Karma Kills

Caitlin Nolan

Scott didn’t know how it had worked, or where it had come from, all he knew was that he could do it. One day, back when Scott had been a wildly reckless learning driver he hadn’t been concentrating. He failed to notice his foot getting heavy on the pedals and even managed to miss his car veering onto the other side of the road. Scott only took notice when a little red car smashed into him head on.
Coming to in the shattered remains of his Dad’s old Ford Fiesta he looked across at the bloody scene before him and threw up.
The other car was now splattered with crimson, like a sick abstract art piece. Shattered pieces of plastic and glass had been littered about and thick acrid clouds of smoke billowed out of the car bonnet. He could see a woman, her face slackened and bloody, bashed on the steering wheel opposite him.

***
That weekend, when Scott returned home, he told his parents everything. He ignored his mum’s pleas for him to eat and holed himself up in his room.
Scott didn’t cry; it didn’t occur to him that he should have been sad for the other woman, that she was someone’s daughter, mother, sister, wife, and that he had probably injured her beyond recovery.
Instead, he hoped that his denial would ease the reality of the crash and help him find some peace.
As he sat in his room, he noticed an old, plastic keyboard from his primary school days peeking out from under his bed. He remembered when his mum and dad had cried when he had managed to bang out an out of tune rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
He lifted up the keyboard and started to absentmindedly press the keys. Before he knew it, he was playing. He played like he had never done before, he didn’t have to think while his fingers danced across the grubby keys and the sounds of Beethoven, Bach and Chopin filled his room. After an hour he stopped and wondered what was happening to him; had the crash unlocked some musical skills in the back of his mind? Where had he learnt to do any of it? And how?

***
When he got up the next day he slouched downstairs.
“Shh, Walter shut up! He’s coming down, he’s – oh sweetie good morning!” His mum threw her arms around him as he entered the kitchen, smelling of fried breakfast. “I made your favourite bacon, scrambled eggs on a bagel!”
Ah, so she was trying to feed his apology for the crash out of him.
Rolling his eyes, he turned to watch his dad try, and fail to hastily shove a wadded up newspaper in the bin before the spring action lid flew open and flung the paper to Scott’s feet.
“TALENTED PIANIST DIES IN HEAD ON COLLISION!”
Ignoring his mum’s whimpers and his dad’s move to grab the paper, he picked it up and began to read:
“Eliza Hetherington, 32, died yesterday in Brookeswhich Hospital after being involved in a head on collision on the M82 with another car. The talented pianist performer and Doctor of Musical Arts was returning home from Vienna, where she was presented with an award at the annual European Young Musician Awards, for Best Young Pianist…”
Talented pianist. Doctorate in Musical Art. Shit.
Scott knew then what had happened.
He had killed that woman, he had somehow taken her talent for playing the piano, having stolen her life. He had to get out. Turning on his sobbing parents, ignoring their pleas that “It wasn’t his fault” and that he “wasn’t a murderer, their baby just wasn’t a murderer,” he had left.

