He swore as the light turned to orange a hundred metres ahead of him, and then red. He fumed as he waited, staring at the lights, wishing them green, even as cars streamed across the intersection. His thumbs drummed the steering wheel, until even that sound annoyed him. He hit the top of the steering wheel hard with his open palm and swore again. The world was full of people that were just trying to stop him from getting to where he wanted to get.
Stress, stress, always stress; but this was worse than normal. A train would arrive at site in less than an hour to be loaded. It was the last train needed to fill a ship that had apparently been ordered by a very important customer. And now the train load-out wouldn't work because one lousy electrical contactor had failed. And then after SAP said there was one in the store, the shelf said there wasn't.
The light went green, and he chirped the tyres as he accelerated.
A bright-spark planner had found the part in town, at an electrical wholesaler. Lucky, really. Now it all rested on his shoulders. He needed to get the part, and get to site. His chance to be the hero, for once.
He decided to skip the next lights by taking some back-streets, and then cut back onto Clermont Street again later.
On the way through the back-streets, he cursed a jogger, and an old man, and some fool crawling along the street at only 50 kilometres an hour. He made it to Clermont Street. He was close now. He checked his watch: 4:54. Another problem, to add to his day full of problems: he needed to get there by five.
Cars streamed by, evenly spaced – just close enough together that he couldn't get in. He nudged out a little into the street, but it only seemed to slow them down. He backed up again, and the driver of a car that had come up behind him leaned on the horn. He felt like crying now; he was almost shaking with rage, and frustration. It was a conspiracy: the slow cars were actually speeding up to close the gaps in front of them, and the fast cars were slowing down, to close the gaps behind them.
Then, he spotted the gap. A car had turned left at the last moment, without indicating, (Damn you!) and left a gap (Thank you!) He floored it, into the gap, and kept his foot flat to the floor. The car he'd cut in front of leaned on the horn, so he gave him the finger in the mirror.
He looked ahead, and then time froze.
There was a man, standing right in the middle of the street. He'd been running actually, running across the street, before time stopped him, and dangled him right there, in the way.
Instinctively, he moved his foot over to the brake, and pushed down with all his weight.
He stared at the man, and the man stared back. They both knew, so clearly, what was happening, as it happened. The both knew how this was going to end, even though they were both putting everything they had into avoiding it.
And then time slipped loose again, and his car was stopped, slightly crooked in the street. The smoke that had billowed up from his tyres and around the car drifted forward with the breeze, revealing the man, dead in the street.
He sat and stared at the man that he had killed. He wasn't thinking; he couldn't think. He sat, alone, and the world was empty.
This story was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.