Anywhere But Back

Particles of dust float about an until-recently unused interrogation room on the outskirts of a small Welsh town.

Low crime rate. Nothing of note happens here day-in, day out. At least, nothing that would garner the coverage of the only local fish-wrapper. And the department’s interrogation room represents this, what with its sincere lack of furnishings, housing only a steel table and a single wooden stool where our Suspect sits. 

No camera system, and no tape-recorder to speak of. 

Clearly, a second chair was required elsewhere in the department - likely for some kind of function of social event - so our homicide Detective stands in an uncomfortable pose against one of the four blank concrete barriers. Under their right-wing, this Detective clutches a manila folder.

To circumvent their total lack of preparedness, our Detective is fighting with their mobile - a smart-phone that they’ve yet to come to an agreement with. Once the «VOICE NOTES» application decides to work, our Detective pushes off from their perch and relinquishes the device. It is placed face-up on the cold steel, just inches from the reach of our cuffed Suspect.

Tired eyes, withered even. Dry. Opposing our frantic, sobbing Suspect. If it wasn’t for the aforementioned handcuffs digging their arms into the chair’s, they’d probably be flailing. 

A vision of pure panic. 

About twenty seconds into the recording, our Detective spoke thus: “this interview is now being tape-recorded.” Oblivious, they were, to the total lack of physical recording material present. “In a moment, I’m going to take your ‘cuffs off, okay? Please remain seated through-out. We’re going to be here for a while so I don’t want any trouble.”

A brief pause ensued. 

And our Detective leaned over the table, hands flat on the surface as they made sure their device was still recording the events taking place. They continued nonetheless, removing the Suspect’s restraints. Beneath them, another pair had surfaced in the form of a deep-red bruising where the carbon steel had warped sensitive skin. 

“You’ve already had your rights read to you, but do you want me to go through them one more time?” the Detective addressed the Suspect as they returned to their previous state; hands flat, arms leaning inwards. The Suspect shakes their head, a motion that the Detective must first narrate on their own for the audience at home. “Can you please tell me what happened?”

A nod from the Suspect — a motion left unaddressed on tape. They rub the last few tears from their sunken eyes. Bloodshot and swollen, hands are balled into tight spheres and are pressed into their eyes. Redness turns to blackness, and blackness is accompanied by flashes. 

Soon, our own vision fades with theirs. 

x

From the darkness, we’re granted the Suspect’s vision. A memory, read aloud. We find ourselves in the bedroom of a small bedsit; evidence suggests it has been both well-lived in and well-cared for by its occupier. In the same vein, however, it is also the scene of their undoing.  

The images are blurred somewhat as though our lens has seen water damage but, all the same, we can pick up on the decor as we potter about the location. Holding a special significance to the Suspect, a small bedside table comes into view over everything else.

Atop the recently polished veneer sit a collection of identical oddities: duplicate mugs, several mirrored wallets, and more duplicate books than the local library. As we traverse these twins like ghosts, we’re pulled away from our initial host and are instead placed against a wall to observe the image of two people: the Suspect and the Victim.

The former sits hunched together on the wet linoleum. Knees to chest, palms scrunched to eyes tight enough to perhaps permanently stopper the images with physical strength alone. 

We almost miss the latter as their visage is disguised by a pair of matching leather jackets. Beneath these former creatures pokes the bare flesh of an unidentified limb. Perhaps one of these items once belonged to our Victim but we no longer have the time to jump to conclusions. 

A muffled voice can be heard; as though we’re drowning, these words cannot be made out. It is these words which bring us back to our previous state in time. 

x

Dust wakes the nose and our focus returns to the interrogation. Something about the mood seems to have changed with our arrival — something we cannot put a collective ephemeral finger on. 

Still standing, with all their education and experience in the same aching position, the Detective allows for a moment of silence. It has been a long day. Pulling themselves straight, they punch two fists into their own flesh and shake until an unhealthy crunch is produced from the bones beneath. 

