All posts by chickengodofdoom

I like chickens.

The Birds

WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE & IMAGERY. READ AT OWN RISK.

Jean stood outside her boyfriend’s door, hopping from one foot to the next as she debated what to do. Finally she just decided to get it over with and knocked sharply on the worn wood, glancing idly at the brass number hanging on the middle of the door, half hoping that it was the wrong door that she was standing in front of.

But her hopes were not assayed as she instantly recognized the tousled haired young man who had opened the door.

‘Jean!’ greeted the young man in a surprised tone, ‘What are you doing here? How did you find out where I live, anyway?’

Jean grimaced.

‘I asked Horace,’ she mumbled, looked at his pajama-clad knees (he had obviously just gotten out of bed,a voice in the back of head noted), ‘Can I come in, Tom?’

Tom looked distinctly uncomfortable.

‘Um… yeah, sure,’ he said finally, ‘It’s a bit a bit of a mess though, I hope you’re okay with that.’

He stepped back and held the door open for her. Jean stepped through the threshold, and scrutinized the room. Despite Tom’s warning, the room was actually quite clean and organized, with a few dirty articles of clothing strewn over the back of a chair the only out of place items she could spot.

She moved forward again, only to slip as her foot had chosen a stray piece of paper as its landing zone. She waved her arms precariously to try and regain her balance, only to be steadied by Tom, who clasped her shoulders from behind.

‘Thanks,’ she threw over her shoulder as she bent to pick up what she had slipped on.

It was a slip of paper, with the words ‘PLAY WITH ME’ scrawled over it in big, childish letters, seemingly written in red paint. She touched it and noticed with a frown it was still slightly wet.

‘Oh, sorry,’ apologized Tom sheepishly, as he reached for a tissue for her to clean her hands, ‘That’s for my …uh…. art project, I must have left one of the drafts on the ground. I should have been more careful, ha ha.’

‘I thought you worked at a glasses store,’ queried Jean in surprise, accepting the tissue.

Tom froze as his face contorted slightly, eyes darting around the room nervously, before replying, ‘It’s complicated,’ in a near whisper.

Sensing it was a sensitive subject; she said nothing and moved further through the apartment. As she opened the door to what she assumed was his bedroom, she heard a strange clicking sound, like the impact of stone on stone.

Curious, she twisted the knob and opened the door. Only to recoil in horror as a flurry of movement coupled with a raucous calling greeted her with the force of a tidal wave. Inside Tom’s bedroom were numerous cages, each occupied with a squawking, flapping, avian resident.

‘Shit,’ snarled Tom, as he pushed her aside (quite rudely as well, she thought) and rushed to each cage, snapping his fingers against each one as he went along. Like magic, as soon as he touched each cage, the whirlwinds of terror inside them calmed down faster than if he had tranquilized them.

Jean pressed one hand against her galloping heart while using the other to support herself on the doorframe. She cats another look around the room to reassure that what she was seeing was real and not simply a byproduct of an overactive imagination. She could see many different types of birds- canaries and finches, sparrows and eagles, seagulls and falcons. But the most obviously predominant species of bird were ravens. Or they might have been crows. Seeing the size of their beaks, Jean concluded that they were ravens… but the point was that there were so many of them- there were like 10 of them in the small bedroom alone!

‘I collect birds,’ supplied Tom, by way of explanation, ‘Just whatever I can pick up off the street or whatever the bird recovery centres will give me.’

‘Where do you keep their food?’ asked Jean, sitting down on his bed.

Tom sat down next to her, and then pointed over in the general direction of the kitchenette.

‘I keep it in the freezer. Freaking smelly stuff too- the birds of prey and the ravens eat carrion, but I just feed them special meat that the butcher gives me. Bloody difficult stuff to use, too.’

There was silence for a few minutes as the pair tried to find conversation. Jean looked around the room in faux interest. Noticing a door with an attached mirror that looked… strange… Jean shifted on the bed to inspect it more clearly. Looking into her reflection, Jean noticed it was tinted slightly yellow. Ignoring this, she continued her scrutiny of the room through the mirror.

‘You have a brother?’ Jean asked suddenly, seeing the faint outline of the boy in the mirror.

‘What? Not that I know of…’ answered Tom.

‘Then who’s… never mind,’ Jean said.

Feeling this was a good place to broach the subject which had been occupying her mind and caused her to come over, she opened her mouth.

‘Hey Tom,’ she murmured without looking at him, ‘Who’s this?’

She raised her phone and flicked her finger across the screen, which changed appropriately to reveal a photo. It was a photo of Tom and another girl- a brunette, very pretty- laughing and enjoying a drink.

‘Madeline?’ said Tom in surprise, ‘Madeline’s my girlfriend!’

‘What?!’ yelled Jean, outraged, ‘I thought I was your girlfriend!!’

Tom looked at her in a puzzled fashion, ‘Well yeah, until last week, you were, but we broke up last Monday!’

‘Why the hell wasn’t I informed?! Did you think you can just break up and not tell me? Are you retarded?!’ Jean snarled, half angry, half sarcastic.

‘What? I wrote you a letter, emailed you, texted you, and I also called you like a million times!’ shouted Tom, starting to get angry.

‘I had exams last week! I needed to study! Don’t you think something as important as a break up requires face-to-face interaction? You cold-blooded asshole!’ Jean retorted, fists clenched into tiny balls at her sides.

Tom’s face went red.

‘I was really busy at the store!’ he roared, ‘Antonio just got a massive bulk order from Mexico or somewhere, and you know how he does it! He makes you handcraft everything! It takes ages! We pulled all-nighters almost everyday that week to stay on schedule!’

Jean glared at him as he trailed off, mumbling something about ‘doors’ and ‘blood’ and ‘paper’. They sat in an uncomfortable, angry silence, each refusing to look at the other. One of the ravens croaked sinisterly, a low, angry sound that pierced the tense silence.

‘Well,’ muttered Tom tersely, ‘That’s that, then, isn’t it? We’ve broken up now, officially, face-to-face.Happy?’

At that moment, Jean snapped. Leaping up, she slammed her knee into his nose with such force that it snapped audibly. She then grabbed him by his throat and shook it viciously as she yelled at him.

‘Fuck you!’ she shrieked, spittle flying out from between her lips and onto his blood smeared face, ‘Fuck you and your goddamn smarmy ways! You think it’s all right now? That’s fucking it? What about me? Did you ever think of me while you were cavorting with that whore? Melanie, was it? Well fuck Melanie, and fuck you too, you ungrateful prick! Do you know how much I cared for you? How much you meant to me? DO YOU?!’

The birds around the room immediately kicked up a racket, wings beating and steel shaking, until the entire apartment was a cacophony of sound. Tom gurgled unintelligently, his hands scrabbling futilely at her own iron-hard grip around his windpipe. His face, going blue, contrasted with the crimson fountain pouring from his nose. It bubbled out from his mouth, as he tried desperately to form words with no air and no teeth. His eyes widened until she could see the little red veins, seemingly getting bigger with every second they were deprived of air.

It was not until about half a minute after Tom died that Jean realized and stopped ranting and throttling him.

With shocked, wide eyes, she stared at her blood soaked hands, taking no notice of the clamor of the birds, and then to the motionless body of her ex-boyfriend, laying prone on his bed, bathed in blood.

‘No, no, no,’ she moaned, ‘This can’t be happening! Why did this happen? Why did I just do that?’

She brushed her bloodied fingertips together and then brought it to her face, as if to check its authenticity. She glanced around the room once more, the leering, enraged faces of the birds jumping out at her like a vivid montage of hatred and accusation, screeching and squawking- a discordant symphony of sound.

Oh god, she thought frantically, I need to get rid of the body. Only last month, she had been arrested for shoplifting, and her mother had raised such fuss, revoking all her privileges, and almost disowning her. Jean was desperate for the situation not to be repeated, with only a month in between.

Half in a daze, she stumbled over to the freezer and yanked the door open. It’s all those damn birds’ fault,she thought, if it weren’t for them making such a din, I would’ve been thinking more clearly. She snatched a bag labeled ‘Raven feed’ and staggered back to where Tom’s corpse lay.

She carefully dropped some of the foul smelling meat onto his neck, before throwing the rest of it back in the freezer. Jean then inched over to the cages scattered around the room. Their tenants screamed at her as she neared, feathers and wings flurrying in the space. As quickly as she could, Jean flipped open the cages and then ran out the door, only pausing at the threshold to see the results of her actions.

It looked like a scene from hell. A pack of all sorts of airborne creatures, a hideous ball of wings and talons and ripping beaks, clustered on top of Tom’s dead body, tearing and shredding at his neck and face.

Excellent, thought Jean as she closed the door, the birds will get rid of my fingerprints, and hopefully the police will think that Tom spilled some meat on himself and those damn birds attacked him because of that!

She smiled grimly as she exited the apartment, taking great care to lock the door behind her as she left.No-one will ever know…

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean smiled as she walked through the park, whistling a cheerful tune to herself. It had been three days since she had killed Tom, and no one had arrested her yet. The murder had been reported only a couple of hours after it had been committed, with Tom’s roommates, Horace and Wilbur, coming in to find the horrific scene.

She saw a raven perched on a park bench, picking at someone’s discarded lunch. Feeling happy at the world, she reached into her pocket and threw a piece of her sandwich onto the ground in front of it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t immediately jump towards or away from it, instead opting to look at it curiously. It suddenly turned it’s head almost 180˚ around to stare beadily at Jean, it’s abyss-like eyes glaring balefully into her soul. The lunch it had previously been picking at must have had contained tomatoes or flavoured tuna or something, because its beak was stained red.

I know what you did to Tom, the raven seemed to say. I know, because I participated. Suddenly, to Jean, the red coloured beak had an altogether more sinister meaning.

