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In the gathering greys of a chilly evening, Rehan, a director in the forest office, was speeding home in his amethyst sedan. Before Government College his car ploughed into a boy on a bicycle. The jolt he received told him how much force his car must have transferred into the poor soul. Through the windscreen he saw the boy fly through the air.
Rehan was double-minded. He wanted to stop and help the boy. But no one had seen. The road was almost deserted. Rehan gunned the engine and made his getaway. He branched off the main road, his palms sweating. It seemed to him that the buildings around him were spinning. The car was overheating, it turtled in a cloud of exhaust and came to a dead halt. Rehan had no idea what to do. He restarted and moved off at a snail’s pace. Later he pulled over again and thought about returning to the spot to help the victim.
“Someone must have picked him up by now and taken him to the hospital,” he assured himself. “They can spot the dent on the bumper of my car. I must hurry home and hide the car. Thank God my wife and kids are at her father’s house.”
He managed to drive himself home. His factotum brought him dinner, but his mind was stuck on the image of the boy flying through the pale misty air.
“The boy might still be lying unattended, dying a slow, painful death in dark shadow of the trees on the edge of the road. He looked to be my son Imran’s age. I should go to the place and have a quick look whether or not he has been taken to the hospital.”
He told his factotum that he was going to see friends. He hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take him to Government College. Before the college he asked the driver to slow down and he had a good look around for the boy and his bicycle but they were not there.
He dared not ask passersby about the accident. Instead he had the driver take him to the district hospital. At the emergency he saw an old man and a young woman being treated for minor injuries. Fearfully, he peeped into the adjacent room. On a soiled stretcher he saw a dead figure wrapped in a bloodied white sheet. The sight of blood made him reel. He slumped into a chair. Twelve long minutes passed before he found himself asking a paramedic about the bloodied body.
“A boy of fourteen or fifteen, he was hit by a speeding car some time back. We have been waiting for the relatives to take away the cadaver. Do you have any clue about his identity?” the paramedic asked.
“No, no...I asked just out of curiosity. I was here to get my blood pressure checked.” Hurriedly Rehan made for the exit.
He wandered the roads not knowing what to do or where to go. He found himself near a police station. “I must tell them about the accident. I killed him. He died due to my recklessness.” He stood a couple of steps from the gate, pondering. Then a sudden fear gripped him that the police might mistake him for a terrorist, so he moved to the thatched café facing the police station. He ordered a cup of tea but could not drink it. He pulled a cigarette from his pocket, lit it but forgot to smoke. He became aware of it when the glowing tip reached his fingers.
“The parents will be asking their neighbours the whereabouts of their son,” he was repeating to himself. He sat lost in his thoughts when the waiter came to collect the bill. The waiter gave him a suspicious look.