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This story is made of two sections and its epilogue can be read here.


Part One[]

Marty Dawkins burst in through the classroom door ten minutes late to morning registration. He wore his black Thrasher hoodie on backwards to cover his shirtlop, and his headphones hung loosely around his neck. Andy Biersack’s screams disintegrated into static-like buzzing, leaking out of his ear pods as dozens of heads turned and eyes glared. Tiny plastic skulls dangled from his earlobes. Thick layers of black were plastered around his eyes, and long, stiff spikes of black hair hung low upon his brow. He stuck his tongue, embedded with tiny silver studs, out at the class as an entrance greeting.

Marty sauntered incredibly slowly down the central aisle of the classroom like it was his personal catwalk. He chewed gum loudly as he savoured the attention radiating from all directions, and made his way towards a seat in the furthest back corner. Sniggers and inaudible whispers of disapproval snaked around the room. His chair let out a loud scrape as he collapsed onto it, and he slid down the back until he assumed a slouch, so severe that he was on the verge of limboing under his desk.

The teacher pushed her glasses up the rim of her nose and cleared her throat loudly.

“Martin Jackson Dawkins! You will arrive on time to lessons in future. Fix your clothes and get rid of the repulsive filth in your mouth.”

His reply came in the form of a teenage grunt. The corners of his mouth twitched as he produced a smirk. Although such behaviour could be considered typical of many fifteen-year-olds undergoing the harrowing process of self-discovery, it was still rare to see an attitude of irreverence exceeding that of Marty Dawkins. The teacher shook her head in disappointment and continued onto more pressing matters. It was no longer her business to hold up the class to repeatedly feed him the attention he sought – someday the burns of society’s judgement might serve as better teachers.

“You will have noticed that we have two new additions to the class. Rosie and Posie, please come up and introduce yourselves to everyone.”

Marty looked up. Two twin girls he had never seen before stood sharply and turned in unison, then walked towards the front of the classroom with an identical and even pace. The clicks of their heels sounded in perfect time with exaggerated precision, echoing through the otherwise silent room, having been captivated by their presence. Everything about them looked the same. Even their hair seemed to swing back and forth with the same time period.

To Marty they looked like clones of Carroll’s Alice, both wearing shirts and knee length skirts, with twinkling blue eyes and hair of blonde curl. They were both ghostly pale. Their only distinguishing feature was the colors of their bows. Both girls wore a large bow high on the back of their heads - one red, one blue.

They turned robotically to face the class when they reached the front, again in perfect unison. The girl with the red bow seemed to have her eyes fixed on him for whatever reason. He could just about make out the outlines of large eye bags which had been covered with concealer. Her piercing stare unnerved him greatly. Marty tried to shift away from her gaze, but he remained directly in her line of sight.

The girls smiled at the class, then looked at the teacher.

“Tell us a little about yourselves, please," she smiled.

The girl in the blue bow crossed her hands behind her back. The red-bowed twin glanced at her sister and copied her new stance hurriedly. Marty breathed a sigh of relief, the awkward eye contact having finally been broken.

“We like swimming, painting and classical music. Haydn is our favorite composer,” said both girls, in perfect synchronisation.

The class was silent for a few seconds, then erupted in laughter and conversation about their odd mannerisms. This had to be a joke, thought Marty. These new girls were clearly trying too hard to be funny, and it was very creepy. Perhaps it was commonplace in cartoons, but twins copying each other's every action in real life was just plain weird. He didn't understand it at all. The teacher, however, seemed vaguely entertained by their lack of variety. She raised her eyebrows and nodded in approval.

“Children should listen to more classical music more like you two instead of the garbage music nowadays. You have very good taste, both of you. Which one of you is Posie?”

The twin wearing the blue bow raised her hand.

“And you must be Rosie.”

The twin wearing the red bow nodded. She shot Marty a quick glance again, and he averted his gaze quickly as he tried to avoid meeting her large, unsettling eyes. The teacher signalled them to return to their seats, and they did so in the same swift, synchronised manner as before.

As Posie walked past him, hands still behind her back, Marty noticed her left hand was an odd shape. He blinked in concentration. Her left index finger was missing.

He looked away immediately and gulped, but the growing lump in his throat refused to go down. These twin sisters looked as if they had been plucked straight out of the 19th century Britain, a strange world where little girls dressed like waitresses and had tea parties with their governesses while little boys suffocated to death, trapped in chimneys they would never finish sweeping. A pretentious, petty world full of bollocks.

The bell rang, and the kids dragged themselves wearily to their first lessons. As he gazed down the crowded corridors, Marty suddenly found himself feeling like absolute crap, upon realising his fate for the rest of the year. Day in and day out he found himself trapped in this shithole, expected to work like an ass - and now he was back at this place. He didn't understand why they had to force him into this child labour market day after day. But now he was just tired of it. So what if he became unemployed and ended up in a ditch in the third world? At least there’d be no bastards in baseball caps shoving his face into a urinal.

