Andrew hadn’t been looking where he was going. Instead, he had been checking his phone. He had an important meeting later that day, and somebody had just txt’d him a slight change in venue. Same building, different room. It seemed very important at the time.
It only took him a moment to check, but that was plenty, because the girl hadn’t been looking where she was going either. Though she was distracted by far more ephemeral and terrifying things.
They collided halfway through the crosswalk. The girl had been walking fast, but she was very small and Andrew was a big fellow. When they crashed, he merely staggered back, she was knocked to the ground. Her overstuffed blue backpack chose this moment to split a seam, throwing its contents across the pavement.
The girl shouted, “Shit!” too loud for public, Andrew thought. He apologized, saying that this was probably his fault for checking his phone while walking, and quickly moved to help the girl pick up her things. A few passers-by pitched in as well. There were quite a few notebooks and pencils to wrangle. Andrew thought she must be a student. She did look very young, she might even be a high schooler.
Andrew picked up the nearest book, a heavy, leather bound volume that seemed… important. Was it a bible? Was she a seminary student?
It had been lying open when Andrew picked it up, and he took just a moment to look at the page it had opened to. There was some kind of illustration that took up most of the page.
Andrew wasn’t sure what it was. It had a quality to it like those magic-eye prints. Like if you could stare deep enough into that mess of ink, you might see a sailboat. It was funny, in the curious sense of the word. It was almost like it was moving. He tilted his head to try and catch what it was he was supposed to see. There was writing around it on the page, almost as unusual as the picture. There must have been six or seven languages scribbled in the margins. The only words he recognized were in red ink just under the illustration.
That was French. He had taken a bit of French in high school. He thought it was a way of saying “watch out!”
“Don’t read that!”
She snatched the book from his hands and shoved him away. Andrew was about to complain, insist that he was just trying to be helpful, but the cars waiting for them to cross began honking, and the girl bolted, clutching her books to her chest.
Andrew hesitated, but the cars honked again, and he rushed off to his meeting.
He got there early. He knew everyone’s name, he’d been very careful to remember, and he shook everyone’s hand, and he began his pitch. He’d been preparing for this meeting for over a week, it was a very big deal.
Something happened though. Something bad.
About 30 seconds into his presentation, Andrew stopped. He had a moment of panic as he completely forgot where he was in his presentation. He was so embarrassed.
He apologized, consulted his notes, and joked without mirth about how silly he felt asking where he was in his speech. They were kind though, and they let him continue promising not to hold the stumble against him. He went on, and he got through the rest of the presentation without trouble. They listened and assured him he had their business when he was finished. He shook hands again and he had a few words with them. Angela, who he’d done the most talking to getting this meeting set up. They’d known each other for awhile before this deal though. She stayed back to talk to him for a bit.
“Good job, Andrew,” she smiled and leaned back against the table.
“Thanks. I felt like an idiot stumbling right out of the gate there,” he gave a half-hearted laugh.
“You did fine,” she gave him a slap on the shoulder and laughed.
Andrew laughed too. At least, he meant to. It happened again. He blinked and couldn’t remember what he’d just said. He knew he’d said something, but couldn’t remember what.
Angela was looking at him. Staring. Her smile was gone.
“How do you know that?” she whispered quickly, “How could you possibly know that!?”
Her eyes were full of fear and anger. Andrew didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what had just happened.
“Don’t ‘what’ me. What the Fuck, Andrew!?” she wasn’t whispering now. People outside the conference room were beginning to notice her raised voice, and Andrew couldn’t even find the words to articulate how confused he was.
“I…I don’t know….” was all he could manage.
“Get the fuck out!” she yelled, “GET OUT!”
He did. He practically ran out of the building. Slowing down outside only to collect his thoughts. What had he said? What could he have possibly said to get Angela to react like that? That didn’t make any sense. He liked Angela, she was a really good friend. He wouldn’t say anything to offend her, and if he did by accident, she had always been quick but kind in letting him know he’d crossed a line in the past.
It didn’t make any sense.
A few days went by, and nothing came of it, so he tried to forget about it.