She leapt towards it, and kicked at it, yelling, ‘Get away!’ in anger, kicking up dirt and food as she went along. A few other park goers looked at her strangely, but for the most part ignored her.

The raven flapped in the air, croaking angrily, before suddenly swooping at her, its talons spread wide. Jean screamed as the raven pecked and clawed at her, beating its wings hard against her head.

This torture thankfully only lasted for a few seconds, before a nearby jogger came to chase the bird off.

Ignoring the kind man’s question of if she was all right, Jean instead glared at the retreating bird; her eyes alight with suspicion and fear.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean stood in an empty street, the streetlamps flickering eerily, casting sinister shadows that danced over cracked asphalt and concrete. She turned around warily, trying to get her bearings. She had no idea where she was.

A niggling feeling of being watched started to prick at the back of her head, and she spun around again. A sudden cawing caught her attention, as a treeful of ravens took to the sky in a mass of black shapes and blurred edges.

Woosh… woosh… woosh… several other flocks of ravens took the sky, turning the night into a spectral illusion of flickering gloom and wavering light.

The dark airborne shapes then coalesced into a giant mass of darkness, a singular, enormous raven head. Its beak clacked sinisterly, evilly, like the porcelain chink of a blade on a whetstone.

Jean screamed as it bore down on her, but unexpectedly, it did not engulf her in its cavernous mouth- instead, it merely stopped, folded its legs and placed its beak on the ground, as if it was ready to roost and go to sleep. To Jean, it looked like a mountain had just materialized in the middle of a street, leaving her with nowhere to go but ‘back’.

Suddenly, the raven’s beak opened and out of that lightless void dropped a body. A very familiar body.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Tom stood up and cracked his neck, his fingers brushing through his messy hair.

‘Heya, babe,’ he grinned, ‘Did ya miss me?’

Jean stared in shock, one hand covering her mouth as she struggled to comprehend the sight that met her eyes.

‘You… You should be dead!’ she stuttered, ‘I killed you! The birds… the damn birds pecked out your damn neck! I fucking saw it!’

Tom, who had been walking towards her with his arms outstretched, as if he was going to give her a hug, stopped and tilted his head in confusion. He closed his eyes briefly and when he reopened them, they gleamed with an enigmatic, maniacal light.

‘Yes,’ agreed Tom smiling with a strange intent in his expression, ‘You did. You killed me, Jean. You killedme. I died. My beloved birds partook of my life because of you, and through my birds, I will live again, and I will have my revenge, on you.

As Tom spoke each sentence, he took an extra step forward, until he was right in Jean’s face, prodding at her chest with every punctuated point. She could smell a rank odour on his breath, but despite the terror and disbelief she felt, she couldn’t bring herself to step back, couldn’t bring herself to move away from this vengeful apparition yelling in her face.

Yes,’ continued Tom, ‘My birds and I…. we are one.

He gestured upwards with a dramatic gesture, and 16 jet-black raven wings exploded out if his back. Jean fell back with a cry, surprised at the unexpected movement, only just managing to catch herself with her hands and avoid being injured by the curb.

Tom turned his head to look at her, and Jean shrieked in fear and horror. The once-pristine, tanned flesh had been horribly mangled. Bloody chunks of flesh, stark under the now steady moonlight, lay carved on his face, large pyramidal divots pecked out across his face and head. His once playfully wavy hair sat on his skull, matted with blood and even wrenched out in places. One eyeball hung next to his cheek on a macabre optic fibre. The other span around senselessly, the pupil viciously removed. Dull white bone shone through in especially brutal lacerations.

Even as Jean watched, a massively curved, cruel beak emerged from where his nose had been, and black feathers started to sprout up over his head.

With a large jump, the anthropomorphic raven leapt up and landed on Jean’s shoulders, pinning her down with only its feet. It crouched down, much like a bird does after landing on a branch, and leaned down to glare at her. Jean stared, petrified, into the beady black orb, dimly noticing that there was a spark of intelligence in there, but being too scared to try and make a plea for her life.

The raven clicked its beak, and then opened it in an impossibly wide smile.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean woke with a start, cold sweat adorning her brow. Thank god it was just a dream, she thought with relief. She sat up, flicking on the bedside lamp and regarding the familiar surroundings with reassurance.

Thinking over the events of the dream, Jean shivered and shrugged her shoulders. I’m being stupid, she thought, dead people don’t come back to life, and birds are just dumb animals. I’m safe. The police have no leads, and I just need to get back into the flow of things. I’m just a little shell-shocked, right now. It’s my first time killing someone, after all.

For some reason, this last thought brought on an overwhelming desire to laugh. Jean did her best to stifle the emotion, but let out a few chuckles anyway. Suddenly feeling slightly suffocated, being wrapped up in her blankets like a caterpillar as she was, in a stuffy room on a warm summer’s night, Jean stood up (disentangling herself from the intricate web of blankets first) and walked over the window, with the intention of letting some fresh air in.

With a click, the window snapped open, and Jean leaned out, her eyes closed and enjoying the fresh scent of the night and the refreshing wind on her sweat-covered body.

But as she leant out further, she recoiled in shock as her face met something soft, something feathery.Dreading what she was going to find, Jean opened a single eye, looking straight into the corresponding ringed eye of a Great Horned Owl.

‘Hoot,’ it tooted softly.

Jean relaxed and retreated back into the warmth of her comforting room.

Caw.

Caw.

Chirp.

Caw.

Tweet.

Caw.

Squawk.

Caw. Tweet.

Cawcawtweetchirphoothoottwittertwittercawgrahgrahcawchirpchirpchirptwitterchirpcaw.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Eyes wide, Jean rushed back to the window and threw it open again. Surrounding the house were hundreds, no thousands, of different breeds and types of birds, sitting on fences, on roofs, on electrical wires, on tree branches.

Everywhere Jean looked, there were birds, all watching her. All waiting for an opportunity to avenge the murder of their friend. All silent witnesses to a crime, all impassive executioners waiting to strike.

Panicking, she ran from her room and straight to her mother’s.

‘Mum, mum!’ she cried in terror.

‘Mmm… what, Jeanie?’ mumbled her mother drowsily.

‘There’s a bunch of birds outside the house! There are thousands of them, and they’re everywhere!’

‘You’re not a little girl anymore, Jeanie. Birds always do that. They find places to roost and stay there all night. Go back to bed. The nasty birds won’t hurt you.’

Jean shook her head in exasperation, but steeled her nerves in iron-hard determination. These damned birds, she thought, they won’t leave me alone. It’s Tom’s fault, too. That smug bastard. I bet he’s laughing at me from hell. Well, fuck him. I’m not going to let him win. Him and all his goddamn airborne rats.

Jean strode over to the locked chest in her mother’s bedroom, quickly opened it, already knowing the combination lock. Sliding back the lid, she grinned in satisfaction as she spied the mother lode of treasures hiding within.

Jean’s father had been a weapon’s manufacturer, and had stored a cache of his finest in his own home, as a last-ditch security measure.

Now, Jean, his daughter, intended to put them to good use.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean stepped out of the house, clad only in a thin nightgown and wearing a cool look of determination and desperation, in perhaps equal measures. In her hands she held a machine-gun (which model, she wasn’t quite sure), and at her feet lay a box of grenades and explosives.

She grinned viciously and waved the gun around at the emotionlessly watching birds, yelling, ‘COME AT ME, YOU GODDAMN FUCKING BIRDS! EVEN IF I KILLED THAT BASTARD, DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN FUCKING WALTZ INTO MY LIFE, AND RUIN IT! EAT LEAD, SUCKERS!’

Jean pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

Damn, thought Jean, half in a daze, forgot to flick the safety lever. I think I just screwed up that dramatic moment pretty bad.

With a raucous cawing that was as undeniable as the roar of the ocean, a wave of bodies came rushing at her all at once, an unstoppable force of nature.

‘I knew it,’ breathed Jean, ‘You did something, Tom, I know it. You brainwashed the birds, didn’t you? You cursed me. But I’ll go down fighting. You’ll never take me ALIVE!’

Finally disengaging the safety lever, Jean lifted the surprisingly heavy piece of metal and yanked on the trigger, letting loose a rapid spray of bullets. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite prepared for the recoil, which skewed her aim quite severely. As a result, bullets went everywhere from into nearby residences, into the ground, or into the incoming mob of animals.

Grinning as she saw a few birds fall from her deadly spray of bullets, Jean tightly depressed the trigger, spinning in a manic circle; the metal orbs pouring down like a lethal rain.

But her aim was terrible.

She managed to hit more houses and cars than birds (which was quite hard considering the sheer size of the bird attack force) and this added screams and the wails of car sirens to the din of the regular machinegun rattle of gunfire. This is your requiem, Tom, she hissed in her head, adding her own demented squeal to the cacophony.

Then the birds were upon her. Ripping claws and stabbing beaks, the bludgeoning wings and blinding feathers, the birds were merciless as they mutilated the girl. Despite the vast numbers of them that fell from the point-blank bullets, their numbers were not affected in the slightest.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!’ screamed Jean through a mouthful of blood and a haze of red.

The inevitable had happened. One of Jean’s haphazardly aimed bullets had ricocheted off the ground and buried itself in her belly. The red-hot pain felt like it was carving itself deeper and deeper into her stomach the longer she endured it. And all while this was happening, the birds ripped and tore at her body, butchering and mauling her. Her dress was now only a mess of bloody rags and her hair was a carpet of red.

But even through the pain and terror, Jean finally smiled. She lifted her left arm from where it had been shielding her face from the vicious bird attack, and brought it down on the crate of explosives she had brought.

Her left hand held a lighter, and as the flame met the crate, she laughed.

