo: So… you got any pets?

Dylan: (cheerfully) Yeah! I have a Labrador called Macy who’s the bestest dog ever! Macy’s less playful now, but I still love her! (proudly) Mum trusts me to take care of her so, whenever I go out, Macy comes with me!

Mateo: (chuckles) Is that so? How’d you get separated from Macy then? 

The music slows and softens until it can barely be heard. 

Mateo (narration): Dylan goes still. It’s quite unnerving, really. His eyes fall to his hands on his lap and he stares, and it’s as though if he studies his hands enough he can figure out the universe’s secrets. 

Faint clicking of a car blinker. 

Dylan: (in a whisper) It was by the East Fremantle Jetty. 

Mateo: The jetty? (disbelief) Why were you walking Macy by the jetty in a storm? 

Dylan: I– I don’t know. When I woke up…I was already by the roadside and Macy was gone.

Mateo: Do you…remember anything else? 

Dylan: No. 

Mateo: Alright. Get some rest, Dylan. I’ll wake you when we reach. 

Mateo (narration): He lays down on the car seat, curling up like a small animal with his back flush against the seat and within seconds he’s asleep.

Voice from GPS: (robotically) In 100 metres, turn right onto East Fremantle Jetty. 

Mateo (narration): I turn onto a lone stretch of road. There’s nothing but forest that surrounds the sides, the only things illuminating the asphalt being the moon, and the occasional spindly streetlights. 

The music gets louder, then softens again. A clear sound of a car door opening and closing before another one opens. 

Mateo: (distant) Dylan? Dylan, wake up. God, it’s cold out here.  

Faint shuffling sounds in the background and an indistinct sound, like a whine. 

Mateo: We’ve reached the jetty. 

The car door shuts. The wind howls. From the left, electricity buzzes from streetlights. From the right, the susurration of waves. Dane Terry’s ‘The Sleeping Zoo’ opens with an enchanting tune. 

Mateo (narration): Under the night sky, the river is tar black. All I see in the reflection is me, on the jetty, alone. It’s moments like this I remember that Dylan isn’t alive and this indescribable sense of loneliness overcomes me.

Mateo: Does this place feel familiar? 

Dylan: (exhaling) It does.

Swish of water pans from right to left. A hurried set of footsteps on creaking wood. The piano rests momentarily before it plays in a descending sequence. 

Mateo: Dylan! (huff) Wait up! What’s with kids (huff) and their unending energy?

Dylan: (excitedly) I’ve been here before! 

The sound of footsteps against the ground slows, with some panting. Suspenseful music begins to climb. At certain intervals, there are single discordant notes. 

Mateo (narration): Then I see it. (sound) No, it couldn’t be. (sound) It bobs up and down among the waves, a pale hand stark against the inky depths of the water. A child’s hand. (pause, sound) Dylan’s hand. 

A creak of wood from footsteps on it. Then slowly, another, and another. Music speeds up. 

Mateo (narration): I can’t let Dylan see– 

Dylan: (curiously) What’s that? 

The music halts. The swish of waves continues. 

Mateo (narration): Dylan looks at the water but before I can block him, he sees it, staring wide-eyed. There’s a slight tremor in his pupils. 

Dylan: I-i-is that a body? 

‘Esmeralda’s Theme’ begins softly. 

Mateo (narration): And as though what we saw was an illusion, the hand is pulled back into the abyss. 

Mateo: It’s dark out, could’ve just been some litter.

Mateo (narration): It most definitely was a body. And possibly Dylan’s. But I can’t tell him that. 

Mateo: So, where to next?

Dylan: (quivering) Uh, uhm, there. 

Mateo (narration): Dylan points straight, where there’s a little opening for a road and I think I see a line of houses along the extended stretch of road.  

Mateo: (towards the road) It’ll be faster if we drive there. Just tell me if I’m going the right way.

‘Two Dreamboys’ starts to play, hesitant and slow. Car doors open and close twice. The purr of an engine starts, followed by the constant crunch of gravel under tires. The wind whistles past a window. 

Mateo (narration): Dylan says we’re getting closer, but to me, these houses all look the same, row upon row of them stretching out before us.

Dylan: (sudden) There! I live there!

Mateo: That’s great, Dylan!

Screech of tires turning, then a short hiss against the asphalt. The opening of a car door, and subsequent slam. 

Mateo: Dylan, wait!

Opening and closing of another car door. 

Mateo (narration): Dylan still doesn’t know he’s dead! If he were to find out like this– 

A frantic slap of feet. The music crescendos. 

Mateo (narration): But before I get there Dylan is already pressing the doorbell and I rush to hide behind a nearby streetlight.

A doorbell rings. Muffled barking. A door slams open. Light pattering of rain continues in the background. 

Woman: (through sniffles) Yes? 

Mateo (narration): The warm, orange lights flood out onto the road ahead and illuminate Dylan. Her blue tear-brimmed eyes are the carbon copy of Dylan’s except for the apparent layers of weariness built up beneath them. Standing behind her is a tall man with the same weary blue eyes. Before them, Dylan is waving his hands madly but they only look past him. 

Dylan: Mum! I’m home! Do you know where I ended up? I…

Mateo (narration): The woman’s eyes are wild and searching, but they grow dim and she turns her head away from Dylan. Dylan hugs her but as he touches her arm, she rubs them as if there’s a sudden chill, unknowingly brushing him off. Dylan’s head snaps up in shock and he steps back, releasing her. 

The music pauses. 

Dylan: (softer, confused) Mum? 

Man: (dejected) It’s not Dylan. 

The rain gradually stops. 

Dylan:  (desperately) What? Dad, I’m here! 

