A young boy wandered along the street, his school bag dangling from his shoulder.
His shoulder-long, black hair fell into his pallid face, but it was clear that he was disturbed, and furious.
Rain plummeted down at the wind-whipped roads as the boy ambled along Gloucester Terrace in Paddington, wearing his black wellingtons. It had been raining for days, and yesterday, when his mother had watched the news on telly, the weather guy had not been exactly optimistic that it would stop anytime soon.
The boy’s name was Caleb Weir, and he had had a devastating day.
And his day would not get any better, even though he didn’t know yet.
The problem was that he was not like the kids back at school, and he thought that the other children at school were noticing. He did not have any friends, and the older boys kept provoking him and calling him names, or threatened to beat him up.
Rain kept dripping off the bonnets like small insects that were flying furiously towards him…
He remembered his grandma, when she had been lying in hospital, weak and exhausted. It had been a warm, hot summer, and a mug of sweet tea had stood on the rim. It had reminded him of blood.
He had not dared take a sip from it.
Flies had entered the room, attracted by the tea, disturbing his grandma, who had been too weak to stop them landing on her face again and again…
He had made them drop off the ceiling like pebble.
The rain was getting harder, and water was splashing from under the passing-by car’s wheels.
Caleb stopped and glanced over his shoulder, examining the road carefully before he went on.
The older boys had been teasing him again, following him all the way from school to the station, and he was certain that they were still somewhere behind him, ready to leap from behind the corner of a store, and mock him.
Caleb sniffed. He knew that the boys were right when they called him a weirdo. Something was not right.
One day, he had glinted into the mirror in the bathroom and seen something that made him recoil and stumble. He had sat on the floor for minutes, gasping, staring at his reflection.
He remembered how he had been trying to tell his mother what he had seen, but Mrs Weir, who was working at one of the several hotels in Paddington, and usually arrived home very late, had told him to just go to bed.
‘Mom, there’s something funny happening with my eyes!’
But his mother, tired from work and pallid, had only sighed and said, ‘We will see the eye specialist next week, and he will take a glance at it.’
‘But there was something in my eyes!’
‘Maybe you’ve been reading again for too long last night and your eyes are a bit tired. The doctor will see if you need glasses. And now, please go to bed, mommy needs to lie down a bit.’
But Caleb knew that he didn’t need glasses; what he had seen in his eyes was something way more sinister, and he wondered whether anybody was going to believe him.
A bus rolling along the street noisily detached Caleb from his gloomy thoughts as he turned towards the road near the underground station, hoping that he had managed to shake off his bullies. The sullen, wet road was not as crowded as usual, and somewhat still, as though it knew that somebody would be dying on this road today.
He was walking fast, but nevertheless, at the next crossing, a bunch of boys, wearing the same school uniform as he, came bustling out of an aisle; at the sight of him, they pointed and came darting towards him.
‘Oi, weirdo!’ shouted one of them, a particularly large, menacing looking boy. ‘Where’re you going? Witch contest?’
The other boys guffawed loudly.
He ignored them, and followed the road into an alley lined with shops. He was used to this; he didn’t even turn around as the boys followed him into the alley, yelling at him.
‘Oi, milk-face! What about I turn your face into butter?’
Caleb still ignored them. He was splashing past the train station and into direction of the hospital. He hoped he would get rid of them somewhere around Paddington Basin, where they usually lost interest in him and went to mock someone else. But this time, he would not make it to Paddington Basin. Because this time, the bullies didn’t just keep following him. Before he reached the hospital, they had caught up with him, and one of them grabbed him by the collar of his school-uniform and pulled. Caleb, surprised by the attack, stumbled, and slipped on the ground. He landed painfully on his left knee, which started bleeding at once. He leapt to his feet, and attempted to hurtle away from them, but the largest of them again grabbed his uniform. ‘Not so fast, milk-face,’ he said. ‘We brought you a gift.’
A particularly slimy, slippery chunk of butter was stuffed down his collar, and slid down his back. Caleb had a hard time trying to get the butter out of his clothes, and had to lift his shirt to get rid of it, whilst the boys howled with delight.
‘Oi!’ said the leader. ‘You’d better pick that piece of butter up, or I’ll make you eat the whole chunk!’
