The bright stars had already littered the melanistic sky that blanketed the skyline of the city when Kat was finally able to leave his office. Although he was tired from the various meetings that he had had to attend that day, several points and issues raised during those grueling meetings still lingered in his mind as he drove his car out onto the street of the metropolis and headed for home. He thought to himself, how easy it would be to just leave the pile of work on the desk, like all his workmates do, and go home. But he realized that he would not be able to endure the worry-filled sleepless night, and the endless accusations he would throw at himself about lacking responsibility and abandoning his tasks.
Kat was frustrated that despite the late hour, there were still quite a number of cars on the road. Of all the things he hated most about the city life was the traffic jams, and with his house – his parent’s house rather – located in the suburbs, it was something that he had to deal with every single day. But it was something he could never get used to.
His big round green eyes were on the number plate of the car in front of him, as the images of his wife and his baby boy drifted into his mind. He wished he could spend more time with them, but the nature of his work, and the distance between his home and the office, dictated that he left home early in the morning, usually before his son woke up, and arrived home late, usually after his son had gone to sleep. It was a life, or lack thereof, that he cursed every day.
A horn honking from the car behind him yanked Kat from his reverie, and he hurriedly drove forward. He extended his short chubby finger to turn on the radio to keep him company. A song by a woman lamenting the good old days blared out from the speakers on the side of his car, and Kat could not turn the volume down soon enough. Despite the singer’s soulful and moving rendition, he hated these kinds of songs. There were few enough people who sang nowadays, and they should know better than to sing songs of their “glorious” past. Keeping his eyes on the road, Kat push another button on his radio. This produced an upbeat sound that perfectly blended the dynamic techno beats with the sounds of the jungle animals, which were all the rave these days. Kat decided to keep that station, hoping that those sounds would help him stay awake on his journey home.
Recently, Kat found himself discussing more and more the prospect of moving into the city with his wife. It was not that he was tired of the daily trips, he was more worried about the safety of his wife and kid during the day. Their house in the suburb was quite some way away from the city, and now with news of increased robberies by the Street People, he did not want to take chances. But despite his wishes to move to the city, he realized full well that they would have to give up a proper home for a small condominium, where his son would be deprived of the space to run around, and trees to climb, where they would also have to deal with the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. It was a passionate discussion that, more often than not, had him and his wife at loggerheads, and ended with no clear decisions. On a day like this, when he had to work very late, he felt his case for a move was stronger than ever.
Caught up in his thoughts, Kat almost missed the shortcut that led him home every night. He used to like this double-laned side road, despite its lack of proper lighting. It was a quiet street, with most of the cars preferring the well-lit main road, but its long stretch allowed cars to flow freely, and on the odd days that he came home before sunset, he would have the pleasure of enjoying the views of the Plane trees lining both sides of the road. But it seemed like an eternity since he had last had that pleasure.
And now it seemed the roads, as with the other parts of the metropolis, were being besieged by the despicable Street People. A shiver went down his spine as Kat thought about the useless dirty beasts, with long hair and old torn cloths, roaming the streets ransacking the garbage for a living.
Incredibly, they were said to have ruled the world at one time in the recent past, but their greed and never-ending thirst for wealth and materialism had ultimately sealed their own demise, and the downfall of the Old World Order, but not before they had used up most of the old world’s natural resources, and left it vulnerable. Towards the end of their regime, they had also been the hosts of countless disease and virus, which had ultimately annihilated their population. The revolution of the Sutac-Slief Army, coupled with the havoc caused by the frequent ensuring natural disasters, eventually brought an end to the Street People’s self indulging system, and established the New World Order.
At one time in the distant past, the present Government had exterminated the Street People indiscriminately, bringing them close to extinction. But they seemed to have somehow developed immunity, and had recently resurfaced, to become a major pest once again.
And just as Kat was thinking about his warm bed, and a warm cup of milk, he saw a figure emerge from the side of the road.
The figure suddenly strayed in front of his car. Kat tried with all his might and wit to turn the steering wheel away from the figure to avoid hitting it. Luckily, there were no cars traveling on the opposite lane. Kat thought he had successfully avoided a collision when suddenly he felt the impact of running into something solid, followed by a muffled scream. Kat could not believe his eyes when he saw the figure roll onto the road and lay still like a fallen log right in front of his car, as he came to a screeching stop.
He panicked and wanted to drive away…
“Oh my god…” he uttered, his voice shaking with fear.
