Friday, 30 November 2012

Witch Trials of 1612 - Writing History Fiction

The reason why I haven't been posting a lot lately is because I have so much work on right now. I have four deadlines in the next two weeks. And boy, am I panicking. My biggest reason for stress right now is the bloody Writing History Fiction module. I have two assignments due within a week of each other; one creative piece (2500 words) and an essay on why the Tudors are so popular in literature (2000 words). All together I have about 300 words written so far...it's going slow. My lecturer is so picky, and it makes me scared to write anything because she is going to analyse every single word. I really want to get another first this year but it doesn't seem likely. Every time I get back an assignment I'm with someone who does get a first and it makes me sad.
Woe.
Anyway. No time for being sad, I'm being stressed right now! So here's what I have on my creative piece at the moment, which is about the witch trials of 1612.

Lancaster
20th August 1612

     The wind blew violently through the trees as Isabel caught her first glimpse of the gallows. She stood as straight as her bonds would allow her. It did not matter what they said. She knew she was innocent.

*

    Fire crackled in the hearth. Warm light licked the sides of the stone walls and chased the shadows away. Isabel savoured the warmth on her legs; the weather had been particularly harsh that winter and the cold aggravated her aching bones. Even her herbal remedies had not been able to help. She relaxed onto the wooden chair as Mary fretted around her.
      ‘You know you should not be here, Isabel.’ Her voice was high with panic.
      Isabel looked over her shoulder at her goddaughter. Her slight figure and silken hair were reason for the many admirers in Wendel. But to Isabel it was the beauty of her face that made her so alluring. Dark eyes and full lips never ceased to trap men of all ages under her spell. Now, however, her brows met in the middle and her eyes darted to and from the door. She sat down in her chair, then stood, paced around the room, and then sat down again. She repeated this motion four times when Isabel finally spoke.
      ‘My dear, he won’t be back until nightfall. Cease your worry.’ Isabel rose and rested her hands on   Mary’s tense shoulders. Mary held her body rigid for a moment before letting herself to curl into her godmother’s comforting arms.
     ‘He’ll be back soon, and then it shall start once more.’ 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Because I haven't posted anything in a while and because everyone loves Batman, here's my essay on The Dark Knight Rises. I could have done a parody of Batman for my Comic Books & Graphic Novels assignment but I figured I hadn't done an essay in a while, so what the heck? It got 66% which isn't too bad for an essay, let's hope my comic book creative piece is better. What I've gathered, though, is that I need to work more on my conclusions. I have another essay due in a couple of weeks and I'm going to try really hard on that one, although I'm already feeling frustrated by it and I haven't even started!

Is Batman: The Dark Knight Returns a successful novel?
With the release of the final instalment of Christopher Nolen’s Batman trilogy it is clear to see that Batman has never been so popular. It has been over 20 years since Frank Miller wrote Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and yet a highly respected animated version has recently been released. Before Miller, dark and gritty protagonists fighting in a violent world were the exception not the norm. So does this shadowy way of storytelling make the Dark Knight Returns a successful novel?
                                             
Bruce Wayne has been retired from the superhero business for ten years but with the arrival of the Mutants he dons the cape once more. Gone is the campness and humour of the sixties and instead there is a dark anti-hero in a despairing city. Batman has always been a crime fighter ever since his creation in 1939 but The Dark Knight Returns involves more extreme violence, as well as plenty of blood and gore. The Dark Knight Returns made the New York Times bestseller list, and the Times critic called it ‘jazzy, offbeat, grim, shocking, nonlinear.’[1] It also received praise in reviews from Rolling Stone and Atlantic Monthly. However, not everyone was ready to accept this new style of comic book. Bob Kane, creator of Batman, was puzzled many things in the comic, including the masculine woman Bruno who has swastikas on her breasts and buttocks; ‘I don’t understand it fully,’ he says. ‘It’s beyond my early na├»ve Batman drawings, I guess.’ [2] The Village Voice, a New York paper, attacked the comic saying that it was ‘neoconservative propaganda’[3] based on the fact that the Dark Knight Returns did not offer a ‘didactic left-wing perspective’[4]. Miller found these comments ‘pretty silly’[5] and states that he ‘couldn’t have done Batman and have been politically correct at the same time, because the politically correct contingent won’t allow for any character with a larger-than-life status’[6] and that ‘violence was out’[7].  This however did not stop comics of a similar art form being produced. Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen and Art Spiegelman’s Maus were two comic books, as well as The Dark Knight Returns, that would usher in the ‘modern age of mainstream comics’.[8] This genre is characterised by darker, more psychologically driven stories and by anti-hero protagonists that blur the line between hero and villain.

Miller’s use of the literary device ‘internal monologue’[9] captures Bruce’s every thought and with this the reader can understand the choices he makes. The reader understands why Bruce wants to go back to crime fighting; they know that Batman misses Dick Grayson, the original Robin; and  they know why he will never stop.  Not only that, it helps to describe what is going on in what might be otherwise unclear artwork. For example, the scene in which Batman fights the Mutant leader, this device lets the reader know what is happening specifically. ‘I make him eat some garbage. Then I help him swallow it…Then his claws dig into my back. His filed teeth like razors in my trapezius.’[10] This is especially unclear in the book, and the reader certainly would not know that Batman’s trapezius was hurt from the drawings alone. Batman is not the only character with this interior monologue; most of the main characters have them too.

The colourist, Lynn Varley, cleverly distinguishes between these many thoughts by using different colours that represent the character. Batman’s is grey, which matches Gotham’s dull and gloomy atmosphere as well as his psychological state. Robin’s is a bright yellow, conveying her optimistic innocence, a brightness that contrasts completely with Batman. Superman’s is a bright blue that pales when he is in a weakened state during the nuclear attack. The Joker’s is a toxic green, signifying his evil personality.
However, not everyone appreciated the artistic talents. Mordecai Richler, writer for the New York Times, was not enthralled by Miller’s work, saying that ‘the drawings offer a grotesquely muscle-bound Batman and Superman, not the lovable champions of old.’[11] He added that ‘the stories are convoluted, difficult to follow and crammed with far too much text.’[12] While it could be argued that there is a lot of text and many smaller panels, there are no official conventions for comic books. The Art of Comics discusses the ‘Image-Text Complex in Comics’[13] and says that there are sometimes cases in which there are no words in panels and that, although more rarely, there are instances in which the panel is not filled with any image at all.[14] Miller and Klaus Janson were in their right to use as much image and text as they wanted.