‘JOKES ON YOU, TOM!!!!!!!’ she shrieked into the unforgiving night.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

The world let up in a blinding flash of red and white, followed closely by the thunderous boom of displaced matter.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

(Epilogue)

‘So,’ asked the butcher’s assistant, ‘What did the policeman give you? A dead body for you to mince up and give to the pie lady?’

The butcher gave a hearty laugh.

‘No, son,’ he replied, ‘Apparently, some guy died, and they found a bunch of ‘faux carrion’ in his freezer. They gave it to me, because you can’t eat it yourself. It’s been made especially to give to animals- scavengers, you know, like hyenas and vultures and stuff. There’s all kinds of nasty stuff in there, like offal and eyeballs and shit. Birds love it, especially. They’ll flock from miles around to get a bit of this. Surprisingly, it doesn’t smell very bad, but birds seem to have a sixth sense for it- they just know when you’ve faux carrion, or touched it, or something.’

He took a moment to take a breath before continuing.

‘Listen closely, now, son, because this is important. If you want to be a butcher, then you’ve got to know how to handle faux carrion. Now, birds love this stuff so much that they’ll be extremely vicious in order to get even a nibble. So, if you ever make faux carrion, with your leftover offal and eyeballs and stuff, you need to be able to get rid of your scent, or birds’ll flock towards you like women to a 20% off sale on clothes. Thing is, faux carrion is a little like skunk juice- you can’t get it off with water alone, son. The secret is … coke. If you get a bottle of coca-cola, and wash your hands in it, then you’ll be scot-free and won’t have to worry about no bird attacks, hey? But never forget, because if you leave the scent on your skin for too long, it’s start to fester and intensify, and then you’ll be neck deep in birdshit, no matter how many times you shower! Ha ha ha!’

THE END

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Throughout the piece, primarily at the start, I have included a couple of references to another of my short stories, The Door. It can be found on the Competition Writing Blog athttps://unicornexpressmhs.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/the-door/

The reason for this was that because of the time restraints that I was under when writing The Birds, I did not really have enough time to conjure up a plausible enough character with a credible back-story, so I simply used one from my other story. I placed The Birds into the same universe as The Door, in other words. Despite this devious bit of trickery, reading The Door is not needed to comprehend The Birds.

It was quite graphic and vivid in regards to imagery and description, as well as having quite strong language and vocabulary. In particular, it is aimed at older teens and young adults. At first I was a little leery about using such strong language on a submitted piece of work, but my considered alternatives lacked the emotion I was trying to convey. And without the appropriate emotion driving their action, the main character lacked a sufficient motive to commit the crime, which leads to the amount of guilt featured in the piece.

Hope you enjoy

Kevin Tang 10F

Wings

The Boy stared out the window. The view wasn’t particularly spectacular, but he stared out into the blank expanse of sky before him all the same, just like he did every day. Sliding his finger against the windowsill, he heard the familiar, comforting rasp of metal upon metal and gave a sigh.

He stood up and strode away from the fleeting, tantalising promise of freedom that had swept through his head like a bracing sea breeze, back towards the massive workstation that dominated the centre of the circular room. He stared at the mess of cogs and gears and plasma coils and gave a frustrated sigh. What am I doing here? He thought with an angry shrug.

Just then, he noticed the digital clock embedded on the table. The Boy froze, then exploded into a flurry of movement, yanking out the rolled up section of blue manuscript that lay under a power transformer and a half-deconstructed piston and pulling it open.

The Boy glanced at the jumble of tools and spare parts on his workspace, before carelessly sweeping them aside with his arm, placing the blueprints in their place. He weighed down the edges with some appropriately heavy metal blocks and cogs he had lying around, then hunkered down to pore over the detailed diagrams and annotations.

Immediately, the vision in his left eye flickered and expanded, magnifying and adopting a blue tint. Miniscule metal arms then erupted from the skin around his left eye, bearing aloft small monocle-like objects and bending like small cranes.

‘Hmm,’ mused the Boy, who dutifully ignored the now commonplace transformation of the left side of his body, ‘3 hours until Inspection… challenge accepted!’

He raised his left arm with a reckless smile on his face, the metal surface cracking and splitting into three distinct appendages. The middle one opened up spidery-looking fingers, which flexed experimentally, while the other two ‘arms’ twisted and fractured until a spirit level and the tip of a power drill protruded seamlessly. The Boy grinned, his normal hand snatching up a spanner.

‘Let’s do this!’

———————————————————————————————————————-

-Bzzzz-

The impassive mechanical alarm reverberated through the air, sounding for a minute before falling silent, leaving a tense, quiet in its wake.

The Boy’s right eye flickered upwards to glance at the clock, all the while frantically fitting parts and twisting metal. His arms were a blur of metal and cloth, frantically bending and morphing, a myriad of different tools materialising and vanishing in the span of a few seconds. Finally, he slowly straightened his posture, never breaking his furious rhythm.

He reached up and flicked a stray strand of hair out of his eyes right before a cast iron metal mask constructed itself onto his face. His left arm now only had two branches instead of the previous five or six. With his right arm and one of his left, the Boy picked up two complicated-looking metal blocks and held them together. His remaining hand, twisted aimlessly for a few seconds, before lowering to point at the combined metal parts. The nail elongated slightly, before a bright blue gas flame erupted from the tip.

Moving his finger in regular, even sweeps, the Boy quickly and efficiently welded the two parts together, a sense of satisfaction in every movement.

‘-BOY!!!-’

The Boy, startled by the sudden squawk from the communicator mounted on the wall, leaped straight up, arms and legs akimbo. Hissing, he quickly expelled a quick spurt of liquid nitrogen from his arm to douse the fire that had sprung up when he had moved his gas flame too close to a plasma coil.

‘-Inspection was ten minutes ago, Boy! Where are you?!-’

The Boy leaped over to the communicator and quickly pressed the button with his thumb.

‘I just finished, Master D,’ he gasped breathlessly, ‘I’ll bring it straight up.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy stood outside the transparent door, his finger hovering over the security pad tentatively. He jammed his finger against the touch sensor while punching in a complicated 16-digit code with his left arm; the adaptive metal growing 11 temporary fingers to help him with his endeavour.

The ‘transparent’ door rippled and seemingly shattered, a million pieces of glittering, reflective glass falling out of place. The Boy did not flinch as the razor-sharp shards danced close to his face. He knew it was all an illusion- a hologram designed to impress those who would come to visit D, the ‘genius’ of Graca. Unfortunately, no-one ever did come to visit the famed benefactor of Graca.

It was likely that down below, on the ground, the Citizens had made up some cock-and-bull story about how D was a criminal or mentally disturbed or such, and prevented any and all visitors that tried to see him. This was the sad truth. D was a prisoner of his own land. Trapped in a gilded cage of his own creation, forced to invent and manufacture brilliant pieces of innovation for a people he hated, the once-lauded ‘genius’ was now reduced to a mere caged bird- a relic that had been a mainstay of Graca for decades… from before the Reform.

The Boy gave a sad smile- his master’s circumstances always brought a tinge of pity and respect to the surface of his emotions, despite the rather negative feelings he secretly harboured towards the harsh taskmaster. He then blinked.

Now, instead of the bustling whirlwind of energy that had been ‘D’ in the illusion, there was only a black shrouded figure sitting morosely at a cluttered desk. He held a small doll in one hand, and was screwing a detached arm back into its original position with an old-fashioned screwdriver, with a handle.

The Boy silently padded over to stand at his shoulder, watching silently, unwilling to break the tense atmosphere.

Finally, after about ten minutes of being ignored by his Master, the Boy cleared his throat impatiently. Immediately, the aging man span around, eyes that still retained sword-like sharpness flicking up to scrutinise the one who had interrupted his work.

‘Boy!’ he rasped, ‘Where were you? Inspection was twenty minutes ago! The Citizens want that Theta Bomb!’

The Boy wordlessly held out his left arm, which immediately opened up, showing a small compartment in which resided the fruits of three hours’ labour. Four pulsing blue cables were connected to the top, providing the fluorescent power coils that veined the metal block with a healthy light.

D snorted in derision upon seeing the weapon of mass destruction, instead simply reaching in and ripping it out of the Boy’s arm. Said Boy winced and hissed as he felt the radium charge cables disconnect from his arm, a terrible cold spreading through the pain receptors in the artificial appendage.

D turned the cuboidal block this way and that in his gnarled hands, inspecting it from all angles. Finally, he gave a vicious-looking smile. Holding the bomb in his hand, he made a vague-looking, twisting motion with his hands. The intricate mass of metal and wire shivered and exploded, tiny constituent parts raining onto the ground like a storm.

That,’ snarled D in anger, ‘was pathetic. That Theta Bomb had an 18% chance of misfiring. What have I been teaching you all these years?!’

The old man gripped the Boy by his collar and slammed him against the wall, the aged muscles still possessing iron-like strength. With his free hand, D prodded the immobile boy in the chest with a grimy finger.

‘I found you, Boy, a nameless orphan who mucked up a jetpack joyride. You were going to die, and I saved your life. You were a nobody, and I raised you as my own son and legacy. You lost the entire left side of your body, and I crafted you a new body using my secret techniques. I gave you life, and I can take it away. You belong to me. Your entire existence is a tool for me to use. A tool to get revenge on the Citizens. A tool, just like this.’

D held up the doll, which had suddenly twisted and morphed into a crackling energy transfuser. Holding his charge tight, and utilising the assistance of the metal wall, which had unexpectedly sprouted numerous tentacle-like cables that held the helpless boy immobile, D brought the energy transfuser close to the teen’s face.

‘Remember this, Boy,’ hissed D maniacally, ‘You are mine. You will always be mine.’

And then he pressed the superheated nib against the Boy’s bare right cheek, scratching a line straight down the bare skin, watching the frying flesh cauterise the wound almost instantly.

