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Headlights.

That was all I saw before the truck smashed into the side of the car.

Then everything went black.

I woke up in hospital five hours later, lying outstretched on a bed, my doctor standing next to me and an IV needle in my arm. He told me that it was a miracle that I hadn't suffered any significant injuries or bruising, and that I could return home as soon as I wanted, as long as I agreed to stay home and rest for the next week or so.

Doing nothing but resting at home started to drive me crazy, so after gritting my way through the second day of watching shitty soap operas and stupid infomercials on TV, I decided that I had had enough. I wasn't going to waste another day, filling my head with the shit on TV, and looking at the photos of my wife and son that I had hanging up all around the room.

My beautiful wife, Lorna, who had passed away what seemed like an eternity ago.

My estranged son, Simon, who I had not seen for over two decades.

So going against the good doctor's advice, I spent the third day out and about, shopping and buying groceries. I found out pretty quickly that I had forgotten to put in my hearing aids, but being the stubborn person that I am, I refused to go back for them, determined that I could get by without them for the rest of the day.

I returned in the evening, exhausted by both the physical toll that the day had exacted on me and the constant mental strain of barely being able to hear anything without those damn hearing aids. And to top it all off, the power was out for the entire street, if not the entire damn suburb as well.

Bloody brilliant.

Walking up to my front door, shopping bags in hand, I unlocked the door and walked inside, closing the door behind me. My arms were so exhausted at this point that I just dropped my bags to the ground.

I can't be screwed dealing with these groceries tonight, I thought.They can wait till tomorrow.

In fact the only things I need for before collapsing on my bed is those damn hearing aids….. Now where did I leav-

My thoughts were interrupted as I saw a silhouette move in my living room. In one fluid motion, that I had rehearsed over the decades, I quickly pulled out the double barrel shotgun that I always kept hidden behind the bookshelf next to the front door. Cocking it, I pointed it straight at the silhouette.

“You. Over there in shadows. I don't know who the fuck you think you are, but you choose the wrong house to rob.” I shouted into the shadows “Now get the fuck out my house… NOW!” The silhouette remained perfectly still for what seemed like an eternity, to the point that I almost started believing that I had imagined what I had seen. But then it got up from where it had been sitting, and started walking towards me. Towards the door.

Realising that I was in its way, I took a step back to get out of the way. However I forgot one simple thing at the time.

I had dumped the grocery bags all around me.

And so as I went to take a step back, my foot got accidentally hooked by one of the bags, tripping me up and crashing me hard onto the wooden floor beneath me. As my body impacted into the ground, the shotgun suddenly kick backed, smashing into my ribs.

I looked up in horror to see smoke smouldering out of the barrel of the shotgun.

My finger still clenched hard on the pulled back trigger. The body of the silhouette crashing to the floor just in front of me, blood pooling onto the floor. Time slowed as I remained frozen there, unable to accept what had just happened.

What I have done.

Scrambling to my feet, I dodged the crimson tide spreading out over my floor and raced to the phone in the kitchen. As if by an act of God as I reached over the bench to yank the phone off the handset, my fingers brushed over my hearing aids. Quickly grasping them and pushing into my ears, I grabbed the phone and desperately punched nine one one into it.

Thirty seconds later and it was all done. The lady on the phone had told me that there was an ambulance en route to me, with other emergency services close behind. She told me to sit tight and wait.

I sat there waiting. Waiting for what seemed like an age. Waiting for those flashing lights to pull up to my house. Waiting for the police to eventually figure out what happened, cuff me and then send to me prison for manslaughter. Waiting for my life to end, or at least my life as I knew it. I was now a criminal.

A murderer.

Every second I saw the same situation play out in my mind. The same waves of guilt and dread wash over me time and time again until I thought I would drown in them.

Out of the corner of my eye, though, I eventually saw that the telephone's handset was flashing it's light over and over again.

There was a message on the answer phone.

The message had been left at 10 : 40 am that morning, just a few minutes after I had left to go out for the day. Whether out of habit, or just to forget for but a single second the terrible atrocity that I committed, I do not know, but I raised the phone to my ear and pressed the button.

“Dad, it's me. Simon…”, the voicemail began.

“I know that we haven't been on speaking terms for a few decades… Ever since Mum's death. Your doctor, though, got in contact with me. He told me that you'd had car accident… Are you okay? I miss you Dad… ”

Tears began to well up in my eyes, trailing down the side of my crinkly face ; as for but a second I forgot everything else.

The ever throbbing ache of grief for my wife, Lorna.

The slow but constant decay of my body.

The car accident.

Even the dead body lying on my floor.

Everything, that is, except for Simon.

My boy had finally returned from whatever dark hole or abyss of the world that he had fled to in his grief , someplace so remote that I never managed to find him, even after years of looking.

I jarred back to the moment as I heard the voicemail continue.

“So, I thought I'd drop by and we could just chat. It's what Mum would want us to do, too. I'll come by tonight and if you're not there I'll just let myself through the backdoor with the spare key that you always put under the doormat. I'll be sitting there waiting for you.” Simon's voice wavered for a moment, as if on the brink of tears, but continued.

“I love you Dad.”

Fiction


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