Miller uses many characters to highlight Batman’s own character. There are scores of people who think he is a villain, like the civilians of Gotham city and Police Commissioner Yindel. Not only that, Miller uses Batman’s worst enemies, Two-Face and the Joker, against him, as well as his superhero friend, Superman.
Harvey Dent and Batman have essentially the same ideal – to make Gotham a better place. Unfortunately that changed for Dent when his face was disfigured by acid. Two-Face has spent the last 12 years in Arkham Asylum but has been released with a clean bill of health and a plastic surgery repaired face. He is however still Two-Face and he terrorises Gotham city swathed in bandages. Two-Face is a representation of what Bruce Wayne could become if he lets his crime fighting obsession overwhelm him. Miller stated that ‘Two-Face is identical to Batman in that he’s controlled by savage urges…he’s very much like Batman’[15]. At the end of their struggles Batman admits that looking at Dent is like looking at a mirror; ‘I see him. I see… “I see…a reflection, Harvey. A reflection”’[16]

Miller uses Two-Face like the warm up for the main event - the Joker. He is Batman’s most prolific enemy. The same Doctor who releases Two-Face allows the Joker to be free and claims that Batman is the menace who would harass him. When the Joker appears on the David Endochrine Show he is striking a powerful pose, almost resembling Superman’s a few pages earlier. He has strong, broad shoulders, and the way the curtain is positioned around him is similar to the movement of a cape. This is not the clownish Joker of the Batman TV series. This is Batman’s serious rival. Miller says that Joker is ‘a force of chaos’[17] and that he represents the ‘chaos Batman despises, the chaos that killed his parents.’[18]  In using the Joker Miller is also appealing to the many Batman fans. It would not be a true Batman comic without him.
The Dark Knight Returns is not necessarily canonical and statements have been issued regarding the continuity: ‘BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is also NOT considered to be part of the normal continuity. It is a POSSIBLE future for Batman, and one which may or may not happen…it would be a shame to limit the Batman’s future to this one story.’[19] So while Batman and the Joker have their final showdown, it is not necessarily how the Joker truly dies. Yet it is a fitting way to end it, with the Joker laughing to his death beside an aged Batman. This refined handling of such an important death is what makes The Dark Knight successful, as readers would not be satisfied with an ‘easy’ death. As the Joker was such a notorious villain he needed a fitting death. Even after he is dead he is still able to hurt Batman as the madness the Joker causes at the fairground is blamed on Batman: ‘By attacking Gotham’s police, Batman has revealed himself as an unqualified menace…the Joker’s body found mutilated and burned…murder is added to the charges against the Batman.’[20] None the less, the Joker is not the toughest challenge. Batman still has to face Superman. This again refers back to the modern age comics and how the lines between hero and villain are blurred.
Superman and Batman are polar opposites. Superman uses Clark Kent as his secret identity, he is not from this world, has super powers and cannot die. Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy, uses Batman as his secret identity. He has no super powers, only gadgets and strength, and he can die. Although the biggest difference is that Superman is a well-liked and respected superhero whereas Batman is seen as a menace and vigilante. Having Superman in this comic only proves how different the two are. While Bruce Wayne has been retired, Superman is now a pawn for the US government, who have asked him to stop Batman’s violent ways. The battle between Superman and Batman at the end of the novel is a satisfying climax; Batman may have beaten his enemies but now he must face his friend. Despite the fact that Miller uses internal monologue throughout this final showdown the audience does not know what the outcome will be, Batman never gives away his plan, even to Robin. Then, it seems like Batman has been killed. Yet the reader finds out that Bruce Wayne has left Gotham to create an army that will finally ‘bring sense to a world plagued by worse than thieves and murderers’.[21] This is more rewarding for a reader than if he had just died, as they know that Batman can never truly be stopped.

The Dark Knight Returns may not have been received well by everyone at the time of its release but for die-hard fans it was a hit. Like with any beloved character some people do not like it when they are changed or reimagined. But this was a much needed change for Batman. Miller’s gritty style has outlived the fun of the sixties and the fandom has been growing ever since. The Dark Knight Returns was inspiration for both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. It has been ranked number two on IGN’s list of the 25 greatest Batman graphic novels, second only to Batman: Year One.[22] It appears that while fans of the comic are torn, it cannot be denied that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was definitely a success.




[1] Bob Kane, Batman and Me (USA: Eclipse Books, 1989) p. 155
[2] Bob Kane, Batman and Me p. 155
[3] C. Carr, ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’, Village Voice, June 1986
[4] The Many Lives of Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio (New York: Routledge, 1991) p. 38
[5] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 38
[6] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 38
[7] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 38
[8] The Art of Comics: A Philosophical Approach ed. by Aaron Meskin and Roy T. Cook (UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2012) p.xxiv
[9] Will Brooker, Batman Unmasked: Analysing a Cultural Icon (London: Continuum, 2000) p. 267
[10] Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (London: Titan Books, 1997) p. 78
[11] Mordecia Richler, ‘Paperbacks: Batman at Midlife: Or the Funnies Grow Up’, New York Times, May 03 1987. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/05/03/books/paperbacks-batman-at-midlife-or-the-funnies-grow-up.html [accessed 22 Oct. 12]
[12] Mordecia Richler, ‘Paperbacks: Batman at Midlife: Or the Funnies Grow Up’, New York Times, May 03 1987. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/05/03/books/paperbacks-batman-at-midlife-or-the-funnies-grow-up.html [accessed 22 Oct. 12]
[13] The Art of Comics ed. by Aaron Meskin and Roy T. Cook p.93
[14] The Art of Comics ed. by Aaron Meskin and Roy T. Cook p.96
[15] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 36
[16] Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns p. 55
[17] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 36
[18] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 36
[19] The Many Lives of Batman, ed. by Roberta E. Pearson & William Uricchio p. 192
[20] Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns pp. 157-158
[21] Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns p. 199
[22] Goldstein, Hilary, ‘The 25 Greatest Batman Graphic Novels’, IGN, October 25 2011 http://uk.ign.com/articles/2011/10/25/the-25-greatest-batman-graphic-novels [accessed 23 Oct. 12]

Friday, 16 November 2012

Writing History Fiction - Little Snippets

The module I'm find least inspiring this term is Writing History Fiction. I'm not sure whether it's because the subject is boring, the set texts are boring, the lecturer is boring, or I'm just awful at history, but the whole thing is just tiresome. Right now I should be writing my creative piece as well as researching for my essay, both of which make me feel bored. I go to the lecture and just want to fall asleep (although that might have something to do with the fact that I always go out the night before). However, we have done a few interesting writing tasks during lectures. 

The first one was writing an opening sentence that would hook a reader as well as letting them know that it was a historical piece. Here was mine:

Andrew Walker knew that a decent woman would not have known how to do that. 

Surprisingly, I got a few laughs for this. It's not too historical but because I used the phrase 'decent woman' it sounds a little old fashioned.

The second task was to write a short piece that began with speech which is later on repeated. This was in relation to Wolf Hall, as that begins with Thomas Cromwell's dad beating him and saying 'So now get up.' which he says again later. It also had to be in historic present, which basically means present tense, but because it happens in the past it's historic, if that makes sense? 

