I have no idea where this came from. I have no idea where it’s going, either, or what it’s about. But here it is. Possibly more to follow. Hell, if I can’t publish myself, might as well give it away, right?
I looked at the body of the young soldier. He had been assigned to keep me in the room, and when I had tired of the pretense, he had, unfortunately, been the one to suffer.
His young features were frozen in a rictus of fear. His eyes were wide, his mouth open in a silent scream. His hands were spread far from his body, as if he had somehow sensed, in those last moments, that reaching for the gun was of no use.
It was regrettable. Yes, I admit that. Regrettable. It sounded like a good word to use, and I think I knew what it meant.
But there he lay, and here I was, and I would rather use my talents to blend away from here than waste time over the inevitable feelings of guilt. They, after all, could always be nursed over a beer in some darkened saloon, at any time. I had to escape now.
Fortunately, his uniform fit me quite well. I began altering my face as I walked down the corridor. I had a clipboard, now, and I glanced nervously at it, to seal the illusion.
When the glass panes at the emergency room slid open upon the fading afternoon, I began to breathe more easily.
Luck was with me again on the outside. I found a place to hide until night, then began the journey back to the house.
I had gone perhaps three miles, and was walking casually through a tree-lined neighborhood not far from downtown. That’s when the flashing lights and burning smell from the next street attracted me, and I crossed the block quickly. The accident was apparently quite recent; although the ambulance was already in attendance, the sports car still sprawled, defeated, wrapped around the bent lightpost. I suppose the wreckers would be here in a moment, but I paused to watch the paramedics administer to the young man who had been thrown clear of the car. They fussed and moved rapidly about him, as his blood spread in a slowly widening pool.
It was a simple gesture. I reached out, held my hand toward him stretching and flexing my fingers in the air. I felt the heat flow through my finger tips, like fire, spreading rapidly along my arms. I heard the machines around the young man stop their rhythmic sound, and I turned to leave, the job done.
A young woman was on the grass not far from me. She glared at me, watching me drop my hand to my side. The side of her head was bandaged, and she was being questioned by another paramedic. Evidently, she was the passenger, relatively unhurt. Her glare burned like a hot coal into my eyes.
What might she have seen?
I shook my head, cleared my thoughts, and decided not to worry. The paramedics were shaking their sad faces around the dead young man, and I took advantage of the rapidly forming crowd, briefly to become a part of it, then to use it to move to the outer edges, thus quietly taking my leave of the gathering mass.
A pity. A great pity, I allowed myself to think, wondering if I understood the word….
Once away, far enough away, I took time to think, and asked myself if I should go to the house. There was only one answer, of course, but I sometimes like to pretend there are others. It gives me a strange feeling, to pretend. Almost a feeling of control.
She was washing the dishes when I came in through the back door. Her back was to me, but I could almost see her frown and feel her worry, and when she heard me, her disappointment.
She paused in scrubbing a dish, then went on and placed it in the drying rack.
“I’ve been worried,” she said, not turning around.
“I’m sorry,” I said. There are times when I hate this way of life, especially what it does to her. But there is no other way, so I did what I thought best, and lied. “I didn’t kill him. He was already dead when I got there.”
“Yeah,” she said, rinsing the next plate.
“No, it’s the truth this time.” Gods, how that burned.
“Of course,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. It burned even more to know she could see the lie.
What could I do? She seemed so fragile, washing dishes as the lights from the streets fell across the kitchen curtains. I wanted to protect her, but didn’t know how.
I stepped forward and stood as close as I could behind her. “I…I didn’t– don’t….”
“I know,” she said, and her voice caught. But she continued. Rinsing the plate, soaping the plate, washing the plate, drying the plate. The same plate.
“I’ll….I’ll be upstairs,” I said. “I have to change.”
“Would you like me to leave?”
“No,” she said in the dark. “No, I want you to stay.” She sighed. “I just wish…”
“I know,” I whispered.
“I want to ask you something,” she said after a moment. “Please do.”
“Will you ever….oh God.” She took a deep breath. “Will you ever do that to me?”
The question caught me off guard. “No,” I said. “No, of course not.”
I hoped it was the truth.