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Traffic Tales

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The night was drawing in over Los Angeles, reducing the sprawling cityscape to vague outlines and neon flashes. Gridlocks suffocated the spidery web of roads, the oppressive heat adding to the claustrophobic feel of the evening. Stuck in one of these relentless traffic snarls was Mike, a ride-sharing driver, veterans of the city’s infamous traffic jams. He stared at the chatty businessman in his rearview mirror – today’s last passenger.

A cursory glance at the man’s Uber profile had revealed him as Richard Sullivan, an executive in a reputed pharmaceutical company, known for its groundbreaking medical research. Mike’s curiosity was piqued. He was no novice to the habit of successful city folk confessing their deepest secrets to an Uber driver. The confines of a car seemed to hold a bizarre sort of confidentiality, a tacit agreement of invisibility – what’s said in the car, stays in the car.

Sullivan, his tie loose and skin glistening with beads of sweat, looked spent, like a man barely keeping a lid on. Mike drove on, his sinewy and determined profile reflected in the mirror as he navigated the tumultuous sea of cars. He had survived two tours in Afghanistan, but LA’s rush hours were a different battle altogether.

“Long day, huh?” he initiated the conversation, playing his part in this nocturnal confessional.

Sullivan brushed off his jacket uneasily. “You have no idea, Mike.” His tone, a mixture of exhaustion and frank desperation, was far from the typical arrogance of his ilk.

“Yeah, I hear that a lot in this gig,” Mike replied, nonchalantly.

Sullivan leaned forward, grabbing fiercely at the headrest of the passenger seat. His eyes, glinting with eerie intent, bore into Mike’s. “Not like this,” he flashed a grin steeped in malice, “not unless you’ve had to make a choice that could make or break lives.”

An icy chill ran down Mike’s spine, shifting the atmosphere in the car decisively. No, this was not your run-of-the-mill Uber confession. This was something darker, grittier.

“Like deciding which experimental drug will be the new face of the company, and consequently, choosing who lives or dies?” Sullivan’s voice wavered. The look on his face was a cocktail of torment, a man laden with guilt battling his demons, yet relishing the streak of power that accompanied his decisions.

Suddenly Mike had a murder of questions. What sort of drugs was he talking about? Whose lives hung in the balance? But he knew this confession had just begun, and this road, twisted, possibly dangerous, had miles left. Mike, a veteran of many battles, was prepared to see this one through. The emboldened city lights of L.A. welcomed them as the car ventured further into the city’s belly. This was Traffic Tales, and the night was just beginning.

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