It seemed like an eternity before Kat could react. All his sleepiness had disappeared. He could not believe what had just happened. He was a very careful driver, and had never been involved in an accident. He had never been in a situation like this, and did not know what to do next.
He lost count of the number of times that he called on god before he finally gathered the courage to move the car from its precarious position in middle of the two lanes, driving slowly around the motionless body. As his car returned to the proper lane, he contemplated speeding away. The road was dark, and there didn’t seem to be anyone around so no one would be able to point him out.
He tried to step on the accelerator…
But as he looked at the motionless body from the rear view mirror, horrible thoughts about the fate that could befall the body, along with the deep sense of guilt, shackled him. There could be other cars that followed, and should they fail in driving around the body, it would be run over and crushed.
And although from the length of the body and its clothing, Kat was quite certain that it was one of the Street People, he could not bring himself to just abandon it.
Cursing himself and his conscience, Kat parked his car on the side of the road some 50 meters from the body. Keeping his eyes on the rear-view mirror to detect any movement, he decided to pick up the phone.
“Enilef… Honey,” Kat said as soon as he heard his wife’s voice on the line.
“What is wrong, honey?” His wife’s sleepy voice was suddenly filled with worries.
“I…I think I just ran someone over.” Kat tried to control his voice.
“What?” Enilef exclaimed. “Are you alright?”
“Yes… yes, I think I am ok. But the victim is not moving,” Kat said, while keeping his eyes on the rear-view mirror.
“Oh my god…”
“…I think it is a Street Person that I hit…” Kat added quietly. “I was on the short cut route. I didn’t see it coming. It just appeared from out of nowhere.”
“Oh Kat, then please just get out of there.” Enilef’s pleading voice was filled with fear. “You know how dangerous these Street People are…It might be a ploy to rob you.”
“I… I can’t… the body is still lying in the middle of the road.”
“Who cares, it is just a Street Person. Just get out of there. It could be dangerous.”
“I…” His wife’s plea seemed to have no effect on him, as his scruples took hold.
“Honey, please, just get out of there…”
Kat cut off the line. He had made up his mind.
He made another call to the police to report the accident before throwing the phone on the passenger’s seat, and stepping out of the car. He shivered as the cold breeze of the night ruffled his hair. The smell of burnt rubber hung in the air, and Kat had to rub his nose and moustache. The street was quiet, except for the sound of his car’s engine.
As his eyes adapted to the darkness, Kat kept them fixed on the motionless body in the middle of the road. He approached it carefully.
“Hey!” he shouted at the body “Are you alright?”
There was no movement.
He stepped closer and saw that the body lying in front of him was indeed a Street Person. It had its face on the road, its rough long hair rested on its back, and Kat felt as if he was looking at a cockroach. There did not seem to be any blood, probably because he had not been driving that fast. He wanted to wait until the police arrived, but was not sure how he could prevent any other cars from running over the body.
Kat decided that the least he could do was to drag the body onto the safety of the side of the road.
Kat swallowed hard as he walked towards the leg of the body. Although Kat was quite tall, he was still about half the size of the Street Person. He tried to think about the ways he could shift the body, and decided that the best way was to drag it with the body right side up. So Kat knelt down near the body and heaved with all his might as he tried to push the body on its back. The scent of the filthy and polluted body almost strangled him, and Kat had to hold back his repulsion. He had never been this close to a Street Person before, and he prayed that this would be his only experience with them.
He finally succeeded in turning the body over, but was shocked to discover that the Street Person was still alive when it coughed weakly.
Kat looked at the Street Person’s face with much disdain. Its almond-shaped eyes were too small and placed too high up, and the nose was so large it stuck out from the face awkwardly. The lips were too thin and wide, and made no improvement on the ugly round face.
It would have been much easier for him had the Street Person been unconscious, and if he did not have to look at the hideous feature as he tried to pull the body to safety.
The Street Person’s small lips parted as if trying to utter something, but Kat did not care to find out what. He rose and moved to grab hold of the legs of the Street Person and pulled with all his might. Fear, disgust, and guilt all gave him strength. He wanted to get the Street Person to the side of the road as fast as possible, and then leave it for the police so he could go home to his wife and kid.
“Come on,” he grunted as the body shifted little by little. “Come on…”
Despite all his efforts the body was still quite some way away from the safety of the roadside. He was very tired, and could barely move another muscle, but he did not want to die with the Street Person, so he kept on pulling, inch by inch.
