Narrator: Cameron Jr. Archvale
My boots were firm upon the ground, yet I was not. My body was walking, yes, step by step, yet my mind gathered wool. The shining textiles of the hallway, the art of students upon the walls and the varying brown shades of the bricks upon the wall were hardly seen. I merely followed, walking in step with my kin. Yet upon the moist and fertile ground of my mind, where the sheep grazed, the wool was slowly gathering.
Like a reaper, I floated from sheep to sheep, from idea to idea. The scythe swiped and the shears clipped. And then, my coveted prize would dangle from my skeletal fingers, as if torn. It was no thread of fictitious life. Nor was it soft yarn, to roll up in one great notion. Rather, it was real; as real as any perception can be.
Why do I hold the shears? I thought I was yet another lamb. How long has it been since I last bayed? Have I forgotten how?
I dropped the shred from my fingers, each time, and it fell to the grass and gathered there. Discarded. Unwanted. Absent.
And though my acts were redundant, I made a point of avoiding the one black sheep. I prefer not to think of this as discrimination, as I could tell it was once a white sheep. A white sheep that dyed itself. A white sheep that died. 'Frith', they call it. Too dark and uncut to see below, with fur too thick to see if horns grow. I dared not slash at this one, for its wool was tainted. And so I wondered...
Do I care for it? Surely, I am no shepherd amongst this flock. If neither shepherd nor sheep, what am I? A sheep in shepherd's robes? Yet I hold a sickle, not a crook, within my hooves.
A crook, is that what I am?
They watched me now, in the same manner in which they watch the wolves. Worried, yet full of utter apathy. They were entangled within the grass they ate, the dew they drank and the weeds they toked.
My innocence hides behind me, delicately, at every turn. It is afraid. Afraid of something or someone that will try to harm it.
No! No. No? No! I do not want to shear them naked. This is not my duty. I am a sheep. I am a sheep. I am a sheep. Am I not?
"Are you a pig?"
"No!" I cried out.
Joshua, Frith and Michelle all turn to look at me.
I pointed ahead, to where I feel the wind. It toyed with my hair and lovingly sent a familiar chill down my spine. It whispered to me that winter comes. Yet that is not what concerned me then. Still, I pointed.
We have gone astray. Maybe all of us. Maybe even the whole damn flock.
Gaping, we assessed it. It was the ramp up to the alcove. It ran between the main building and the newer, three-floored section of the school. A diagonal crucifix of yellow tape blocked our passage. The glass panels along one side are partially shattered. And there are dents on the floor of the ramp, where it seems that rocks fell and broke, leaving shards of debris where they split.
Good, begins my first tangible thought to return to reality in many minutes, something new to distract The Rogue. We will be yesterday's news before today can even become yesterday.
Joshua voices this same selfish optimism. We smiled, we bayed and we began to baa again. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
Ba is an Egyptian term for one's spiritual soul. Thus, perhaps three bags is an exaggeration. So, either Frith's master, Frith's dame or the little boy who lives down the lane... well, one of them is going to be disappointed when they open their bag.
I did not yet know that the bus stop after mine, which was literally up the lane, was Frith's, therefore making me the black sheep's little boy down the lane. Oh, the many secrets of Frith Gryms.
I prefer the Lady Lux version, in which the nursery rhyme finishes, 'And one for my homeboy, who lives down the block'. Because, quite frankly, my parents are the only people who still consider me a little boy at nearly eighteen.
Well, there was broken glass and yellow tape between us and the alcove. There was another ramp down the hall, but we were running short on time. We could have gone around outside, but that would involve climbing stairs and enduring the unusually cold weather.
So, we unspeakingly opted to forgo visiting 'the alcove', where most of our other friends hung out. Josha and Michelle leaned against the cafeteria doors in unison, pushing them open for Frith's sake.
We weren't the only lazy ones. Leslie and Brent were at the close end of our usual row of lunch tables. I looked away from their entangled bodies, not letting my mind even remotely think of what Frith had implied, and focused on the clock on the wall far behind them.
7:55 AM. Five minutes to the first bell.