Blinking in curiosity, he brought the half-doll, half-energy transfuser back and studied the long scratch down the boy’s cheek. It was an ugly black, the surrounding skin a contrasting angry red.

‘Hmmm,’ murmured D, puzzled, ‘Why don’t you scream, Boy?’

The Boy glared at his master through a haze of pain and tears before opening his mouth and spitting a glob of blood and phlegm contemptuously at the vindictive old man in front of him. But even as he completed this action, a wrinkly old hand snapped out and grabbed his jaw, quick as lightning.

‘Ah,’ mused D, ignoring the wet blood tracking down his cheek as he forcefully opened the teen’s mouth. ‘You bound your gums together with wire. Not a bad application of MESTAR. You’ve adapted to the metal well.’

‘You should never have given me it,’ snarled the Boy defiantly, finally deciding to stand up for himself in the face of his master’s cruel and unreasonable treatment of him.

The tiny spool of steel wire that he had used to prevent himself from screaming had now completely unwound itself and was now coiled in a tight-packed mass on top of his tongue. In a fluid movement, the Boy spat at D, the wire uncoiling itself with the movement, a flying spear of bloodied metal.

The wickedly sharp metallic streamer bolted through the air, directly at D’s head. Flicking near his ear, it grazed the right side of his face, creating, ironically, a deep furrow perpendicular to the Boy’s own newly-acquired scar.

But the Boy saw none of this. He reached deep within himself, finding that part in him that controlled the adaptive metal that made up the left side of his body. He found it, and began to manipulate it.

Smiling, he opened his eyes, and roared. Immediately, the metal cables that grew from the wall and held him immobile exploded outwards, flying away in a million shredded pieces of steel.

The Boy stepped forward and rolled his neck, producing an audible crack. It was now obvious what had severed his bonds- several large, curved blades protruded from the left side of his body. But even as the Boy advanced upon D, who had been blown back onto the ground with the force of the wire attack, the metal blades slowly receded into the grey, skin-like surface of his body.

The Boy held out his arm, which lengthened and tapered to a point, a white glow starting to form at the tip. It now looked less like an arm and more like a superheated spear or lance.

‘I guess I am grateful for the help, Master D,’ grinned the Boy maliciously, ‘But please die.’

He jabbed the lance at his fallen master and smiled sadistically as he heard the tell-tale hiss of shrivelling cloth as a hole was rapidly worn in D’s ever-present black cloak. But when D started to chuckle darkly, a vein in the Boy’s face started to twitch.

‘What’s so funny?’ he snarled angrily. ‘You have nothing to laugh about- you’re about to die, you horrid old man!’

With a suddenness that shocked, D leapt up off his back and straight at the Boy, arm outstretched.

The Boy yelped as he recoiled from the unexpected attack. He reflexively raised his arm to protect himself, and in doing so, impaled D straight through the chest, the heated tip of the lance sliding through flesh and cloth, bone and muscle with almost no resistance.

The Boy sat slumped on the wall, the weight of his master pressing down on him. He blinked slowly, trying desperately to comprehend what had just happened. He glanced at the limp figure skewered on his lance and prodded him tentatively with his normal hand.

When the still form did not move, the Boy allowed himself a small smile of triumph. He had always wondered if he had enough guts to actually take the life of the one who had saved him, even if he took into account the extent of his hatred towards him.

‘You brought this on yourself, Master D. maybe if you weren’t so demanding. So cruel. But you know what they say- what comes around goes around,’ he murmured softly as a solitary tear slid down his ruined cheek.

‘You’re a hundred years too early too early to lecture me, damn brat,’ came a rough voice, like sandpaper over a chalkboard.

The Boy’s head snapped up, unbelieving, as the figure transfixed on the metal pole stirred and raised his head. A familiar face smirked dangerously at him, whiskered features held in an animalistic snarl.

‘Wh… what? H…h…how?’ stuttered the Boy, almost incoherently.

‘Hah…did you really think you could kill me? Me, the great D? The Creator, himself? I am the one singlehandedly responsible for improving and sustaining Graca! Without my inventions and technology, those smarmy Citizens would probably still think digital watches are the height of innovation! You think you can extinguish the life of the single greatest existence this world has ever known? With my own technology, as well? You really are a failure as an apprentice!’ growled D, enraged.

With deliberate slowness, he raised his free hand to where the Boy could see it, a single raised palm. Slowly, menacingly, D twisted his palm into a clenched fist. And the Boy immediately felt an excruciating pain permeate his entire being, a pulsing white-hot supernova of sensation that coursed through his veins and boiled his blood. Not even having a line seared into his skin had been this painful. And all D had done was twist his hand. The Boy didn’t understand what was causing this all-encompassing agony. He felt, somewhere, an urge to scream, but then realised he was already doing so- a high-pitched keening that reverberated inside his head, like a roomful of shouting people.

In some half-deranged state, the Boy entertained the thought of muffling his screaming, to put up a tough front to show he wasn’t afraid of the terrifying old man, but when he tried to reach up with his left arm to cover his mouth, he realised with a delayed sense of horror he no longer had a left arm. Or a left leg. And… oh god, even the left side of his face was missing.

D had, utilising his god-like manipulation of synthetic materials, ripped all the MESTAR sustaining the Boy’s life clear from his body.

It was then, through a haze of pain, that the Boy blacked out.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy stood on a cloud, staring into the distance aimlessly. I’ve always wanted to fly. I guess now it’s impossible. Am I dead?

He stared at his very human left arm and sighed. He had always dreamed of escaping D’s prison on a jetpack- the same way he had entered. After his accident, he had almost given up on that dream, but his former master had craftily strung him along like a mindless puppet, luring him with promises of better technology to enhance his flying experience- the sensation of enjoying the sky.

Unfortunately, it was all an elaborate trap. As soon as the Boy had accepted the metal prosthetics into his body, he had stepped into D’s jurisdiction. Reduced to the slave of his saviour, the Boy once again had his dream destroyed.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy woke to the feel of rushing air, and for a moment thought he had actually died and had been granted his life-long wish. But this wish was soon shattered as he took stock of his surroundings. He was standing at the edge of a giant hole in the floating prison’s wall, still lacking most of the left side of his body, but feeling a strange, yet familiar weight on his back.

‘Hello, Boy,’ came the dreaded, rasping voice of D, ‘I have decided to make use of you for one last mission. I’ve programmed a jetpack to launch you straight down into the nexus of the anti-gravitational field, where the bomb I’ve planted in you body will promptly detonate. Probably the most use I’ll ever get out of you. And then, my ‘prison’ will finally fall, and I will regain my rightful place, ruling the Citizens!’

The Boy ignored him and only focused on what he could sense behind him. A jetpack. He smiled at D before launching himself off the precipice, cutting off his master’s triumphant speech. He could feel the jetpack thrusters boosting, but he already knew, that even D’s unnatural dominance over machines could not wrest away control of the MESTAR that had been a part of him for 3 years (even if it were in a slightly different form), not at this distance.

He asserted his authority over the metal and felt it shift and twist, becoming something far more different. Wings.

He flapped his new appendages, gaining altitude, moving away from the anti-gravitational generator below and instead heading for the universal power transmitter, sitting at the very edges of the upper atmosphere. He could feel his breathing beginning to labour, but used some of his last vestiges of strength to create a mini-communicator to shout a few parting words to his former master, staring wide-eyed from below.

‘If I’m going to die, I might as well bring this wretched planet with me! Because it’s in my nature!’

Suddenly, terrible white light blanketed the sky, leaving only the Boy’s parting words.

‘By the way, my name isn’t Boy, it’s Icarus.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

This was something I wrote for the Imagination Creation Western Union Young Writers Competition.

Kevin Tang 10F

 

The Green

I am everything, I am the Green.

I bear the everlasting cycle of life supreme,

As far as the eye can see, I am all clean.

 

I am pure, undeniably pristine,

Throughout me, life will harmoniously teem;

I am everything, I am the Green.

 

I wasn’t quite sure what it was supposed to mean-

When monkeys stand up, and speak and dream.

As far as the eye can see, I am still clean.

 

My brother, the Blue, carries an ugly black sheen,

All from a human oil ocean transportation scheme,

I am no longer everything, but I am still the Green.

 

These humans see me as nothing more than a latrine,

No matter how much I try, I cannot scream.

As far as the eye can see, I am a far cry from clean.

 

My body holds not life but the greasy dead machine,

Everywhere, destruction seems to be the recent theme.

I am nothing, in only name I am the Green.

As far as the eye can see, I am no longer clean.

 

 

This is a just villanelle I wrote. Just randomly.

Kevin Tang 10F

Diary: A Day in the Life of the ChickenGod

7th/8th/9th/10th/Somethingth March 2011

So here I was, sitting in the back of an ambulance, speeding towards the hospital. It was the summer of 2011, and yesterday was my first day at a new school. And not just any school, but the prestigious Melbourne High School, where applicants had to pass a grueling examination period in order to be accepted into the school. I had been lucky enough to be accepted and was eager to make a good impression on my peers and teachers. But instead, I was being carted away to the hospital where they would cut my stomach open like a fish. Of course, this wasn’t what I was thinking at the time. If you want a concise and accurate depiction of my thoughts at the time, it would look something like this:

It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. [censored] It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Oh god, it hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Man… why does it hurt so much? It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Hope there’s nothing complicated like internal bleeding or anything. It hurts. It hurts. Gah! [censored] It hurts. It better be something simple like appendicitis! (It turned out that it wasn’t) It hurts. It hurts.

‘So, Kevin. If you were to describe your pain, would you say it would be a stabbing pain, or a throbbing pain?’