He hadn't even made it to his first lesson before he decided to call it a day, as he just wasn't in the mood. Heading towards the bathroom instead of the math department, Marty put his headphones back in and prepared to linger around for a little longer than was necessary to take a piss. He’d completely skipped lessons before, but there were too many repercussions to deal with when he failed to explain his absence. The usual routine now was to play a few mobile games and headbang to some dope Marylin Manson tracks alone in a cubicle. Then he would up five minutes before the end of the lesson with the excuse of a bad stomach, so they would at least register him.

He made his way down the stairs while the footsteps and chatter faded, as everyone settled into lessons. Turning the corner into the downstairs corridor, he caught sight of one of the twins in his class and froze, then edged backwards behind the corner. It was the twin with the red bow - the one that wouldn’t take her big googly eyes off him. She caught sight of him a moment later, and began to stare. He anticipated one hell of an awkward encounter ahead, and decided he was not prepared to deal with it again.

“Stop fucking staring at me,” he spat. He tried to disguise the waver of his voice by growling as aggressively as he could.

The small girl tensed up and immediately averted her eyes. He walked towards her, preparing to pass her on the way to the bathroom, hoping she wouldn’t start staring again. The eyes unsettled him – it was just the big blue eyes – they brought back the uncomfortable feeling of being watched and judged by everyone he met.

He cleared his throat absent-mindedly. It startled her so much that she gasped and fell backwards, then huddled up in a corner. The girl looked like a squirrel. Her tiny body shook as she whimpered quietly and hugged her knees. Marty stepped back, surprised by her over-exaggerated recoil. Her large eyes, which darted around looking in all directions except his, were stretched open so wide he feared her eyeballs would dislodge from their sockets at any moment.

“Sorry,” he said, in a slightly questioning tone.

For a few seconds they froze, staring at each other. Her expression conveyed a wild panic.

“I didn't mean to scare you.”


She began to pull herself up, leaning against the wall to support her trembling knees.

“Are you lost?”

She nodded. “I-I tried to find my sister.”

“You know you have your own timetable?”

“I don’t know where all the rooms are.”

“Then just skip your first lesson.”

She shook her head.

“I can’t. I'll get told off,” she said, as she gripped the left shoulder strap of her backpack. Her left hand was missing an index finger. Marty narrowed his eyes.


She shook her head.

“I’m Rosie.”

He thought the one with four fingers on the left hand was also the one with the blue bow. Perhaps he remembered wrong. Rosie smiled a little and became less tense.

“What’s your name?” she asked back.

“I’m Martin. The kid everyone hates," he announced proudly. "You can call me Marty if you like, that’s what my dad used to call me.”

“Why do they hate you?”

“I’m different from them. I’m a badass and a rebel. I don’t follow their bloody rules. I ain’t scared of their authority or the bullies they put out to get me, I do things my own way.”

He almost spat the words as Rosie scanned him from head to toe, raising her eyebrows. He looked like a younger version of Ozzy Osbourne. She tried to disguise a cringe as some sound of impression.

“That’s um, pretty badass of you.”

He sniggered, internalising his glee.

“I have to get going now. Nice to meet you Marty, see you soon.” She waved four fingers gingerly as she ascended up the stairs – bye-bye. Marty waved back. Had he just... made a friend?

She had asked his name. Despite her initial fear, she didn’t run away or ignore him like everyone else did on instinct. Despite his aggression, appearance and social rejection. He hadn’t come this close to a conversation in a long time. For the first time in years, if only for a moment, he felt the warm comfort of acceptance again.

Part Two[]

A week had passed since their encounter. Rosie hadn’t spoken to him since – neither of the twins batted an eyelid whenever they walked past him, even if he smiled or tried to greet them. The twin sisters stuck together like glue, always within five feet of each other at all times.

What a fool he was to think they were now acquainted after their brief encounter. He eventually assumed it meant nothing - she had only talked to him out of fear. He knew he shouldn’t have expected anything from Rosie other than being like the rest of them, but he couldn’t help being disappointed.

One of the twins arrived, alone, to English class. Blue bow meant Posie. She was five minutes late and all the seats had been occupied except for one in the furthest back corner, next to Marty, the crazy emo kid. She began to stiffen as she made her way towards it, the tap-tap-tap of her wooden heels slowing. Marty leaned closer to Posie in subtle mockery of her discomfort, and she leaned away from him in response.

“Alright class, settle down and listen. I will only explain these instructions once, so pay attention – Posie, where is your sister? This is important.”

“I think she’s in the bathroom.”

The English teacher tutted in frustration.

“Well she’d better hurry up because I’m about to explain this term’s poetry project.”

The class groaned.

“Your partner will be the person sitting next to you. You will be given a theme and together you will be expected to produce a poem which expresses your ideas about that theme. Question, Simon?”

“Can we write a Haiku?” a small boy piped up.

“What’s that?” asked another.

“It’s a type of Japanese poem,” he paused, “They’re only about three lines long.” Several members of the class nodded in agreement.

“No Haikus. I want some good solid English literature at least five stanzas long. Any more questions?”

She paused and surveyed the room.

“If not, then I will assign your themes and you may begin to brainstorm your ideas.”