'You're dead.'
Frank stumbles through the door of the Anderson shelter and falls onto the damp cot. His breath comes in short, sharp bursts, his heart is pounding in his chest. 
'If this was a real air raid, you'd be dead,' his dad tells him. 'You have to be in here in less than a minute. None of this dawdling business.'
Frank finally catches his breath and opens his mouth to reply but his dad is already walking away, making sure the shelter door is securely locked. 
He doesn't mind if his dad thinks he is a dawdler, he was slow for a reason. Opening his jacket, Frank peers in. The little kitten nestled inside stares back at him and meows weakly. 

I thought that story was quite cute. Whether it full fills the brief is another matter. It's hard to write well in the ten minutes or so they give you in lecture. 

The last task was to write a piece where someone walks in someone who is upset. These task are all pretty random, but this one was inspired by Wolf Hall yet again. There is a scene when someone walks in on Thomas Cromwell when he is all teary eyed over a book his dead daughter used to own. It would be emotional, but I really hate the book.

Gillian pushed on the kitchen door, it swung open easily. James was already sat at the table, his head lowered, narrow shoulders shaking. Gillian stepped into the room, unsure whether to let him know she was there or not. The longer she waited the more pronounced the silence grew. She padded quietly over to him and it was only once she was stood behind him did she see the tear-stained letter in his hands. Her soft gasp finally alerted James to her presence. He started and crumpled the letter in his fist. His eyes, red from crying, darted guiltily. 
'I'm sorry,' he sniffled.
Gillian cast her eyes over the table. Torn apart roughly, was the letter addressed to her. The return address made her heart stop.
She held out her hand, 'Give it to me.'
James gently unfolded the letter, smoothing it out on the table, before passing it to her with trembling hands.
'Mother...' he sobbed. Tears streamed down his cheeks and a glistening trail ran from his nose.
Gillian scanned the letter. The first line was enough to make her knees buckle. 
Mrs Stanely, we regret to inform you that your husband, Howard Stanely, has died in combat...
She couldn't read any more. She dropped the letter to the floor and collapsed into a kitchen chair. She opened her arms and welcomed James's embrace. 
They mourned in the kitchen together.

Obviously, when doing historical writing a lot of research is needed. I'm not sure what the condolence letters would have said, so for this task I just made it up. I think out of the three tasks my favourite is the second, only because it features a kitten. 
For two of these tasks I wrote about war time, as it's the only sort of history I partially know. Yet for my final creative piece I'm writing about the 1600's and witches. God knows that's going to require a tonne of research! Hopefully I will be more inspired by the time I write because I am really not feeling it at the moment and the creative piece is due in three weeks. Aaaaah!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Tell-Tale Heart Intervention

I am working diligently on the third draft of my ECP ( go and read the Second Draft too) and I am now over 8,000 words. Which means it's technically completed.

Whoa!

But they may not be 8,000 amazing words thus the work continues. One my supervisor's criticisms was that some parts weren't developed enough. So I thought I'd post a section that I've been working on and see if you think it's developed enough. It is also a reworking of The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe, of course! I've always had an affinity with this story, I did my A-Level Art course work on it. I illustrated the whole story on one canvas, and believe me that took a while. Here are parts of it:

The Eye

The Old Man

Part of the Final Piece 
Anyway, here's the story of Greg and his granddad. Tell me what you think!

Greg and the Eye


Greg Sullivan had never liked his granddad. Although he would never admit it. Every time his mum told him that his granddad would be visiting he felt the dread settle in his stomach. His granddad wasn't like ordinary granddads. He never told funny stories, or gave him money, or even commented on how big he was getting. He would bang on the front door, demand Greg get his bags from the taxi, collapse into the red armchair, and order Greg's mum around. Even when she tried to talk to him all he would do was moan.
   ‘Put on the heating, woman. This place is freezing.’
   ‘You call that tea, more like piss.’
   ‘I suppose you’ve never heard of a duster then.’
But the complaining wasn't the worst part. The worst part was his eye. He had been blind in one eye ever since Greg could remember. No one had ever explained why he was blind and Greg never dared to ask. It was a taboo subject in their house.
So when Greg's mum said that his granddad would be staying for an entire week Greg seriously considered running away. Same as usual his granddad collapsed into the red armchair and ordered Greg's mum to get him a tea: no milk, no sugar. Greg sat on the sofa on the other side of the room watching his granddad and thinking of the blank eye; how did he get it? And why did nobody want to talk about it? His granddad sharply looked at him, as if he knew exactly what he was thinking. Greg immediately stared back at the TV.
   ‘Got something you want to say, boy?’
   ‘No, Sir,’ Greg mumbled.
His granddad grunted in reply. Greg didn’t stick around long after that, he ran upstairs to his room and shut the door with a snap. A week was definitely too long.

*

The eye plagued his mind more than usual. That night while he lay on the sofa - his granddad always got his room, another reason to hate his visits - his thoughts kept returning to the eye. White and milky, like a full moon in a cloudless sky, but as sharp as a greedy vulture stalking it’s pray. Such a gross thing. So repulsive. He should wear a patch or glasses, Greg thought. Hide it. Get rid of it. Gouge it out. Destroy it. Kill it. Greg flinched. His heart was pounding and his body was moist with sweat. Where had that come from? He shook his head and tried to think of something else, like the new computer game he had bought. But when he closed his eyes and finally drifted off it a fitful sleep he could still see the eyeball. It watched him in his dreams.
Even at school he could see it. It was the circle equation during maths, the petri dish during science, and the football during lunchtime. His mind would wander during class and when he finally snapped back to reality he found eyeballs staring at him from his notebooks. He had covered every page in drawings of eyeballs. His chemistry teacher Mr Waldman had written a note in his dangerous red pen.

See me after class. We need to talk about this

Greg had torn the page from the book and hurled it in the bin, his breathing ragged. As soon as the bell rang he legged it from class. He even ignored Mr Waldman calling after him. He knew he’d be in big trouble the next day.
That Thursday he was relieved to think that in twenty-four hours his granddad would be gone. No more staring vulture eye. But when he walked into the living room and saw his granddad sat in the same red armchair his usual sneer upon his face and the staring milky white eye, the relief vanished and anger seared through his veins. Vile eye. Grotesque eye. Have to get rid of it, Greg thought. Have to destroy it. Have to kill it. Have to kill him! Greg faltered. Kill him? Surprised at his rage, he ran upstairs to his room. He collapsed against the door and forced himself to calm down.  His breathing slowed and his pounding heart returned to normal but that voice in his head continued. Greg clamped his hands to his ears and forced it to go away. He put on his music and turned it up to the highest volume and didn’t turn it down even when his mum yelled at him.
At dinner he avoided looking at his granddad but he could still feel the eye upon him and the throbbing rage in his head grew. The voice screamed at him. Kill it. Kill it now! His hand clenched around his knife.
   ‘I’m not feeling well. May I be excused,’ he burst out. His mum most have noticed his pale, sweaty face and let him go without questioning him.
It wasn’t until he closed his bedroom door that he realised he was still holding the knife.

