Two days ago, he had crashed his car into a lamp post. Second one to the left on the old bridge, coming from the center of the city. It had been an accident, he had said in his statement. It was raining heavily, it had been dark, visibility had been low, he had thought he had seen a figure in a gray raincoat amid the downpour, made a sharp turn to swerve around the supposed person, his car had gone hydroplaning... The next thing he had known, a crash and a short metallic grinding, then stunned, numb silence. It had taken a few moments for him to realize that the rain drummed on, pattering against the roof and smashed windshield of the fresh wreckage.
He had ended up repeating the statement three times. Twice to police and once to his insurance company. Poor conditions, figure in the rain, swerve, hydroplane, crash. Nothing more than a few bruises on him. Blessed be crumple zones and high safety ratings. For a car as old as his had been, anyway - the electronics in a new car would have stopped the impact from ever occurring in the first place. His car itself? Totaled, of course.
The wreck was gone now; the local tow company had unceremoniously dragged the remains of his old companion off after he himself had been taken to hospital for a checkup. The man felt kind of sorry for his car... It had been aging and ailing, the transmission would soon have given out entirely, and replacing that would have cost more than one of the car's cousins, but had been his first car of seven years, and people tended to grow kind of attached to their first and long-time rides alike. He had been no different.
Incidentally, the crash had also taken out the only camera overlooking this side of the bridge. The city was yet to replace it; it usually took at least two weeks of bureaucracy before they managed to send out a guy with a new one to hook up.
Two weeks ago, he had been let go from his job. It had been a dead-end one - being an office accountant, to be more precise -, but it had brought the cash in. Enough for his mother's (and, as an extension, his own) rent, to buy them food, to cover their utilities. It had been not much, but it had been enough to maintain the status quo and just have a little bit to put aside. He had intended to eventually buy a new car with that. And perhaps a washing machine for his mother (and, as an extension, himself).
If it had not been embarrassing enough that a guy his age - thirty! - was still living with his mother, he hadn't even lost his job to another person. He had lost it to a computer program - one of those newfangled things which went over the company account and POS systems, compared everything, ordered new stock, paid bills, handled salaries, and spat out the overview of everything for the boss to peruse - all for the measly running price of the extra thirty kilowatt-hours of electricity to keep the computer going. He and a few of his colleagues cost much more, so his company, being a company oriented on profits like any other, had made them all redundant. It had been happening more and more lately, automated systems replacing office workers. The chances of getting a similar, no-diploma, non-physical job with comparable pay were quickly approaching nil. Even this job had been too good, for suspiciously long.
He had went and ordered new documents for about a quarter of all of his money the very same evening, before he even went back to his mother and his little apartment with his head down, and conveyed her the sorry news.
It was his mother because of whom he felt the most sorry for... That it had come to this, that he felt it was the best thing he could do, given everything. His father, he had never known, and he did not have any siblings. Nor a girlfriend. His mother, though, had always been kind. She had tried his best. Attempted to see him through university. Doctor, she had insisted. And he had failed... Burned out and dropped out fourth year.
He had left two thirds of his remaining money for her to find.
Today, he was standing on the same bridge that had witnessed the demise of his car, staring over the railing into the white rushing waters below. Staring and contemplating. The simple electronic watch on his wrist stated 3:12 AM. No reasonable soul was out at three in the morning. The last car had passed him over twenty minutes ago.
The man's eyes moved up his arm, to where he knew a microchip was buried. Traceable via satellite. They had become standard practice not long before his birth. The theory had been "for the good of people", as always with such things - no more missing children, no more men frozen dead, no more speeding on the roads! In reality, it meant that kidnapping victims - if they were found - were usually found with hastily gouged and poorly bandaged holes in their arms, or their entire arms missing, men froze to death before people drove over to where they were, and speeders signal-proofed their cars, even when it was illegal. That is, until car-makers starting making cars that pedantically drove themselves, and only somewhat allowed people to play drivers. As an end result, the chips were discontinued eight years ago, but he still had one.
