Short Story: The Beginning (part 1)

This is a story I wrote back in 1992... I dug it out recently, and I'm putting it up here for your (and my) amusement. The writing is a lot more immature and stilted than I'd use today.

Navigation: Forward to Part 2

All in all I had a very sheltered childhood. It was a time of naivety and innocence. I had two loving parents; Maria and Jubal Cherryh, who doted on me in every way, showing great strength in times of need and a fortitude that many families today do not have. Strong were the roots of their relationships, and strong was their love in one another. My father had a very just manner, pushing me into debates to decide the morality of situations and circumstances, showing great patience when I faltered, and great passion in his beliefs.

My mother was a very caring woman, whom I love dearly still, even now she and my father are gone. Steadfast with her husband, and able to show me the kinder sides of life without any of my father's cynicism.

Through my youth we traveled, moving from country to country. I was born in England, moving from there to Africa for four years, and then to Australia for another two. From the outback of Australia we moved to the fjords of Denmark, and finally we resettled in England when I was eleven, in the flat, beautiful countryside of Cambridge.

My secondary school in Cambridge was St. Brides Boy's school, where I excelled. Always questioning, I had a hunger for knowledge, studying far afield from the beaten track of the syllabuses set out for us. My school life was relatively peaceful - I have nothing but fond memories of that time. One incident, however, is pertinent.

It was the beginning of my fifth year at St. Brides, when a boy who'd been expelled from his old school joined us. His first few weeks were quiet, and then his true colours began to show through. Slowly, he began to cause trouble, picking on the younger boys at first, as they were able to put up less of a resistance, moving up through the years as older boys challenged him. I was unaware of him at first, keeping myself to my own group of friends; I was uninterested by the playground politics of the school, preferring to find other past-times to while away the break times. However, one day I was walking through the yard when I saw him beating up a first year boy. This enraged me - all that my father had taught me through the years about justice went against this act. I walked over to him and tapped him on the shoulder as he was drawing back his arm to lay another punch into the prone child. He dropped the first year and turned around in surprise and anger - who had dared to interrupt him whilst he was... having his own perverse sort of pleasure? I said to him, "Don't you think he's a little too small for you?"

He didn't reply, instead he swung his fist wildly in my direction. I dodged the blow. One of the now forming crowd of onlookers giggled at the sight of the failed attempt to hit me, angering the bully even more.

"It'd be healthier if you kept out of my business", he snarled, turning and attempting another blow. I was not so lucky this time - his fist glanced off my shoulder. With the sharp pain, doubt entered my mind - maybe this wasn't a good thing to enter into after all - and I readied to bolt. Alas, the now thick circle of people around us prevented this route of escape. I decided to try and talk again.

"Why do you think it'd good to pick on people?" I queried. "Do you get some kind of pleasure out of it?"

Whilst I was talking, he had swung again, striking my damaged shoulder once more. Again I looked around, trying to find a way to run, some way to break out of the crowd around us to lick my wounds and possibly save my skin, but there was no way out. The crowd around was just too thick.

"Or is it that you're so used to using your fists to get what you want that you're afraid to try and work for it instead?"

This stopped him. A glimmer of doubt entered his until then set eyes. He deflated slightly, no longer swinging for me. Indecision seemed to light his face, and then he spoke.

"You'll keep, for now. But I'd watch my back if I were you. You might not see me come for you if you don't."

With that, he pushed his way out of the circle, shoving people out of the way. The crowd around me cheered my name, patting me on the back (some nudging my damaged shoulder, but not out of malice - they could not know the pain it was giving me). The bully had lost face, whilst I had gained the respect of my fellow pupils.

As I walked home from a friend's place that night, I felt a warm glow (not merely that of the slow healing going on in my shoulder, though). Turning the corner of the road towards my house, I saw a dark shape standing in the shadows cast by the streetlight. My pace quickened, eager to safely return home. I fumbled for the door key, dropping it. I stooped down to pick it up, and when I stood back up and looked around, the shape in the darkness had gone.

End of part 1.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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