*

Greg hid in his room until it was time for bed, then he slunk down the stairs without a glimpse at his granddad. He tossed and turned on the sofa for hours but the feeling that he was being watched never left him. The eye, it was there. Through ceilings and walls it could see him. Disgusting eye. Revolting eye. Had to stop it staring. Had to stop it living. Had to…to kill it. He leapt from the sofa as if under a spell, mind and body focused on only one thing. He crept to the kitchen and picked the largest knife from his mum’s knife rack. It would be quick. It would be gone. It would be dead. He had to do it. Had to kill it.
Careful of the creaky ones, Greg took the stairs two at a time. The door was ajar and he was sure that the eye knew he was just outside. Hateful eye. With the knife thrust out in front of him, Greg pushed the door aside slowly and entered the room. His granddad was asleep and yet the eye was still open, Greg could see it gleaming in the darkness. He was pulled towards it. Kill it…Kill him. The voice urged him. He lifted the knife up high above his head, the sharp tip pointing directly at the offensive eyeball. Loathsome eye. Nasty eye. Kill it. Kill it now! Greg plunged the knife downwards into the socket just as his granddad's other eye popped open. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Second Draft - Feedback

I hinted in my last post that I wasn't too happy with how my ECP meeting about my Second Draft went. My supervisor is just doing my head in at the moment. The last time we met she said the beginning was great, she agreed with me that boys would be put off my a female protagonist and that having Perry's part first was a good idea just to grab their attention, and she said that this part:


'The whole class groaned as one and glared at Perry as he made his way back to his chair. The only person who didn't seem to mind was Gregory, who was still drawing eyes even though his pen had run out of ink.'

had good imagery and was very effective. However, this time she was confused by this part and told me to change it; and she wasn't too sure with beginning, she thought Perry was the main protagonist and then said having his part first was a bad idea. Huh?  

I left the meeting feeling lost. She didn't say whether the piece was working well, she didn't seem enthralled by the plot and it's almost like she doesn't care at all - just another student. But this is my dissertation and I really do care. She contradicts herself all the time and doesn't seem to understand anything I do. I liked her as a lecturer, even if she was a little ditzy, but she's useless as a supervisor. I have considered asking to change supervisor. Although my friend told me yesterday that someone else tried to change their supervisor and nothing happened for two weeks. That's a long time with no supervisor. And there's no guarantee that the new person will be any better. 

Creative Writing at the University of Winchester was ranked in the top 10 for satisfaction in the National Student Survey and I'm starting to wonder how. Don't get me wrong I love it here, it's just it's my third year and I feel that the lecturers are being disorganised and unhelpful. 

Maybe I'll feel a little better once I get some grades back and realise that I'm still doing a good job. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Another Gothic Book Cover

Just a quick post. This is another book cover design I did for my ECP. (Here are the other book covers I did) You can probably notice a theme happening. I think the first one I did is still my favourite though. What do you think?


I had my meeting with my ECP supervisor and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'll write a post about it later. So look forward to that. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Dissertation - Second Draft

I have another meeting with my ECP supervisor tomorrow. This time we will be discussing my Second Draft. I can't tell whether I am more nervous than last time or not. I feel proud but there's this sicky feeling in my stomach; I just know that I've made silly typos or written something completely wrong or edited it badly. Especially towards the end of this draft I start to lose focus and it goes a bit...well the only word I can use is: wibbly. Oh well. What's done is done and I'll find out what she thinks tomorrow. Eep!

It's 3,000 words longer than my First Draft, that means that I'm over halfway through my dissertation already and it's not due until the 11th of March next year. Boom! But it will still require tonnes of editing. Fun.

You'll probably want to read the draft before seeing what my supervisor has to say, so here it is (bearing in mind it is around 6,000 words long, but a good read!):