And now, it was time for the owner of the chip - the almost-unhirable nobody with no car, job, wife, children, friends or own apartment - to die.
The man flicked open a knife in his left, and carefully placed the razor-sharp tip near the nook of his elbow. He'd seen his X-ray images - he knew where it was. He swallowed; it'd hurt. Breaths were drawn in through gritted teeth as the blade sunk in and hit something hard that wasn't bone, blood rivuleted down his arm, knife was pulled out and cast into the river beneath. It had been a gift - too identifying. Some mucking about with pliers, and he had the damn thing ... little green-copper rectangle with a black serial number on it. It followed the knife. So did the simple electronic watch.
From the satellite recordings, it'd look just as if he had jumped off the bridge and gotten pulverized between the rocks in the rushing waters. The missing camera would neither confirm or deny it.
Hissing, the man wrapped his jacket around his bleeding arm as he attempted to fish out a small tube from another of his pockets. He knew enough from his unfinished medical training to miss significant blood vessels and nerves, but damn... He felt slightly faint. He unscrewed the tube with his right, unwrapped some of his makeshift temporary gauze, and holding the wound closed as much as he could with his pinky and ring finger, pressed on the tube with his thumb and index finger ... just about doable. The tube emitted a clear liquid that solidified, sealing the injury. Medical glue ... possibly a bit past best before, but that probably wouldn't kill him. (The super glues of old had started out as medical glues, too, some part of his mind reiterated a bit of trivia.)
The bloodied jacket followed the knife and chip. So did his T-shirt, jeans, shoes and socks. And his high school ring. Now he was feeling cold, too, rather than just faint... And in hurry. There were spares in the bag next to him, along with some electronics he was supposed to be returning to the rental tomorrow ... lent for "finding a new job", which, if someone managed to fish out the devices, he had been doing. And little else. Just reading mail and watching some videos. Boring search history, all undeleted (except for that one link which was, on purpose, porn - he had thought it might seem too odd if he were entirely a saint for two weeks and didn't give the recovery team anything to find).
He pulled on a new pair of jeans, followed by first one set of sock and sneaker, then another. A small plastic bottle full of water was used to wash off his arm and hand, leaving just the pucked-up red-orange streaked patch of hardened medical glue. Half-full bottle was returned to bag. T-shirt, jacket and wig were picked out and donned. A quick pat to ensure that his documents and last quarter of money were still safely in the pocket of his jacket. Bag went the way of his previous attire.
If they found any of the things, the better for the him, and the theory that he had jumped off the bridge. No actual body? In these waters, entire people, if any bits all, were rarely found to begin with. For all legal purposes, he was dead now, just five minutes after flicking open the knife. His old, real documents had drowned with the jacket. The ones in his replacement jacket were fabricated. The diploma, ID, work record, everything. Better yet, there were government and company records of his entire existence. The gal had known her job - and all the law knew was that she had a little bar with the rights to sell booze, and host two slot machines and billiard. Cameras specifically did not cover one table right by the front in her establishment, even though it was within an arm's reach of the front. Brilliant.
A man who had not existed two weeks ago wandered off the cameraless side of the bridge, crossed the street to avoid another camera, inched under the view of the next one, then turned into a narrow street that was uncovered, strolled behind a conveniently (for him) parked bus, climbed over a fence, moved behind a hedge for a few hundred meters, and helped himself into the small unlocked shed of a rich person. Perhaps he should not have thrown the water bottle away so hastily ... the blood-loss or shock from the injury made him thirsty. Too late now; he'll have to buy a new one tomorrow.
Come morning, he will come out of the shed, try to sell those people a few nonexistent vacuum cleaners, be rejected, find a bus, let himself be taken over to the next city, find a new job (his old hobby, and new diploma and CV should help with that bit ... with all the other jobs taken by machines, the man whose job was understanding and giving meaning to the machines still had his), stay in a motel until he can get an apartment, maybe get a girlfriend...
Would it be too suspicious to arrange it so that his mother just happened to win one of those magazine competitions for various appliances? She filled those out, sometimes. And he had intended to get her a washing machine...