“Judgment: By Accident or Design”
I should be dead. The car hit me head on as I was crossing the street. The impact was sudden, slamming like a jolt that wakes one up from a dream, and then I’m in the air, spinning up and over the hood, across the windshield that shatters under my weight.
The concrete seems so cold, though it’s in the middle of July. I know this because the sun is so high and beating on the pavement. It feels strange laying here on my back, prone in the street. I know the car has stopped and I turn my head to look for it. The car door opens and a man gets out. There is blood on his forehead where the glass exploded inwards to litter the dashboard and his face.
He’s screaming, “Oh my God, somebody help! I have hit someone.” I try to tell him I think I’m going to be okay, but I can’t move. I can’t force my limbs to react to my brain’s command. It’s as if body and mind are operating on different levels. I concentrate. I force them back together. For a moment I wonder if this is how it is when people die, the body and spirit separating, drifting from one another. I close my eyes and tell them to come back. Suddenly I am whole again and those thoughts are forgotten.
I gasp for air, choking in my dry throat as if I’d just taken a deep breath of foul smoke. I roll over coughing and I bring something up from my stomach. It’s blood. I must be bleeding inside. I get to my hands and knees, watching the blood drip from my lips onto the pavement. It has an unusual taste and I find I don’t like it much.
The screaming man has reached me, but he hesitates to help. He doesn’t know what to do, he is in shock. He just ran over a man in the street.
“Oh God, I’m sorry, mister,” he cries. “I didn’t see you.”
I want to tell him it’s all right, but I don’t know what happened. Did I step in front of him? Was I just crossing the street and he failed to see me? I try to remember what was going on before the collision of steel and bone, and I can’t do it. It’s as if some of my memory has been erased on impact. I feel like something has been taken from me and I want to tell the screaming man to give it back.
I manage to get to my feet, standing shakily. A crowd has gathered, most of them muttering in astonishment to themselves. None of them believe I could have survived that accident, much less stand. I go to brush the dirt off my clothes and realize that I am naked. Strangely, I am not ashamed, but still I look around me, trying to find where my clothes may have gone. Was the impact so hard it tore them right off? Impossible. Had I been naked, wandering the street in broad daylight, maybe drugged out of my mind, until the crash? No, I don’t think so. My body can’t tolerate drugs or alcohol.
A man comes forth from the crowd with a long coat, and he covers me up, but not before I notice a group of women staring at my nakedness. I can almost hear their thoughts; feel their hearts racing in their chests. One of them has louder thoughts than the others. They are lustful and lascivious. She will go home to her husband tonight and make love to him for hours thinking of the naked man in the street. She’ll think of my perfect body, my tanned hairless chest, muscled biceps rippling, clutching for her, my manhood thrusting deep inside her as she moans her surrender.
I shake these thoughts, her thoughts, from my head and try to thank the man who has given me his coat. The words that come out of my mouth are garbled, as if I haven’t talked until now. “Tank youth” it sounds like.
The guy who hit me is still hysterical. By now others are trying to calm him, to reassure him there are no major injuries to my person. “Look, he’s okay,” they try to tell him. I don’t agree with that assessment much, but I can’t find anything wrong with me either. At worst, I am moving in a fog, as if I have to adjust to getting used to my body again. I look at the man, and he peers at me from his frantic eyes. He knows I should be dead. I can even hear it in his thoughts. He doesn’t believe this is happening to him.
He steps forward and I know he’s going to touch me just to convince his own mind that I’m real. He thinks I may be a ghost, and he looks back at his car just to makes sure my body really isn’t trapped beneath it, dead and lifeless. But my body is not under his car. I am here right in front of him. Body and spirit are perfectly one. I feel complete, but confused. But, I know I am alive and I want to shout it. Before I can though, he touches me. And he begins to scream again.
He tears away from me to run back to his car. He wants to get away. He has realized what he has done. Seen the sheer cruelty of it. I felt his sickness when he touched my skin and I nearly retched. I fight the waves of revulsion, the urge to throw up in the street. He knows it’s over. He’s been caught. And though he’s not been judged yet, he has judged himself and wants to flee from the horror.
He’s trying to start the car. He wants to drive far from here. His thoughts are clear to me, as if we are making conversation in my head. You know what I’ve done, the mental image says. Yes, I agree. Don’t show them please, he begs. I have a wife and kids.