Some of the boys had to wipe the tears from their eyes from laughing. They attempted to get hold of him, but Caleb, who was way smaller and thinner than they were, dodged their groping arms and sped along the lane.
‘GET HIM!’ howled their leader.
Caleb hurtled down the road, towards the basin, hoping that he would make it before they caught up with him, but with his injured knee, he was not as fast as usual—something got caught up between his legs, and he toppled over.
‘Good one, Clint!’
Clint, their leader, who had thrown the boleadora, was grinning broadly when he approached him.
Caleb attempted to climb to his feet, and to grasp the box that had slithered along the ground, and in which sat his paint board, but Clint was faster, and snatched the box before he could reach it.
‘What do we have here?’ he said, forcing the box open and taking out the paint board. ‘Milk-face thinks he is Picasso?’
‘Give that back!’ yelled Caleb, but the boys kicked him so that he sunk to the road again.
‘You think you’re something better than we are, right?’ said Clint. ‘Think you’re a great painter, eh? Think you’re smarter than we are, you ugly nerd?’
‘I said, give it back!’
‘And I say, you can earn it back, idiot.’ And with this, Clint and his bullies turned and strode over to a grocery store, where they knocked over a small, red-haired girl, and went inside.
Caleb leapt up, and followed them into the store.
‘Ah, we are getting reasonable,’ said Clint when he spotted Caleb, whose clothes were dripping with water and, where they had kicked his shin, with blood. ‘So you’re here for negotiating terms. First, you’ll do all our homework—’
‘Just give it back to me, please.’
‘Give it back.’ Caleb avoided glancing at them.
‘I told you, you have to earn it back, idiot,’ said Clint, and the others roared with laughter. ‘Or would you prefer if I just…?’ He held the paint board over his head, and pretended he was trying to break it.
‘NO!’ yelled Caleb, and darted towards him. The boys grabbed him, and threw him against a smelly bin.
‘You know what?’ said Clint, now looking menacing. ‘I guess I should just break it.’
‘No!’ cried Caleb again, struggling to get to his feet. ‘Please, my grandma gave this to me—’
‘Booh-hooooh, my grandma gave this to me,’ Clint said in a mocking voice, pushing Caleb away. ‘Grow up, you idiot.’ And he cast the paint board against the metallic bin with so much force that it broke asunder.
Caleb gave a yell, and hurtled towards the paint board, but Clint stretched out a leg, and Caleb stumbled over it.
The boys were looking rather uncomfortable, but Clint shot them a furious glance, and they were laughing obediently.
Caleb climbed to his feet, tears in his eyes.
‘I wish—I wish—’
Caleb whirled around at them, his dark eyes still full of tears, his face blurred with pain. ‘I hope,’ he shouted, shivering, ‘I hope a car will hit you when you walk out of this shop!’
‘Watch your little nerd mouth, weirdo!’ bellowed another boy, and pushed him so that Caleb toppled over.
But the boys suddenly stopped.
‘Where’s Clint?’ said one of them.
Clint, the boy that had broken the paint board, was moving towards the entrance.
But Clint ignored them. He walked towards the door, and then out of the shop, as though he was sleep-walking, his arms dangling, his face oddly blank, and then right onto the road.
‘CLINT, WATCH OUT!’ yelled one of the boys, and they stumbled out of the shop and onto the pavement.
There came a terrible scream from outside the shop.
Caleb waited for a moment, petrified with shock. Then, he hurried towards the entrance and out of the shop as well.
Clint was lying half on the sidewalk, half on the street. Well, at least part of him.
The other part was lying on the road. All over the road.
He had been hit by a car.
People were screaming at the sight, and within seconds, there was pandemonium.
Caleb, the pieces of his paint board clutched in his arms, was staring at the street, shivering, unable to move.
The boys stared at him, their faces blurred with shock.
Caleb would be haunted with the looks on their faces, long after the incident, long after he would have left the primary school they were attending, and long after his mother would have moved away with him from Paddington.
Because he knew that, even though nobody was going to believe them, they knew why Clint had been hit by that car.
He had done it.
When he had walked out on the road, he had remembered what he had seen that night in the mirror, when his mother had not wanted to listen to him.
For a moment, there had been something like a dark, obscure, violet fire in his pupils.
Chapter 2 tbc.