***

Perry could see the man again.
The man with no eyes, deadly sharp teeth, and red raw skin. The man that only he could see. Perry spotted him stood at the end of his road, as if he were a friend waiting to walk to school together. Perry hesitated before hurrying back to his house. As he closed the front door sharply behind him his mum called out from the kitchen.
   'Back already? Did you forget something?'
   'Yeah, my maths book,' he yelled back as he ran up to his room.
Perry didn't even bother telling her the truth.
He'd tried telling her before. But neither his mum nor dad believed him. They thought it was some imaginary friend, and his therapists thought it was a manifestation of a repressed childhood memory. Perry knew they were all wrong. One, fourteen was way too old for imaginary friends. Two, he’d had a perfectly happy childhood, what could he have repressed? This was definitely not something his mind had made up. He wasn't crazy.
He couldn't stay at home for too long, his mum would get suspicious. Leaning out his bedroom window he couldn't see anything down the street. With his insides knotting themselves, he made his way downstairs and out of the house. He opened the front door slowly, praying to anyone that the red-faced man would be gone. His mum heard him leaving and called out after him. ‘Bye dear, have fun at school.’
Perry left the door on the latch as he snuck to the edge of the garden and peered down the street. It was empty. The red-faced man was gone. He let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. He could still make it to school on time if he ran. Though he didn't know why he was in such a hurry to go to school. The red-faced man would probably be waiting for him there too.
*
Lenore sat in the headmaster's office. But for once she wasn't in trouble. She was the new kid. The secretary had said that Principle Brocklehurst would be with her shortly. She'd already been sat there for ten minutes. It was a typical headmaster's office, lots of books, even more certificates, and comfy chairs to make it 'inviting'. The most interesting thing in the office was an aerial photo of the school and the surrounding area. Manor House College was the smallest school Lenore had ever been to, and she’d been to a fair few. She got out of her comfy armchair and walked over to the wall to have a closer look. She spotted where she lived quickly. It had only been a couple of weeks since she'd moved to the village but she already hated it. It was such a dead end, nothing ever happened. She looked over the photograph once more. There was the Ebony Woods on the left and the Moors stretching across the top. And there, right on the edge of town, up a winding path and surrounded by trees was a large house. Lenore leant in to inspect it closer.
The door slammed open and Lenore leapt back from the photo. Principal Brocklehurst was a large man, whose shirt barely contained his bulging belly. His podgy face was flushed red and he stared down at Lenore with an annoyed look.
   'Why are you in my office?'
   'I'm the new girl, Lenore Scribe.'
Mr Brocklehurst's expression changed from annoyance to pleasure instantly, just like everyone's did once they heard her last name.
   'Miss Scribe, what a delight. You must excuse my tardiness, there was a problem with maintenance,' he said. But Lenore saw the large cookie and doughnut that he had hastily put in the top drawer of his desk. He settled down into his oversized chair and motioned for her to sit in one too. She took one last look at the photograph. The large house on the edge of town was no longer there. She let out a gasp.
   'Like it, do you?' Principal Brocklehurst asked. 'Taken a couple of years ago, got some coupons out of the paper.'
   'There was a house right there, but now it's gone.' Lenore jabbed at the photograph making it wobble. Principal Brocklehurst flinched.
   'Please refrain from knocking it, Miss Scribe. I would hate to have to charge your father for a new frame.' Even as he spoke Lenore saw the look of greed spread across his face. Lenore settled back into her chair, sure that the house had been there.
   'Now, Miss Scribe, the rules are simple here: Don't break them,' he said making himself laugh. Lenore gave a feeble smile. 'Being serious, don't make trouble and you won't get into trouble. Am I clear?' he asked giving her a stern look.
Lenore had seen that look on many headmasters’ faces. She didn't make trouble, the trouble found her. She nodded anyway.
   'Good. I don't think we'll be having any problems with you, Miss Scribe.' He smiled pleasantly. 'Off to class now. I have a lot of work to do,' he said but Lenore saw his eyes flicker towards his desk drawer filled with treats.
Lenore left the office and asked the secretary how to get to class. It was going to be a long day.
*
Perry was lucky for the rest of the morning and didn't see the man once. He started to feel relaxed; he was even able to work out the hardest math equation for once. It was during fourth period English class that everything went wrong.
He loved English class, even if his teacher, Ms Allen, was one of the strictest teachers he'd ever had at Manor House College. She sat at the front of the class seemingly engrossed in marking their Shakespeare essays from last week, but Perry knew she was paying attention to everything that was happening in the room. No one messed around in Ms Allen's classes. Though sitting next to Perry was Gregory, who wasn't doing his work at all. He was doodling what looked like lots of eyeballs in his text book. He would be in trouble if Ms Allen saw that. Perry fiddled with his pen before writing vigorously about the conventions of autobiography. He had written nearly two pages when the back of his neck started to prickle and his palms went clammy.
As if he was being forced, his head turned to the classroom window. Outside, stood in the middle of the rugby pitch, was the red-faced man. His skinless lips peeled apart, forming a sinister grin. He lifted his arm and pointed his red, scabbed hand at Perry as if he could see straight into the classroom to where he was sat.
Perry couldn't help it. He yelped, jumped out of his chair, ran across the room and yanked down the blind. Ms Allen's head snapped up from her desk. Her eyes narrowed behind her thick glasses. Perry had sagged against the wall in relief but his body tensed again as he faced the class. Every eye was on him. One of the boys at the back of the class sniggered under his breath.
   'Typical paranoid Perry behaviour.’ He nudged his friend who fought to contain his silent laughter. Perry could feel the whole class whispering about him, calling him names behind his back. ‘Paranoid Perry! Paranoid Perry!’ they would yell at him at lunchtime. Someone let out the smallest of giggles.
   'That is enough!' Ms Allen screeched. The class came to attention immediately but Perry noticed that some of the kids had tears in their eyes from holding in their laughter. Perry faced Ms Allen, not sure who was more terrifying; her or the red-faced man.
   'What is the meaning of this, Mr Prince?'
There was a long pause before Perry blurted out. 'The sun was in my eyes.'
Ms Allen surveyed him over the top of her glasses. The sun was clearly not in his eyes as he was on the far side of the classroom. His hands twitched nervously so he shoved them in his trouser pockets.
   'Very well. I understand,' she said at last and Perry's hopes rose. 'But everyone will stay behind for ten minutes to make up for all the time you wasted with your elaborate display.' The whole class groaned as one and glared at Perry as he made his way back to his chair. The only person who didn't seem to mind was Gregory, who was still drawing eyes even though his pen had run out of ink.
*
Lenore had struggled through the morning with the curse of being a new kid. She could tell that people were constantly talking about her. The students were judging her by her looks and the teachers were judging her by her name. She could hear their tone of voice change from bored to impressed as soon as they read out her name on the register. When the bell rang for lunch all Lenore wanted to do was go home.  She had thought about simply eating her lunch in the toilets, where she wouldn’t be disturbed, but she knew she had to be strong at school.
