Melissa skin care Idris scratching art into desk Idris creep promise More early promise Rain scene, water flowing into drains. Cigarette or something else flows down there too Cassie nervous in class due to something said by an ancestor figure e.g. mother or grandmother Cassie motivation: to make friends, to figure out what is going on with Idris
Scene 1: Newspaper reading
Cassie counted the number of other students who would read aloud a section of the newspaper before her, and began rehearsing what would be her section. This was her second General Studies class since moving to the new school, and she wanted to avoid a repeat of the first time, when her hammering heart and trembling jaw conspired to make it impossible to get the words out. Cassie felt self-conscious when walking down the corridors between classes, and the attention drawn to her by reading aloud to her new classmates was more than she could bear. She would be second to last to read aloud, which gave her the second longest possible stretch of anxious waiting.
The newspaper print bled slightly into the porous paper, but the section that chance had assigned for Cassie was readable enough. Most importantly, there were no words whose pronunciation she was unsure of. The section was a reminder at the end of a report about geological research going on near the Bolton Strid, a stretch of water not far from the school.
The council would like to remind visitors not to go near the Strid, as the current is strong and the channel is deep. There have been no incidents at the Strid for some time and we would like to keep it that way.
Idris, the boy sitting to Cassie’s right, was the last to read. He was intent on applying ink to a scratched design in the wooden desk in front of him. The graffiti was formed of a central figure surrounded by beams of short lines fanning out from it in a semi circle.
“Did you do this?” the teacher asked Idris, pointing at the markings on the desk.
“No, Sir,” Idris looked down at the desk as he answered.
The teacher tested the graffiti with the tip of his finger, smudging the blue ink around.
“But this is fresh ink,” the teacher said, “If it wasn’t you then how do you suppose it got there?”
Idris remained silent.
The teacher turned to Cassie.
“Cassie, can you shed any light on this?” said the teacher.
Cassie barely knew anyone at the new school. She knew Idris the most, and yet barely at all. He had been the only person who would sit next to her in class.
Cassie met the teacher’s stern gaze. She decided to try and save Idris.
“No, I think that’s been there for a long time,” she said.
She would figure Idris out.
Rain tapped out an urgent rhythm on the windows, trying to gain the attention of those inside.
Scene 2: Smoking under the rain cover
At the lunch break, the students streamed outside and huddled together around the edges of the school yard wherever there was shelter from the rain. Cassie stood near the largest group under a tatty awning.
She knew no-one and it felt natural to stand with her back to the wall, surveying the scene as if she might be waiting for someone to arrive and justify her presence there, but also trying to avoid accidental eye contact that could make her look desperate.
During her first couple of days at the school, Cassie been introduced to her form, various classes and students, but remembered next to none of the inundation of names, which had merged together into a useless collection of possibilities when she needed to recall an individual.
A few students took out tired-looking cigarettes from inside the pockets of their jackets and passed around a plastic lighter. They glanced furtively out across the school yard for prowling authority figures, but the rain had created a safe haven for them to smoke without consequence. From previous observations, Cassie guessed the smokers were good for three cigarettes during the break, finished in short, rapid drags. She imagined joining the smokers and casually asking for a cigarette, or even better producing her own along with a Zippo lighter which she would operate with a neat flick.
The boy who had read last after Cassie in the General Studies class moved between huddles of students, staying with each just long enough for a few nods and smiles before heading to another. Cassie was fascinated by his apparent ability to grace any group with his presence as long as he wanted, then engage with someone else, and to do so with a natural manner and no concern for how it might look.
“Are you the new girl?” said a girl who approached in the middle of a trio.
She was slightly shorter than Cassie but her posture was so upright and her back so arched that her presence loomed over Cassie anyway. Her tag-alongs looked Cassie up and down, lingering on her ill-fitting uniform.
“I like how you’ve done your hair,” said the girl, scanning upwards from Cassie’s face. “It’s very pretty. How long did it take?”
Cassie had not done anything in particular with her hair other than brush it.
“Oh right, thanks,” Cassie said and swallowed.
Unsure of what to say next, Cassie extended her hand for a handshake.
“I’m Cassie,” she said.
A brief smirk played across the girl’s lips. She took Cassie’s hand in a weak grip, far from her palm, like she was carrying something to be thrown away.
“It is very nice to meet you, Cassie,” the girl enunciated with a forced formality. “My name is Melissa.”
Melissa’s associates chortled and exchanged glances.
Behind Melissa, the boy who had read last approached and joined their new huddle by the wall. Melissa and her friends watched his arrival but did not otherwise acknowledge his presence. He had a broad nose that was slightly flat, and a deep brow that seemed to be permanently stuck in deep thought, relaxing only a little even with his frequent smile.
His name was Idris.
“I think you might be able to help me with something,”
“You know everyone is going to head to the Strid on Friday? There’s often a gathering there.”
Scene 3: The Gathering
Cassie and Idris walked through the woods together, attracting glances from other groups of students making their way to the Strid for the promised gathering.
Scene 4: Kiss; jump
The contact of his lips on hers was electric, a current that flowed through her face and down into her chest.
“Cassie, don’t!” a voice, maybe Melissa’s, shouted.
Idris stretched his hand out a little further.
“Take it,” he said as he smile became slightly fixed and his gaze hardened a little.
Like the optical illusion that shifts from two faces looking at each other to a vase with many cavities, Cassie gauged the step across to the stone as easy, then too far, then within reach again. Without further deliberation she reached for Idris’ hand and raised her foot to step across.
Idris clasped her hand firmly in his and balanced her weight as she extended her leg over the Strid. It was easy. But each moment she expected to feel the firm stone supporting her foot, it seemed to drift just out of reach. Her stomach began to tingle and tighten as ancient instincts identified an impending fall. Cassie raised looked up from the stone to Idris, who stared back into her face with a calm conviction. She felt the clutch of cold water take her foot, and then they were in the water.
Scene 5: Newspaper reading
The teacher noticed Cassie’s hunched presence in the corner and cleared his throat.
“Let’s not read that piece today,” he said. “We’ll read the next one over the page.”
Despite this, there was no stopping the students who were for once engrossed in the newspaper.
The body, unexpectedly preserved over time in the conditions of the cave, belonged to a young man, whom the archaeological team believe either fell into the cavity accidentally, or was pushed in as a sacrifice or as a punishment. It appears that his leg became trapped and he was then stuck there without rescue until the present day.
Cassie regretted coming back to school, but her need for answers got the better of her, and she scanned the piece for the one thing she wanted to know.
The archaeologists have dated both the body and the cave art around it to around three thousand years ago, in the late Iron Age. It is an unprecedented find in the area.
She thought again of the young man, still alive but trapped, looking up at the fading light and wondering who would ever find him there as the first minutes became hours, and the sun and moon changed places in their indifferent routine above the surface.
We’ve found you now, thought Cassie, we’ve got you now.