Shut up, random paramedic! Can’t you see I’m in pain here? Uhh… stabbing or throbbing? All I can say is… It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Lessee… stabbing, or throbbing? I can’t really tell… Stabbing or throbbing… It hurts. Stabbing or throbbing. [censored!] Stabbingorthrobbing. Stabbingorthrobbing. Staborthrobstaborthrobstabstabstabthrobthrobstabstabstab. I really can’t tell! [censored!]

‘…Th-Throb…’ I gasp out finally.

It hurts. It hurts. Oh no! Today was photos day. I’m going to look stupid on my ID card, and on the form rolls and in the class photo. (It turned out that I didn’t) It hurts. It hurts. All my classmates are gonna remember me as ‘That kid who went to hospital to get his stomach cut open’. (They actually called me ‘The guy who got stabbed’ after taking into account the large scar across my abdomen the operation left me with. I later adopted this epithet officially, as it was shorter and more efficient than explaining the whole convoluted situation.) Oh sweet Jesus, it hurts. It hurts so [censored] MUCH!           

‘So, Kevin. On a scale on 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, how intense would you say your pain was?

Shut up, random paramedic! Uh… it hurts. It hurts. It hurts. 7? 8? 9? 10? GAH! If I go too high, they might think I’m a weakling who can’t take pain… screw that! It hurts. It hurts. IT [censored!]HURTS!!

‘8’, I mutter almost incoherently, as I was curled up in a ball, with my face on my knees.

Uh… It hurts. It hurts. Man, I’m gonna be sooo behind on class work and stuff. I hope I don’t have to make it up when I get back. [censored!] It hurts. It hurts. Aaargh! Fuuu…. Somehow, I don’t think I care that much anymore. I just want this [censored] pain to stop!

‘So, Kevin. On a scale on 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, how intense would you say your pain was?

Shut up, random paramedic! Quick, make up a random number! Ooh… It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.

‘9’, I wheeze.

Man, Melbourne High is so big. I’m gonna get so lost when get back… after I get rid of this [censored] PAIN! I’m never going to find where my classes are. It hurts. It hurts.

‘So, Kevin. (Shut up!) On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, how intense would you say your pain was?’

Shut up, you [censored] random paramedic! If this were a story, you’d be the antagonist! Stop asking me mundane questions! It hurts. It hurts. Random number, random number…

‘9.23…recurring…’ I snarl irritably.

Being in an ambulance is cool. It’s got all this cool stuff. It’s really… cool. Yeah, cool. Ah! [censored!] It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Damn it! I can’t keep my mind off the pain! Oh no, that random paramedic is opening his mouth. No, don’t you dare ask another mundane question!

‘Alright, Kevin, we’ll be arriving at the hospital shortly, so rest easy. Your pain will soon be over.’

Thank God…

‘But before we arrive, on a scale on 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, how intense would you say your pain was?’

[censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [really censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!] [censored!]   

   

True Story.

Kevin Tang 10F

The Keeper of Time

The Keeper of Time

John sat at a deserted workbench, watching the antique timepiece he held in his hand with intense interest. Tick… tick… tick went the ornate second hand, the sound shockingly loud in the silence. He stared, trance-like and obsessed, watching in fascination as the little hand of metal spun around in endless revolutions, steadily traversing the worn face of a clock engraved with graphic depictions of terrible demons and glorious gods.

It’s losing time’, he observed, ‘at a rate of a millisecond an hour’. John despised tardiness, but despite this, he made no move, his exasperation soothed by the steady, rhythmic movement of the golden needle as it plodded across the clock face… round and round, round and round.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

John didn’t flinch as the incoming train whooshed past him, flicking his hair into wild tendrils that billowed around eyes that gazed unsurprised, unblinking and abyss-black. Although impassive in expression, John nevertheless felt a twinge of irritation slither through his body and blossom into an irrational surge of anger, simply because the train was several seconds late. ‘It’s always late,’ he mused. ‘Always by the same amount, too.’

John had always suspected he was strange… well, not normal at least. Considered a musical prodigy at a young age for his unerring sense of rhythm, his mentors’ enthusiastic encouragements in this area had waned dramatically once they discovered his inflexibility. It seemed he could not, or would not, alter a melody’s tempo when required, such that his music, though technically perfect, lacked the wild, living beauty of spontaneity. The reason for this was that John had a metronome of sorts in his head – an inherent ticking that clicked away relentlessly, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, from the moment he was born to, in all likelihood, the day he died.  He wasn’t bothered at first, until the physical toll of the relentless ticking began to distinguish him as different from the other children. Fascinated by rhythm though he was, this clicking proved perpetual temptation that distracted him from paying attention in class or studying. His physical performance also suffered, since during strenuous activity, his heart rate and breathing sped up and became erratic, which jarred with the steady beating in his head. This invariably resulted in a splitting headache, such that he stopped trying to resist it at all.

It was not until he was about 5 years old that he realized that the ticking in his head corresponded exactly with the second hand on a clock. Intrigued, John decided to delve deeper into the mysterious world of time. Enraptured by the synchronous harmony between the analogue clock and his own internal metronome, John soon developed an addiction to the soothing feeling of being in coordinated resonance with timepieces. Unfortunately, as a result of his new obsession, he began to get more and more intolerant of inconsistent and erratic beats and events.

Yes, John was definitely not quite normal.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

John clasped the antique timepiece gently, still staring while the golden hand yet again swept over the demonic engravings. He had obtained it from his grandfather, and was eerily comforted by the unchanging tempo as the needle methodically crossed the dial. He knew that it was slightly inaccurate, but for some reason it did not bother him as much as it usually would.

Wham! A shock of searing pain speared suddenly through his side, slamming him to the ground and wrenching him out of his reverie. He looked up, dimly registering through clouding eyes a figure swathed in black, brandishing a bright yellow shaft of light, much like the one sticking out of his side. The pain was explosive. John tightened his grasp on the pocketwatch, seeking its comfort. The last thing he saw was the sunlight flickering over the dancing demon figures, before everything went black.

 ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

John’s body stood up, a force not quite earthly controlling him, like a puppet on strings.

The figure opposite him grinned, and then spoke.

“So, the Keeper of Time finally shows himself. Had enough of this charade? Why you decided to shirk your duty and hide yourself as a human I have no idea …damn filthy monkeys. But the game’s up now. You have no attacking power – you shouldn’t even be part of the Pantheon. Surrender!”

What used to be John merely looked at the gaping hole in his side before running his fingers nonchalantly over it. The regeneration was immediate – the bleeding vanished, flesh reappeared and fabric knitted together such that there remained not one indication that a horrific wound had gaped just moments before.

When he was done, he looked up and murmured slowly, “Do you know what I see? Do you, Keeper of Thunder? My eyes see the End. The End of all things. Everything has an end. It is a terrible curse, forever seeing destruction. Humans are so lucky, so carefree, only caring about their petty little lives and never having to be burdened by the great troubles of Immortals. Everything has an end, Keeper of Thunder. Everything. Even gods. This is the Curse of Time.”

He saw the black-clad figure begin to angrily summon another murderous shaft of light. With a supreme burst of effort, ‘John’ bade his personal metronome to slow. The ticking, once incessant, was beginning to stop, and was bringing Time itself to a standstill. The winds stopped howling, lighting halted in mid-flight, and a god peerless in power suddenly found himself trapped frozen in stagnant space and time. With a light push of a 15-year-old boy, the Keeper of Thunder fell without resistance, straight into the path of an incoming train speeding to make up for lost time.

The Keeper of Time smiled as he glanced at his pocketwatch, knowing, having foreseen that this fellow god would lie at rest until the very End, never, ever, to rise again. Time itself had forsaken him.

‘The train was late, like always. But this time, it was right on time,’ he grinned.

 

Kevin Tang 10F

This was my Time to Write Submission… decided to post it just in case anyone was interested. I wasn’t especially proud of this piece, because I felt I could have done a lot better, but I got lost in it and ended up writing about 500 words over, and then went crazy and deleted a massive piece of plot development…

Body Image

-Body Image-

I’m sure we’ve all seen those models on television, or in a magazine, newspaper or billboard. We’ve all admired/marvelled/fantasised about them. Unfailingly, they are all beautiful, tall and skinny. However, despite being what most people look up to, they are not the epitome of human evolution, and are not an accurate depiction of what everyone should appear like naturally. Unfortunately, a lot of young people didn’t seem to get the memo. And that is a seriously escalating problem in today’s society.

A distressing amount of young women nowadays (usually teenagers) are obsessed with their weight and body image. Much of what is considered a ‘healthy BMI (body mass index)’ by experts is in turn denounced by these young teenagers as overweight, pudgy or fat. More and more teenaged girls are diagnosed with bulimia or anorexia (maybe even both), which are both extremely serious conditions, with wide ranging repercussions, which could severely affect the patient’s health or life, even debilitating the patient’s career chances.

I think that this is more than isolated phenomena occurring en masse, but is instead a result of the problems deeply rooted inside today’s media preoccupied society. Many young people have access to, and regularly use, a television set, or alternative media outlet, such as a newspaper or news site on the Internet. It can be found that a staggering amount of attention and coverage are given to celebrities and supermodels, and so, from an early age, young people are ingrained with the notion that being ‘like a celebrity’ is a good thing, judging by the amount of positive hype and popularity they receive.  This hits especially hard for teenage girls, who are particularly social creatures, with a close-knit group of friends and confidants. Here, under the pressure of peers and friends, the expectation to conform to society and society’s demands are perhaps the strongest as they ever will be in the human race.