The teacher grabbed a stack of sticky-notes and went around each of the pairs. Finally, she paused in front of Marty and Posie, scribbled a word onto their post-it and stuck it down on their desk.


They looked at each other, then back at the post-it.

“This is boring, I can’t be asked.”

“But… this makes up half of our grade this term,” Posie objected.

“Do I look like I give a crap?” Marty smirked condescendingly.

“I guess not.”

“Correct. I don’t give a crap, a fuck or a pair of flying fuckery duckery balls about this horseshit.”


“Grades don’t define your worth, they’re just a construct made by the school to label us as letters and numbers rather than the people we truly are inside.”

Posie blinked and stared at him for a second. He turned away, suddenly reminded of the discomfort the eyes bought him.

Then she began to smile.


“I have an idea,” she whispered, “for the first stanza.”

Marty caught on, and began to smile back.

Suddenly, a shrill voice called out behind them. They turned around.


Rosie stood arms crossed, pen and paper in hand. A frown twisted itself into position on her brow.

“Don’t work with that retard,” she scowled. “He’s dodgy.”

“Who you calling a retard?” Marty yelled in disbelief, smacking the desk in fury as he stood up. He was known to have anger issues sometimes. “Quit shit-talking just ‘cuz I almost made you cry like a toddler last week!”

“I don’t remember anything like that happening at all.”

“The fu - bitch!"

Marty prepared to retaliate with a flood of accusations when he paused. Both the twins each had a missing index finger on their left hands. Some rare birth defect perhaps? His entire train-of-thought had vanished in an instant.

The teacher stood in front of the commotion.

“What is going on here?”

“I want to work with my sister for this project,” said Rosie sternly.

“You can work in a three,” said the teacher, fully aware that if Marty had no partner, he would produce no work.

“Nah, fuck this, I’m out.”

The class went silent as Marty stormed out routinely, the teacher yelling for him to return at once but unable to contain him. He was pissed – what did little red Rosie have against him? Was it the encounter on the first day that had ticked her off? Or perhaps she was trying to prove something – to show him she wasn’t scared of him anymore.

His head hurt, so he excused himself from morning lessons as appropriate. Sitting on the lid of the toilet in a locked cubicle, he wrote naughty words on the inside of the door as he pondered over the possibilities of the truth behind the mystery of identical twins. Perhaps they were aliens who had come to earth as spies to gather information about our planet, and perfected their disguises a little too much. Or maybe they were clones that escaped from a secret underground lab. His imagination ran wild with various sci-fi fantasies, a wide smile plastered across his face.

Part Three[]

The bell rang, signalling the start of lunch break. He exited the bathroom, when to his confusion, he saw floods of students walking in lines not towards the cafeteria but the main hall.

Assembly!” a voice shouted. Marty was ushered along in the direction of the crowd by a teacher. He found his class and joined the queue, following them as they shuffled towards the hall. Assemblies during the middle of the day were a rarity, unlike the dull ones in the morning where they tried to lecture you about some moral principle.

They were usually really urgent or really bad news – Marty remembered the last time there was an assembly during the middle of the day, about two years ago. A kid had impaled himself on the spike of the school gate after he slipped trying to climb over it, and they made an opportunity to lecture everyone about safety as an urgent matter. The kid died in hospital the same day.

Apprehension mixed with excitement and even a hint of morbid curiosity, as he made his way through two corridors along with the crowd, lagging slightly behind at the back.

Suddenly, before he could get to the door, he felt something grab him by the back of his collar. It yanked him sideways sharply, with such immense force that he thought it had snapped his neck. The unseen force dragged him down the side corridor and slammed him into a row of lockers. His vision went blurry, before everything faded back into focus.

He looked up at the snarling face of Johnny Wickham, principal Wickham’s spoilt brat of a son. The fabric of his shirt cut into his armpits as Wickham, a hundred and eighty pounds of pure muscle, pulled him by the collar off his feet. It was hard to make out his menacing features clearly, behind the blinding golden flash of the seven thousand dollar Rolex, radiating from his wrist. The wrist of the hand that was nearly choking Marty to death. He could just about make out the outlines of two muscular, shadowy figures standing behind his captor.

“Get your… dirty hands-” Marty began to spit the words out but was shortly silenced, the back of his head repeatedly struck against the sharp edge of a padlock. He gagged as he felt the warm blood trickling down the back of his neck, the thick sticky stuff beginning to clot and matt his hair together at the base of his nape.

“Shut up, emo cunt!” Wickham yelled, gloopy spit droplets spraying in Marty’s eyes. “I saw you leave class and come down this way earlier! Don’t try to deny it. You stole it, didn’t you?”

“Stole what?”

“Bitch! Don’t act dumb! You’re wasting my time here, boys, strip him clean.”

Wickham’s two goons, both almost six foot, took off their baseball caps. One of them picked his backpack off the floor and unzipped all the compartments. Then he turned the bag upside down, and Marty’s books, pens, packed lunch and wallet were emptied onto the floor with a loud, intermittent clattering. Wickham unzipped his hoodie and jerked it off him.

