It is nearing the ends of autumn. Leaves have browned and fallen, ready to be swept away by whistling bin-men who clean the streets.
I sit outside on the stone steps of my school, gingerly turning page after page of my book, fingers shaking ever so slightly as the cold bites away at them.
My breath is visible in the air as I eagerly scan the text on the page, “But she can’t die,” I say, ” Not like this.”
The sound of an engine rumbles in the distance and I am momentarily distracted. A limo pulls up just outside the school’s gate, the door opening to reveal a well-dressed man in a tailoured suit and clean, shiny, black shoes. Derek Clarke. Multi-Billionaire. Business tycoon. My mouth is agape for a few seconds. I forgot that he’s giving a speech today.
Small sounds of something pressing down on crispy leaves ahead of me has me once again looking up from my book. I smile slightly as I see Carma- a friend of mine- walking towards me, black hair bobbing around her ears as she does so.
“Hey, Mae,” she says whilst pulling her grey scarf closer around her neck, “We’re all sitting inside if you wanna join.”
“Um...” I say, thumbing through the final few chapters of my book. I guess they could wait, “Uh, yeah sure.” I stand up slowly, placing the book carefully in my bag before zipping it up.
“So...” she says as we begin to walk in to the slightly warmer school building, “How, how have you been?”
“It’s been, cool.” I reply, “Still a book worm.”
Carma laughs lightly, “Yeah, I don’t think you’ll ever stop being one.”
“Well, you think right,” I say and again we share a quiet laugh.
“You were outside again, weren’t you?” Becka says as we approach the table she sits at along with Logan and Kaiko. Carma replies to her with a ‘she was,’ to which Becka answers, “You’re bloody crazy.”
I smile and say, “It’s not much warmer in here anyways.”
“Yeah because the boiler’s broken down again,” Kaiko says.
“Oooh, somebody needs to call, Quick Quid,” Logan replies and we let out a small laugh.
“Well, what else can we do?” Kaiko says, “Except sit here in the cold, like peasants.” She drapes the back of her hand against her forehead and we all laugh at her theatrics.
I wait for the laughter to die down before I say, “You know, I saw Derek Clarke outside.”
“No way, that billionaire guy.”
“Yeah, he’s meant to do a talk today, isn’t he?” Logan says.
“Oh yeah,” I say, voice sounding low and grainy and bored, “Assembly.”
“Yeah we should probably go and line up. The bell-” Right on cue, the shrill sound assaults our eardrums, ringing boisterously down the school corridors.
We file into the hall slowly, our feet shuffling against the brown laminate floor, threading into the rows of plastic, grey chairs, the ones that leave people of any age with crippling back ache.
At the front of the assembly hall stands Derek Clarke alongside our headteacher and head of year. He watches us with a surveying gaze as he stands on the stage, hands clasped behind his back. I can see as his hard, intimidating stare-true to that of a business man- analyses every person in the room. His broad shoulders are clad with the most lavish of suits and his hair is impeccably tidy, the black strands are all swooped back, held together tightly with some sort of gel or hairspray.
I study him, tilting my head to the side. There is this sort of black, grey cloud around him. It hangs on his shoulders and around his body and seems to be expelled from him in an inky haze. I shake my head and the black ring disappears.
My eye catches his and I see the unexpected recognition pass through his face. He knows me. I thought that maybe he wouldn’t recognise me but now I realise that he has and I suddenly feel ashamed of who I am. I swallow hard and look away from him completely.
“Good Morning Students.” Our headmistress’ voice rings out clearly throughout the hall through the speakers.
“Goodmorning, Mrs Barnett. Goodmorning teachers.” We reply as we take our seats.
“So as you all know, we have a special guest here with us today who will be giving us a presentation about his work . I’ll let him introduce himself,” Mrs Barnett says, stepping to the side, “Mr Clarke,” She motions for him to take centre stage and he does so with confidence.
