“Wild night eh Will?” Jim asked as he stumbled across the debris of a house-party, avoiding more than one of the formerly drunken revellers as they lay on the carpet, open-mouthed and snoring.
“Freaking awesome” William answered, with the toothy grin of the more-than-slightly inebriated.
The part was now over and the two friends were the only ones left conscious or semi-conscious. The rest were either passed out in the bathroom, slumped over the living-room carpet or draped over the stairs in mildly amusing positions.
“I’ve gotta move Jim” said William as he got up and narrowly avoided tripping on someone’s foot.
“Dude, you’re drunk as all hell. Listen, just sleep over man I’ve got an extra room upstairs. I can’t let you drive in this state.
“F*** that man! F***ing Julie and Mike were f***ing in there… like an hour ago.I wouldn’t even f***ing sleep on that floor besides I’ve got an early class tomorrow, told you Sunday night parties were an awful idea”
“You came anyway didn’t you? Listen man, it’s already “tomorrow”. You’re dead drunk, I can’t let you out there, someone may get hurt.
“F*** you man, I’m leaving. I’m completely fine, I can drive” and with that he stepped out of the front door into the cool night air, the tangy smell of fall in the air clearing his head a little. “I’m fine. I can do this” he repeated to himself as he climbed into his battered Honda, adjusted his side-mirror, strapped on his seat belt and sped off into the night.
“Virgil! No! It’s not what it looks like!”
“It’s not! Just brilliant then. It’s all a freaking accident then, no need for me to be mad yeah? I know, you asked him inside to help you out with changing the light-bulb? That’s it isn’t it? I hit the nail on the head didn’t I” Said the crazy-eyed man in the doorway as he stared down at his wife and neighbour entwined on his marital bed.
“Virgil wait” the wife screamed, trying to get to her feet “I can explain”
“STOP! Just… stop. I’ve heard enough, I’ve obviously seen enough and I’d rather not get thrown in jail for bashing in both your heads.” Virgil was pacing in front of the bed now, the adulterers stunned into silence and inaction by his anger.
“I know! I’ve got the perfect solution for you suckers! I’ll leave yeah? and you dumbasses will get the heck out of my home before I get back. You have two hours” he continued, pointing his finger at them “TWO F***ING HOURS! Until I get back and I swear to Christ on high, if I meet either of you here when I get back. I’ll saw off your limbs with my teeth”
Virgil turned around and left, his mind filtering the pleas and sobs from his soon-to-be ex-wife and as his face hit the chilly night air the tears lurking behind his eyelids escaped and the sobs stifled by his anger were let loose. He climbed into his car, his vision impaired by his tears.
Virgil had never been a heavy drinker, but he downed bottle after bottle at the bar, letting the burning stream of alcohol sear away his sorrows- at least, for a while. Virgil was kicked out of the bar when the bartender let him know he had had enough and would not be pouring him another drop. His reasoning, clouded by alcohol and heartache did not stop him as he smashed a bottle to the floor and got into a fight with the man next to him as he tried to restrain him. Virgil lurched across the car park, stumbling past his car and into the road which, until then had been largely devoid of cars.
The headlights could not pierce through Virgil’s clouded mind; his brain did not even register what had happened until his back hit the ground, a few seconds before his final breath. The fog in Virgil’s mind dissipated in an instant as his collapsed lungs tried and failed to supply him with air, his last thoughts before his awareness faded forever was of his wife Laura, running through a field; his wife, Laura, meeting her for the first time; his wife, Laura, their first date; his wife, Laura, radiant in her wedding gown…; His wife, Laura, her pale skin glistening in sweat in the pale moonlight as she lay in the arms of someone… someone, someone that was not him.
William stared, shocked as the riven body of the man he hit slid from the hood of his car. He got out his car mechanically, as if on auto-pilot, his mind having difficulty understanding his situation. He felt the man’s pulse and listened for his breath. Dead, Dead as a doornail. Gently, he closed the man’s eyes and dialed the police as the man, looking almost regal in death lay unmoving on the cold, wet gravel.
William never went to prison. The case was ruled as manslaughter when the blood alcohol levels of both men were taken into consideration. William’s was just below prosecutable levels while the dead man, Virgil Lancer’s might have killed him even if he had not had the unfortunate run-in with William’s car.
William never recovered. Five years later, having quit Alcohol and parties altogether, he still hadn’t forgiven himself. “If I just stayed at Jimmy’s place that night. If I had just listened, that poor man might not have died”. William knew that the alcohol in the man’s blood might still have killed him eventually, but his presence, the fact that he was on the road at that moment, at that point in time meant that he never even gave the man a chance. He had gone to his funeral, enduring the abuse and vitriol thrown his way by the man’s relatives, he had seen the man’s widow, childless and virtually inconsolable as she threw herself on his coffin when it came time for the pallbearers to send his lifeless corpse on, he had watched as the hole was filled and physical evidence of Virgil Lancer’s presence was gone. William could still see Virgil’s face, as surprised as his own at the moment of impact. Eyes wide open, shock indescribable. William had done many things to atone for his crime, but had never felt the feeling, the feeling one gets when he knows he has made up for a misdeed, William felt he had never truly atoned for his crime and that was why he did not hesitate when he saw a little kid stray onto the road, right in the path of a truck.
William smiled as he soared through the air, arms outstretched to push the oblivious kid out of the way and when the moment of impact came, when he felt that jarring feeling of one’s body changing direction independent of one’s own will, he knew he had succeeded. William had atoned for his sin, it was only fair he thought, he had paid with his life for his crime; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and… a life for a life.
Early responders were stunned as they arrived on the scene. On the battered, broken body of William Aberthol, in place of the look of horror and surprise they were used to in such cases, they found a small, content smile.
IMAGE CREDIT: Celestine Chua
– Obi Arizor