The other kid held out a box cutter and slowly approached Marty. Marty’s eyes widened in terror as he squirmed to get away. For years his isolation had rendered him an automatic target for bullies, and he’d suffered at their hands for as long as he remembered, surviving copious amounts of injury and emotional torment. But never before had they pulled a weapon out on him.

A news report came to his mind, an old one which said a kid had been stabbed to death behind this very school a few years ago.

“What the hell are you looking for? I didn’t take anything that’s yours, I swear!”


The kid slashed diagonally across Marty’s chest without hesitation and a red line began to soak into the fabric. He felt a searing pain above his ribs, and his muffled screams were quenched by Wickham’s right hand.

“Make another noise and he’ll cut your balls off.”

From the cut in the fabric, Wickham tore in both directions until the front of Marty’s shirt had been ripped cleanly open, and it slid off his shoulders, exposing his bony, bloody upper body. Wickham abruptly took his hand away from Marty’s neck, and he collapsed into a moaning heap on the floor, convulsing in pain.


Wickham checked the pockets of the torn rags, then flung them over his shoulder. He took heavy steps towards the trembling mound in front of him.

“Get up, pussy.”

One hand on the back of his head, the other on his chest, Marty winced as he clambered up the locker doors.

“Where. Is my. One hundred. Fucking. Dollars?”

“How would I know?” choked Marty. His vision was starting to blur again. He took his left hand away from his head and looked wearily at the blood staining his palm. Wickham clasped his giant, sweaty fingers around his neck and squeezed. A gargled cry escaped Marty’s lips.

“Take off your trousers.”

“No, fuck off, Johnny.”

The two boys sniggered as a sadistic smile crept across Wickham’s face.

“Looks like the scrawny emo kid is scared I’ll rape him up the ass. Tell you what, ‘lil punk, either you give my one hundred dollars back, or I’ll fuck you up so hard there’ll be diarrhoea coming out of your mouth! My dad has camera footage of the culprit. It’s gotta be you, punk – there’s nobody else. You’re the only one that comes down this way when everyone else is in lessons, truanting fuck. You’re gonna get exposed sooner or later, so don’t think you can bluff yourself out of this one.”

Wickham’s henchmen guffawed as they watched the modern day public hanging, their shrieks resonating through the now empty hallway. Marty stumbled to get away as he stood, but the repeated head trauma had taken its toll. His vision blurred and mind disorientated, he fell back on the stony ground as they approached him.

“Lemme teach you a lesson.” Wickham crouched down, lifting up a fist.

“And that is,” he continued, swinging his fist down into Marty’s left cheek.

“Don’t.” Marty felt another punch strike his right cheek.

“Ever.” Left cheek.

“Fuck.” Right.

“With.” Left.

“Me.” Right.


Marty looked up Wickham’s right fist tumbling down towards him like wrecking ball. He held his breath and closed his eyes, preparing to be done in for good.

The blow never came. Instead, he heard a loud grunt as Wickham fell backwards off him. Behind him, brandishing a baseball bat, stood a girl, with sparkling blue eyes and hair of blonde curl. He made out a faint red line in the blurred yellow.

“Ro – Rosie?” Marty spluttered, clutching his face.

The three boys turned and slowly advanced towards her. She backed away, eyes darting back and forth between the main corridor and Marty, silently urging him to run.

“This ‘lil rat gotta be takin’ the piss…”

Ha! She’s the size of a weasel!”

“Do her in first!”

A surge of adrenalin filled Marty’s veins. His knees were weak, but he dragged himself up with all his might. Looking around, he steadied himself and desperately searched for anything hard or sharp that could be used as a weapon. He sure as hell was not going to let them hurt her.

There was nothing suitable in reach where he stood. He considered checking behind the lockers to see if anyone had perhaps dropped a hockey stick or tennis racket down there. Then, an idea came to his mind.

Rosie stopped and stood firm. There was nowhere to back away to now – she was cornered. If she entered the changing rooms behind her, she would be even more trapped than she already was. She took a deep breath and squeezed the handle of the bat tightly with both hands as they approached closer. Their faces twisted into deformed, furious expressions, irate that their plan to have some fun with a lame, defenceless emo kid had been ruined by this shrew of a girl. Biting her lip, she endeavoured to contain a whimper.

“Hey! Over here!” a raspy but determined shout rang from the other end of the narrow hallway. The gang stopped, preparing to turn around to face the source of the voice.


Marty had his hands hooked around the top back edge of the slightly dislodged, rectangular block of lockers, which had previously been pressed up tightly against the wall. He held his breath and pulled with every last ounce of strength he had. The thin but wide-stretching block tilted slightly, pivoted at its bottom front edge, then once it had tilted past its critical point, came crashing down, covering a long stretch of the hallway. The three boys were smothered underneath it before they could react, along with their panicked screams. It was a tall block which had a height longer than the width of the corridor, and got stuck between the walls just before it fell flat, creating a cavity in the shape of a right-angled triangle in which the big goons were trapped.

They grunted in pain and frustration underneath, yelling out various absurd threats after realising their misfortune.