The cacophony was mild, much lighter than the beginning of every lunch period. There were a few students in the food lines, buying muffins, cookies and hot chocolate. It vaguely resembled breakfast. Few of my peers cared for that meal, here or at home. I guess that was understandable when the first lunch period would begin, as usual, in a mere ninety minutes, at 9:25 AM.
Two-thirds of us had schedules that made us eat at that time every other day, because class schedules simply went in reverse on even-numbered days. This semester, I was lucky enough to have lunch in the middle of the five periods. Thus, it was always at the same time. Something like, 10:44 AM to 12:03 PM .
We sat down beyond them, amongst others with whom I was not well acquainted. They showed up in the alcove often enough, but I guess I was never alloted the right lunch period or personal interests to get to know them much.
That was when the bubble burst. These two, whose names I never commited to memory, informed us. It was crucial, though disappointing. Rumours were circulating, from the mouths of the staff, that both glass-sided ramps, east and west, were bombarded by large rocks on Saturday afternoon. That meant that foot traffic between the north and south buildings was going to be windy and crowded for most of the week, until the repairs were over. And on top of that, the perpetrators were apparently right-wing Christian conservatives reacting to The Rogue's article.
"I don't understand," said Joshua. "My brother wasn't mentioned in the article, why does an accidental spiking of punch piss them off so much?"
"My exemplary behaviour... my father will surely hear of it," I mumbled.
"It's not true, though," said Michelle. "He knows you're an honest kid."
"No he doesn't," I corrected. "He's paranoid that half the things I say are bullshit. I can tell. And enough of what they wrote is true that, well, I don't know what to expect."
Now, I was depressed in a third way. There was the psychological depression, chemical in nature. Then there was the low mood I was in because of how things went with Crystal and my own inner conflicts. And now, on top of that, I was dreading coming home after school, not to mention my tainted reputation at school. "And to think, I promised Leslie she could visit with Adam. I might be grounded as soon as I walk in the door."
"Grounded at seventeen?" Frith exclaimed. "Sounds harsh."
"Well, you see, I never get into serious trouble with my parents. Just the occasional neglect of responsibilities. He raises his voice quite often, and he's broken a few things by, more or less, accident. But I've never seen him in the face of something profound."
"What about Jolene's pregnancy?" asked Joshua.
"She wasn't the one who cut the hole in the condom. And he respected her desire to keep the baby, and accepted his new grandson with open arms, as did my mother. It put stress on them, for sure, but they handled it. However, they're the kind of parents that expect, but don't hope for, a lack of abstinence in teenage behaviour. Yet this is different - this is painted up as a one night stand, with sex on the first date. Considering I've never dated anyone before, and they know that, well... this is deep, deep sheep shit."
"Sheep?" Michelle looked up abruptly.
"Nevermind!" I yelled, over the sound of the ringing bell.
I have a distantly related cousin across the pond whose job it once was drive around and refill the vending machines that are kept in men's bathroom in English pubs. These did not dispense food or beverages as you might expect. Rather, they dispensed birth control and... inflatable sheep.
I felt terribly like one of those sheep, right now. The kind of sheep that was gonna be screwed, messed with, fucked up... sooner or later. Things were blowing up in my face. And all I could do to help it, as I swung my giant bag over one shoulder, was to think of the letter that had been in my locker.
I felt as if it was the one good thing left, that was still real, that my mind could cling to. It seemed far more tangible than anything else, even if it was a barely-even-budding romance, with someone who might, in the end, never even give me a name or a face.
Just a legacy. Words on paper. That's what a lot of us are, anyways, after time has its way with us. We are but merely text. Documentation. A branch or a stub in the family tree, in some filing cabinet or digital database. Maybe if we're lucky, we've written something that people will keep around. Writing, typing. Little pieces of us that can never die.
I felt like I was going to die. If not by my own accord, then by that of gravity pulling a rock at me through a panel of shattering glass. First, though, they will come for me with the shears, and the truth will be unthreaded from my body. Their lies will render me naked. No, not me; just a perception of me. Any perception, surely, is as real as I am. At least, in their vigilant eyes.
God, if thou art real, bless the wolf that shall kill me first.