The moment continues as two sleeves of a dress shirt are folded and raised. On the other side of the table, our Suspect’s eyes no longer weep for their future. Not five minutes ago, the Suspect could hardly form words or cease their shaking but now? They slouch before the law. Those eyes — puffed and sore — are pointed square at the Detective’s right arm. 

More specifically, they gaze upon a worn leather watch around their wrist.

We are drawn to it ourselves; a possible heirloom. Be it old, or simply weathered to look that way, it holds a certain sentimental value. An item, perhaps, that one wouldn’t want to die without like a soldier and their notebook. 

Naturally, it is the Detective that breaks our line of sight with a straight-up statement: “I’m going to ask you, plain and simple. Are you responsible for the death of Remi Budroy.”

Prepped and primed and to our surprise, the Suspect shoots back: “yes.”

“I understand.”

A sigh of relief escapes the Detective by accident but they don’t care enough to catch it mid-flight. The manila folder is finally retrieved from the safety of their underarm, and it is placed upon the cold of the table. Within its pages, we’re offered glimpses into the crime scene via graphic photos; an experiences we don’t quite deserve after finding ourselves there earlier. 

Amongst these loose-leaf images sits a print-out, detailing a brief search into the Suspect’s personal history but their name continues to escape our vision. “Before this interview began,” states the Detective, pulling together the drawstrings of their late-night caper. “I was given this run-down on your life. It’s pretty much empty, right?”

The Suspect remains quiet. 

“Am I correct in stating that you have had little-to-no previous experience with police?”

“Yes,” said the Suspect.

“I see.”

The folder is shut, and pushed across the table.

“Remi was your neighbour, correct?”

“Two doors down.”

“How did this all come about?” asks the Detective. Our attention, so fleeting, grasps solely at the roundness of the Suspect’s face. It shakes, like they’ve grown so tired of this investigation already. Like their confession should have been enough to call it a day. Like this interrogation should be closed, and for good reason. 

The Suspect gives an answer, but it is anything but solid. 

“What was that?”

“Anybody would have done the same in my situation, I well-and-truly believe that.”

“Your ‘situation’? Could you be more clear?”

Once more, the Suspect begins to shake right-to-left but this time, perhaps there’s an air of distance, or a wash of disappointment. 

“Self-defence?” asks the Detective, “you were acting in self-defence?”

“No.”

A deep intake of air. Eight seconds pass, and the Suspect releases the captive void. A fresh palette; they stretch out and gesture towards the Detective’s watch. “A few weeks ago,” says the Suspect, “I discovered that I could travel back in time.”

x

We find ourselves taken aback, perhaps more-so than the Detective. An insensitive revelation which, by all means, should have cost the Suspect their time, and their phone call. The Detective allotted another few moments of their life to humour the nonsense presented but, otherwise, was prepared to leave without further questioning. 

The Suspect recounted the events from their own point-of-view beginning, as one might expect, with a particularly bad day. For a while now, they had found their mood ebbing and flowing from the township of Health. The streets were becoming irreversibly damaged. And no amount of forced taxation on the rest of their person could balance the impending disaster.

Foreign aid arrived in the form of a visiting Friend, dropping in out-of-the-blue. The afternoon rolled around and, as all good things had, said Friend wandered back out through the city walls, forgetting their wallet atop the kitchen counter. 

Curiosity — as it does — blooms like our own emphatic vision. Inside, tucked into the traditional plastic window, the Suspect finds a small photograph of this Friend’s youngest daughter. For some reason, Health’s dams burst forth and our suspect falls into tears once more.

Too weak to plug the cracks, our Suspect defaults to a simple mask of flesh and bone. 

Damp palms are dug into eye sockets as the Suspect attempts to block out the world around them as well as they could. At least until that sinking feeling washed away, and their stomach swallowed what was left of their heart. It is not long before the cracks find their way into the mask, and it falls. 

x

Our collective entity returns to the sanctity of the interrogation room as the Suspect’s memory comes to an end. Their final act — if only to pull back that sense of self-worth — was a much needed phone call. 

