When I was twelve years old my grade six class went on a camping trip to the Coromandel, a rugged peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island. Three teachers came to supervise the boys-only class. After a two-hour bus trip we pitched our tents at a campsite off a dirt road, thirty minutes from the small mining town of Thames. The site was surrounded by bush and mountain ranges, one mountain caught everyone’s eye, it had a long flat top, a teacher, Mr Larson, informed us it was aptly named Tabletop Mountain.
The clouds were moving. If Harvey closed one eye, he could see them as they drifted above him. He didn’t know when dental offices began putting relaxing pictures in their light fixtures, but he was damned grateful for it. It could have been the numbing stuff they jammed into his gums or that he had been in this chair for an hour and was starting to hallucinate, but those clouds were definitely moving.
Her name was Aika and Christian had been obsessed with her the moment she transferred to Willowbrook High. In the first week, he managed to hear every hint and rumour there was to know: her second name was Hisama, people were sure she’d moved straight from Japan, and she hadn’t spoken a word to anyone. In the beginning, students thought maybe Aika wasn’t great with English, but those looking to cheat in class saw she wrote fluently. In fact, she appeared to be some form of prodigy, always having the correct answers. During lunch hours Aika spent her time in the library with her head ducked down over a Japanese language novel, and she made a point of being in the classroom before anybody else. Her physical appearance only served to magnify these oddities; her skin was pale, and her long hair hung down to her waist. Kids took to calling her Samara like the girl from that creepy horror film, The Ring. Except never to her face. Strangely, in a school notorious for its bullies, Aika maintained a wall around herself.
He looked out into the grounds and couldn’t understand the blackness. He thought that it was dead leaves. There had been a storm throughout the night which had unsettled. The dreams had frightened. He became anxious again as he tried to recall. They teased him, they were there hovering near to the edge of his consciousness, without form…disturbing. The Priest gave up and went into his bathroom to shave. The tremor in his hand changed his mind. He rinsed his face and tried to pray, the familiar words, spoken every morning since he entered the Diocese sixty years back were alien to him. They choked him and he felt a tear run down his cheek. It occurred to the old man that maybe he was having a stroke.
“Dear Lord Jesus – please take care of my mom. Please welcome my papa into heaven, Lord. He was a good man and you’ll see that when you talk to him. Everyone knows it. My mom’s good, too, so please watch over her. She says she doesn’t believe in you – but I do – and I know that she does in her heart. She knows how much you love all of your children and I don’t want to die. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.”
The fight starts in the kitchen between a couple of chefs, which means it could be about any number of things (drugs, booze, girls, hours, pay), but because Terry and Sean are a pair of obnoxious, stupid assholes, it’s about some soup. Terry thinks the bisque could use some paprika, but Sean fucking hates paprika.
That’s it. That’s all it takes to set them off.
It was after the toilet scrubber was delivered that she saw them. It was dark, save for the security lights, and Paula rarely went out at night to collect her online shopping deliveries. But she’d been trying to find space for the cat tree, the Christmas ornaments, the sea salt, and the egg beaters. And the attempted organization of her innumerable Internet purchases had left her so exhausted that she’d simply collapsed and fallen asleep for hours. She’d considered waiting until the next day to open the front door and grab the package, but she’d seen a TV special on no-gooders who stole deliveries right from doorsteps, and she did not want to risk that the scrubber wouldn’t be there in the morning.