I shut my eyes, knowing I can’t give him that. I am incapable of much mercy under these circumstances. And I wonder if it’s by accident or design that I was the one he hit in the street. Was there a purpose in this meeting? A higher power directing our paths until we collided?
I surge forward past the people, moving towards his car. He can’t start it. It sputters, trying to turn over, but it won’t. No, no, no, his thoughts cry, and I feel his fear. He is afraid of me and what I know.
The crowd has turned to watch me. There are whispered voices, “what is he doing?’ or “did anyone see him get hit? He shouldn’t be walking after something like that.”
I put my hand on the trunk of the car to steady myself. The world is starting to spin around me, the thoughts of all these people closing in, some of them not even thinking of this moment, but of other things. Some good. Some bad, but all loud and trying to pound into my brain. Then above all the other voices, a small whimper comes to me as if from a darkened room. Help me, it says.
It’s tiny and helpless like a child, and I turn to the crowd seeking its source. I can’t pinpoint the direction through all the other thoughts. I see no children, except a little girl holding her mother’s hand standing on the curb. She smiles at me, it’s not her.
The car throbs beneath my leaning hand, the trunk vibrating as if it has a heartbeat of its own. Has he managed to start the car? No, he has gotten out of the car. He’s backing away from it, as if it’s a rabid dog prepared to lunge at him.
I pass my finger over the trunk lid and it clicks. The hood pops open and the man falls to his knees weeping. People have come closer, wanting to see what is in the trunk. Do I show them? Do I even dare? I reach my hand inside and another hand, much smaller than mine, clutches it. I pull the child from the trunk. There are gasps and frantic whispers from the crowd.
“It’s a little boy,” says someone in astonishment. “He had a kid in the trunk,” angrily yells another, until suddenly everyone is talking among themselves, some dialing numbers on their cell phones, wanting to tell others what they have been witness to. Someone grabs the weeping man. He struggles in their grip. I fear they are going to kill him. Maybe to most it would seem like a fitting punishment for what he’s done, but still it is wrong. It is not for them to judge.
Nor is it my job either. I am simply here to read the minds of the wicked. To feel the thoughts most wish to remain hidden and bring that darkness into the light, so it may be seen. I point to him and the world comes to a halt. There is no movement. The crowd is still. No one even sways. No one breathes. They are as storefront mannequins on display.
I pass by them on my way to the man. Even their thoughts are frozen; the only whisper in my head is his lone voice saying he’s sorry.
“I saw him playing,” he says. “And I wanted him.” I know this is not the first time. There have been others. And my heart weighs heavy thinking of the families of the disappeared.
“Tell me,” I command, and his thoughts let loose everything he has done. I can’t feel sorry for him. It is not in my power to forgive. He is a bad person. And he must pay for his crimes. A smaller part of me, maybe that part that exists within every human frame, wants to kill him with my bare hands. I want to take every rage of every parent of every child he’s taken and pour it out on him ten fold. But I know that is not the way.
I touch his forehead with my finger and mark him with an ‘X’. Others can’t see it but he will know it’s there, and eventually when his time comes, the punishment will be severe and everlasting. I do not wish to think of the horrors and torture that await this man. I turn from him, ignoring his pleas.
The world starts up again. People breathe, they move. They grab hold of the man tighter. Some women are looking after the boy. I hear sirens drawing near. They will arrest him and he will confess everything. He knows now the punishment for unconfessed sins.
I walk from the crowd unnoticed, for they are no longer aware of my presence. All they’ll remember is there was an accident. A man hit someone with their car. What happened to the person who got hit? No one knows. Maybe he was taken to a hospital. No, he didn’t get up and walk away; you must be imagining things, honey.
I look to the little girl with her mother standing on the curb. I put my finger to my lips. She smiles, running an imaginary zipper across her lips and waves goodbye. It sometimes takes the eyes of a child to see the Hand of God in things.
The boy will be okay. It will be in the papers. The accident that caused a child killer to be apprehended by bystanders and police. They won’t mention me. No one will remember.
In the beginning, I thought I was dead. That I was a ghost wandering through the world. But I’m not. I live, I breathe. I am seen and unseen. I am believed and doubted. Desired and feared. I am the Lord’s angel and I prepare the way for his judgment…
“Judgement: By Accident Or Design” by Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.