She entered the dining hall and was bombarded by the sound of hundreds of students talking.  She quickly scanned the room. The whole of the school’s population was crowded under one roof, including the staff. She had no idea where to sit. Each table was already packed with big groups of students. There were big, beefy boys in sports gear jostling each other. There were groups of kids with their text books out doing extra science and maths equations. And a group of girls crowded together but all on their phones, totally ignoring each other.  Lenore didn’t think she would fit in with any of them. In the far corner she spotted a single empty table. A safe haven. She was about to hurry over when a hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. Lenore looked at the dainty hand that clung to her with a death grip, the painted nails digging into her skin. She switched her gaze to the owner of the hand. Blond hair, perfect make-up, and a smile that was more predatory than it was friendly. 
   ‘Hey, I’m Cathy and you’re the new girl right, Eleanor, is it?’ The girl’s smile gleamed brightly.
   ‘Lenore actually.’
   ‘Right, right. So, my girls and I were thinking you could sit with us. You look pretty lonely.’ Cathy widened her highly mascaraed eyes sympathetically.
Lenore looked to the two other girls. They both smiled and nodded. Cathy’s grasp on her wrist tightened.
   ‘Thanks, that would be great,’
Cathy’s grip loosened and Lenore pulled herself free. Little half-moon shapes were etched into her wrist. She set her bag down on the floor and pulled out her lunch, very aware that all three girls were watching her intently.
   ‘Sorry, what were your names again?’ Lenore asked.
   ‘She’s Jay,’ Cathy said pointing to the girl with long curly black hair. ‘And she’s Liz,’ she said as the girl with dead straight mousey brown hair wiggled her fingers in greeting.
   ‘Can’t they talk or something?’
   ‘Of course they can, silly,’ Cathy said, once again speaking for them. ‘So Eleanor-’
   ‘Lenore.’
   ‘Right, right. Lenore, whatever. What’s your story?’
   ‘My story?’
Lenore’s tummy twisted. How could they know about that?
   ‘Yeah, you know, where’d you live? What do your parents do? Any hot older siblings?’ At this all three girls burst into giggles. Lenore sagged in relief, they didn’t know after all.
   ‘I live up near the woods, Fay Grove.’
Cathy let out a gasp.
   ‘Fay Grove? Wow, you must be minted.’
   ‘I guess.’
   ‘If you’re so rich, why are you wearing that?’ Jay finally spoke.
Lenore looked down at her old torn at the knee jeans and the Stones t-shirt that used to belong to her mum. She was about to ask what was wrong with her outfit when she saw something that made her heart plummet.
A man stood by the dining hall doors. Not a student or a teacher. He was something from a nightmare. Lenore’s stomach convulsed and she thought she was going to vomit. The man’s lips were torn back to reveal deadly sharp teeth. The flesh on his face had peeled away leaving only twisted holes instead of nostrils and raw slices of bloody muscle. And even though his sockets were empty black pits Lenore knew he was looking straight in her direction. The worst was the colour of his skin. It was a red, like freshly spilt blood.
Lenore turned from the man desperate to forget what she’d seen. Cathy, Jay, and Liz were all watching her, waiting for her to defend her choice of clothing. She wasn’t surprised that they couldn’t see this horrific man, no one ever could.
   ‘Hey, are you all right, you’ve gone super pale?’ Cathy asked.
Lenore couldn’t help it; she took a deep breath and looked back to the dining hall doors. The man was gone.
   ‘Sorry, I gotta go.’ She leapt from the table, ignoring the three girls’ cries of surprise.
*
By the time Perry and his classmates were let out of class most of the other students were already in the dining hall. The rest of his class hurried off eager to meet their friends. Perry headed in the opposite direction. He never ate in the dining hall; he had no one to sit with. Instead he found an empty classroom and hoped that any teachers that found him would have enough mercy to let him stay. Today he chose a classroom that was as far away from the rugby field as possible. He ended up in the Geography department and found comfort in the maps that covered the walls. The world was so big that surely he couldn't be the only person that could see scary things for no reason. Right?
He settled into a chair and pulled out his lunch. Tuna sandwiches on brown bread as usual. He had only taken one bite when he heard footsteps echoing down the corridor. Busted already. He waited for a teacher to burst in and tell him to get out and 'play with his friends'. The footsteps got louder and louder, faster and faster, then flew right past the classroom. Surprised, Perry put down his sandwich and crept towards the door. He opened it carefully and winced at its loud creaking. He left it a few seconds before he dared to look down the corridor. His stomach flipped at what he saw.
At the end of the corridor, closer than Perry had ever seen him before, was the red-faced man. The bite of tuna sandwich that Perry had eaten threatened to come back up again. His mouth was still stretched into the lipless grin with more sharp teeth than any normal human should possess. His black sockets were directed at a girl Perry had never seen before.
She was unlike any of the other girls at school. She was wearing a pair of scruffy jeans, an old band t-shirt, and her dark hair was tied into a messy ponytail. She stood only a couple of feet away from Perry, staring hard at the red-faced man. Perry's heart stopped.
Someone else could see him.
Perry jumped as the girl spoke.
   ‘What are you?' Her voice was loud and strong. If Perry had ever spoken to the red-faced man it would have come out in a squeak.
The red-faced man didn't reply, which only seemed to make the strange girl angrier.
   'I said what are you?'
To Perry’s shock, the red-faced man glanced at him, his empty sockets boring into him. His grin lengthened further across his face, revealing even more sharpened teeth. He turned back towards the girl and Perry instantly knew something was wrong. He took no chances. He raced down the corridor and barrelled into the girl. They both went crashing into an empty classroom just as the red-faced man thundered past. Before he could turn around, Perry slammed the door and began pushing tables and chairs in front of it. He was just about to add another chair to the pile when the girl yelled at him.
   'What the hell, man!' she exploded.
Perry took a couple of steps back, afraid she was going to hit him.
   'Sorry,' he muttered. 'It's just that, well, you were in danger.' Even he knew that sounded lame. He resisted the urge to hang his head. He wanted at least one person in this school to take him seriously. To his surprise the girl didn't laugh.
   'Wait, danger. You saw that man too?'
Perry's brain did a double take. Millions of thoughts flooded his mind and he tried to say them all at once resulting in a single word that sounded like 'blerugha'.
   'Calm down,' the girl said. 'I'm Lenore.'
   ‘A new girl?'
   ‘Yeah, and you are?'
   'Perry. Perry Prince.' He held out his hand then smoothed back his curly hair instead. Luckily, she didn’t seem to notice.
   'Perry, cool.' Lenore was silent for a while, like she was trying to work out what was going on. Perry was finding everything just as weird.
   'So you can see that red-faced man, too.'
   'Yeah, every day for the past month.'
   'A month? And he follows you around like this?'
Perry shuffled uncomfortably, unsure whether this girl Lenore was making fun of him or not.
   'Well, I used to just seem him standing around; I’ve never seen him move like that before.’
Now he really expected Lenore to burst out laughing. Call him Paranoid Perry, just like everyone else. Instead she simply nodded.
   'And that's why you rugby tackled me in here because you thought he was coming for me?'
Perry nodded and smiled sheepishly, still expecting her to be mad. Instead she was moved the table and chairs away from the door, which was much worse.
   'Hey, what are you doing? He could still be out there!'
   'We have to go out some time,' she said simply as she reached for the door handle.
   'And what are you going to do once you're out there? Just stare him away?' Perry asked in a sudden burst of confidence.
   'I guess we'll find out.'
The door swung open and Lenore stepped out into the corridor. Perry held his breath. Nothing happened. He stepped out next to her. The corridor was completely empty. Just then the bell rang and hundreds of students flooded the corridors. The red-faced man was nowhere to be seen.
