Friday, 8 January 2010
BLIND JUSTICE By Sue Harding
Emerson was tired. Tired of the chase. Tired of always being one step away from resolving the matter. But now, maybe, he sensed things drawing to a close. He had followed the man down the corridor, knowing the dead end that lay ahead, feeling a curious but cautious sense of finality. One way or the other.
He pushed open the door and stepped across the threshold, his eyes tracking carefully across the room, until the lights went out. He blinked as if subconsciously trying to clear the dark shadows and then stared blindly into the black void.
“Feeling afraid?” The voice seemed to come from somewhere on his left. He didn’t answer, remaining rooted to the spot.
“On my territory now, friend. We play by my rules.” The voice, taunting him, again from the left but nearer. Emerson was aware of his heart pumping blood around his body, creating a pressure that echoed against his eardrums. It took a while to hear beyond the regular palpitation but his brain, deprived of visual stimuli, swiftly diverted its attention to the matter in hand.
As he grew accustomed to the alien environment he heard the almost inaudible sound of someone breathing. Instinctively he held his own breath for a moment. If he could hear his adversary, he reasoned, then he himself could be heard. Besides, this was all new to him. Osborn had whatever advantage there was, being almost totally blind.
“So, aren’t you going to talk to me?” Osborn had moved. The sound now came from in front of him and Emerson noted something new in the voice, perhaps a slight hesitance? Maybe Osborne wasn’t quite so confident after all. He kept silent. Any noise would give the man an edge.
He waited, slowly turning his head from side to side, straining to hear any clues, hoping that Osborne would grow careless. The muscles in his legs ached from standing in such an awkward position, but after the lights had gone out he had not dared to move. He’d noticed the broken glass littering the floor, sparkling, the jagged edges pinpointed in the overhead light and now he realised that Osborne had planned the whole thing down to the last detail. He smiled, almost in admiration.
“You’ll get tired soon,” Osborne laughed. “You’ll make a move and when you do, I’ll know.” He laughed again and Emerson realised the man had changed direction and moved further away. But how could he do it? How did he manage to move without crunching through the glass himself?
He tried to focus. The slight echo of the man’s laughter had died but in its place there was something else. Emerson struggled to determine what it was, concentrating, his brain trying to visualise the auditory signals it received.
No more voices now. Osborne had obviously learned from Emerson’s own silence. Again, that subtle resonance. Emerson analysed it carefully, tuning in to it, beginning to distinguish a pattern which he was able to follow.
Recognition dawned and he smiled to himself, slowly understanding the hushed, sweeping sound he had managed to isolate. Of course Osborne knew exactly where to tread. Like a dancer, he slipped and glided across the floor, bare feet negotiating a path by pain.
Emerson followed the sound, noting the direction and raised his gun. It felt strange to carry out the familiar procedure, without sighting along his outstretched arm. Instead he lowered his head, allowing his ears to determine the direction in which he would aim.
After the silence, the loud report shattered the air with an almost deafening roar, echoing into the darkness. For a moment he was unaware of any sound but the ringing in his own ears, unable to process any other noise, in the same way that the ability to focus is impaired after staring at a bright light.
He heard the tinkling sound of glass shards being pushed away and a gentle thud as Osborne fell. Emerson gradually became conscious of the rasping breaths associated with a chest wound and knew it was nearly over. He turned and eased the tension in his muscles, waiting for the final gasps to decrease and then finally disappear. No last words of regret, or even defiance. Soon would come the last, sonorous, sigh acting as a full stop, ending the tale of Osborne’s unrepentant evil.
Emerson relaxed. No hurry. He didn’t care anymore what Osborne had done, or what it had cost to stop him, it ended here. Now. He had all the time in the world. He could gladly wait and let Osborne depart into the next.
Sue Harding works in a library in Warks. Having spent years 'shelving' books, she's starting to 'write' them instead! Sue blogs here: http://irefusetogoquietly.blogspot.com/