I loved the feeling of grass between my fingers. I don’t know why, but it had always satisfied me somehow. I just found great joy in running it gently between the tips, marvelling at the gentle friction as I thought of other things. It sounds odd, but then again I had always been a fidgety boy.
The others were all talking, but I was miles off, enjoying the gentle September sun and the fact I was sitting on the edge of a field covered in rich green grass. For all its torments, I would miss the first day of school. It was bizarre, but I loved the tepid misery of the day. Everyone united in reluctant optimism, the scent of fresh starts disappearing on the breeze, and the beginning of the decline into disorganisation.
“Ok! Welcome back.”
It was the booming voice of Mr. Mathieson. His militaristic tone lifted immediately from my premature nostalgia, and a thousand sets of eyes stood to attention.
“No new teachers this year, but we do have a change in our policy regarding usage of the hall.”
I listened carefully as it wasn’t advisable to ignore Mathieson, but he didn’t say anything of any note. He never did at the opening assembly, but it was part of the soporific ritual of sliding back into the scholastic rhythm, and I was just happy to still be outside. As a school tradition the first assembly of the year, weather permitting, was held on the playing fields behind the gym, and all but one of my years at the school it had been so, that one being a particularly drizzly Monday.
As he continued, I shifted my balance so I was resting on the left of my body, only to find a sharp pain in my left buttock. I shuffled over, and began to inspect what it was. A small piece of greyish plastic, obviously moulded to form a hollow shell rested on the grass below me, and as I looked carefully I saw two more pieces, and a small mound of chipped pieces where one had obviously been trampled by a preseason training session. How peculiar?
I picked up the pieces, and began examining them. The first piece had a code printed on it, which I dismissed as nothing more than a manufacturing code, the second had the word Belfast on it, and the third was square and pointed like a tower.
I looked around to see if I could see any more pieces, and found a further two. One was long, thin and curved, whereas the other was a small circle with three protruding strands. I examined the edges of the pieces, and saw that the larger thinner pieces looked like they might slot together. They didn’t, but as I lay them next to each other they seemed to form the basis of a long plastic oval, with a point at one end.
“Shit.” Whispered Henry, lifting himself up to reveal a long orange coloured piece of plastic. He threw it aside, and I reached behind him to grab it. There was a hole where the tower might fit, and so I inserted it carefully, and rested it next to the other plastic. It suddenly looked like a battleship!
I put the small round piece, which was now obviously a gun, on top, and smiled down at the puzzle solved.
“What the fuck are you doing, Ben?” asked Jamie quietly, looking at the plastic on the grass.
“Why’ve you bought a fucking toy to school?” giggled Henry, tapping Tom on the shoulder.
“Fuck off!” I protested, “Found it.”
Tom had now seen the boat, and as always was unable to contain this cheap laugh at my expense.
“You five!” roared Mathieson. ”See me after please.”
Our chuckles and snickers faded gradually, and after the assembly we were served with a round of detentions, which we laughed off. What perfect poetry, to get a detention on the last first day back! I would miss Mathieson’s tired fury.
The day passed uneventfully, and after the last lesson, I dashed to the toilet so as not to be uncomfortable on the long bus ride home. I went, walked over to the basin and washed my hands quickly, looking up at the dirty mirror and smiling at myself.
Whoa! What was that?! I looked more carefully, and somehow all the enamel had worn off my teeth, and underneath, one on each tooth, was the following series of characters:
F 9 J & £ L : 1
What was happening!? I couldn’t be seen like this! And what did the letters mean!
I ran from the bathroom, rubbing my teeth with my tongue as I went. I was dizzy from the panic, and the concrete between me and the bus stop seemed to be tilting left. What was happening!?
The sun now seemed low in the sky and it hurt my eyes. Where were my sunglasses? I reached down to my bag but it was gone. I must have left it in the bathroom.
I turned quickly to go back, but somehow the sun was still in my eyes, now lower and more orange than ever before.
Then there was darkness. I could hear, I could feel, but there was nothing. I lost my balance and fell to the concrete, and after a moment struggling, realised I couldn’t get up. What was going on!? Was I blind?
Had the bus left without me?
This thought left me so panicked that I writhed uncontrollably. I thrashed around desperately, and much to my confusion the ground beneath seemed to soften and become malleable. Then there was a faint light to my left side. It was casting shadows as if it were a light coming through a door, but I couldn’t turn to face it, or move towards it.
Suddenly the tension of my fear released, and a loud innocent yelp left my body. I could move, and I lifted myself up, knocked over the water beside the bed, and clumsily stumbled towards the light.
Bloody sleeping pills.