*
Lenore couldn’t believe it. It had followed her here, of all places. She should have realised something was strange about this place as soon as that house disappeared from the photograph. She walked side by side with Perry. He had offered to walk her home as her Dad was too busy to pick her up and she still didn’t know her way around yet.
   ‘So, Perry, lived here long –’
   ‘I don't know why I see him,’ he cried out suddenly. Lenore jumped at how loud his voice was. He realised this continued on quietly. ‘One therapist said it was a manifestation of a repressed memory, but I haven't had any bad experiences. My life's been pretty normal up until now.’
   'If it was repressed you wouldn't remember it,' Lenore said, in an attempt to be helpful. A worried frown creased his face instead. Lenore wanted to slap herself. 'What I mean is it's not a manifestation of a repressed memory, I can see it too, remember?'
   'Oh yeah, obviously.'
Lenore laughed at Perry's relieved expression.
   'I guess you've seen plenty of therapists then.'
   'Yeah and Doctors, and councillors, and hypnotherapists and exorcists. My parents want to help but they're not very good. I think they've given up now.'
   'At least your parents want to help,' Lenore said darkly. She noticed Perry's questioning expression and quickly changed the subject.
   'So what table do you sit at?'
   'Excuse me?'
   ‘At lunch, where do you sit? I don't see you sitting with the rugby players.'
   'God no,' Perry laughed. 'I don't really sit anywhere; I find an empty class room instead.'
His cheeks flushed. Lenore didn't blame him; she'd been close to running off and eating lunch on her own, too.
   'Well, hey, we can eat lunch together now. I saw an empty table at lunch time. We can form our own group.'
   'You'll be a social pariah if you hang out with me. It will be Paranoid Perry and Loony Lenore before you know it.'
Lenore thought back to Cathy and her two cronies. 'That's fine with me.'
He held out his hand and she looked at it oddly. His face flushed again.
   'Shake on it.'
Lenore took his hand in hers and gave it a firm shake. At least if she got into trouble this time she wouldn’t be on her own.
*
Greg Sullivan had never liked his granddad. Although he would never admit it to anyone. Every time his mum told him that his granddad would be visiting he felt the dread settle in his stomach. His granddad wasn't like ordinary granddads. He never told funny stories, or gave him money, or even commented on how big he was getting. He would simply arrive, sit down in the red armchair, and order Greg's mum around. Even when she tried to talk to him all he would do was grunt. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was his eye. He had been blind in one eye ever since Greg could remember. No one had ever explained why he was blind and Greg never dared to ask. It was a taboo subject in their house.
So when Greg's mum said that his granddad would be staying for an entire week Greg seriously considered running away. Same as usual his granddad collapsed into the red armchair and ordered Greg's mum to get him a tea: no milk, no sugar. Greg sat on the sofa on the other side of the room watching his granddad and thinking of the blank eye; how did he get it? And why did nobody want to talk about it? His granddad sharply looked at him, as if he knew exactly what he was thinking. Greg immediately stared back at the TV.
   ‘What you looking at, boy?’
   ‘Nothing, Sir,’ Greg mumbled.
His granddad grunted in reply. Greg didn’t stick around long after that, he ran upstairs to his room and shut the door with a snap. If only he had a lock too.
The eye plagued his mind more than usual. That night while he slept on the sofa - his granddad always got his room, another reason to hate his visits - his thoughts kept returning to the eye. So white and milky, like a full moon in a cloudless sky, or a greedy vulture stalking it’s pray. When he closed his eyes he could still see the eyeball. It watched him in his dreams.
Even at school he could see it. It was the circle equation during maths, the petri dish during science, and the football during lunchtime. His mind would wander during class and when he finally snapped back to reality he found eyeballs staring at him from his notebooks. He had covered every page in drawings of eyeballs. His chemistry teacher Mr Waldman had written a note in his dangerous red pen saying ‘See me after class. We need to talk about this’. Greg had legged it from class as soon as the bell rang. He even ignored Mr Waldman calling after him. He knew he’d be in big trouble the next day.
When he arrived home he was relieved to think that in twenty-four hours his granddad would be gone. No more staring vulture eye. Then he walked into the living room and saw his granddad sat in the same red armchair, the relief vanished and anger seared through his veins instead. Surprised at his rage, Greg ran upstairs to his room. At dinner he avoided looking at his granddad but he could still feel the eye upon him and the throbbing rage in his head grew.
Greg hid in his room until it was time for bed, then he slunk down the stairs without a glimpse at his granddad. He tossed and turned on the sofa for hours but the feeling that he was being watched never left him. The eye, it was there. Through ceilings and walls it could see him. Greg didn't know what came over him; all he knew was that he had to stop the eye from staring. He crept to the kitchen and picked the largest knife from his mum’s knife rack. It would be quick, and then it would be gone.
He took the stairs two at a time, careful of the creaky one. The door was ajar and Greg was sure that the eye knew he was just outside. With the knife thrust out in front of him, Greg pushed the door aside slowly and entered the room. His granddad was asleep and yet the eye was still open, Greg could see it gleaming in the darkness. He was pulled towards it. He raised the knife up high above his head, the sharp tip pointing directly at the offensive eyeball. Greg plunged the knife downwards into the socket just as his granddad's other eye popped open.
*
Lenore met Perry at the end of Haworth Road to walk with him to school. Her dad had already gone to work before she’d even woken up. He didn’t get back from work until she had gone to bed. She hadn’t got a chance to tell him how her first day of school went. Somehow she knew that he wouldn’t care anyway; just as long as she wasn’t kicked out again.
They arrived at school and went their separate ways. Perry’s first lesson was History on the other side of school while Lenore had Geography. Walking down the corridor, Lenore couldn’t help looking over shoulder. This was the place she had seen the red-faced man last, could he still be here?
Lenore hurried to her classroom and chose a chair right in the middle of the room. The rest of the students were all busy talking excitedly amongst themselves. With no one to talk to, Lenore settled into her chair and eavesdropped on the other student’s conversations.
   ‘Yeah, in the eye.’
   ‘With a knife?’
   ‘I heard an axe.’
   ‘No way.’
   ‘Yeah way.’
 Miss Scatcherd entered and told them to quieten down yet the gossiping continued.
   ‘Excuse me,’ she bellowed. ‘I said be quiet. Now, Geography books out please and no more talking.’
Lenore shook herself, whatever they were talking about sounded ridiculous. How could you hit someone in the eye with an axe? However similar conversations took place throughout the day. Every time Lenore tried to join in the group of kids would give her a strange look and walk away. The curse of being a new kid still clung to her.
At lunchtime, on their newly claimed table, Lenore asked Perry what everyone was talking about.
   ‘It’s pretty grim,’ he said nervously, picking at his tuna sandwiches. ‘A kid, Greg, killed his granddad last night. And to think, I sat next to him in English class.’
   ‘A fourteen year old kid killed his own granddad, why?’ Lenore’s stomach turned; the axe? Surely not. ‘How did he do it? Was it with an axe?’
   ‘I heard some of the teachers talking about it earlier. Apparently he stabbed him repeatedly in the face and gouged out his eye.’ Perry put his hands over his eyes as if to protect them. ‘And I think it’s bad when I get soap in my eyes.’
Lenore smiled and instantly felt bad. A kid had killed someone, this wasn’t a laughing matter.