"I'll rip your spine out you little piece of shit!"

"Bitch! Imma rape your mom!"

The block began to rise slightly again as they pushed up against the weight of dozens of sports kits and textbooks inside. Marty waved his hand, signalling Rosie to come over to him. She jumped on top of the collapsed block, her weight pushing it back down against the wall and cancelling out all their efforts as they yelled and cursed louder from underneath. She ran on top of it towards him, and they darted away together before their attackers could escape.

They ran through various hallways, taking twists and turns until they were sure there was nobody following them. Then, they entered an empty classroom, where Marty collapsed on the carpet in agony. He was shirtless and bruised all over, blood flowing out his nose like rain down a gutter.

“They done you in bad, Marty,” cried Rosie. She knelt beside him. “I’ll call you an ambulance.”

“No, don’t.” He grabbed her sleeve before she could move. Extra attention from getting beaten up by bullies wasn’t anything to be proud of.


“It’s fine. I’ll live to see another day,” he scowled. He sat up slightly. For some reason, those large blue eyes looking down at him didn’t seem as alarming as before.

“How did you find me?”

“I…” Rosie paused to think. “I was at the back of the line when I turned around for a moment before we entered the hall. I saw you running back, then something grabbed you and pulled you to the side. I thought you were going to get hurt so I slipped away from the crowd quietly to look for you but I couldn’t see you anywhere. Then I heard people laughing, so I followed the voices… and then I saw you getting beat up.”

Marty sighed and shook his head.

“Thank you, Rosie. You saved my life.”

“Barely,” she smiled. “Guess I felt bad for what happened earlier, so…”

The events that unfolded earlier on that day came back to him.

“Oh yeah, what the hell was all that about?”

She looked away.

“To be honest, my sister doesn’t like you that much so when I saw her sitting next to you, I just wanted to act like I was on her side. I didn’t mean to call you a retard, I’m sorry.”

Marty frowned. Now she was trying to make it seem as if Posie had something against him too?

“Posie was getting along fine with me earlier. We were about to start writing a poem or some crap. There was no beef until you came along and basically told me to shove off.”

A look of confusion swept across her face and lingered there for a few seconds, before her eyes widened with nervous realisation. She bit her lip, as if she regretted saying something.

“Does it hurt, the cut on your chest?”

“Yeah, hurts like a bitch.” He winced.

“It’s ok, I know. I have one too.” She unbuttoned her shirt slightly.

Marty’s face flushed a little, and he was about to protest until he saw a large red scar running across the left side of her chest, from the base of her neck down to her ribs. Compared to hers, his was just a beta.

The glimmer of dried red flesh where the skin had been split deep open was still visible, and red-orange scars of infection were visible underneath the flaking skin around the wound.

Holy sh- when did this happen?”

“I had an accident a long time ago.” Rosie stood up abruptly, re-buttoning her shirt. “They’ll be looking for me. I’ve got to get back to the assembly now.”

“Hey, wait! You can’t just leave me here!”

She walked swiftly out of the classroom without looking back. A nauseating sense of dread came over him as he watched her leave. For some reason unbeknownst to him, Marty wanted to run after her, to tell her not to go back, but he was in too much pain to over-exert himself.

Clutching at the walls and edges of tables, he dragged himself out of the empty room into the bathroom, the most familiar place he knew during school hours. Drops of blood stained the carpet and then the bathroom floor, gradually increasing in size as they followed him, escaping the gaps between his fingers where he clutched his wounds.

He crouched over a toilet, throwing up nothing but a wave of bile and stomach acid from his empty guts. The sour acid stung his insides as further waves erupted out of him.

Once the vomiting subsided, he locked the cubicle door and slid down the side of the wall until he was sitting on the floor. He began to rock himself, arms around his knees. Then, for what seemed like an eternity, he wept for his own weakness and the sadistic tendencies of mankind.

Part Four[]

Rows of students took their seats in the great hall, eager to discover the subject of the unplanned assembly. Teachers ticked their students off a register as their eyes darted to and fro, searching for the names on the paper. A small blonde girl wearing a red bow rushed in from the back door and sat on an empty seat near it.

“You seen Martin Dawkins?” a teacher whispered to her colleague.

“Does he even go to this school anymore?” It was a genuine question.

“He registered this morning.”

“Well count that as your daily miracle.” He chuckled. “Hey, I’ve heard the kid’s messed up in the head, thinks the Devil chose him to rebel against mankind or some shit. I’ve seen quite a few like 'em in my career.”

“Yeah it’s true. He’s such a pain in the ass when he does turn up as well. Fucks up my lessons like no other.”

“What’s this whole gathering about anyway?”

“Who knows. Can’t be great news, that’s for sure.”


Principal Wickham cleared his throat in the microphone, signalling the beginning of the rare ritual. All conversation ceased. As he stood tall and imposing on his grand five-foot high stage, he looked down condescendingly at those under his command.

“Every time we gather you in here, we hope you will see it as an opportunity to share in something together as a community. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.”

He paused and scanned the crowd.