***
That had been two years ago and Scott was, well if Scott hadn’t been a murderer then, he certainly was now.
After he had walked out of his parents’ house a voice had spoken up in the back of his mind, a quiet voice that had whispered over the other screaming thoughts flying around his mind, standing out amongst the chaos.
What if when he took a life, he took their best quality?
Sickened by himself and the voice in his head, Scott ran away, aimlessly wandering, staying in hostels where he could hide, his backpack his only lasting companion.
As much as he tried to ignore that one thought, it kept coming back, pestering him to think about it.
One evening, Scott was playing piano in some bar, in some town, sipping his way through drink after drink until he walked in. A cricketer. Or was it a baseballer? Scott could hardly remember his own name let alone anyone else’s and in his alcohol addled state he let that little voice in his brain tell him to do it, to kill him.
So he sat and barely concentrated on playing the piano, instead watching out for his moment to strike and an hour into his meal that moment happened. Excusing himself after the man, Scott followed him out the back into the smoker’s courtyard, a bleak square patio with a few table umbrellas propped up and a couple of chairs lounging around. It was empty aside from the two of them.
Adrenaline pulsed through Scott. Aided by the booze in his system he grabbed one of the large umbrellas and ran at him. Before the other man could fully turn around Scott was swinging the umbrella back and hitting its mark with a sickening crunch.
Scott leant over him, tried and failed to feel a pulse, turned on his heels and walked back into the building, through the bar and out into the night.
The next day he went out and found himself a tennis ball in the park. Without waiting to see if he was being watched, he threw the ball, right up into the air, over practically the whole grassed area before it gunned into a tree catching an unsuspecting pigeon square in the head.
He was right after all, he could steal people’s abilities. The little voice in his head applauded him for finally accepting what it had already told him the day after that crash, and encouraged him to go do it again.
Instead of waiting, hoping someone would come walking into his life with an aptitude he wanted, he went looking for them. He scoured the internet, looking for news about happy people, talented people, people he could kill. He found himself envious of anyone with a talent, furious with people who had something he didn’t.
Scott wildly hunted his targets down, chasing them across the country just so he could feel the life ooze out of them and straight into him. He thrived on it.
For one kill he managed to pose as security for a twenty something, blonde-haired, blue-eyed pop singer as he escorted her from her hotel to the concert venue. Cornering her in the back seat of a car, Scott found himself on top of her, his hands around her throat squeezing and squeezing until the bright blue of her eyes faded and she was gone.
On another kill he accidentally bumped into a politician trying to go incognito in a department store. It wasn’t that hard to pull out a knife in the men’s changing rooms and quietly slash his throat before slipping out, unnoticed. Scott then assumed he would get the man’s good fortune with women, the MP’s affairs littered the covers of tabloids regularly, but he didn’t; the gift he had stolen from him was his manipulation of people, the ability to talk someone down and into what you wanted. It was just what Scott needed.
As time passed and his talents increased, he became more reckless, hungrier for bigger better gifts, his control all but a memory as he savagely followed the cycle of hunt, kill, run, hunt, kill, run.
Scott had a new target now though. A few days beforehand a new headline had caught his eye: “LUCKIEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD? ANNABELLE GRACE, 67, SURVIVES TWO BOUTS OF CANCER (NOW SUFFERING WITH A THIRD), BEING STRUCK WITH LIGHTNING, A PLANE CRASH AND NOW WINS £13 MILLION IN LOTTO SUCCESS.” Now that was something he could do with. Dropping the newspaper, Scott left the shop he was in and headed to the closest library, eager, ready and excited for this new hunt.

***
It had been eight months since Scott had walked out of his parent’s house, eight months since he had become a taboo in his own home.
The sun flitted through the cheerful yellow blind on the kitchen window, bathing the table in a warm, early morning blaze. His mum and dad were slumped in their chairs. A bowl of soggy cereal sat on the table as Scott’s dad flicked through the newspaper; his mum stared past the TV and out the window.
“Walter?”
“Yes honey?” he replied, without even glancing up.
“Do you think Scott will ever come home to us?”
Walter slowly folded the paper and placed it carefully on the table. “Cath, we’ve been over this, we don’t know where he is-” at this conclusion, Scott’s mother burst out into violent, shuddering sobs “-or what’s happened to him,” he tried to continue. “We’ve looked and no one can find him, we have to, we…we might have to accept that he’s never coming home.” Walter moved round the table to his now hysterical wife and pulled her to his chest, petting her hair.
The TV was still on behind them, the last part of an interview with a middle-aged woman was playing:
“So Anne, one last question, what would you say you owe all this to? What’s your best talent or gift?” a sprightly feminine voice asked from behind the camera.
“Oh, now I know this might sound strange to some but I owe my character, my life and everything I’ve ever achieved to my childhood illnesses, my cancer. Because I’ve got it again now, I’m dying now, I feel as though I’m drawing every possible good thing into my life. My greatest gift is my terminal illness,” the woman replied, a sad smile on her face.
The logo of the new channel interrupted the end and flashed across the screen followed by a solemnly faced reporter back in the studio.
“That was the last interview of the late Annabelle Grace, who was found brutally murdered in her five-bedroom house in the city in the early hours of the morning. Tributes are being paid to the inspirational woman who…”
Unnoticed, the article continued in the background while Scott’s mother sobbed on.