He open his eyes slowly, only to be welcomed by a view of flame and twisted metal. His chest hurts. His arms hurt. His legs are numb, so is his mind. He can feel the temperature rising, but he is still in a daze. Smoke has risen from the burning engine of his car. A sedan of barely two years in service. He tried to collect his thoughts together, but they remain scattered. Then, in the corner of his eye, he saw a figure approaching the burning vehicle. At first, he didn’t recognize the person, but as that person slowly came closer, he realized that he knew very well who it is. It is his own son, Daniel. His chest had been ripped apart. His left arm dangled from his body like some weird tentacle. Blood trickled from his exposed lungs and from the corner of his mouth. Daniel also seemed to be in a daze. As he stood in front of his father, Daniel looked him with teary eyes. His mouth opened, and from it came out words in a coarse voice so very alien to him.
“Dad, I’m thirsty.”
And that was the end of his dream. He woke up all sweaty from head to toe. Three years had passed since that tragic accident, yet it haunts him still. His wife was declared dead on the spot with a steel beam crushing half her head. His unborn child stayed unborn. His daughter fought hard in the ICU for three days before following her mother’s footsteps. And Daniel was proclaimed dead upon emergency rescue arrival. He who sat in the back of the sedan was thrown out of the vehicle when the vehicle came to a complete and abrupt halt as it collided with the trailer that carried construction beams. The trailer was too fast at the corner and its right rear tires burst due to pressure. So he and his family felt the brunt of the action of the careless driver as their vehicle was just ten meters behind the trailer in the lane beside it. Ultimately, the trailer driver was at fault. He was charged for reckless driving and hauling overweight cargo, as what the investigations came to find out later. The driver was sentenced to prison, and he got some compensation money. But what does he care about money? He lost his whole family. He might as well die in that carnage of a wreck too. But God had spared his life, and he lives still. He started cursing God for his fate, but later stopped as he realized cursing won’t bring his family back from the dead. So he decided to cut all ties with the world, and vanished from friends and family because they can’t comfort him no matter what they say.
Now he is under a bridge in a city far away from his hometown. His beard had grown thick and his body thin. No one will recognize him anymore. Not his in-laws nor his friends. He is now alone, desolated in a city of ten million people. How ironic that is, he thought to himself. I’m in a city with millions of people, yet not a single soul care about me. Nor have I a single person to care about anymore. Sure, there are soup kitchens and shelters set up by non-profit organizations, but they do not care about him. At least, that’s what he thinks. He pulls his rag tighter around him as the night’s coldness bites into his skin. The nightmare or flashback or whatever it is just now had left him sweating, and now that he has calmed down, that same sweat made him felt more cold than before. Curse you sweat, and curse you God. Why don’t you just kill me already?
It’s not like he hadn’t thought of killing himself before. He tried, but failed. He couldn’t bring himself to act beyond standing at the ledge of a high-rise building, or putting a knife to his wrist, or slipping his head through a home-made noose dangling from a ceiling. He could not jump or cut or push whatever thing he is standing on. And that makes him more frustrated. God, you fucking coward! At least give me the strength and courage to off myself if you are too bothered to do it yourself. Or at least laugh at me in the face so I could punch you in the face, not from some place up in the skies where all I can do is curse you and inflict no damage to you. His mind is truly on the border of sanity. His heart blackened, his spirit broken, his mind shattered into fragments, a shadow left from the brilliant man he was. All day long, his mind is filled with hatred and disgust. Hatred towards God, towards the world and towards himself for not having the balls to do anything right, not even killing himself. And all night long will be filled with nightmares, flashbacks of the past that forever haunts him. There’s no use to his life, none anymore. Yet it doesn’t want to end. Not yet. And so he cried his self to sleep, like the nights before.
