19 February 2012

Jackie and the Suicide

This is my latest little story for the group and it's a bit longer than usual. I promise to one day write a story in which no children die.

The prompt I used was this photograph:

Jackie and the Suicide

Jackie felt a shove in her back as she carried her heavy cello-case off the bus. There was no way she could stop herself falling down the steps and onto the tarmac. She could hear the laughter and knew who was doing the laughing. She didn’t look up as she got to her feet and she ignored the pain in her knees and in her arms as she walked into school.

“Spacky Jackie” came the taunting voices behind her.

Normally she would cry, but not today. Today Jackie only smiled to herself like someone who has been vindicated.  She toyed with the novel idea that these cruel people were the ones that deserved pity. She couldn’t remember a time when such people hadn’t made her life painful, but today was the first day where she knew for sure that when she grew up they just would not matter at all. She had never felt so liberated.

It was school sports day. Jackie would be helping out with the drinks stall as the headmaster thought it best not to have her competing in the games. That would just be embarrassing for everybody, what with her condition and all. Jackie went to class 9B for registration, leaving her cello-case in the cloakroom like she always did. She sat at her desk and the rest of the class did the same.

The teacher, a young blond woman named Miss Blue, called out the names on the register. Jackie, still feeling the echoes of pain from her fall down the steps of the bus, listened to the names and as each pupil responded, their voice triggered a flash of memory in her mind.

Abigail Anderson - “Here” - leading a gang of girls hooting with laughter and pointing at Jackie’s piss-soaked skirt.
Tom Brent - “Here” - sneering as he rifles through the contents of Jackie’s bag.
Benjamin Cordon - “Here” - punching Jackie in the stomach because he was dared to.
Fiona Dombury - “Here” - standing in front of the class telling them all that Jackie had just confessed that she loves her.
William Durfold - “Here” - always in the crowd, laughing along.
Alan Epsilon - “Here” - kicking open the toilet cubicle door. No tissues.

The list went on - the memories of all the times this mob of classmates had ruthlessly used her as a human scratching post. Jackie had wondered for a long time if any of these people could possibly grow into humans that would really add something to the world. They were so happy to play to the crowd, to follow the herd. They seemed to like nothing more than showing off to the other idiots. Is that what grown ups were? Just nasty kids like this that had made it to adulthood? Is that why the world ended up so horrible and unfair?

Three months before the school sports day, Jackie had been involved in an incident that brought her a little bit of fleeting fame. She had been present at a suicide. What made it even more interesting was that it happened during a Prime-Ministerial visit - the PM herself was going to arrive at a church on the long road which passed by where the man had jumped. He had chosen the PM’s visit as the best time to hurl himself from the top floor of a car park that overlooked the church and Jackie had seen him do it.

When the police and journalists interviewed her, they had all commended her for being so composed and mature about what must have been a harrowing experience for such a young

“He looked nervous and I saw him mutter something under his breath. The next thing I know, he grabbed the railings and just jumped over. It was awful, I didn’t have time to stop him.”

Oddly, the man had jumped more than three hours before the PM’s arrival, so nobody else had gathered at that time and only Jackie saw it happen. Even more strangely, it turned out that this was the only part of the entire shopping complex that was not covered by CCTV, so Jackie’s was the only testimony they had to go on. Nobody could understand why he hadn’t waited until the PM had arrived, if he wanted to make a splash, as it were, but then everyone agreed that the mind of the suicide is intrinsically hard to fathom and the matter was quickly put to bed.

It was now time for the children to dress for sports day. Jackie went upstairs to the staff room to report for drinks duty with the other kids that couldn’t do sports. She was assigned the important role of making sure the jugs of squash didn’t run dry.

The drinks stall had been set up near the finishing line and was supervised by Miss Blue. Jackie stood behind jugs full of orange squash, ready to do her duty. Parents began arriving, parking on the part of the field set aside for the cars. Teachers bustled around, moving groups of children to the correct parts of the field and starting races. The P.A. system squawked announcements and congratulations, punctuated by starting shots from the headmaster’s cap-gun.  Ripples of applause came from the parents who were sat on rows of their children’s classroom chairs alongside the 100 metres track.