“Good morning everybody,” He says, gaining everyone’s attention with just a few words, “As you know I’m Derek Clarke, owner of Clarke Inc...”
Mr Clarke is barely in the middle of his sentence when the assembly doors swing open with a loud clang, the sound causing a stir within the crowd, everyone’s heads turning towards the source of the noise.
In walks Mr Clarke’s son, Rolan. All smirks and skinny jeans, like some bad boy from a teen rom-com, beautiful but trouble, clear trouble. The shaggy, dark umber hair that falls over his eyes is swept sideways by his hand only to fall back into place, almost reaching the straight bridge of his nose. A slight smirk rests on his firm, pink lips as he walks down the aisle towards the stage, his black combat boots making heavy thuds against the laminate floor as he does so. The legs of my chair scrape along the floor as I stand up(an uncontrollable motion). I seem to catch Rolan’s attention with my movement as he turns around staring straight at me. My heart begins to hammer in my chest as our eyes lock and a strange feeling starts to explode inside me, almost like I’ve found something I didn’t realise I had been missing. My vision begins to fade in and out as I feel my body begin to teeter from side to side.
“Mae?” Carma’s worried voice sounds muffled to my ears and so do everybody else’s voices but that’s the least of my worries as I feel myself give way to gravity, allowing it to push me to the ground. And everything goes black.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
I race down the corridor, trying my hardest to keep water in the cup I’m holding. “What room was it again?” I ask myself as I walk down the hospital corridor, barely dodging a set of plastic covered blue chairs screwed to the side of the dove-coloured walls. I guess I’m gonna have to ask reception for the room number. I turn around and some of the water from the cup spills onto the floor, the result of my jerky movements. “Shoot.” I say as I step over it, “Dear God, please let no one slip on that and fall due to my overactive nerves full of worry over my friend. I internally hope that no does trip over, I would feel tremendously guilty if they did.
I’m about halfway down the corridor when a door ahead cracks opens. I don’t pay much attention to it, too annoyed at myself for forgetting the room number Mae’s in so when a pale hand reaches out and grabs me by the wrist and yanks me inside the storage room I am taken completely by surprise.
“Hey let me...” The glass of water in my hand falls to the floor, shattering into a million tiny pieces, scattering away from the horror that I currently share the room with. Well there goes the water.
Even in the dim light of the storage room I can see the glow of the stranger’s red eyes, watching me intently. Their skin a mix of caramel and pale white, the flesh beneath shifting between the two colours almost merging together. A pale hand with talon-like claws on the end reaches out to me and I step back in fright, a scream leaping from my throat. My scream seems to startle the stranger for a second before they realise I’m screaming at them and then a look of pained sadness crosses their face. They retract their hand and stay quiet for a moment, thinking before speaking.
Their words come out as a hiss when they speak, “Please don’t be afraid.” They walk towards me hesitantly, hands out in front of them.
“Don’t, don’t come near me.” I say firmly, backing away towards the door.
“Don’t leave.” They say, voice raised slightly in desperation, still approaching me.
“Stop coming near me, I’ll scream.”
“No, please don’t do that. That shit hurts my ears.”
“Well then stop moving!” I exclaim. The stranger ignores my request and feeling flustered I kick my leg out, it colliding straight with the stranger’s groin. They slide down in front of me, hand resting next to me on the wall as they fall to their knees. My hands go over my mouth as I stare at him, groaning in pain.
I take my chance and begin pulling the door open, ready to run and call the police but it seems this idiot has other ideas. With lightning speed he pushes the door shut and I instantly begin to worry.
He staggers a little before standing up, towering over my tiny frame and says in the same husky, whispery voice, “I’m not going to hurt you.” I can barely resist him as he begins to lift me over his shoulders, my head whirring, my chest pulsing with some unknown feeling.
It’s strange, now that I look at him, really look at him. His face seems so familiar. Even with the strange skin I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere. I just can’t remember where I’ve seen his russet coloured hair before.