He was half past asleep when he heard a loud splash from the river. He opened his eyes just enough to see that the sun hasn’t shone. So it’s still night, he said to himself, and tried to doze back to sleep, when all of a sudden he could hear cries. Baby cries, and it’s very near. He opens his eyes again, and in the middle of the river is a black plastic bag. Something is squirming inside that bag, and it’s taking in water. He perks up his ears, and is certain that those cries are coming from that plastic bag in the middle of the river. He immediately sprung to his legs and is fully awake. He knows what’s happening. Someone has just dumped a baby into the river. Without hesitation, he jumps into the river and swims towards the plastic bag, which is partially submerged by now. The cries have silenced then. Fear runs through his spine. Is he too late? He tried to swim faster towards the middle of the river, but his body is weak. He no longer have the arms and legs that he used to. All that’s left are scrawny limbs, bones coated in rough dirty skin. But he doesn’t care. There’s a life depending on his strokes, so stroke he will although hard.
He stroked hard, and soon the bag was within his reach. He pulls the plastic bag upwards above his head, and water flows out of the bag. He then reaches into the bag and felt something squishy. He grabs hold of it and ‘peel’ it out of the bag and there she is, a beautiful girl in his hands, coughing out water, her little body jerking in his hands. Her umbilical cord and placenta are still attached. He tried to swim to the side with the baby raised in his hands, but it is too hard a feat to be accomplished by a homeless man. The baby’s coughing goes on, and soon she is crying and coughing at the same time. Her lungs must have burned by the sudden intake of water. He tried to keep the baby above water level, but he sometimes couldn’t. The baby coughs some more as water enters her little mouth, and her cries became more violent and deafening. He almost gave up on the girl, yet instinct told him to go on. Just a little further, you can do it, he thought to himself. And it was true, for after struggling hard, he was on the river bank, gasping for air while the child at his side, still crying.
After regaining what little energy he had in the first place, he carried the baby, placenta and all, to his place under the bridge. The little thing is still crying, and he does not know what to do. All he knows is that this child may feel very cold right now. So he takes his rag laid on a cardboard box under the bridge and covered the little girl with it. He left the placenta dangling outside of the wrapping, then embraces the crying baby with his frail arms while hushing, trying to calm her down. It is at this moment that nostalgic feelings came rushing into his chest like a torrent. It has been six years since he last did this. That was when his daughter was born. Back then, Erina was just as small as this girl. They both looked so fragile. Without meaning to, tears start rolling down his cheeks. The world is a cruel place for both you and I, he whispers into the baby’s ear as he cradles it to sleep.
As the baby calms down, he starts to think of his next action. What should I do now? Should I go to the police? Or should I go to one of the shelters and pass her to the people there? He had never been in such situation. What do you do to a new-born who was abandoned, attempted to be drown even, with an umbilical cord stuck to her belly? He never thought of it before, since both Daniel and Erina were born at a hospital. They weren’t abandoned, weren’t drowned, and weren’t thrown into a river. At that instance, a spark ignited in his mind. That’s it! I should bring her to a hospital. I should bring her to medical attention first, to make sure that she’s okay. Then they’ll help me with the next step. So he stood up and started to walk up the river bank onto the street above. He knows where the nearest hospital is. It’s still dark, still in the early hours of the day, but the hospital should be open. They do have an emergency department, so they must have staff on duty, he thought to himself. So all is well for this girl as long as I reach the hospital alive. The cold is killing me and my clothes are still wet. I hope I reach there alive.
That is when another spark ignited in him, but this time not in his head. This time it is in his heart. Suddenly a thought coursed through him, and he trembles at the fact at hand. The fact that this girl, albeit abandoned by God knows who for reasons God knows why, still has a chance to live is because he himself is still alive for God knows why. Had he died with his family in that horrific accident as he had wished so much, this little girl in his embrace may as well kiss the world goodbye before even having the chance to know it. So that’s your plan, eh God? He stops in his tracks in the middle of the road and turn his head upwards, looking up to the night sky which seems devoid of stars. He then smiles and wave his head. Then he continues to walk into a new day. A new day for both him and her.
6th September 2015