From their seats, the parents could see right across the field - with the impressive obstacle course in the centre - to the school itself. To their left was the temporary car-park, shimmering metallic blue red and silver in the heat. To their right was a high fence to keep out all the paedophiles.

It was a good, English June day, perfect for a sports day. There was no wind at all and this fact in particular brought another little smile to Jackie’s face.

“What’s making you smile, weirdo” demanded Alan Epsilon - the toilet door kicker - as he refilled his cup of squash between races.
“There’s no wind” replied Jackie, still smiling.
“So what? God you’re a freak” as he tipped the drink down his throat.
“It’ll be better for you, in a way, Alan. Quicker.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about” throwing the cup and what was left in it straight at Jackie’s face and running away squealing
“Haha look what I just did to spacky!”

She wiped her face with her sleeve and wondered for a moment if she might have been better off doing something to the drinks instead. No, opportunities like this do not come along for no reason. She would follow it through. An announcement came over the P.A. system.

“Would class 9B please assemble at the start line for their three legged race”

This was her cue. Jackie asked Miss Blue if she could go indoors to the toilet.

Thinking about it now, she still could not believe her luck about the CCTV blind spot. But when she thought harder it made a lot of sense. He had obviously chosen that place for this very reason. It was not himself that he’d wanted to kill when he’d gone to the multi-storey car park that day.

A few steps further along from where he’d “jumped”, there is a door which takes you to the lifts. Next to the lifts there is another door that leads to the service room above, which houses the lift motors. The service room has a little roof all of its own, which is accessed by some steps against the back wall. The roof door opens outwards onto a gravel-covered rectangle with some air-extractors in the middle of it. On one side is a view down to the top floor of the multi-storey car park and on the other is the stomach-lurching drop to the road 8 storeys beneath. And a magnificent view of the church.

Jackie had found this place by accident one day when she had tried the door and found it unlocked. This didn’t seem too odd to her as there was nothing in the room worth stealing. She had carefully stepped out onto the roof but there were no railings and she thought the wind would just blow her over the edge. After that first time she went back occasionally out of a sense of adventure but as it was just a noisy, dark room she eventually forgot about it. Forgot about it, that is, until the day of the PM’s visit. The roof of that service room would be perfect to get a view of the PM as she walked from her car to the church and no-one else would watch from there.

When the day arrived, she left home early to make sure nobody saw her going up. The car park was deserted at this time of the morning. The door to the service room was unlocked, as ever and she crept in and ascended the steps inside which took her up to the door to the roof. When she pushed open the door, she felt it get stuck on something so without a second thought she barged it with her shoulder. This time the obstruction gave way and the door swung open just in time for her to see a pair of feet disappear over the edge. After two seconds of statuesque, eye-popping silence, she heard the sound of bone hitting concrete. She didn’t need to look down to know what she would see.

She sat in the doorway, clutching her knees tightly to her chest. Her mind was full of deafening white noise. No thoughts came to her.

After about 15 minutes, she realised that there were no screams, no sirens. She could hear cars moving along the road far below. Nobody had seen it happen. The body must be somehow out of sight, behind bins or something. She let another 15 minutes pass until she knew for sure that she had got away with it.

She stood and turned to run away but noticed for the first time that there was an open black case just visible on the gravel behind the door. This must have been what the dead person was looking at when Jackie had shoulder-barged him off the roof. She peered slowly round the door and saw that the case was open. It was a long, open case. Still no screams. Still no sirens. Jackie sat back down on the gravel on top of that roof and ran her fingers along the cold metal object inside the case. She knew she had to decide quickly..

Jackie walked from the sports field into the empty school building, past the girls toilets and into class 9B’s cloakroom where her cello-case was leaning against the wall at a careless angle. She guessed nobody would notice or care that she’d brought it to school despite there being no cello lessons on sports day, she just knew it. She took the case and went to the admin block where she climbed the stairs to the staff room as she had done only a few hours earlier.