“We, as a school, work hard to provide a safe and positive environment for all our students. In return, we expect you to respect each other. This is a fundamental trust which is vital in holding any community together.

But today, it is with great sadness that I must reveal to you all that someone sitting among us has breached our trust.”

The echo of the principal’s voice faded as he paused once more. The silent crowd stared at him anxiously, unbreathing. Then, whispers began to surface, as each student looked around at those next to, behind and in front of themselves. The atmosphere of tension became heavier as the pause continued.

“During the first hour of this morning, two fifty dollar notes were taken from my son Johnny’s locker down near the sports facility. An absolutely appalling act of selfishness that deserves to be punished accordingly.

“The thief made their way down to the lockers at the beginning of the first lesson today and, in an opportunistic act of pure greed, took the money for themselves and then returned to lessons. Unaware of the fact that they were being watched.”

Principal Wickham pressed a button on a remote control, and an image popped up on the screen behind him. Everyone stared at the screen in apprehension. On it was a paused video clip of security footage taken from the corridor where Rosie had just encountered Johnny Wickham beating Marty to a pulp.

There was nobody in view yet, but she spotted the open locker in question. Perhaps if he’d locked it, his money wouldn’t have been stolen – but that was just a theory of course.

“Before I play the footage and reveal the culprit in front of you all, I would like to remind this person that honesty is the best policy. Owning up will not render you exempt from punishment, but your crime will not be witnessed today, and we will take special consideration for your case.”

He paused for one final time. The silence was deafening.

“Very well then.”

He held the remote high in the air like a gavel of judgement and pressed the play button.

The sound of static buzzed through the hall as the footage faded in and out of focus. Then after a few seconds, a short, thin girl wearing a white shirt and black knee-length dress shifted into the view of the lens. Her long blonde hair swayed as she crept almost silently through the corridor. Although the footage was grainy and far from HD, there was no mistaking a red bow tied to the back of her head.

There were loud gasps throughout the hall. Students and teachers alike turned to face Rosie, bearing twisted expressions of exaggerated shock and disapproval. Despite being at the back of the hall, she was now in the center of attention. Her eyes widened in disbelief and confusion as she looked back at the dozens of pairs of eyes fixated on her.

The footage continued to play. The girl in the video approached the open locker and pulled a sports bag out from the inside. Looking around as if checking nobody was near, she unzipped various compartments of the bag before taking out two banknotes and shoving them into the front compartment of her own backpack. Then she stopped for a moment, facing away from the camera, and seemed to be looking out of a window which was perpendicular to the row of lockers. The entire school watched in shock, and whispers began to resurface around the room.

Suddenly, Rosie caught sight of the girl’s faint reflection in the window. Through the grainy veil, the Rosie in the video locked eyes with the one in the hall. After a brief moment, the face in the reflection began to smile. The corners of the lips and cheeks rose as if they were being pulled up by invisible hooks, and they stretched her face into an inhuman catenary shape. Her exposed teeth were sharp like a rat’s, and her eyes were huge and bloodshot, bulging out of their sockets. As she watched the face in the video deform, she wanted to scream, however, her lungs failed her.

But then, her trembling ceased as she continued to stare into those threatening eyes. They were familiar. Once she recognised them, she instantly understood. A wave of emptiness washed over her – now, Rosie knew what was coming better than ever before.

She remained still and calm as she saw the horrid expression in the window of the video suddenly flash back to a neutral one, after what seemed like half-a-second of a glitch. Rosie looked around at the accusatory eyes of those around her, but it seemed like nobody had just seen the horrific image she had seen. Perhaps they weren’t paying attention, or she had just imagined it. Either way, she had already accepted the truth without hesitation.

The girl in the video turned away from the window before pushing the locker door shut and walking calmly out of view. The clip ended, and the screen was black again.

“As many of you will have realised, the culprit is one of the Coulter twins, who joined the school this year. The more likely suspect has been identified as Rosie Coulter. Their possessions are to be searched immediately and their parents informed. Punishment will follow in due course.”

A teacher made his way through the crowd to Rosie and demanded she hand over her rucksack. He unzipped the front compartment, and fished out the two $50 notes, holding them high for all to see.

In the crowd, she saw a face in the distance curve into a catenary shaped smile.

Part Five[]

Three years earlier

Two girls returned home together after a long day at school.

“Daddy, we’re home!” one of them called out.

“Hey, how was your day, baby?” He came out of the kitchen, knife still in hand, blade stained green from the vegetables he’d been cutting.

“Pretty bad,” replied the same girl. “I got bitten by a dog, and I was taken to the hospital.”

The father’s smile faded as his baby girl held up her left hand. Her sister watched in apprehension as the color drained from his face, and he hastily knelt down beside his daughter.

Jesus, when did this happen, darling?”

“This morning. It happened outside the school gate.”

She held up her left hand. There was a bandage around it, and an empty space where her index finger should have been. She sighed as she wiggled four fingers in the air.

“It’s so ugly.”

“Oh honey, don’t say that. You’re still my beautiful little girl. And you’ve been very brave today.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” she smiled.