He hadn’t been sleeping well though. It must have been the worry over not knowing what it was he said to Angela. It just bugged him, kept him up. When he did sleep he was starting to sleep walk, and it was bothering his wife.
It was evening and he was driving home from the doctor with a prescription of sleeping pills that were supposed to help when it happened again. This time was really bad.
It happened just as he began to turn onto 5th street. He blinked, and he wasn’t on 5th street anymore. He knew he’d been driving for at least a few miles, he just couldn’t remember anything about them. Anything.
Blackouts? That wasn’t normal was it? Did this happen to other people? Andrew thought back to his meeting with Angela.
When he made it home, the sun was already setting. He parked in his garage and went inside to his wife, who was just finishing up dinner.
He talked about his trip to the doctor over the pasta. The doctor thought it was probably stress, but wanted him to come back in a week or two to see if the pills helped.
After dinner, they sat down, and they watched the news together. Andrew was beginning to doze off, his wife already had, curled up against him on the couch, when something caught his attention.
There had been an accident on 5th street this afternoon. The news was saying a child had been hit. They weren’t dead, as the car had fortunately only winged them, but they had been hospitalized. The driver had fled the scene, hadn’t even slowed down, witnesses said. They didn’t have the license plate, but they did have a make and model.
It was a green Ford Taurus.
Andrew sat up.
He wracked his memory.
He’d been on 5th street. Near where this had happened. Had he turned off before this had happened?
He stood, and walked out to his garage. He turned on the light and looked over at his green Ford Taurus parked there. It looked ok from the door. He let out a sigh. There had to be other green Tauruses around. It couldn’t have been him. He walked around, and his heart sank to his shoes.
On the far side from the door (the right side) there was a small dent where something had hit. There was blood too.
He couldn’t have. Blanking out something he’d said was one thing, even a few miles of empty road were understandable, but this was impossible. How could he have hit someone and not realize it. It couldn’t have happened that way. It couldn’t have. He would have realized. He was sure of it.
“What is it, honey?” Andrew looked up to see his wife at the garage door. He would have to tell her. He would have to break her heart and tell her he’d hit a child. His life was over. He’d hit a child. What’s more he’d fled the scene. He was going to jail.
He struggled to find the words to tell her. Then thought maybe he shouldn’t. She couldn’t see the damage and blood from here. He hadn’t been able to. And the witnesses hadn’t gotten the plates. He could wash the blood off and he’d be ok.
No. No that wouldn’t work. Even now she was stepping over to him. And besides that he couldn’t lie to her about this. He had to do the right thing.
And that’s when he blinked.
He was in the kitchen now. Washing his hands. How had he gotten here?
The sink was red.
His hands were red.
The knife on the counter next to the sink was red.
Oh god! Andrew spun around. His wife was there. On the floor and bleeding.
Andrew gasped, and blinked again.
He was over his wife now, knife in hand. She was still alive, but she was breathing shallow. Andrew didn’t know what to do. He had to get help, he knew that. He had to call 911, but what if…whatever it was that was happening to him happened again on his way to the phone. And even if it didn’t, nobody would believe him that he didn’t do it. He hadn’t. He couldn’t. But there he was, knife in hand. Covered in his wife’s blood. With a car in his garage that had been used in a hit and run.
What was he supposed to do?
That’s when he heard a window crash. He spun around and it happened again.
He was on the ground, and he was in pain. A girl, the same girl he’d bumped into three days ago had shot him with a tazer. He had fallen to the ground as the electricity ran through his body. The boy, there was a boy in the room, who looked about the same age as the girl, picked himself up off the ground near Andrew. He was bleeding from a slash across his forearm, and Andrew realized the knife was still in his hand.
The boy reached into his satchel bag and pulled out a book. The same book Andrew had seen the girl drop, and open it to the page he had seen before at the crosswalk.
“Keep him down while I get it out of him!” the boy shouted.
“Don’t worry I’ve got him,” the girl responded.
The boy set the book propped up in front of Andrew’s face. Where there had been a picture on the page before, there was nothing but a blank space. The boy was right in front of Andrew now, and he could see the boy had a name tag sticker on his jacket.
“Hello, my name is James I’m here to help.”