by Annelise Lachman (P6 2020)
The heat licked my sunburned face and coiled around my limbs like a great hot-blooded serpent. The ground smouldered and sent up a disorienting haze. Even the loud birds were unusually silent and the olive-green grass was so still as if it was too hot to move. It was officially the first day of summer break. I excitedly dug out my electric scooter from my garage. I glanced down the side of my street.
I lived in a puzzling but cosy town. The buildings were an amazing jumble of different styles, rickety wooden shops, marble and brick houses with enormous stone churches behind. Everything had been beaten down and baked by the sun and sunlight was everywhere, in the dust, in the vivid colours, and in the fragrant smells of spices and overripe fruit. I regained my focus back on my scooter. I felt a twinge of excitement tingle through my bones as my pulse quickened with eagerness. I was finally going to ride the electric scooter I had received for Christmas last year.
Since both of my parents were at work all day long, I decided it was the perfect chance for me to ride my brand-new electric scooter. I ignored the warning from my parents not to ride it until they allowed me to. A feeling of exultation swept over me as I unplugged it from the charging station. My hands were trembling with excitement as I pulled it out. I gripped my hands onto the smooth handrails and slowly turned the speed to number one. We started moving. I felt the cool breeze hit my face, slowly evaporating the sweat from my sweaty and sunburnt forehead. I whooshed past all my neighbour’s houses with a smile drawn unintentionally onto my face. I felt as though I was on top of the world while riding it. Catching beautiful scenic views left and right.
Within a few minutes, I was approaching the next town ahead, Springfield.
As I entered it, the colours of the town reminded me of children’s toys. Every red was the exact same one, a brilliant cherry scarlet. Every blue was a bright royal hue, neither dark nor light. The streetlamps were the same canary yellow as the taxis. There was no pink, no grey, no orange or violet; but it was more than that. Nothing was sun-bleached, nothing scratched or chipped. The street was free of litter, the walls were unvandalized perfection. It seemed like a town right out of a fantasy story book. I gasped as I stared around in admiration, my eyes wandering back and forth. I aimlessly increased the speed of my scooter to speed number two. The acceleration compelled my hands to automatically grip the handrails tighter. My eyes glowed with happiness and I felt my cheeks flush with excitement as I was gaining speed. Blurry picturesque images zoomed past my face as I zipped through bumpy, grassy narrow pathways.
Soon enough I arrived at the town’s crowded wet market. The streets were jammed with colourful and rustic cars while traffic was at a crawl. Saturday afternoon shoppers were hustling and bustling. Crowded streets were lined with stalls selling organic produce, fresh meat, local cheeses and baked goods. The sweet and savoury aroma wafted through the hot summer air. My stomach clenched with hunger at the thought of sweet, honey rolls. I could imagine the warm and fluffy bun dripping with amber-coloured liquid that immediately made my mouth water. Hot and annoyed stall owners with chalk boards were calling out prices and special offers. There were rows of shops with flats above and harassed mothers with strollers and toddlers. I shook my head in disbelief, it was so crowded and noisy. I had to get out of there fast. I changed the speed to three and decided to ride it back to my house since my parents would be getting home soon. Time seemed to vanish so quickly, I thought to myself.
That feeling of motion, the speed and the rise and fall of the path, the chance to go over grass, mud or road all liberated me. It is a freedom I will always crave for and wish for. Right when I was drowning in my thoughts, the sound of a loud gregarious boom of thunder rolled across the emerald green valley, announcing the start of what the brooding cloud layer had promised since an hour ago. The wind tore leaves from the trees. The rain lashed down, torrential and unforgiving. Newspaper blew along the street and umbrellas turned inside out. I automatically increased the speed to five, the highest number, then at lightning speed, I barrelled my scooter through Springfield.
My mind was so focused on getting home that I did not see an old hunched-back lady in front of me at all. She was wearing a periwinkle blue raincoat and was carrying what seemed like a million paper bags. It hit me like a delayed bomb, my eyes widened as big as saucers as a startled exclamation escaped from my mouth unnoticed and my jaw sagged. It seemed like it all happened in slow motion. I crashed into the old lady, throwing her onto the edge of the wet sidewalk. I rolled onto the ground. My scooter kept tumbling until it came to an absolute stop. I could taste the coppery blood pooling below my tongue as it was grazing my teeth and soaked my tongue. I felt the aching and cracking in my bruised bones. Each crack felt as though sharp and jagged rocks were burrowing into my skin. I tried to suck in some cramped air, feeling my lungs caving in on themselves. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the old woman lying beside me. I immediately stood up, my knee still dripping crimson blood. I staggered to her side and knelt down. The old woman lying beside me let out a stifled scream and her face was creased with pain. I ran my hand through my drenched hair as I stared up at a sign above me. “Oh no!” I blurted out. It was an image of an electric scooter crossed out. Suddenly, her breaths became rapid and shallow, her eyes moved from side to side and she collapsed onto the ground, lying unconscious. I could see the blood trickling out from her nose. My stomach twisted in knots as I checked her pulse.
Thankfully she was still alive but was not opening her eyes. I put my hand to my mouth, my eyes were swimming in tears, which overflowed and ran down from my eyes as I hung my head in despair, falling faster and faster into a cold abyss. I knew that there was no option now but to call the police and the paramedics. I dialled the number on my mobile phone with my head swimming unhelpfully and my mouth uncharacteristically dry. My limbs felt like my muscles had been taken out and replaced with over-stretched elastic rubber bands. The pain was becoming unbearable.
“Hello, this is the police. What is your emergency and address?” asked the woman on the other end of the line.
I could not bring myself to speak, stammering as blood flowed from my mouth, “I…I…accidentally hit an old woman with my electric…scoo…ter on Springfield Avenue 49, she… isn’t waking up.”
Once she was done telling me the right procedure for CPR, she said that the police and paramedics were on their way and I had to stay calm. I nearly choked, how could you stay calm when you had almost killed a person, how could you stay calm once your parents had found out, how could you stay calm when someone was dying right beside you, how could you stay calm when you were in so much pain?
The two minutes I waited for the police to arrive felt like an eternity. I finally heard the blaring sirens of the police cars. The blue and red lights were a little more than smudgy illuminations in the slanting rain. But beneath their glow was the white bodywork of a police car. Its yellow-white headlights spotlight the dense hedgerow to the side of the lane where the taillights sat unusually high off the ground and tipping upwards into the black and ominous sky. I waved my cold and clammy hands, my fingertips bloody, in the air. They rushed out of the car and attended to the old woman and me. They instructed me to sit down on the curb as they cleaned my wounds. Then the paramedics bandaged my knee and placed a cast around my foot. I buried my face in my hands. The guilt sat not on my chest but inside my brain. What I had done I could not undo. A fire burned in my mind and throat. Remorse hit me like a sledgehammer. I could feel daggers aiming at me from within the crowd of police and paramedics.
After thirty minutes, the police officers started to ask me questions and reprimanded me. I hung my head low in shame as I tried to wring my wrists but it was too painful to do so. When they asked me questions, the words seemed to stick in my throat as I avoided their steady gaze. Once they were finished, they ordered me into their police car and talked outside. I was engulfed in fear. My eyes shifted to the side again and became glazed with a glossy layer of tears. As I slowly blinked, they dripped from my eyelids and slid down my cheeks. I bit my lip tightly in an attempt to hide any sound that wanted to escape from my mouth as I watched the rain pelt against the window of the car. “I don’t want to go to jail…I’m so sorry…,” I sobbed uncontrollably. After much discussion, I was informed that I would be driven back home and that my parents would be notified.
“Is the…lady…okay?” I stuttered nervously.