Woman:(a sob) Where do you think he could be Frankie? He’s been gone for nearly 3 days now! 

Man: Don’t fret, Amelia, he’ll come back. 

A dog’s soft insistent whining. 

Dylan: (slowly) Mom? Dad? What do you mean? I’m back! (turns) Mateo…they can’t see me. (panicked) Mateo? Where are you? Why can’t they see me? 

Mateo (narration): A Labrador emerges from behind the woman and limps towards Dylan, sniffing the area around him, its tail wagging slowly.

Dylan: Macy, you’re okay! (tenderly) Macy, you see me right? 

Mateo (narration): Dylan reaches out to pet Macy, and I see her coat ripple lightly. Macy’s tail wags as she steps forwards, but goes right through him, Dylan jerks back in surprise. Almost instantaneously, I can see the remaining embers of hope in his eyes burn out. 

The door creaks close and the voices get more distant. The music gets louder and speeds up.  

Dylan: (voice breaking) Macy, Mom, Dad! No, no! Don’t close the door, don’t close the door, please–

The door slams shut, a lock turning. Behind the door, a muffled clawing

Woman: (trails off) C’mon Macy, there’s nothing at the door. Dylan still…

Mateo (narration): Dylan slowly backs away from the door, only the glow of his silhouette visible in the sudden presence of the dark. 

The music stops briefly and the middle of Kanazu Tomoyuki’s ‘April’ plays. The ostinato starts slow. 

Mateo (narration): Then Dylan takes off running. 

The music gets louder and faster. 

Mateo: (quiet) Dylan? (pause, then louder) Dylan!

The music reaches its peak in volume and tempo, followed by a rapid slap of footsteps.

Mateo (narration): Dylan is fast. Exceptionally so and soon enough, I find myself chasing after a blur. He winds down street after street but eventually stops at a playground. 

Music slows to a stop. From all directions, a continuous indistinct rustling of leaves. Footsteps slow down but don’t stop. In the background, sniffling slowly moves to the foreground, followed by a soft thump. 

Dylan: (to himself) They couldn’t see me. They… am I invisible? (to Mateo) Mateo, what am I? 

Mateo (narration): His teary eyes are wide and pleading, begging for answers. I feel like I’ve just kicked a puppy. I-I don’t know what to do. 

Mateo: A… spirit, Dylan. They can’t see you, because you’re dead.

Dylan: Dead. I…Macy …my parents…

Gradual, loud crying. 

Mateo (narration): His tears leak out slowly, the fluorescent lamp light catching on their corners before they start to overflow. 

Dylan: (teary) Will I ever see them again? Will they ever hug me again? 

Mateo: I’m– I’m really sorry Dylan. (hesitant) How did you end up all the way in the city? 

Dylan: (whisper) They were planning to put Macy down. So I ran away with her. I didn’t go that far! Just to the jetty…we always walked there together. But the storm…Macy… I slipped…struggled against the water, I was so tired…then everything went black.

As Dylan is talking, a thundering storm muffles the crash of waves, a loud splash, an indistinct but desperate call for help paired with the splashing of water and the barking of a dog. It suddenly stops. A pause, then Dean Terry’s ‘I Call It Dreamboy (Reprise)’ plays softly. 

Mateo: (tentatively) Listen, Dylan, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but you can’t remain in the human world forever. If you remain for too long, there’s a possibility that you’ll get stuck–

Dylan: If I go now, will I ever see my parents again?

Mateo: Yes, though I think they’ll look much older.  

Dylan: (hesitantly) And Macy is okay, right?

Mateo: (chuckle) I think her best friend would know that best, don’t you?  

The music takes on a happier tone. There’s a distant rustling of leaves and an engine purr. 

Dylan: (softly) Okay then. (pause) As long as Macy’s safe.

Mateo (narration): Dylan has a melancholic look on his face and how I wish I could grant him his wish. 

Mateo: It was very nice to meet you. (smiling) Safe travels. 

Mateo (narration): He beams, and I think it’s the most genuine one I’ve seen in a while. 

‘I Call it Dreamboy’ plays softly. 

Dylan: Bye-bye. 

Mateo (narration): Starting head down, Dylan’s body fades into cerulean flecks.

Simultaneous, soft sounds of laughter.

Mateo (narration): Soon enough, I’m the only one left in the playground, and the same sense of loneliness washes over me. 

Music gets louder, then softens as the sound of footsteps comes in. In the foreground, the opening and closing of a car door, and the ensuing start of an engine. 

Woman over the phone: (muffled, cheery) Hello, you’ve reached Radio Fremantle. For information on Dylan Dancaser, please press 1! (electronic beep) For traffic reports please press… 

The voice over the phone trails off. A number is pressed. 

Mateo: I’d like to report a possible sighting of Dylan Dancaser’s body.

A car parking then the engine is turned off, followed by the opening and closing of a car door. Footsteps, keys jingle, a door unlocks, the subsequent flick of a light switch. Footsteps travel around, and the screech of a couch. Faraway traffic sounds. Radio switches on in the background.

Woman on the radio: (faintly) –police are on their way to East Fremantle Jetty where witness reports… 

The radio trails off and a phone rings loudly. 

Mateo: (on-call) Hello? (pause) Yeah, I’m off work now. (pause, muffled sounds from the receiver) Thanks, you too. 

The call disconnects and slow music begins to fill the room, signaling the end of the episode. 

Ema (Class of 2024) enjoys writing scripts and coming up with, but never writing, extra stories involving past characters. What she writes is usually highly inspired by what she’s reading at the time. She sometimes struggles with word choice, but she’s trying.