“If I ever find the owner of that dog,” continued her father, his face darkening as he lowered his head and made a tight fist with his right hand, “I swear to God I’ll cut off his damned head, and skin his shitfaced mutt! I’ll make him watch as I do it! Might even make him eat it if I’m feeling like it.”

The girl giggled.

"Honestly, I'd appreciate that. It did hurt like a real motherfucker."

She turned to her sister.

“But now we have different hands! Damn, people are gonna be able to tell us apart at school! ‘Hey, that’s the girl without the finger!’ I can’t even make her go to detention for me now.” She pulled a face. “What’s the point of being twins if people can tell us apart?”

Her father laughed.

“You make a good point, my dear.”

“How’s she gonna go to all the clubs I signed up for? I can’t be bothered to waste my time with those either. It’s not fair! I don’t want her to be different, Daddy! I like her when she’s the same as me. She's more beautiful that way! It’s more fun that way!”

“Alright, alright. Stop your complaining, there’s nothing Daddy can’t fix!”

“Yay, thanks, Daddy!”

The girl’s sister looked up in confusion. She started to back away. The girl’s father turned to face her, and put a finger to his lips. He walked towards her slowly, towering over her. The little girl continued to giggle as she watched her sister’s eyes widen in terror.

“Don’t make too much noise, bitch, wouldn’t want the neighbours to think there’s been a murder or something, would we?”

He grabbed her left arm and dragged her into the bathroom, brandishing his large butcher knife in the other.

“I can’t wait to see this,” laughed the girl, as her daddy flashed a smile back.

He locked the bathroom door and dragged the wriggling girl to the sink. Flattening out her hand on the edge of the sink, he took the knife and positioned it at the base of her index finger. She howled and begged as he began to press the blade into her skin, then through flesh and bone.

“Please don’t do it! It hurts! It hurts!”

“Stop that! I told you not to be too loud, dumb bitch! Stop screaming or I’ll cut your tongue off as well!”

There was loud banging on the bathroom door, followed by loud crying.

“Richard! What the hell are you doing to my baby! Richard stop! Whatever you’re doing I’m begging you, don’t! Please!”

“Shut up, woman! Go and get a bandage!”

The girl whimpered as she heard the crunch of the bone severing in her left index finger. The pain was unlike anything she had ever felt. She looked at her finger, which had served her for a good twelve years, slide into the sink and down the drain. The sink was stained crimson red as tiny beads of blood gushed out of the bright red stump on her left hand.

She passed out, her unconscious body hanging limp over the side of the bathtub, a fingerless hand dangling at her side. Blood dripped from it onto the bathroom floor - drip-drip-drip. High pitched laughter mixed with crying could be heard faintly from the outside.

The last thing she saw that day was a face, pressed up against the foggy window of the bathroom door, the lips curving into a catenary shaped smile as its blue eyes flashed with insane pleasure.

Part Six[]


The blonde girl with the blue bow turned around. She instantly recoiled at the sight of a face wrapped in bandages like a rewound loo roll.

“Ew. Get away from me, freak.”

“Where’s your sister?” Marty demanded, as she edged away from him slightly. “I need to tell her something.”

“Rosie’s been temporarily suspended,” came a voice from behind her. It belonged to Daniel, a lanky six-foot-two punk-rock kid. He was the only guy in the school that hung around Marty from time to time. Although they shared similar music tastes, they still rarely conversed, both being incredibly socially inept. In addition, although they would never admit it, they were intimidated by each other.

“Weren’t you at the assembly yesterday? They showed hidden camera footage of her stealing two $50 notes from Johnny Wickham’s gym bag,” said Daniel.


Posie nodded. “My sister was caught red-handed yesterday. They found the money in her bag. She’s done bad things before but that was just crossing the line. Such a shame, I’m so embarrassed she would do that.” She crossed her arms with a huff of a disappointed mother.

Marty was completely dumbfounded for a moment. He turned to Daniel, who didn’t seem so tall when he was sat down. In his bewilderment, the invisible barrier that had kept him from talking to this guy for years suddenly vanished.

“There’s a hidden camera in the sports locker area?”

“Apparently,” said Daniel, “that whole bit got refurbished over the summer, and stuff kept going missing from there. It’s no wonder they decided to put cameras there. When that prick Wickham complained to daddy his money was gone, they were instantly sussed. And man, I doubt anyone would dare to nick anything from there again... after what they did to her.”

“What do you mean by what they did to her?

“They exposed her in front of the whole school, basically. Harsh, right? But serves her right for stealing from the principal’s son in her second week at a new school. Still, I can’t help wishing the cunt never got his money back. Anyway dude, what the hell happened to you?”

They had installed cameras facing the sports lockers. Wickham knew that. Yet, he didn’t hesitate to pulverize Marty. Wasn’t he afraid of the potential consequences of his actions? Oh, of course not. Marty had almost forgotten that certain people in the school were permanently exempt from consequences.

“I just… fell off my bike into a ditch.”

“Holy shit, dude, must’ve been one bitch of a ditch.”

