“You. After school. Basketball court. Snap my fingers snap your neck.”
Kevin’s experienced fist thwacks his palm. A rainy afternoon scrap’s arranged to test the mettle of the new boy on the block. I’ve no choice, and at 3.30pm unwillingly comply. For too long I flail miserably, impotently. The repugnant young spectators bray. Then I see red, as they say. Thrash him. Give him a nose twister, a nasturtium. Cave Kevin’s face in. Bones splinter. Kevin sees red, too. Blood red, then grey. He crumples with an awful permanence. Something has shifted forever.
I freak out. Fight or flight? Fight and flight. Across the field, out the gates, into town. It’s rain-dark. Silverbeet-coloured trees, which are neither silver nor red, shroud the slick roads. I run fast, bouncing off strangers. Mist permeates their angry, sibilant voices with coldness and the white noise of tyres on wet asphalt becomes ugly. I would have welcomed the punch in the face – it was the threat of the punch that caused more damage. Peering back every few steps, through the inkiness, I feel sick.
“We want to see the colour of your fear,” he’d told me. Well, this was it: a boy tearing through blackness, all his light absorbed. I’m inseparably linked to the end of the world. Or think I am. Or want to be. It pours. The sky pounds a percussive dirge on the footpath. Bleak rhythms belt against the concrete. I’m still running.