Author: Brian Maycock
The sound of sirens rising and falling as they pass by outside his room at night makes him feel alive. Someone, somewhere is fighting crime.
He falls asleep around 5 am.
When he sees it is Jell-O for breakfast he wonders if the plastic gloop he begins to scoop into his mouth is actually for supper. Has he lost a day? Not, he thinks, that there is much to lose. TV in the communal lounge, blaring and loud and yet still inaudible. Tablets and watery juice and waking with a start in a stale smelling armchair.
He puts down his spoon and looks up. Someone is talking to him. “You have a visitor.”
The orderly who spoke is already fading away. The visitor is a giant compared to everyone else in here. The man’s bulky frame seems to be blocking out the light. The smile which is now appearing is shot through with silver. Not someone to be forgotten.
Racing through the night, bones breaking underfoot. Looking back. Corpses scattered across the street. Scum, every single one of them. In a city that is bursting at the seams with criminals, there is no time to rest and already a new assignment is crackling into their ears. A warehouse, drugs.
He answers the smile with a cautious nod. “Mitchell,” he says, and his own voice sounds strange. He can’t remember the last time he had a conversation. “I never thought I would see you again, never-”
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t get syrupy on me Crabbe.” The voice is synthetic, the coldness genuine. His partner was always all about the business, with modifications more machine than flesh and blood.
Ex-partner. He bites down the urge to ask how long it’s been. Thirty years? Forty?
He feels trapped in this place, that time has been stretched out into something that is so thin and fragile it could equally break at any moment or stretch on uselessly forever.
Once, moments were overflowing with life and death. He feels tears well in his eyes. Some superhero now, he thinks.
Mitchell scowls, says “Work sent me. Housekeeping. Sweeping a last few dirty secrets under the carpet” Fingers unfold. The pill in the man’s palm looks tiny.
“Poison?” he asks.
“It will look like natural causes,” is Mitchell’s only answer and the next moment is gone.
Now, he is holding the pill in his hand. Natural. He never thought that is a word he would use again.
Crabbe was all genetic. A twist on a theme. A willing volunteer once, until everything became blurred.
And now they were asking him to call it a day to help keep the peace one last time.
Memories of the bloodlust that rose within him flash clear, the excitement at fighting crime that spilled over into a darkness that enveloped him. He wondered then, wonders now if he was a hero or a freak. A saviour or a monster. Was it possible to be both?
He pushes himself upright, shuffles down the corridor, and lets himself into his room. He opens the window, turns the light out, and lies on the bed. When Mitchell comes back to check, he will say he forgot to take the tablet. He wants to listen to the sirens rise and fall one more time.