   ‘Did you know Greg; did he seem like the murdering type?’
   ‘Not really, but what fourteen year old seems like the murdering type?’
   ‘Yeah, I guess. It just seems like a weird thing to happen.’ Lenore looked around the noisy dining hall. ‘Do you suppose it has anything to do with the red-faced man?’
Perry visibly paled.
   ‘Oh, I really hope not.’
They continued to eat their lunch but Lenore didn’t feel hungry anymore. She stuffed her sandwiches in her bag and gazed across the room. Cathy and her cronies laughed over a copy of Hello as if a kid hadn’t gone crazy and killed his granddad. She scowled at them although she was secretly glad they hadn’t tried talking to her again. They must have seen her with Perry and thought she was ‘Loony Lenore’. It was while she was staring across the hall that she suddenly noticed a man sat at the table with the rugby guys. Not the red-faced man. He still stuck out like a sore thumb though. He was pale and skinny with dark brooding features. His outfit looked like something straight from the Victorian era, complete with cravat. And he was staring straight at her. She let out a gasp and grabbed Perry’s arm.
   ‘Do you see that?’
   ‘See what?’ he asked through a mouthful of sandwich.
   ‘That man sat on the rugby table. Next to…what’s his name?’
   ‘Wayne?’
   ‘Yeah!’
   ‘There’s no one there, Lenore,’ he said. Then noticing her terrified expression added, ‘Sorry.’
Lenore knew that Perry really was sorry. He understood what it felt like to see something that no one else could see. Yet Lenore was sure she wasn’t being loony. She looked back at the table but the man was gone, with the rugby team pushing each other around, totally oblivious.
*
Perry thought Lenore was being particularly quiet on their way back from school. They walked together until the crossroads then he would start his trek up the hill to his house. Perry was slightly jealous of Lenore’s house on Fay Grove. Everyone knew that’s where the rich families lived. Though Lenore didn’t act stuck up like the rest of the rich kids did, and Perry liked that.
That day, though, Lenore barely said a word. Perry tried to keep talking but he quickly ran out of things to say. He understood that Lenore was still worried about the strange man she had seen, not to mention Greg the Granddad Gouger, which was what kids were already calling him. He wanted to tell her not to worry even though he knew that was very hypocritical. He was just glad he hadn’t seen the red-faced man today.
Perry felt that if he left Lenore long enough she would eventually talk. And he was right. He was about to say good bye and start his trudge up the steep incline of Northanger Road when she turned to him.
   ‘That man, do you suppose he had anything to do with Greg?’
   ‘The red-faced man?’
   ‘No, the new one. The one that only I can see.’
   ‘What do you mean? Like he could see him too?’
   ‘Maybe, it’s just freaky you know.’ Lenore shrugged her shoulders helplessly.
Perry attempted a reassuring smile. He was sure that it came off as more pained.
   ‘It will be fine?’ he offered uselessly. Lenore managed a tiny smile before waving goodbye and slopping off down the street. Perry watched after her until she turned the corner and was gone.
*
Wayne Egaeus had a niggling feeling. It had been growing in him for the past week. A cross between thinking he had forgotten something and being mad at someone. Wayne knew what it felt like to be mad at someone. The doctors his step-dad had sent him to had told him that he had ‘anger issues’ and that he should channel his ‘unhealthy rage’ into sports. Now he was the best full-back on the school’s rugby team. He’d been okay since then. No outbursts, no fights, nothing. He’d even got himself a girlfriend. One of the hottest girls in Manor House College. He could tell the rest of the team were jealous. She had gorgeous green eyes, a deep glowing tan, and a fantastic figure. Wayne knew he wasn’t the best looking guy, one of the reasons for his rage, but with Berenice on his arm he felt like a god. Yet this niggling feeling kept reminding him something was wrong. It was two days since that kid had freaked out and killed his granddad and Wayne was getting sick of everyone talking about it. He found he was getting sick of everything, even rugby. He had argued with his teammates, snapped at the coach, and even aimed a kick at a black cat that had crossed his path that morning. He knew seeing Berenice would make it better.
That Thursday evening he met up with Berenice in their usual spot, on the edge of Ebony Woods. Her parents didn’t like Wayne much; they thought he was a thug, so they always met up in secret. Most people found the woods eerie. Wayne thought it was dirty; place for kids to smoke and drink but Berenice insisted it was romantic.
She was already sat there on a fallen tree waiting for him when he arrived. She smiled up at him. Wayne loved that smile. She had the whitest teeth he had ever seen. And they were perfectly straight, too. They were like tiny pearls nestled in a luscious mouth. Wayne bent down to kiss that mouth. If he really did have anger issues then Berenice was his balm. Well, she usually was. Even after kissing her the niggling feeling didn’t go. He collapsed onto the tree next to her.
   ‘What’s up, hun?’ she asked giving his bicep a squeeze.
Wayne grunted in reply and snatched his arm away. Instantly Berenice’s eyes filled with tears. Even in his mood he couldn’t ignore her tears.
   ‘I’m sorry, babe. Just got a lot on my mind.’
   ‘You’re not the only one,’ she snapped.
Wayne sunk to the ground in front of her not minding that he’s jeans would be covered in mud. He took her hands in his.
   ‘What’s wrong?’
   ‘My parents. They’ve just told me we’re moving.’
Wayne felt like he’d been tackled by the biggest rugby player in the world.
   ‘Nah, Babe. You can’t leave me. You wouldn’t.’
   ‘I’m sorry but we’re leaving next weekend. At least we have until then.’ She looked up at him with her large green eyes, tears sparkling in her lashes.
   ‘And then what will I do without you? Without your smile?’
Berenice gave him a teary smile.
   ‘I’ll leave you a photo. And I’ll call you every night.’
Wayne felt something in his head snap. The niggling feeling had finally come to something. She couldn’t leave. She couldn’t take her beautiful smile away from him. He wouldn’t let her. What would he do about his anger issues? Berenice seemed to sense something was wrong. She started to get off the fallen tree and back away but not fast enough. Wayne leapt to his feet. He used all his weight as he slammed into her, forcing her to the ground. She kicked and struggled beneath him.
   ‘You can go, Berenice,’ he said through gritted teeth. ‘As long as you leave your smile.’
Berenice didn’t even have the chance to scream.
*
Perry didn’t know what he was going to do. He heard the teachers talking again while he’d been hiding from a group of kids screaming ‘Paranoid Perry’ at him. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop but their sombre tones had attracted his attention.
   ‘Two accidents in one week.’
   ‘And they’re sure it was the Wayne boy?’
   ‘He confessed. He was completely devastated though, out of his mind just like the other boy.’
   ‘Probably drugs then.’
All the teachers agreed but Perry suspected it was something much worse than drugs.
He’d been cautious around Lenore, he knew she was still worried about the man she had seen but in the past couple of days she seemed to be getting over it. He knew he had to tell her though. She was bound to find out anyway, the way gossip flew around the school.
When Lenore sat down at their table Perry looked away. He couldn’t do it. He knew he had to but he didn’t want to upset her.
   ‘Lenore,’ he started in a shaky voice.
   ‘Yeah, I already know. I heard one of the rugby players, Joe, crying earlier about it. Said he’d break by nose if I told anyone, didn’t care if I was a girl. Great person.’
Lenore sounded better than he thought she would. The tension seeped from his body.
   ‘You know what this means though?’ she added in such a serious tone that all the tension flooded back.
   ‘Rugby players have no morals?’ He laughed pathetically. Lenore carried on as if he hadn’t said anything.
   ‘I was right, that man has got something to do with it. And we have to find out what.’
Perry’s stomach dropped. How did he know that she was going to say something like that?

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