Alienation from her circle of friends is a fate that no girl wants. To avoid this fate, girls will adhere extremely strongly to the standards set by role models and admired celebrities. This trend, observed by their male counterparts with derision and amusement, is ‘fangirlism’ and usually applies to young, teenage male celebrities such as Justin Bieber and One Direction. As these desired idols are regularly seen associating with the slim model type women, the pinnacle of what any girl wishes to appear like, many teens attempt to match their physique and appearances with fanatic fervour, despite unattainable differences such as age, height and lack of professional equipment and funds.

But the effect of the media’s use of an overinflated (in my opinion) sense of importance in regards to the body image of celebrities has permeated deep into our society. At schools, bullying was, and still is, an enormous problem. And along with race, academic prowess and gender, one of the main reasons bullies target victims is because of their weight. Overweight students are usually sensitive about the matter and when it is placed in the spotlight and exaggeratedly and mercilessly ridiculed, the victim may be particularly hurt and be driven to drastic actions. These ‘drastic actions’ may range from suicide to drugs to obsessions with losing weight- all of which have broad field of potential consequences, none of them positive.

But despite these overwhelming negatives for body image in the media and in advertisements, there can be concurrent benefits, if done properly. In an age where the standard of living is extremely high in developed countries, and where technology does practically everything for you, obesity is peaking. By broadcasting a sensible ideal to kids and teenagers about the correct, healthy, body image, the media might be able to curtail this destructive trend and restore people around the world to some semblance of an independent, healthy race, fit to be the dominant species on planet Earth.

This was a practice essay I wrote in preparation for… something. I thought it would be a good idea to post something non-fiction for a change.

Kevin Tang 10F

The Door

Inside a relatively unremarkable spectacle store uncreatively named Antonio’s Spectacle Store, towards the back of the building, stood a Door. It was, much like the shop, relatively unremarkable, unadorned save for a large mirror that was attached to its face. The owner of the store thought it was quite useful for allowing the customers to admire their potential purchases. But there was something strange about this Door. It didn’t seem to have a handle. On the smooth alabaster wood where a handle might have been on a regular door, there was only a slight circular imprint, as if someone had sawn off the handle and painted over the place where it once stood.

Actually, that was only one of a few peculiar observations one could make about the Door. There was the way that the mirror had the strange property of tinting everything reflected from its surface an oddly sinister yellow colour. There was the way the Door felt cold on hot days, and hot on cold days. There was the way it tended to creak suddenly for no apparent reason, even though it had not been opened for the entirety of thirty years (the owner had no idea if it had ever been opened- how do you open a door with no knob?). And finally, there was the fact that the Door led nowhere. The wall that it was attached to was the end of the building, and on the other side of the door was just bricks and mortar. The wall was too thin to hide a second room, and the bricks on the other side cancelled out the possibility that it was just a façade.

But Antonio, the now aging shop owner, did not let all of the peculiarities about the Door bother him. Sure, when he had first acquired the dinky little shop, he had pushed and pried at the Door like nobody’s business to try and unravel the secrets of what he perceived as his new toy, but after the first year, he soon gave it up and just passed the mystery Door as a silly prank played by the builders. He came to feel that it was part of the shop’s charm, like one of the unique characteristics often found in the wonderfully odd stores depicted in books and films. He had now worked in the store for over thirty years, making and selling glasses to the people that came through the timeworn mahogany doors. He and his wife, Bianca, had commandeered the little enterprise alone ever since they had arrived in this country, still flushed and overjoyed from their whirlwind marriage.

Now, Antonio reflected, it might be time to invest in some employees, or an apprentice at least. His eyesight was very obviously worsening, as was his wife’s. He kept bumping into the display shelves and cases- whose idea was it to make the bloody things out of glass, anyway?! Even wearing a pair of his most powerful glasses, he could only barely see the fiddly little screws that he used to attach the wire frame together. And he knew Bianca, too, had trouble seeing even the relatively large forms of the customers she regularly conversed with over the counter. Yes, it was definitely time to hire some new blood.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

His name was Thomas. He was 17 years old. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and liked to dress in dark clothing. His favourite colour, though he’d never admit it, was pink. He had dropped out of school last year, because he didn’t focus on his studies. He had instead opted to working part-time, and looking for a permanent job. His father hadn’t needed a thorough education, and neither did he (completely disregarding the fact that his father, although managing to get by, was only barely getting his family over the poverty line). Unfortunately, this attitude transferred itself over to his school behaviour and willingness to complete tasks set by the teacher. Needless to say, he was soon asked to leave by the school, and he did so willingly.

After that, he became almost independent from his parents (who never really cared about him in the first place) and started to look for work, the ‘real work’ he envisioned that would allow him to eke out a reasonable income, which he could live off. The spectacle store turned out to be a real treasure mine. The old couple, Antonio and Bianca, were practically blind, (probably due to eyestrain caused by focussing too much on the miniscule screws and pins needed to construct a pair of glasses), but were kind enough, and paid well. The shop, though also old, was in fairly good condition, and very clean. All in all, Thomas thought it was quite lucky that he had found employment in this little out-of-the-way business. That is, until the Door mysteriously came alive.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

 Thomas glanced up from where he sat, diligently trying to direct the tiny head of the screw he was holding into the hole on the frame of a pair of dark glasses. He took short breaks like this frequently now, looking into the distance about once every hour or so. Now about one month into his employment, he had noticed that his eyesight was starting to deteriorate. A quick internet search revealed that the cause was (probably) eye-strain. The small business utilised the antiquated method of hand-crafting glasses- which while probably fine for a few pairs- mass producing several would soon start to take a heavy toll on the manufacturer’s eyes, like it had evidently done with Antonio and his wife.Thomas blinked a couple of times, trying to get his eyes to focus on the back wall of the store. It was a bit of a struggle, as the aforementioned orbs seemed to be locked into the default position of ‘ready to fit a screw the size of about a pinhead into a matching hole apparently two millimetres smaller’.When Thomas finally exerted enough control over his rebellious sensory organs to get them to centre on the opposite wall, he gave a start as he saw a dark figure glaring balefully back at him. Unfortunately, as he was currently rocking back on his chair to alleviate some of the stress on his cramped muscles (as well as it being a bad habit from his school days) while he did this, he tumbled back onto the ground, landing quite heavily onto his arm and letting out an explosive ‘oomph’.He hissed as he rolled over and extracted his limbs from where they lay tangled in an incomprehensible heap together with the chair legs as well as each other.
“Ah, Thomas,” a kindly voice remarked, “Anything the matter?”
Thomas looked up- it was Antonio, the storeowner. He raised his non-crushed arm to point weakly in the direction of the back of the store.

“Back there- there’s someone over there. Did you hire anybody else that I don’t know about?”

“Ah… Thomas? There’s nothing there…”

Thomas stood up slowly, rubbing his back. He glanced over to where he had seen the figure, and immediately pinpointed the answer to the confusing situation.

“Oh… ha ha. Sorry Mr Antonio- my mistake. I just saw my reflection in the mirror over there- got a bit of a scare, too. Sorry for bothering you,” he said, abashed.

The grey-haired man squinted at the back wall in a puzzled fashion, before waving it off with an understanding smile, walking back to his own workstation.

Thomas dropped his own sheepish smile and looked into the mirror once again. His yellow-tinted reflection stared sinisterly back at him, the dark eyes expressionless.

Man, he thought, do I really look that creepy? I really need to get a haircut… and introduce some new colours into my outfit.

He grinned briefly before getting back to work.

Beyond his line of sight, his reflection stared at him, before also breaking into a large smile, almost as if it were a delayed recording. That is, if recordings smiled in ways completely different from the way their actors did.

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Antonio smiled as he shook his head in mirth. That new employee, Thomas, was really a laugh a minute. Making up a silly excuse just so he wouldn’t be seen as a clumsy oaf… really, there wasn’t even a mirror on that wall…

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A couple of days after the incident, Thomas was straightening up some of the display cases that were standing in the middle of the room after a busy day working. As he bent to adjust on the little paper slips that had the prices written on them, he felt something wet touch his hand. Drawing it back, he saw that it had some sort of red liquid on it. His first inclination was to conclude that it was blood. But as he felt and massaged his palm with his other hand, he couldn’t feel any wound or pain. So it was either some other liquid like ink or paint… or it was someone else’s blood.

His heart jumping a little, Thomas reached over with trembling fingers and turned the sheet over. On it, in scrawled but legible red letters, was the message, ‘PLAY WITH ME’.

Thomas’ skin crawled. He turned around to tell his boss, but he realised too late that Antonio had already left, the roar of his car something that his brain had heard but not yet registered. He turned back, and saw, in the transparent shop window, the same message, childishly scribbled in what seemed, in the fading light, to be definitely blood. ‘PLAY WITH ME’ it demanded, stark against the setting sun. This time it covered the entire window, and drips of the liquid were sliding down the glass and settling onto the floor.

If Thomas was thinking clearly, if it had been earlier in the day, perhaps, he might have taken the time to inspect the message, and analyse the time period at which it had been delivered, judging by the distance travelled by the liquid drips. And he would have found it had been written in the 5 minute interval between the departure of Antonio, and Thomas discovering it. A period of time in which no-one but Thomas was in the store.

But all Thomas’ terrified brain could latch onto was the fact that because of the liquid slowly settling on the floor, it was all too obvious that the message had been written from inside the store. So, the question was… who had written it?

Thomas rushed over towards the door, neglecting to even pick up his bag. He had his keys in his pocket, and that was all he needed to get the hell out of this place as quickly as possible. He would clean up the mess when he came back the next day. Not even the thought of his boss’ wrath could persuade him to stay another minute more than he had to.

But as he wrestled with the lock of the shop door, which stubbornly remained closed, a cold shiver down his spine made him look to the right, to the wall. And there, staring him in the face, disturbingly close, was his own panicked face, literally nose-to-nose with him. He almost screamed but years of practice of not screaming (for anything) for fear of ridicule from his male classmates managed to stop him. He knew, without a doubt, that the creepy Door with a mirror wasn’t supposed to be there. It was supposed to be on the other side of the room!

