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Time to Read: 6 minutes
Trigger Warning: Strong domestic violence themes.
Oh shit. Shit shit shit. I’ve really done it this time. This time I’ve gone too far. The crumpled heap in front of me gives one last shudder and stills. Jesus, she was only 9 years old.
The blind rage that had so consumed me begins to ebb away. What have I done?
If she hadn’t been so damned incompetent I wouldn’t have lost my cool. If she’d been able to just follow my simple instructions without all this “I don’t get it” bullshit then the whole scene could have been avoided. Shit.
As the red haze lifts, I begin to notice the world around me. My knuckles are beginning to hurt. The washing machine is running, its rhythmic whooshing is like a metronome of my regular domestic life, but now something about it has changed. There’s a pool of dark liquid spreading slowly on my white tiles and soaking into her white summer dress.
I breathe in and out a few times, trying to put the pieces of my shattered life back together. The last five minutes are a blur. Oh damn, did I stomp on her head? Multiple times? Oh boy.
I grimace and look around my kitchen. It’s clean and still. The waterfall granite benchtops are beautifully polished, the faucets spotless. A juxtaposition to the ugly rage that it witnessed just moments before. The concrete table has eight pushed in chairs and a vase of tulips from the garden. She’d cut them herself. She’d done all of this.
I wince as I open and close my right fist.
I finally manage to look down on the bent and broken body. It’s so small and frail-looking lying there on my white tiles. One arm is bent at an unnatural angle and her head has been cracked open like a melon. Thankfully her face is turned away from me and glossy black hair covers most of it. I am thankful for the coverage because I don’t think I could bear to look upon it.
As the last vestiges of my burning rage evaporate, cool tendrils of guilt, shame, and remorse worm their way into my heart. I bend down and touch her hair, now matted and wet.
“I’m sorry,” I say. My hands are shaking. I’m not sure if it’s the raw emotion or the adrenaline leaving me.
“I’m so sorry,” I say again. I don’t know what else to say. No tears come. I haven’t cried in forty years. That was beaten out of me early on in life.
“What are you snivelling about?” my father would say, “Shut up. Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
What an asshole. Jesus.
Well, it looks like I didn’t turn out any better, despite the thousands of dollars spent in therapy. Thanks Dad.
All of a sudden I can’t stand to be near her. I race to the front door and burst out into an impossibly beautiful day. It’s twenty-four degrees and the sky is an endless blue. My golden elm is catching the afternoon light gloriously. The birds flit from tree to tree and I see that life, here, goes on.
My baggage has come with me though. The guilt. Holy shit the guilt. The horror of what I’ve done. The absolute lunacy of it. My life will never be the same again.
I need to call it in. I’ve done something horrible and I need to be punished for my sins. I hang in this moment between two worlds, one where I can enjoy the birds and the warm air on my skin, where the last half an hour didn’t happen, and the other where I’m guilty of murder.
I pull out my phone and start keying in my passcode. I stop and inspect the back of my hand. My knuckles are red, bruised, and bleeding.
Before I even make the call there’s a van pulling into my driveway. It’s not quite what I expected but the driver is in uniform. I’m not surprised, what with the pervasive monitoring everything has these days, the authorities seem to know what you are doing before you do.
“Well at least it’s efficient,” I say, empty. Impassive.
Shit. I am feeling very cool and calm. That means I’ve probably put up my internal defence mechanisms. I‘ve turned off my emotions. I can’t deal with them. It’s a coping mechanism, I know. Adaptive, or maladaptive depending on who you’re talking to.
I’ve been working so hard on all this stuff. Trying to unwind the rage, the deep-seated sadness. I don’t want to be this way. To snap and dish out the brutal injustices that I then feel shit about.
Hell, recently I’d been hypnotised and spent a session talking to my inner child. Literally having a conversation with him. It was madness. Like talking to a little kid that was entirely separate from me but me at the same time. A sad, lonely, furious little kid.
I feel a tinge of sadness for that boy. For me. I was working so hard. I was really trying.
