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Crime

He had, admittedly, seen glass break many times before; soapy hands dropping glasses on the floor, test tubes in a science lab filled with rowdy children, and naturally windows being broken. Sometimes by bullets, sometimes by bodies, sometimes by bomb blasts. But there was something about watching it happen again this time that caught his breath. 

It might have been the sunlight, or it might have just been the angle at which he was standing. He couldn’t decide, he rather suspected it was just a combination of the two. It struck him as exactly how a window shattering was portrayed in a film, all perfect equally sized triangles of glass headed in the same direction. And then he wondered how they made it look so perfect in the first place. And then he decided he didn’t know nearly enough about cinematography to be wondering on that topic, it would probably lead to more questions than answers. 

The cause of the display, a woman whose name was something beginning with L, if he had heard that correctly, was sprawled across the pavement making very unhappy noises. Funny how people who go flying through windows in films always go through backward, he thought. Mrs L being launched headfirst slightly spoiled the effect. Maybe it made the scene more realistic, nothing really happens like in the movies does it. Life doesn’t work like that, life throws people through windows head first.

Thinking back, perhaps it was the noise. Equally perfect, he could only describe it as clean. The noise you would expect a large pane of glass to make if one smashed through it in a film. Tiny scraps of glass making ringing noises as they landed, tinkling was the word wasn’t it? Didn’t seem like a very self-respecting word, maybe he wouldn't use that word if he ever told this story. Not that he would ever tell it in that much detail anyway, who would want to hear about such a minor aspect.

But it didn’t seem minor now. The window was long since broken, all the glass long since stilled on the floor accompanying its new companion in the form of a miserable Mrs L. Regardless, he couldn’t get the picture out of his head. It had seemed so surreal, so set up, so much like a display, that for a split-second he was tempted to laugh, expecting to turn around and catch someone’s eye and receive confirmation that this was some elaborate joke. Something so beautiful didn’t happen in a situation so ugly.

He felt he was meant to learn something from it. Surely the only explanation for his distraction was that it was meant to send him a message of some kind. Was it his subconscious trying to tell him something, trying to warn him? Maybe Mrs L was not as incapacitated as she had looked when he peered over the now empty windowsill. Maybe she was up and about again already, sneaking her way up the stairs unseen to enact her revenge, to continue on with what she came here to do. He peered over the windowsill yet again, just to humour himself. No, that wasn’t it then.

A message from God? First he would need to decide whether he even believed in a God at all, not only one that sends indecipherable messages in glass patterns. It must mean something, it was too beautiful, too stark of a contrast to go ignored. And nobody else had reacted, not mentioned it at all. It was just part of the job wasn’t it, nothing unusual. So if it was a message, it was one for him. Only to be viewed by someone standing directly where he was now. Well if this was meant to mean something, the messenger whoever they were needed to work on their communication skills. Although maybe he shouldn’t say that so definitively if the messenger actually did turn out to be a God.

When he blinked, he could see it. Almost as if in slow-motion, suspended, frozen in time. Of course that must be why, it was simply that the sun reflected in so many shards was so bright that it had taken him by surprise. Shocked him whilst he was so focused, all his senses alert and waiting for something vaguely unpredictable that might pose a threat. An unexpected bright light would set off that kind of warning. That must be why it had unsettled him so much. He had thought it might be a threat, something that he might need to deal with quickly. But it wasn’t, it was just another part of the job, a good thing even, taking out one of the other side with it, and so now that he could be pleased his reflexes were so sharp, he could forget about it and move on.

In his brief interlude of evaluating quite thoroughly poor Mrs L’s trajectory through a window, lots had happened and soon the room calmed, then there were fewer people, then there were people talking to him. He relaxed. This was comfortable, this was usual, this was what he knew and this was how the world was supposed to work. Not getting distracted by pretty lights. He could talk back, and he could tell them what had happened, he could make sure that they knew anything important that others might not know, he could back up the other’s versions of events, and just as he had expected, nobody did ask him to tell the story in quite that much detail. 

Then there were no more people talking to him, then he was checking in with the others around him, then he was making sure nobody was hurt. And it became clear to him that it wasn’t over. It became clear that the end of a simple pane of glass had meant something, even if he wasn’t sure what yet. Maybe it was simply meant to mean what it had demonstrated itself; that there can be unexpected beauty. He thought that was a pointless message to try so hard to convey to him. He wasn’t sure why it was so necessary for him to know that. He also thought it was a little insensitive to use such violence, to use someone’s suffering. And then he realised that he didn’t believe in God. If he hadn’t this morning there was no need to now, and so it was him using someone’s suffering. 

Then there were people cleaning. A broom, gloves and white paper suits. He walked over, and he knelt down. He picked up a small triangle of the oddly perfect glass, and he put it in his pocket. He wasn’t certain he wanted to settle on the message it had been trying to convey, maybe he would never know. But it had been such a faithful companion to his thoughts, and he was strangely attached to it. He thought maybe he would drill a hole in it and wear it on a chain around his neck. Maybe then people actually would ask him to tell the story in that much detail.

June 05, 2021 21:11

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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