The first few raindrops on the windshield wake me up. Or it could be that horn that just blared past, I’m not sure. I look to my left, to see if Steve is back; he isn’t. I take a peek outside, and sure enough, there he is, still ordering tea at the stand.
“Oi, Steve,” I shout, “are you planning on getting back here anytime soon?”
He gives me the old two fingers, and I sit back on my seat, chuckling. Steve isn’t a bad guy, it’s just that he has trouble keeping his head in the game. Which why I’m always doing all the driving, I suppose.
Steve gets back with our tea in two, only slightly dirty, Styrofoam cups. “About bloody time,” I mumble.
“Just drive, will you,” he retorts, as I slowly pull out of the rest stop. “Where are we off to now, then?”
“North,” I reply. “It looks like we have a huge load to deliver.”
Steve sips his tea. I’d say he looks thoughtful, if I didn’t know for a fact he is completely incapable of thought. “Always something with those bastards,” he says, not bothering to clarify what, or who, he means by that. It’s raining heavily now, forcing me to slow down considerably. Not that I can push this lorry to anything faster than 70 at the best of times, but still, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for an accident. Not with… all that back there.
“I wonder what it is, this time,” Steve says, after something like ten minutes have gone by. He takes a look over his shoulder, as if he can see through the cabin and the huge container we’re pulling with us.
“I guess it’s a good thing they never tell us,” I reply. “I’m not sure I could handle whatever it is.”
Steve doesn’t say anything to that. He just looks ahead and sips his tea, but now his eyes look strange; haunted almost.
“Here,” I say, “What’s wrong?”
He turns and looks at me, and I can tell he’s thinking real hard – that would be a first – about whether to tell me or not. In the end, he steels himself and speaks.
“I took a look in there once,” he says.
“You what?” I turn and look at him, the road briefly forgotten, before a car horn reminds me what a bad idea that is when your hands are at the wheel of a 9-ton lorry. We’re never supposed to look inside the containers, Steve knows that. What on earth could he have been thinking, I ask him.
“I dunno, I was just curious, what can I say,” he says. “I guess I… I guess I wanted to see what it’s all about, you know? I mean, think about it,” and that was a really strange turn of phrase out of him, “we get those things where they need to be, we make our delivery, and then… things change. And suddenly, you hear on the news about how place x now has a lower crime rate, or place y suddenly voted Conservative, and you think, well, how the bloody hell did that happen? And you’d never know it was us, and even we have no idea how it’s done! We just do what we’re told, don’t we?”
That was unusually lucid for Steve, I’ll admit. And he was right, of course. It was our job, as employees of Reality Group Corporation. We knew what we had to do, and we did it, no questions asked. But we were never supposed to look inside the containers, we knew that as well.
I almost don’t want to ask. “So, um… what did you see in there?”
He remains silent for a few moments. “What?”
“What did you see inside the container?”
He chuckles. “What are you talking about? We’re not supposed to look inside the containers. Are you mental?”
I turn my attention back to the road. No, of course we’re not supposed to look inside the containers. What was I thinking?
Oh, look. The rain is stopping, I can step on it again. That’s good.