“…” Kat heard the Street Person muttering something again, and it made him stop in his stride. He did not know enough of their language to comprehend it, but the sound, coming out of the body in his grasps sounded…
Kat looked at the Street Person’s face, and saw that there were tears welling around its eyes.
In that split second, he also detected that the Street Person was trying to move its hand. His hair stood on end and his heart sank, fearing that he had put himself in danger having been deceived into helping this vile creature.
And before Kat knew it, time stood still as he felt the Street Person’s hand on his face. Despite the fear and anger that were brewing in his heart, he also felt an unfamiliar warmth that shook him to the core. He did not at all feel threatened or endangered. In that moment, Kat felt as if he had been transformed into a newborn babe. All his fears and judgment of the Street People melted away.
Kat staggered away from the body, disoriented. He lifted his hand to his face, which was still warm from the touch. Instead of loathing the dirty hand of the Street Person, his basic instinct yearned for more of the affectionate and caring touch.
His confusions were thankfully interrupted by the sirens of the police in the distance, and then the flashing red lights of the police cars upon their arrival on the scene.
“Sergeant Milos Lynx, CPD, at your service.” A neat looking youth in smart brown police uniform introduced himself to Kat, while his partner got out from behind the steering wheel and immediately went to check the body lying on the ground.
Kat looked around, seemingly searching for something.
“The ambulance is coming soon, right?” he asked Sergeant Lynx.
“Ambulance, sir?” the uniformed youth said, almost astonished, and looked at him curiously.
“Yes of course, he… it might be injured,” Kat said, also surprised that the CPD would treat such a case with such disregard.
“It will live,” Sergeant Lynx said coldly. “And you are free to go, Sir.” “I am free to go?” Kat repeated, scarcely believing his ears. “I am not going to be charged for running him over?”
“No, sir. You might actually be doing the Government a service if it dies.”
“What?” Kat could barely contain his astonishment. “And what if it lives?”
“Then we leave it on the roadside, and let fate decide,” the CPD officer declared.
Kat looked at the other CPD agent, who had almost succeeded in dragging the Street Person to the roadside. He was saying something in a strange language to the Street Person.
“You are free to go, sir,” Sergeant Milos repeated.
Kat looked at the police officer straight in the eyes.
“How can you be so cold? This could be life or death situation.”
“For your information, Sir, during the Old World Order, these disgusting creatures would leave our forefathers lying half dead on the road without even a second glance,” the CPD officer said zealously. “We were not even worth a second look for them. Your stopping the car and calling the police is indeed a credit to yourself, sir, but totally unnecessary, as it would have been perfectly alright to leave the body on the road.”
“And what if another car came along and ran it over?” Kat retorted.
“Then it would die,” Sergeant Lynx replied matter-of-factly.
“Then we would have been exactly like them!” Kat said.
“We are in the New World Order now, Sir. Their time is gone, it is our time now.” The police officer was adamant.
Kat glanced one last time at the Street Person who was now safely on the side of the road. He swallowed hard, and looked at the young police officer.
“Thank you,” he offered quietly, then began walking towards his car.
“It is our duty, sir,” Sergeant Lynx said plainly, and saluted.
Kat raised the back of his hand to comb his hair and his moustache.
“Wanna hear something funny?” The voice of the policeman who attended to the Street Person drifted to him. “It actually said, are you ready for this… thank you, he wanted to thank the driver.”
And as he got into his car, all Kat heard was the scornful laughter of the Catropolis Police Department officers that hung in the air. It made him sad and dispirited that the Street Person was being treated with the exact same atrocity that the Cat race had faced when they were no more than pets and street animals to the human race.
Kat looked hard at his reflection in the rear-view mirror. Although he looked exactly like those feline police officers pouring scorn on the poor human, he was thankful for his conscience. Without it he would be exactly like them, and the human race before them. And that was something he would not be able to live with.
Kat took one last look at the Street Person who had pushed himself up and sat in a heap on the road side. He smiled to himself and speeded away into the night.
Copyright © 2012 by Charkrienorrathip
Charkrienorrathip is a Thai diplomat who was born in Laos in 1976 during his diplomat father’s first posting. He is an aspiring story teller who has 12 published works in Thailand including novellas, novels and three short stories collections. A career diplomat by day, he lets his imagination free and does his story telling during the night.
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