I brush my hand along the rough canvas of my beige bag. The bell rings, I yank it over my shoulder and dart into the school corridor. I bolt forwards a few steps, but a sea of students swarm the hall and bottleneck, blocking my way. Inching closer to the door, I can smell the crisp, clean outside air, unlike the dank, musky smell of the school.
Sunlight rolls over me as I exit.
The cold December air bites down, sending a shiver up my spine. I’ve made it. Perhaps today, I am not a target.
The crowd thins out, and I speed up, bouncing on one foot as I prepare to run. I shield my eyes from the low winter sun; the chill wraps around my skin like a frozen blanket. Girls jostle, knock, and bump into me from all directions. I become the mass exodus.
A solid object jolts into my arm, perhaps a student’s elbow. Then another. A space forms all around me as students clear away, leaving a large empty circle as whatever is hitting me continues. It hits me square in the chest. There’s a gunky feeling, a crunch under my foot, and a putrid smell wrenching at my insides. The students’ chatter morphs to laughter.
Another crunches into my head. A slow trickle seeps down my braid, and I reach up to touch it. It is gooey and runs lazily down to my eye. I wipe it away as more hit me faster and faster. On my hands is a lumpy and yellowish-green goo. Looking up, I see Sasha and her friends launching rotten eggs at me. In seconds, they have covered me. With how rotten the eggs are, they must have planned this for a while. Even worse than the filth covering me, though, was that they had given me hope. Hope that I had made it. I propel myself away from Sasha, her friends and their rotten eggs. Behind me, I hear their footsteps as they take chase.
I push through the crowd and run down the suburban street. A group of boys stand up ahead; two nuzzle their chins in their collars to escape the cold. Another larks around, stepping in and out of the oncoming traffic. As I approach, one of them holds out a can of deodorant. He holds up a lighter as he sprays it, turning it into a flamethrower. The other boys laugh and encourage him as I sprint past. A constant stream of traffic flies by as parents take their children home and other kids meander and lark on the sidewalk. It’s too busy to cross. I glance back to see the chasing girls fall behind.
A gust of gritty wind throws the hair out of my face. My braid flicks back and forth, up and down as I run. I reach the crossing and stop, waiting, hoping, praying for a gap in the traffic. I glance back again; the girls are running past the boys who stop and stare in admiration—and probably lust. They are close now. Cars whiz past me. Sasha leads the group. She had slowed the others down with her drab, sluggish, and clumsy plod, but now she is only a few steps away.
I have no idea what they have planned, and I’m not about to find out. I brace myself on one foot. A car passes right in front of me. I shove myself forward without thought—instinct drives me now. A car is right in front of me, and another just behind it. My hand clips the corner of it as it drives away, leaving empty space that I fill. The other car is so close I could touch it. The driver’s face is shocked, open-mouthed. I spring on one foot and bounce out of the road onto the traffic island in the middle. Behind me, the driver screeches to a halt, and Sasha runs right into the car.
There are no cars on the other side of the road, so I skip across in two steps and sprint without looking back. I turn down the first street I come to. The houses here are large, well-kept, and pretty. I sprint down the length of the road. As my breathing gets heavy, I slow down. At the end of the road and round a corner is a small strip of old council houses. Most are empty, awaiting demolition. I look for one house in particular—an abandoned house I often hide in. It’s next-door to Hudson, he’s a scary man, high up in The Company, I’ve never seen anyone else use it.
I sprint with all my energy, too terrified to stop. With each step, I pant a little harder. My fingers clutch the straps of my bag as I search for some hidden strength. The house comes into view as I dart around the corner. Sasha and the other girls are quickly approaching. This will be close. I have to make it to the door before one of them comes around the corner and sees me.
A few steps bring the door closer, and no one’s behind me. Hudson’s house is the one to the right, which gives me confidence and security.
None of the girls run around the corner. I don’t know how far behind me they are; they could appear at any moment. If I don’t make it to the door, I will pay. I’m already covered in about a dozen rotten eggs. And I have no desire to be splattered with more, or with flour, or whatever else they intend to do if they catch me.
As I reach the door, I extend my foot and kick it open, slamming it into the wall behind. I can hear Sasha yelling behind me. Looking back as I turn to close the door, one girl rounds the corner down the road—she may have seen me. I stay low, rush up the stairs to the second floor, jump flat on the floor, and press my front into the dust and gravel. . I crawl over to a hole where a window once stood; it was high enough to hide me if I sit and big enough to reveal me if I stand
I sit up, dig my hand into my bag, and pull out a mirror. Holding it above my head, I tilt it so I can see the ground. Sasha runs past following her friends. I put the mirror back.
Eggs cover my jumper, so I take it off. The only part of me covered with egg now is my hair, so I pick up a rag from the floor and use it to wipe as much of the mess off as I can.
Sitting against the window, I look up to the clear blue sky. Beams silhouette against the winter sky. It’s cold, but so peaceful.
You can hear most of what goes on inside of Hudson’s house. There’s a small hole in the wall that has never been repaired; I look through when I hear yelling. When I first came to this house, heard and then saw Hudson kill his mother.
Despite knowing how dangerous Hudson is, I still consider it safe here. For one, no one knows about this place. And two, John, my Father, is Hudson’s boss. Better to have someone like that on your side and nearby than not. If things ever got too much for me to handle with bullies from school, I can always knock on Hudson’s door. I’d like to see how they handle a murderer.
I can hear yelling from Hudson’s house. I look through the hole again. My heart races. The last time I did this, I saw a murder take place. I see nothing, but I can identify the voices: Hudson and Clarence Lucas—Sasha’s Clarence.
Something is wrong if Hudson is talking to Clarence Lucas behind John’s back. John is the only person who should be talking to Clarence Lucas.
It goes quiet, and I wonder if Hudson has killed Clarence. I don’t mind if Clarence dies, it would be one less thing for me to do when I come to run The Company. A small part of me hopes I see Clarence’s dead body.
The door opens downstairs.
‘I heard something,’ Hudson says. ‘I’ll kill whoever you are!’ he yells up the stairs.
by Stan Kids