Author : Scott Hatfield

I killed someone today.

Well, not today. But “I killed someone yesterday afternoon and I was just now released from jail” doesn’t sound as dramatic. They let me go, so I walked home. No jacket, no gloves, dress shoes, hands stuffed in my pockets. The thermometer in my brain is telling me it’s at least minus a million degrees outside, and demanding to know why am I not inside somewhere getting warm?

But I had a boulder to roll, and this was my hill.

Muscle memory propelled me forward as I fumed. Into the foyer, stare at the uncooperative voice-auth screen. It won’t take my password. It’s kind of new, but it’s never screwed up before. After my third try I realize it’s not working because “I’m sorry” isn’t my password.

Inside, and I sit down. Stand up. Pace. Sit down again, different chair. Stare at the lamp on the table. I don’t deserve it, but I mix a drink. A second. More staring. Pacing. How could I have done this? It’s not like the war. Things like this happen.

No. “It happens” means an accident, something unpreventable, an oops. No. I wasn’t even supposed to be there yesterday. I didn’t need to make that wrong turn onto that side street. I didn’t need to be going that fast, I was in no hurry. I didn’t need to be messing with the iPod, trying to find some song I can’t even remember now.

Glance up, and freeze. Panic. React. More muscle memory. Brakes. Brakes stop you, why aren’t I stopping? That wheel, why isn’t it making me go straight? Oh, right. It was wet, and cold, and wet plus cold equals oh shit.

Then a violent shudder. I didn’t even see his face – surprise, maybe? Shock? Did he even notice me? – because I was staring at his belt, of all things. Khakis. That, and just below that, was where the bumper was going to go. And went.

Red everywhere. Explosions of color on the light poles. Intricate biology spread across that car over there. I think I yelled, or screamed? I ended up stopping a meter or so after I would have not hit him. I sat there, stunned, then threw open the door and performed the useless heroics. The first aid I knew wouldn’t work for him.

Just after I started hearing the sirens, the lights went out. No expert, me, but he was gone. Two ambulances, a police car, a special responder truck, all rolled up one after the other, only… a bit too late. Flashing lights lit up the neighborhood like a German discothek. I envied their studded tires.

More useless heroics. Electric pads. Half-liter pouches of liquids essential to life. They did what they were trained to do, loaded him up as best they could, and flew off. I was left in the cold with the police, who were asking embarrassing questions I was already asking myself: What was I doing? Where was I going? Why the fuck was I there?

My car was totalled. He was older, so he must have weighed nearly 200 kilos. It was like hitting a Dumpster. The radiator was caved in. The hood was crushed. The windshield was gone. The roof was mashed in. A mix of water, ice, and his shiny guts coated everything. I couldn’t drive the thing again even if they could fix it. It’s going to be hard enough to get back in the driver’s seat… maybe the train from now on.

A tow truck took it away, and the police took me away. Handcuffs by rote. They weren’t really sure what to do in this situation. Down to the station. The chief knew the right forms. They eventually finished their paperwork, and because of the circumstances released me with no bail. Yay.

Now I need a lawyer. I don’t know if my insurance will pay for this, if I have the right coverage. A stressed-sounding voice from the robotics company that owned him already called, talking about backups and something else. I told him I can’t talk now. I need to think.

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