It has followed me for a week now. It taunts me each time I see it. It follows me into the car into work. As I sit in my desk, I can feel my co-workers stare at me, as they can see it too. Some people try to talk around it, as if it’s not there. But everyone knows it’s there. It mocks me, poking at my skin, “They’re all laughing at you, you know.” “All your friends hate you.” “You’ll never get a date with Janice from accounting, you ugly cunt”. By about 3pm, I finally lose it. I storm off to the bathroom. I seize that big, bastard spot and squeeze… POP! The puss splats at mirror. I heave a sigh of relief. I wipe the mirror and return to my desk.
We were kitted up with armour and laser guns. We were comrades, friends if you like. But then we entered the dark coliseum and it was every man for themselves. The armours colours that once flashed Red or Blue now dissipated into a blinding white. I hid at the Red base, futile I know, but familiar ground. It gave me some time to think away from the slaughter. The klaxon sounds, signalling the gladiators to run at each other. The music playing thunks deafeningly. Why do I feel so alone? So afraid? I always fought better with two other people. I could feed off their synergy, and plan tactically. This is just a case of brute vs brute. And let’s face it, I’m no brute. I’m not tall enough for starters. I cross myself and run into battle.
I see a former teammate in the distance. Blirtzt! I am hit in the shoulder. He snickers and runs away. Blirtzt! I am hit on the back. Blirtzt! Blirtzt! Blirtzt! I am shot in all directions, before I know it I am surrounded by them, laughing as my weaponry and armour cease to function. I look like a fool. A siren goes off and a robotic voice says “Game Over.” I remember how much I fucking hate lasertag.
Finding a home for its back
He spends his whole life on the go,
Even if he goes quite slow
His shell spirals around
A life of travel he is bound
He may be sticky, he may be small
But at least he’s on the earth at all
Munching leaves on a twig
For his size, he is quite big
When he’ll take off his shell
And find another home to dwell
(c) Text: Jen Hughes
(c) Illustration: Jen Hughes
Fred has lit the bonfire. But fire is danger! Fire can kill! I don’t want that sparkler, it’s burny! I’m so scared, I want to run away. Fred is laughing: it’s OK as long as you’re careful. A soldier has to deal with worse than this, be brave. This fire is much bigger than me. I don’t like it one bit. Fred’s giving me a marshmallow on a stick, he says if I hold it over the fire it’ll become a smore. The fire is looking at me with mischief. I’m still scared, but I need to know what a smore is! So here goes, bit by bit, the stick’s going into the fire. I hope I don’t die! The mallow’s toasting in the flames, melting a little bit. I take it out, and it’s burnt-looking. Ouch! It’s a bit too hot on my teeth at first but Fred smiles: keep going. The crispy burnt shell of the mallow snaps as I bite into it. And then it goes all soft and melty and yummy and moreish. Now I know why it’s called a smore! Fire isn’t so bad after all. I just need to be careful, like Fred. The fire’s smiling at me. I smile back. My big brother laughs warmly and puts his arm round me. I do so love it when he comes home.
(c) Prose: Jen Hughes
(c) Image: Sophie McNicol