The Night is Dark
The night is dark, and I am far from home
The pavement gleams like a mirror, reflecting a thousand shimmering lights. They draw me on, like a moth to a flame. I pull up my collar keep out the rain and biting wind.
With barely a sideways glance I step around a homeless man, his possessions bundled up next to his makeshift bed. In the distance a siren wails, loudly at first, then receding into the distance as it turns around an unseen corner.
This is alien territory. I scan the street, searching for a familiar landmark. Or danger. How did I get here?
A cold hand grabs my shoulder…
Cold. Freeze you to the bone cold.
Derek tries his best to get comfortable. But sleeping rough is hard.
Fitful dreams, strange apparitions, one eye open at the first noise or sign of danger. His reality is the cold concrete, colour bleached world of the night city. Sometimes it dissolves into the warm numbness of smack induced unconsciousness. Sometimes it takes him back to his house, his wife, his children.
Life wasn’t always like this.
Footsteps make him alert. Automatically he clenches his fists, just in case.
He needn’t have bothered as the stranger passes with hardly a second glance.
Olga breathlessly ran up to the policeman. “The scream came from over there. Sounded like a woman being murdered.”
Sergeant Metcalf eyed her up and down.
Better humour her- who knows where it could lead.
“Don’t worry, I’ll check it out. Better get a name and contact number, just in case.” Worked like a charm, women are so gullible. He smiled as he tucked the note into his pocket.
No need to hurry, screams were part of the soundscape in this neighbourhood. As he rounded the corner he saw it.
Scarlet on grey cement.
A small crowd gathered round…
This is a lousy street to work. Whoever comes here? Smack heads, low lifes, cheap bastards who want it all for 20 bucks and then refuse to pay. Get the money first Angel, get it first.
She was pretty once: young, and innocent. But life had had its cost and every expense was written on her sad face and dark, hollowed eyes. Her footsteps echo through the deserted street, sound bouncing from wall to fence to wall.
Suddenly more footsteps. Heavy, a man in a hurry. She squints through the rain. Something isn’t right. She lets out a piecing scream.
What’s it like to kill someone?
Robert had often thought about it. Just some random dude. Plunge a knife into his body.
What would it feel like?
Would it hit a bone and jar or plunge in, smooth and deep?
Would it make a noise as the blade sliced through his flesh and organs?
Would it swish and sshlup as it came out?
Would the blood squirt like a fire hydrant?
Would it be like the movies or the computer games he had watched a million times?
Killing without feeling. Without responsibility. Without care.
A dark figure approached…
Interaction is Necessary
The hand spins me around. My mission is to report back on life in the 21st century and not to interact unless absolutely necessary. It is necessary now. In my peripheral display I see the flash of a blade. Does he really think he can hurt me?
The blade bounces off my body armour- a necessary precaution against the violence of this era. Sucker, it was invisible under my “ordinary” clothing. Ironic that his weapon became his executioner.
As he crumples to the ground there is piercing scream- time to return through the portal.
The grey world dissolves around me…
Passing through time
The scarlet stain grew larger around the lifeless body. Sergeant Metcalf approached the small crowd, anxious to assert his authority.
“Stand back, anyone see what happened?”
A girl stepped forward. He noted the dishevelled look, the hollow eyes. He was instantly suspicious of anything she might say.
“I saw who did it”. Her voice quivered “This guy came at him and he grabbed the knife…He wore a coat…he took something out of his pocket and vanished.”
Metcalf put away his notebook. Bloody junkies, you can’t believe a word they say.
My mouth is dry and my head is spinning- the familiar nausea of travelling through a time portal.
The commander enters briskly. I know I am in trouble.
“Your orders were to observe, not interfere.”
I swallow hard and try my best to sound composed.
“I had to defend myself. If I had been discovered….”
“I don’t want your excuses. I’ve seen the footage”. He projects the vision I had been streaming. I watch myself deflect the knife and slash my attacker.
It was oddly satisfying.
Killing without responsibility.
“Your time capacitor?”
I reached into my pocket. It was gone.
Written by Peter Larsen
Peter is a secondary teacher at Traralgon College in Victoria, Australia.