As he wrenched helplessly at the doorknob, his eyes fixed steadily on his reflection, he nearly jumped out of his skin when it leaned forward, something he certainly didn’t do, and mouthed three words at him. Play… with… me…

At that moment, the lock gave, and Thomas exploded out of the shop like the hounds of hell were after him, only pausing to slam the door shut, and not bothering to lock it. He then charged to where his car was, afraid to look back.

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Meanwhile, back in the shop, the reflection, which no longer had an owner, dropped into one of the chairs in which Thomas was straightening before he was interrupted. Smiling enigmatically, the figure remarked to nobody in particular, “I can wait.”

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Antonio glanced at the door anxiously. It was already 11 o’clock, and Thomas still hadn’t shown up. The boy was usually pretty punctual, but today he was nowhere to be found. He bent over to squint even closer at the young girl whose eyes he was examining. He turned to the girl’s mother.

“Actually, ma’am, your daughter’s eyesight is fine. She isn’t short-sighted, there is probably just some dust in her eye. Maybe you should take her to the doctor?”

“Oh, thank goodness for that. Thank you so much!”

Antonio blinked, ignoring the silly woman’s exclamations of joy. Because he was seeing something that just couldn’t be right. Behind the woman, on the wall, was a Door. An awfully familiar Door. A Door that should have rightfully been located on the opposite side of the room. He squinted and adjusted his glasses, as if making it clearer would prove it was just a fake. But his gut feeling told him that it was altogether very real, and something very eerie was afoot.

He turned back to the woman, snatched the proffered plastic card, and began to punch in numbers into his keyboard.

“Sir,” murmured a soft voice, coupled with a persistent tug on his arm.

Antonio looked down. It was the young girl.

“Yes, dear?” he asked kindly.

“Why won’t you play with him? Why won’t you play with that boy?” she asked plaintively.

“What boy?” asked the confused Antonio.

“He says you’re too old. Too old. Too old… not like that other boy… Tommy, Tommy, Tommy,” she trailed off, no longer really talking to Antonio anymore, “Why won’t you play with him, Tom? Why won’t you play with the boy in the mirror? Play, play, play with him… he’s so lonely. If you don’t wanna play with him, Tommy… he’ll cover you in blood…”

Antonio felt cold fingers pressing deep into his spine. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Not because of the obviously insane girl with the strange gleam in her eyes, but because he could clearly hear the strange creaking of the Door that never opened, and it was, unmistakeably, coming from right behind him.

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Thomas shuffled through the doorway of the little shop, rubbing blearily at his eyes, which now bore dark bags that contrasted sharply with his pale skin. He blinked as he saw a dark shape lurching towards him, and recoiled instinctively. As well as deteriorating rapidly, his eyesight was now having extreme trouble focussing on things, and most things now just seemed like a blur of colour.

“Thomas!” greeted the familiar voice of Bianca, “What happened to you these past few days? You look like crap!”

Thomas ignored her and staggered over to a chair and slumped into it. He reached almost drunkenly into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Peering at it short-sightedly, he stared at it for a while before tentatively touching it. Feeling damp liquid on his fingers, he discarded it carelessly before reaching back in. He repeated this procedure several times, before finally pulling out a page that was dry. He wobbled over to where Antonio was watching in mute shock.

“Boss,” slurred Thomas in a hushed whisper, “Sorry about this, but I wanna quit. Need to quit. Don’t wanna play no more. Leave me alone… ”

The old man reached over to gently prise the piece of paper out of his employee’s hand, ignoring the man’s soft ramblings that pierced the tense atmosphere.

In an extremely shaky hand, the note succinctly summed up the gist of what Thomas was saying: ‘I resign.’ But under it, curiously was a single word, scrawled even less intelligibly than the rest. After tilting his head, Antonio finally deciphered it to originally have read ‘Please.’ The entire note was smudged with red smears and fingerprints, as if Thomas had tried to write with his hands covered in crimson paint.

Shrugging, Antonio placed his hand on Thomas’ shoulder. The young man span around as if he had been stung, leapt back, stumbled, fell over, and scrambled back on all fours like some sort of strange crab.

Blinking in surprise, Antonio stepped forward slowly, his hands raised in the air to show he didn’t hold any sort of weapon. He dimly noticed his wife watching silently in his peripheral vision. He didn’t know what caused Thomas to become like this, but maybe it was better if he did stop working, even for a few days. Heck, even he was considering retiring now. He was starting to hallucinate or something… maybe it was dementia or one of those fancy mental diseases that were being discovered all the time, he thought idly. Strange, he thought, all these hallucinations all seem to revolve around the Door at the back.

“Thomas, ah… I understand. I …um…accept your resignation, but I just want you to know that if you ever want to come back and work, you’re welcome to. Just one thing… if you don’t mind, can you come back at 7 o’clock tonight? I need to give you your final pay-check, and I’ve also got a surprise for you,” he said finally.

Thomas looked blankly at him, before shuffling back to the chair and collapsing into it. From that defeated looking posture, he stared unblinkingly at nothing, seeing something that just wasn’t there.

Antonio glanced nervously at the youth, before turning around and shaking his head swiftly. “Okay… I guess you can stay there until 7, if it suits you… You want something to eat?”

The body in the chair ignored him, and Antonio idly noticed that the fingers lying limply on the mahogany armrest were stained a fresh, wet, red. He turned around once more to man the counter and nearly let out a girly shriek. The hallucination of the mirror on the Door, which now seemed to take it upon itself to move itself around the shop, was staring him straight in the face. But what startled him was that behind his reflection, the soulless gaze of Thomas’ reflection bore into his soul, a menacing grimace that completely changed the normally cheerful boy’s entire demeanour. Antonio whirled around, and saw that the real Thomas was just where he had left him, sitting in the chair and facing the doorway in a 90˚ angle from where he had been shown in the mirror.

Antonio abruptly changed direction and headed towards the workstations, steadfastly refusing to look at either the boy, or his reflection.

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Thomas slowly slid one blood-slicked finger back and forth along the wood grain on the armrest of the chair. His eyes slowly tracked across the room, seeing countless copies of the same mysterious Door. One Door close to his left creaked threateningly, and his eyes darted nervously towards the doorframe. It inched open for a second, before creaking back shut. He redirected his gaze in front of him as a Door tilted slightly to allow his reflection to look directly at him. It opened its mouth; an action mirrored by all its fellows throughout the room, and licked its lips slowly.

Thomas shuddered, but apart from that, displayed no visible reaction. During the past few days, he had been starting to see the weird Door from the shop everywhere, even at home in his apartment, at first only occasionally, but later with alarming frequency. His roommates didn’t seem to notice, and Thomas had begun to find endless notes identical to the one he had found from that one day when it all started. He could no longer sleep at all, as the invasive creaking in addition to the thought of the empty stares observing him while he slept defencelessly was unnerving enough to keep him awake even though he was so tired that he couldn’t even muster up the strength to fix up a meal.

Now they had seemingly multiplied, and the reflections have started to move independently of each other, each behaving more and more sinisterly. Only a single theme seemed to tie their actions together- the desire for him to ‘play’ with them.

He half-heartedly glanced at the Door to his left again. It was incidentally where the Door had originally been standing when he had begun to work here. This time it creaked open a little more. Enough for Thomas to catch a glimpse of what lay beyond. And instead of the expected red wall of bricks that should have been there, Thomas saw only darkness, and the reflected light off a gleaming white skull.

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Antonio rubbed at his eyes blearily. Glancing at his watch, he dimly registered that it was 6 o’clock and he needed to go and get Thomas’ ‘surprise’. The ‘surprise’ in question was actually a pair of glasses. Antonio had realised that the youth’s eyesight was starting to worsen, and had secretly constructed a pair of spectacles specially tailored for Thomas’ eyes. With a sinking feeling, though, Antonio remembered that he had left the gift at home.

“Bianca dear,” he called, “Would you mind the shop for a while? I need to pop down back home to pick up Thomas’ present.”

Bianca smiled warmly.

“Sure, dear,” she replied.

Antonio strode over and gave his wife a large hug. As he snuggled deeper into her comforting embrace, he noticed, with a growing sense of horror, that he was staring straight into the eyes of one of his ‘hallucinations’. And this one was smiling in a distinctly unfriendly manner.

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Bianca wiped her brow tiredly, glancing back at Thomas to see if he had moved from where he had sat for most of the day. He hadn’t. She picked up a broom and began to sweep the room out. She glanced anxiously out the window, and noticed that it was beginning to go dark rather quickly for an autumn afternoon. She soon forgot about the idle thought and occupied herself by sweeping the floor. She moved behind the counter, but abruptly stopped as she heard the distinctive rustle of papers being disturbed by the stiff bristles of the broom. She looked down in curiosity, and realised that the sound was being made by the numerous scraps of paper that Thomas had dropped in the store earlier. She had hurriedly swept them behind the counter in order to prevent potential customers from seeing it and leaving because of the mess. It had left a wet red stain on the ground, but Bianca had quickly wiped it up with a wet rag.

Bianca looked quizzically at the papers littering the ground. She could have sworn there was a lot more papers now then there had been earlier. She glanced at the borderline mountainous heap of paper, and after a moment of deliberation, bent down to inspect it. Reaching down, Biance slowly peeled away a single sheet from where it lay stuck to its neighbour. Turning it over, she read the message smeared on it, face impassive.

Finally, she stood up and started walking briskly to where Thomas sat, resolve clear on her face. She knew he was in danger. Horrible danger.

