The seventh story in the Winter Prose Competition 2011 series.
As the darkness crept in from the periphery of her vision, Kimberly
wondered whether any of it had been worth it at all. She'd fought and
cried and screamed and the only place it had gotten her was here, to
these final moments broken and cold at the bottom of a storm drain,
the life seeping out of her with each failing breath. Perhaps she
should have gone along with it from the start, perhaps she should have
let him... no, those were foolish thoughts and if she was going to die
here, she wasn't going to end with the idea that is was somehow her
fault as the last thing on her mind.
He'd tricked her, he'd drugged her, he'd murdered her. He had chosen
to do this, she hadn't made him do it.
She coughed and a bubble of blood forced it's way through her sinuses
and burst as it expanded out of her nose. It was so cold now and
everything was dark. In the distance there was the sound of rushing
water approaching, the sluice gates from power plant must have opened
and she'd be washed away any minute. Could she really have avoided
this? Did free will even exist or was this some cruel fate, marching
her to her death regardless?
Things had started so innocently after dinner. They'd finished the
award ceremony, secured new funding. The DoD were incredibly excited
about the technology, it's potential for intelligence application was
incredible, not to mention big business. After all, who wouldn't want
to see the future and be able to plan ahead, knowing what was going to
happen, the profits could be limitless. George had made it all
possible, without him she wouldn't be here today celebrating the
contract, the successful demonstration of the prototype. Their's was a
strange marriage, cognitive science and physics, a forty-two year old
Latvian physicist and her a twenty-seven year old American
psychologist working together, remotely. It had never been an ideal
situation but some of the greatest ideas had been founded in garages
and parent's basements. This had been no different. They'd met at an
online conference, in the live chat room that accompanied the talks
streamed over the web. Ideas were exchanged, rapports established and
it was only a matter of time before the divorced father of three and
fresh faced psychologist had begun to experiment with some rather
unconventional theories. Eventually, the team grew as they needed
access to expertise and equipment and they'd need to secure funding as
it became clear that they were sinking more and more time into their
project. Jorge Jergen, Swedish medical engineer was the first. His
father had made his fortune in the Swedish shipping indurstry and so
he brought both aspects, backing the project out of his own pocket. It
had been the first time Kimberly had seen George in person, when
they'd both flown out to Malmö to make their presentation. The three
had grown close, but George and Kimberly had grown closer. The project
was their baby and together with Jorge's money and engineering
experience they were making it a reality.
However, Kimberly had never even considered the idea of a
relationship. It was professional, pure and simple. They were
colleagues, friends, business partners. George, it had seemed, had
been harbouring other feelings and after the post-presentation dinner
the true depth of his obsessions had become known. Over seven years of
work together and now it was all to be thrown away, their partnership
to die along with her, thirty-five and never married, left beaten and
broken to drown in a drain. How had things gone so wrong? Everything
was fading now and the last thing Kimberly felt was the icy cold rush
of water and the sick, wet thud as he head was crushed against the
stained concrete walls of the drain.
"Kim!" yelled a voice.
Was she still alive? How?
Kim was suddenly blinded as her eyelids were yanked open and bright
lights shone in her eyes. "Kim, can you hear me? Kim?"
Suddenly, she seemed to become aware of her body again and the she
reached out, disorientated, and grabbed hold of the arms around her to
support herself as she pulled herself up to her feet. Woozy, she
opened her eyes and saw double, two blurry faces of George swimming in
front of her.
"Kim, what happened? Are you alright?"
"George?" Kim asked, too confused to be frightened, everything still a
hazy blur. "Where am I?"
"You're in the lab. How much do you remember?"
"We had dinner, the DoD..."
"The DoD, they..."
Jorge's voice broke in, his Swedish accent becoming thick and
pronounced as his excitement grew. "George, it worked! It worked!"
"Kim, " George asked, "what year is it?"
Kimberly tried to think. Everything was wrong, nothing was making any
sense. Her head hurt so bad. "2017"
"Kim, it's 2010." George laughed. "We did it, Kim! We did it!"