Chapter I – Dismemberment
(A less than pleasant prospect)
I knew something was wrong as soon as I woke up that morning, on the 14th of June, to witness my cat sleeping peacefully at my feet. Okay, that might not seem all that odd to your average person, but to me, the sky might as well have been on fire. My lovely little kitty, my cute ginger fur-ball of a pet, hated me. Hated me with a sharp-claw-to-face passion. He didn’t even let me pet his fuzzy round head in the mornings, let alone… this. I shivered, the quiet horror in my eyes no doubt clear as the animal lifted its head with a feline yawn. The Tabby didn’t hiss, didn’t leap to its feet or anything similarly dramatic at the sight of my gazing face, just meowed and loped away, sleek tail high in the air and ears perked as it slipped through the doorway.
I didn’t move for one long moment, debating the likelihood of my still dreaming, but when I did, I leaped out of bed, the clock I promptly knocked over telling me I was ten minutes late. Already.
I could test my theory of the coming Armageddon another time; right now I need to get ready for school or I was in for another long-term detention.
I got dressed and ready in record speed, and was running out of the front door, toast still steaming in my mouth within ten minutes. I jogged for the first five minutes, before confirming I wasn’t going to be that late after all and slowing to a speedy walk. Buildings passed me by, all made of the same red brick and grey tile, the scene both morbidly familiar and undeniably boring. Greenery was scarce in Evechurch, wildlife even scarcer, and neighbourhood community even more so. It wasn’t an unpleasant place to live, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant either. You lived there if you liked to ignore and be ignored, smiling to your neighbours but never inviting them over to dinner. It was a bland place, and I didn’t like it one bit.
But all that didn’t matter; my parents liked it. They could attend the nearby church every Sunday, they could work as teachers in the local primary school (Catholic, of course), and they could force their beliefs on its children with relative ease. They were the most active adults in this ‘community’.
Due to my absent thoughts, the school gates came into view sooner than I expected, and I breathed a sigh of relief to see that students still crowded the car-park and playground, waiting to be let inside the building. The bell went just as I passed through the gates, its ring reverberating through the air to make me jump.
I got caught in the middle of the primary rush of students as they chattered and squealed, congregating around the double wooden doors which led to our church-like school. All grey and old wood. It was a cold place, despite the sun shining high in the summer sky. As I moved with the flow, something unbelievably pure caught my eyes amidst the scattering of dull colours, and my heart skipped a beat. It turned out to be a blouse among the many jumpers (someone had risked getting a detention for wearing only a shirt outside the building), and smothering my disappointment, I concentrated once more on the mundane aim of not being squished by the crowd.
Life in a school like St. John’s High is one of morbid, mundane torture. You go to class with your friends, you sit in a seating plan, and then listen for an hour to some monotone adult with no sense of creativity. Lunch is nearly as boring, filled with useless chatter (never any gossip) and teacher-bashing drivel which had once been funny. The last two lessons of any day always consisted of me struggling to keep my mind occupied; I stared out the window, scribbled in my book (with pencil to avoid detention) or imagined throwing our dull teachers into the pond and watching them squirm, for once an expression on their blank, wrinkling faces. Sometimes the teachers asked me a question to catch me off guard, but it didn’t matter; I’d get the answer wrong whether I listened or not. Better they thought I failed at my tests because I didn’t listen. The real reason? I don’t know. I didn’t have dyslexia or anything. Maybe it was just my utter lack of enthusiasm and absolute boredom for everything and anything in my mundane life.
That’s probably it, I concluded, staring out of the window like I always did in Mr Baran’s math lessons. He was teaching us Algebra, the scribbles on the blackboard making as much sense to me as ancient Greek would to a blind man. I wasn’t even bothering to take notes, but luckily Mr Baran was as short-sighted as he was monotone, and thus never noticed who was listening and who was not. Due to said reason his lessons were probably my favourite.
Sighing mentally, I blocked out the collective sounds of pens clicking, scribbling, scratching, and teachers mumbling about mindless madness taken form through numbers and letters. Birds took flight beyond the thin membrane of glass which separated me from the real world, their wings flashing in the fierce light as if mocking me. We are free; that’s what those magpies sang, dancing gleefully in the currents of air, squealing out their harsh joy. These common birds weren’t exactly beautiful, and they were no doubt hungry, cold, and probably hurting from one ache or another, but at least they had their freedom. They could go anywhere, see any sight, trample any boarder. What could I do; the ‘superior’, smarter being? I was the one locked inside this suffocating cage. And the worst part of it? I knew that this lack of freedom was my own fault. I could leave home and be free if I truly wanted to, but I didn’t dare. I was too scared of the big bad world beyond my cage to take that one leap of faith, despite the door hanging wide open on a broken hinge.
Self-absorbed as I was in my own misery, it took me a moment to realise that behind the swooping flock of magpies flew another shape, one much larger and coming closer and closer…