A man steps out of the vehicle. He looks down at his tablet and then back up at me. He opens his mouth to say something but nothing comes out and all I get is a hard appraising look. I’m standing at the top of my steps, phone in hand. I look down to see what he’s so shocked by and realise that my pants are spattered with gore. That doesn’t look good.
He sighs. “Let’s go take a look then shall we?”
I hold open the door for him. He’s a big man, at least two meters tall and almost twice as broad as I am. It’s no wonder he doesn’t seem fazed by turning his back on me, a cold blooded killer.
As his eyes adjust from the glare outside he sees her. He whistles low.
“Damn,” he says, pulled to her like a fly to fresh shit. He whips out a phone and starts taking photos.
“Do you have to?” I say, feeling it is somehow undignified. It’s crazy because I did it. I am the worst person in the world. And yet here’s this guy taking photos and I get all defensive? Talk about hypocritical.
“Sorry, standard procedure,” he mutters.
I take a deep breath and look anywhere but at the body. I flop down into a vinyl chair at my polished concrete table and run my fingers over its smooth surface. Her face is turned this way, so I look out the window at my garden. Her garden. I focus on the feel of the smooth polished concrete. Anything to take me away from all the shit that’s threatening to break through my mental wall. I can feel it all there, pressing down with a weight that is almost unbearable. Guilt, sorrow, regret.
I suddenly feel like I need to confess. To get this weight off me.
“I…. I didn’t mean to,” I stutter.
The man is crouching over the body, getting a close-up shot of her smashed skull. He grunts.
“She just. She just wouldn’t learn. Kept making the same dumb mistakes…. I just…”
The man stands up easily and cocks his head with a half-smile.
“Don’t worry buddy, I see this all the time, and off the record, I totally get it. It’s up to us to put them in their place. They’re not like us. They’re inferior. “
He looks up, conspiratorial, “hell I’ve been known to give mine a bit of the ol’ left-right combo,” he says, using his meaty hands for emphasis.
“Yes,” I say, nodding along, not so sure this is what I wanted.
“Look, just between me and you. They fucking deserve everything they get. Ya know what I’m saying? You wear the pants around here.
“But here’s the rub. Four-two-one was passed recently. You heard about it?”
I nod mutely.
“Yeah, it’s a bit shit,” he says as he prods her with some cruel-looking medical equipment.
I look down at the smashed plastic and electronics littering my tiles. I really did a number on her. Oh god, why did I have to stomp on her head?
“Yeah, I know,” I say, “is there anything you can do?”
“No way. I’m a good technician, but her noggins been smashed to smithereens. At a guess, I’d say you had a bit of a hoe down on her.”
I wince, “so….”
“So your warranty is void and you’ll have to buy a new model. Under mandate 421 any new unit has rights. I don’t agree with it, but the law is the law.”
I sigh. A new model he says. Sure she was frustrating and a little stupid sometimes, but she was my companion for the last nine years. She will no longer be a part of my life. A piece of me dies.
“Hey,” he says, standing, “at least she wasn’t human. You’d be doing time for sure.”
I look down at her form on my white kitchen tiles. Her head is tilted this way. One eye is visible under the tangle of black hair covering most of her face. Her steady gaze looks back at me. Blank. Lifeless. Gone.
“Yeah,” I say weakly, “at least she wasn’t…”
But I can’t finish the sentence. She was human to me. I should be going to jail. What I did was wrong and somehow in this fucked up world it’s perfectly fine.
He touches something inside her head and her body spasms and lays still. But her dead eye comes to life again.
“Oop, there’s still a bit of life in her, we might be able to get her fixed up after all”.
She’s looking straight at me. That dark brown eye between two waterfalls of black hair is boring into my own. It might be that I’m projecting, but I see her synthetic emotions written there, recognition, fear, and finally, pure hatred.
I look away. Maybe I should buy a new model anyway. I’m due for an upgrade. I can deal with four-two-one, I’ll work extra hard this time.