Next to the the staff room door, a sash window opens on to the roof and Jackie took this route - relying on pure adrenalin to drag her heavy cello-case out there with her. This part of the roof was flat but as it was a large building, nobody would see her up there until she got close to the edge. She walked and then crawled to the edge that overlooked the sports field. She could see the shimmering cars on the right, the parents on the seats at the back, the fence on the left, the field and the track in the middle.

The the right of her view, at the start of the 100 metre track, she could see class 9B squabbling  in pairs as they tied their ankles together. She knew she had only a few minutes left before the start of the race, but that was fine. She had spent the last few months practising this in the dark and she only needed one minute.

A few weeks after the fuss about the suicide had died down, Jackie had returned to the top floor of that car park - to the bars that Jackie had told the police the man had jumped over. She went into the service room, uncovered the long, black case she had hidden there and transferred its contents to the empty cello case she had brought with her. She went home and started watching youtube videos. She found that there’s a lot of information about the M24-A2 sniper rifle on there.

Through the telescopic sight, Jackie watched class 9B approach the start line in pairs, tied together for the three-legged race. She chambered a round and let the cross hairs rest below the left ear of Alan Epsilon. There was no wind so Jackie knew the bullet would touch him exactly there. She regulated her breathing, thinking only of all the practise, knowing she could fire 20 shots in 60 seconds.

The headmaster raised his cap-gun.

“On your marks. Get set...”

Two minutes after the first shot, her empty cello case is back in the cloakroom and Jackie is in the toilet cubicle. She knows Alan won’t be kicking the door open any more. She didn’t hit them all, but the ones she’d missed were tied at the ankle to ones that she had not missed. What a scene that was! She could hear sirens now, and a lot of screaming.

2 January 2012

I found a rainbow in my pocket

The prompt for December's meeting was "I found a rainbow in my pocket" and I came up with this festive little tale of joy:

I found a rainbow in my pocket

The last candle dwindled and died. The cupboard under the stairs, our home for the last few days, was now completely black. The sound of grenade blasts and machine gun fire had faded and been replaced by isolated rifle shots as they went house to house. It would be us soon. A bullet for me and for the two kids who were sleeping in my arms, too weak to cry or complain.

I kissed them both on the head, being careful not to wake them and then I clamped my hands over their mouths and noses until they stopped breathing. It didn’t take long. I reached in to my trouser pocket for the tiny razor I was going to use on myself but instead of thin metal I felt a spongey object. I pulled it out and the cupboard was filled with light as if someone had shone a car headlight into it.

Both kids woke up and covered their eyes
“What’s that, mum?”  asked the boy.
“It’s a present I made for you both, it was hiding in my pocket”
“What is it though?” asked the girl
I threw it into the air as if releasing a bird “Why it’s a rainbow of course!” and it burst out of the cupboard and on into the garden. We tumbled out after it, laughing.

The little baby rainbow was sitting on the grass, spinning  and shining white as it prepared itself for that thing rainbows do.
“Mind your eyes! It’s going to..”
It exploded in a glittering burst of blinding red, filling the sky with an electrified neon glow. As we looked at each other’s amazed faces, everything turned emerald green, including the neighbours who had come out to watch the show.

A flock of seagulls, painted green by the embryonic rainbow, flew in circles overhead. Their favourite part of rainbow-birth is the violet stage, which came next, transforming them into glowing, winged blackcurrants which, for seagulls is the funniest thing imaginable. They laugh so hard at this that they can’t fly, so they all landed in the garden and rolled around, squawking their helpless laughter as they looked at each other’s stupid purple bodies.

As each of the colours was ignited into existence, the rainbow itself took shape, planting one end of its self firmly on the lawn and stretching up towards the sky. As the world went from solar yellow to inky blue, the rainbow was tall enough to lean over and form the giant arc that is their mature stage.

The kids and I sat on the grass together and gazed at the giant rainbow that sprouted from our garden, stretching to goodness knows where. I kissed them both on the head.