Brother… she thought nostalgically.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Thomas watched the Door in front of him with a sort of passive interest. His eyelids felt like they weighed ten tonnes each, but he didn’t dare close them. He knew if he closed them for longer than a few beats, then the nightmares would start up again. At least, he thought they were nightmares. He wasn’t quite sure anymore. Horrific images, violent murders, scenes from someone else’s perspective.

He watched, patiently, uncaringly, as the Door opened in front of him. It creaked threateningly at him, as the hinges groaned under years of disuse and neglect. Thomas idly wondered how the Door even worked. Right now it seemed to open from thin air- a mysterious doorway in the middle of the room. But even as Thomas shifted his gaze aimlessly, he counted at least 6 other Doors, identical to the one around him, scattered around the room. Some were affixed to surfaces while others, like the first one, simply stood straight up from the ground, without any support whatsoever. Strange, Thomas thought. He was staring into the mirror of one of the Doors where stood at a 45˚ angle from him. The reflection showed him staring at himself, like always, tinted yellow and looking vaguely sinister, but for once not moving independent of himself.  But the strange thing was that the reflection did not show the back of the Door that stood in front of him now. He could see the counter that he knew was behind him, but there was nothing out of the ordinary in that reflection. No extra creepy Doors, nothing else. Nothing except an emaciated, weary boy staring at himself, jumping at things that didn’t exist.

Slowly, Thomas once again directed his line of sight back at the Door in front of him. It had now opened fully, and a dark gaping maw stared him in the face. So this was what lay behind the Door, he thought with finality.

Then, out of that terrible void, a single finger stretched out and beckoned. It was a hideous finger, full of dark promises and premonitions. In terms of appearance, the finger bore a great resemblance to a human index finger heavily into the process of decaying. In many places, dull white bone could be seen, and mere scraps of worn flesh and muscle held the individual segments of the finger together.

In a daze, Thomas stood slowly, his bloodstained fingers pushing away the chair. Hesitatingly, he stepped forward, his feet crunching on more blood soaked notes that he couldn’t remember ever getting there. He moved forward until he stood, precariously, a few centimetres from the threshold of the darkness, which loomed there, a terrible presence that lurked at the edge of his conscience.

He glanced at the horrific remains of the human arm to his right, before he stepped inside. The mangled caricature of an arm slowly withdrew, bending around to clasp the boy in what seemed to be a welcoming embrace.

Meanwhile, the Door slammed shut with a somehow sinister decisiveness, before slowly fading from view.

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Bianca rushed over towards where she had last seen Thomas, her heart beating rapid-fire as she ran. She turned around the counter, and then slipped on some of the blood-streaked paper. She fell heavily onto her side and let out a violent curse as the wind was driven forcefully out of her lungs.

Wincing, the aging woman gingerly picked herself up, taking note of the crimson carpet of paper littering the ground and the many Doors that stood around the shop, creating countless identical reflections that stared at her in sinister tandem.

She gave a rueful chuckle.

“Will you never grow up, Marco? The Bloodstained Pages, the Door that Moves, all of these are just stunts you pulled when we were still living in Italy. You… Marco, talk to me, face to face. Brother to sister. Like we did… before the ‘incident’. You can’t keep hiding behind these parlour tricks, fratellino,” she said in a conversational tone.

She then, lightly kicked one of the Doors that stood near her. It abruptly swung around and faced her, the mirror on its face gleaming strangely. Suddenly the image of a boy, around the age of 10, faced her, with an odd smile on his face. He was short, with light brown hair and hazel eyes that sparkled with enigmatic light. He had the same slightly elongated nose as Bianca, and sported a birthmark on his left cheek, something Bianca also shared, albeit on the other side.

“Bianca. How nice to see you again! It’s such a coincidence that we meet again. It’s been what? Forty, no fifty years or so since I died, or something? No, really, it’s so amazing that you came to work in the same shop I was haunting!” the boy cheerfully remarked.

Bianca growled in exasperation.

“Don’t give me that! You know that it was no coincidence! That Door- it has followed me ever since I left Italy. I always suspected it was you- I saw flashes of shadow in the corner of my eye, illusions and glimpses of nothing concrete. That Door. It has been everywhere. Dodging my steps, watching my every move. This has to stop now! Leave my shop alone! What did you do to Thomas?”

The boy’s smile only grew wider.

“Tommy… Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. Tommy is my new friend. He plays with me. Why are you so interested, anyway? You want to see him? Go ahead,” he murmured maliciously.

He reached back, in the reflection, to one of the Doors that stood- a reflection in a reflection, and opened it. Thomas, emaciated to looking like a mere sack of bones, collapsed out of the dark Door-shaped void. Marco, on the other hand, ignored the obviously unhealthy (to say the least) state of the boy, and reached out, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck.

Despite being much shorter than Thomas, Marco then dragged him over to the edge of the reflection, until he was basically face-to-face with his former employer.

The soulless gaze of what used to be a perfectly normal boy stared at Bianca beseechingly, before mouthing two words, perfectly distinguishable even to Bianca’s deteriorated sight. ‘Help me’.

“You… monster…” she grated through clenched teeth, “the ‘haunted’ door inside the laundry… the door with the painting with the strange people…it was you… the noises, the ‘accidents’, the ‘disappearances’… Nana… Benedict, Angela… oh my god, even Bruno! Our dog, Marco, our dog! He loved you!”

Marco shook with laughter.

“Yes! It was all me! Everyone wanted to play with me! It was their duty to play with me! I just… hah! Helped them along,” he admitted with a deranged grin.

Bianca had started pacing in horror, her hands clawing at her hair as she started to connect the dots.

“But if you were inside the Door, the Door inside the laundry, where did you put them? Nana and the rest? Where? Oh… no. No, no, NO! Not… the painting!” she cried in denial.

Marca cackled in maniacal glee, exclaiming, “Got it in one, sorella! This Door, the Door which has followed you all throughout your life, once stood in the laundry in our house in Italy! And this mirror… guess what the reverse side is?”

Slowly, horrifically, the door began to creak, a slow grinding sound, like a whetstone being driven slowly over a chalkboard. Abruptly, a resounding crack was heard as the mirror swung from one side of the Door like a demented cupboard door, before breaking off and dropping to the ground.

Bianca stared at it in horrified confusion, silently debating whether or not to turn it over. Finally, curiosity got the better of her and she bent down and, with a heave, flipped the large mirror over.

As Bianca stared at the painting that once stood on the wall at her house, she felt her dread mount for each passing second. What used to be a lovely panoramic watercolour depicting the house and the surrounding landscape had been heinously changed. The inherent brightly coloured brushstrokes had been smeared with grime and soot, ruined after years of neglect. It also looked like someone had crudely redefined some of the features, outlining some and smothering others, with what seemed to be a stick of wood or other rudimentary tool.

But what was most disturbing was the number of small figures dotting the landscape, standing stationary like silent sentinels. These, unlike the rest of the art piece, were in full colour and were constructed with minute detail and precision.

Bianca sucked in a silent breath and let out a quiet sob. She half expected this, but to see it outlined in vivid detail and undoubtable evidence was quite a blow to her. She slowly tracked her eyes over the painting, slowly remembering every single face, all known to her, all gone. Tears slid down aged cheeks as she stared at the youthful smiles and pained grimaces that lay side-by-side, entombed in paint and canvas.

“They played with me for ages,” remarked Marco, without a hint of remorse, “But they were all mean. At first, they didn’t want to play with me at all. ‘Let me out,’ they said. ‘Why am I stuck in this painting?’ they said. But I made them play. They didn’t want to play, so I had to make them play. They were my toys, my playthings. But they were so boring. Always crying, always wanting to leave, wanting to go back. But you can’t go back. Never… ever… ever. But I got tired of them, because they were so boring. So boring. So boring. I stopped playing with them. But they kept yelling at me. Pleading with me. Talking to me. ‘Why are you doing this, Marco?’, ‘I cried at your funeral, Marco, honest!’, ‘I was always nice to you and your sister Marco,’ ‘Marcus! As your teacher, I order you to let me out!’… blah, blah, blah. So I kept getting new toys, and they were all mean. So I broke them, to shut them up. But I was lonely, and wanted someone to play with me again. Then I thought of you, sorella! I followed you all throughout your life, but you were always suspicious of my Door, the Door that looked like the one from our house in Italy, and you never gave me any chances. So I waited, biding my time, gathering my strength, and watched. Play with me, Bianca! Like we used to when we were young. PLAY WITH ME!”

Bianca stared at the painting, only half-listening to her brother’s monologue. She stared at the two figures that stood, with the warm smiles she knew so well, next to the dog, Bruno. She stared at the representation of the two people who had meant the world to her when she was young, the two people who had symbolised safety and love. Tears fell without resistance or any inclination of slowing.

Mama! Papa!Fratello… no… you don’t deserve that title- …Marcus… you are out of control. You need to be stopped,” murmured Bianca, through her tears.

She twisted and whipped out Antonio’s Beretta Cheetah from the pocket of her dress and placed it squarely on the forehead of the half-rotted corpse that had lunged out of opening of the Door where the mirror had been. The decaying fingers stretched out, only inches from her neck.

Bianca quickly gripped the top of the gun and pushed harder against the skull. The maniacally grinning mouth chattered restlessly, repeating a raspy machinegun chorus consisting of repeated ‘play with me’s.

She racked the gun, yanking the slide down, and fired.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Antonio walked through the open door of the dark shop, absentmindedly wondering why Bianca had left it open. He blinked in surprise as he saw his wife watching him in surprise, a smoking gun (his smoking gun, he realised in some small corner of his mind) in her hand.

He stepped forward to embrace the teary-eyed woman in his arms when he crashed into something very solid. He glanced at it in surprise and with an eerie feeling of unease, squinted at it short-sightedly.

His reflection, seemingly next to his wife, stared back.

-Kevin Tang 10F

(Feedback would be nice!)