All at once the bustling London Street is plunged into an eerie silence. The muteness carries a resonance that fills the air with high-pitched tension. The nervous glances of pedestrians have formed a common bond with the person nearest to them. What one could not see, one could feel. Tragedies create a vacuum, a cavity of disbelief, numbness and fear, into which the participants are helplessly drawn.
The mixture of burnt rubber and leaking petrol is pungent and hangs as a souvenir to attest that an unchangeable event has just occurred.
The pause in time ends as the sound of sirens reassures all that help is on its way. The buses start to blow their horns and differing ring-tones can be heard in all directions as delayed reactions begin to trickle through.
The unwilling spectators start to move towards the vehicle but hesitatingly retreat to their former positions. The vehicle is a squashed Volkswagen which is cradling a young woman.
The crunching of glass underfoot seems to go on forever as the paramedics rally around Gabrielle to work with urgency. Their gloved hands are experienced as they move in unison to tend to the only visible casualty.
Helicopter propellers swirl just above the ground and two doctors jump out in a rush to reach the injured woman. Police at the scene are forcing onlookers to step back and observe from a less intrusive position.
A drip is administered and the paramedics dutifully pump her chest, but hopelessness is etched on their faces. As one minute drags through to the next the reality of the patient’s condition is irrefutable.
She has no pulse. The oxygen mask covered most of her face but it did not conceal the last signs of life. Her brown eyes, which struck the male paramedic as beautiful, shed a tear as if to give reassurance to the first-aiders that all is ok and she is leaving.
Moments later Gabrielle appears at the roadside sitting cross-legged. She couldn’t help but feel broken inside like her former physical self. It felt like a mighty hangover and the smell of petrol made her head ache.
A sea of realisation swept over her and its unforgiving currents pulled her under as she is forced to comprehend the loss of her life
It is chilling watching the efforts made on her body, which lay amidst the failed life saving peripheral.
Approaching her physical shell, she stares teary-eyed. It is a strange encounter – there are no bright lights, no peace. She feels tortured and wretched.
Even though she is standing next to the paramedics, there was a blurry, transparent barrier separating her from everyone. There is no such barrier for the noise – she is hypersensitive to everyone’s feelings and is overwhelmed by their shock, fright and grief. The emotions are so intense she has trouble distinguishing which are her own.
Oblivious, people are passing through and around her.
Glass was scattered far and wide, embedded in the grass, hedges and car tops; even adorning the entrance of the 429 bus. The bus had driven into the path of the spinning car, stopping it abruptly. This produced more broken glass and twisted metal.
As Gabrielle moved to walk away, she heard a muted sound – ignoring it, she failed to notice the broken body of a young man in expensive shoes.
Two Weeks Later
Drew stood at a distance from the small gathering. The sky grey and stirring up for rain, the few people present were cold and mostly looking more preoccupied with the impending downpour then the proceedings. The local cemetery seemed less sinister than he had imagined. Part of him couldn’t bear to acknowledge the absentees and he was surprised to find he actually gave a damn about that. He realises he is invisible to the people he had once known and a part of him feels alive with guilt. When the rare occasion of funerals came about he had always managed to make alternative arrangements. It would always seem like a pleasant day for a round of golf. Or he would find some other self-indulgent activity such as taking pleasure in female company, usually for monetary exchange.
Now he realises the significance of paying one’s last respects – just in case they, like he, happen to be watching. Noticeably absent are his father and wife, there is a tinge inside, which he could only identify as his conscience.
Then Drew notices the lady. The same lady that had been in two places at once. She had lain lifeless beside a wrecked vehicle as well as sitting as though in meditation across the road. This same lady had walked past as Drew took his last breath by the bus stop. She was no stranger to him as he had seen her on several occasions.
On this day she hovered on the outskirts of a lively congregation of funeral goers. Funeral was not the right word, more ‘a celebration of life’. People abandoned the traditional mournful black and wore reds, pinks, baby blues, and even alluring white. They all smiled, posed for pictures and joyfully sang songs.
Drew’s curiosity is stirred as he observes the lady who has focused her attention on a mature fellow. Tall, well-dressed, attractive and who did not know a word of the hymns.
Without good reason Drew was drawn to this brown eyed beauty. He felt a connection. She was present, yet she too seemed absent. Like him she was ethereal, and no longer of the physical world.
With the need to approach her, Drew impulsively stepped in Gabrielle’s direction.