“They were confused,” says the Suspect. “’How did you know?’ they asked, ‘I haven’t visited in months’.” 

Our vision pans as the ever-stressed Detective offers nought but a nod, wracked with a feeling distinct from scepticism. If it were all true, the suspect lived briefly in a world not unlike our own; they could remove the latter from causality. From there, the Detective leads: “so, I gather the murder was premeditated?” A nod, and then: “it was an experiment?”

“I wanted to know what it felt like, I guess, without a real motive. I was in a unique place. I could answer that question without causing anybody pain.”

Still in motion, this united eye of ours inches towards the weary detective. Too close, almost. Movement ceases only a second-or-two before all light is exhausted from our iris. Stopping at a level of magnification where we can seemingly witness flecks of dirt clog the Detective’s wet temple pores. 

This shot lasts only as long as it takes the Detective to rub said temples, then reach for their phone. On that beat, we circle around to their right-hand shoulder and peer over: the conversation is still being recorded. Here, the Detective is faceless, but we can hear them speak again: “and why didn’t you go ‘back in time’ to fix this mess? Was it guilt?”

“I didn’t feel guilt,” says the Suspect. “Not at the time because I knew that there would be no consequences. It would never have happened, I would’ve just stepped back from the body, and take myself back.”

“But?”

Another pause. 

One long enough for our floating lens to attach itself to an upper corner in the room. “It was too large of an event,” they say.

“I don’t follow.”

“I don’t understand it myself,” says the Suspect. “I guess I just made too big of an impact, and I couldn’t go back any further than the exact moment Remi’s heart stopped beating.”

Even our wide-angle, less-detailed line-of-sight couldn’t disguise the Detective’s ever-furrowing brow. Time is called; the smart-phone is switched off. Our ephemeral party settles into its penultimate position as the Detective offers one final, barbed “thank you for your time”.

Unlike us, the Suspect remains unfinished. “Before you leave,” they say, “can I show you something?”

Understandably, the Detective’s face drops and in the pin-drop silence, our collective can almost hear the blood escaping to their feet. Reluctant — perhaps terrified that the a through search was not performed — the Detective complies, turning back to the Suspect.

Unwitnessed, the Suspect places a watch upon the steel table. We are drawn to it ourselves; a possible heirloom. Be it old, or simply weathered to look that way, it holds a certain sentimental value. An item, perhaps, that one wouldn’t want to die without like a soldier and their notebook. 

Despite everything, the Detective perseveres. The watch is inspected in full and, after returning it to the table, The Detective removes their own, turning straight to the inscription on the back. 

“To my love,” the two speak in unison, “go anywhere but back.”

x

Our unity — a genuine witness to the Suspect’s ability — watches on as they are directed through a steel-lined corridor. Time has passed but, even now, the Suspect’s arms remain imprinted by the handcuffs. 

Now, a larger pair bind once bloodied hands behind a crooked back. A previous conversation keeps the silent, sterile walk fresh as the Suspect recounts the Detective’s final line of questioning. 

“I don’t understand,” said the Detective.

“What?” 

Before our united eyes, the Suspect is directed into a room no larger than the spotless bathroom of their bedsit. The cramped chamber holds the Technician, and polished chair of black leather. 

“You could’ve just avoided us forever,” the memory reminded. “Nobody could’ve predicted your moments.”

From behind, the Technician removes the bindings. A momentary grasp at undeserved freedom as the Suspect is placed in the solitary seat. Our place shifts from one of floating neutrality to one solidified in motion as our frame is attached to the Suspect’s brow, forced to watch their work unfurl. 

As they set about their duty, the Technician retrieves a piece of cracked leather; a distinguishable difference in treatment between it and the chair itself. As it covers the Suspect’s world — and by proxy, our own — all fades to that familiar redness. Redness soon turns to blackness, and blackness is accompanied by flashes. 

In those fleeting moments, our Suspect relives her crime in full until it comes to an end.

Dust wakes the nose.

And palm-shapes uncover our vision just once more.