The screaming started in the middle of Maths.
It was so sudden and so loud it made Mark drop his pencil; the implement clattered noisily on the desktop and bounced to the ground, where it rolled under the chair. The teacher, helping someone on the other side of the classroom, shot him an enquiring glance; Mark returned an apologetic grin, and flailed under his seat to retrieve it. It was just out of his reach, so he nudged his neighbour; with much sighing and rolling of eyes, she picked it up and tossed it to him.
“Thanks. Hey…that screaming. What do you suppose it is?”
His neighbour frowned at him. She was known as the class swot, and wore big glasses; as such, Mark did not have much to do with her outside Maths class. He was a bit hazy on her name, but she seemed a sensible person who would know what was going on.
“What are you talking about?” she hissed. Blinking, Mark repeated his original question, and received an annoyed snort in reply.
“You must be hallucinating. I can’t hear any screaming. Now shut up and let me get on.”
And with that, she turned back to geometry. Mark stared at his own half-finished and quite incomprehensible problems, and frowned in puzzlement. How could she not hear the screaming? It was ceaseless, an endless wail of grief and despair that cut through his head like a buzz saw and made concentration on geometry even more impossible than usual. And it didn’t stop. Throughout the rest of the lesson it continued, seemingly without pause for breath. It gave him a headache.
As he escaped outside for lunch break, the screaming quite suddenly stopped. Breathing a sigh of relief, Mark slowed his speedy pace to a leisurely stroll towards his form room, situated in the English block. It was a long, low, old building, not even two-storey, and it was quite possible to get up onto the roof with a little imagination; of course, this was completely banned and not to be countenanced in any circumstances. Anyone found on the roof was to be immediately punished with a Saturday detention.
Naturally, this meant that everyone went up there as often as possible at the least excuse.
So Mark wasn’t overly surprised to see a slim figure up there, standing right on the edge. Obviously it was another one of the ‘rebels’ with which the school was infested, deliberately inviting punishment in order to prove how ‘hardcore’ they were. It appeared to be a girl, but this wasn’t unusual either. As far as he could see she wasn’t wearing uniform; again, all that pointed to was a rebel. He was getting bored with rebels. All they did was make life difficult for everyone else. Mark was very much what rebels called a ‘wuss’ or a ‘goody-goody’, in that he did his homework and tried his best not to get into trouble; in his experience it only led to unfortunate happenings which disturbed his overriding desire for a quiet life.
“Hey,” he called, staring up at the figure on the roof. “Get down before we all get in trouble. I don’t want to suffer another stupid lecture.”
The girl looked sharply down at him, then squatted right on the edge of the roof and leaned over to stare at him. Slightly alarmed, Mark stared back; she looked awful. Her face was pale, haggard and streaked with tears, and her eyes were red-rimmed as though she’d been sobbing for hours. Her nose was running, and when she spoke her voice was hoarse.
“You’re not supposed to be able to see me!”