“Uh, yeah.”

He had an urge to talk to Rosie and ask her if she really did it. He remembered the English class, where she had turned up late just to insult him. Was that when she had stolen the money? He remembered the way she appeared out of thin air behind Wickham to save him. Did she know something was going to happen there yesterday? Security footage didn’t lie, but he still found it difficult to believe, especially without having seen it for himself.

Furthermore, the way she had acted yesterday didn’t seem quite herself, at least, she seemed different to when she had first bumped into him under the staircase, or saved him from those bullies.

In addition, he couldn’t help noticing that Posie was speaking in a harsher tone than she was yesterday. On first impressions, she seemed passive and relatively laid back, even pretty willing to work on a poem with him. But today she didn't seem so friendly.

His attention suddenly focused on her as he glared at her through the slit in his bandages. She glared back, then started to walk away.

“Wait,” he called out. “When is your sister going to be back?”

“In about two weeks, why?”

Marty fished out a tiny package bound tightly in old Christmas wrapping paper and Sellotape. “Then can you give this to your sister for me?”

She took the package and looked at it for a moment. A dark shadow swept across her face as she lifted her head again.

“What’s this for?”

“She did me a favour yesterday, I wanted to thank her for it as soon as possible.”

Posie narrowed her eyes.

“Alright.” She put the package in her pocket and flung her backpack over her shoulder, then walked out of the classroom briskly.

Marty watched her walk down the hallway with a hint of suspicion, but he decided it wasn’t anything to get worked up over. Some people were just like that.

For the next two weeks, Marty and Daniel became well acquainted, their initial conversation serving as the catalyst. They realised they had a lot more in common than they first thought, they fought off bullies together and bonded over music, games and other extremely badass things. Posie was in class alone for that time, and they avoided each other where possible.

He’d almost started to forget about all the incidents with Rosie until one day, he spotted a tiny package bound tightly in old Christmas wrapping paper and Sellotape in a recycling bin by the school gate.

Part Seven[]

“Principal Wickham tells me you’ve been a very bad girl, Rosie.”

Rosie looked down at her feet.

“Yes Daddy.”

“He told me you stole a hundred dollars from his son’s locker. You’re a disgusting rat. Why do I bother wasting my own hard earned money, my blood and sweat, to keep you alive?

“You’re worse than the scum on the streets – even they know their place is to beg and not to steal. Have I brought you up to be like this? Is this my fault? Is it?”

The broad man bent down and bellowed in the tiny girl’s ear. She trembled as she squeezed her eyes shut.

“Would your dead daddy be proud of what you’ve done, little bitch?” he whispered.

She had endeavoured, but she could no longer hold in her tears. They came running down her face like the rain down a window pane as she sighed, weary from her misery.

“No Daddy.”

He slapped her, the blow leaving a bruise on her cheek instantly, and she fell on the hard ground with a thud.

“Look at me, bastard!”

She did as he instructed, eyes large and watery. He seized her by the neck, his sweaty fingers wrapping tightly around her chin.

“Wickham also tells me later that day, you were caught assaulting his son with a baseball bat. Is that true?” he hissed.

Her eyes widened.

“No, that was-”

“Did you say no? Now you have the audacity to lie to me?”

“HE WAS ABOUT TO KILL SOMEONE!” she screamed. Even he was startled by her sudden outburst. “I couldn’t just watch… I…”

“Shut up, you lying piece of trash. I’ve heard enough. Baby girl, what do you think we should do with her this time?”

The girl with the blue bow emerged from the shadowy depths of the basement, tapping the head of an old baseball bat against the palm of her hand. A bat they had once used to play rounders with on the lawn, together with family and friends on a sunny morning.

“I think,” began the girl wearing the blue bow, “we should give the little bitch a taste of her own medicine. How does that sound, Daddy?”

“Good thinking, Baby, I thought we’d run out of ideas this time. Bend over, bitch.”

“No… please don’t… NO!” Rosie backed away in terror, desperately crawling away upon her realisation.

“I said, bend over!”

He grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled down on it sharply, dragging her back on to the floor. She screamed, kicked and cried as he held her down and tore her dress open, removing her panties. He turned her over and forced her onto her hands and knees, exposing her bare orfices to the open as she protested.

“Up the bum! Up the bum!” The girl wearing the blue bow jumped in glee, moving behind her father to get a better view.

“I’d love to honey, but she needs to recover from this in about two weeks. Better take it easy.”

“Oh, that’s true.”

Two catenary shaped smiles flashed. She lowered her head in shame and submission.

Suddenly, Rosie felt her vagina being stretched open impossibly wide. The searing pain made her scream and convulse uncontrollably as her limbs flailed. The splintering wood was pushed deeper into her as she heard faint laughter in between her own shrill cries.

It was plunged into her, then pulled out, each thrust gaining speed and depth until blood stained half the wood from the handle end. She felt herself being torn from the inside, a searing fire burning ten times more painful than plunging naked into boiling water. The slightly knobbed end reached so far in she could feel it repeatedly swiping against her stomach, and she didn’t dare to move, fearing it would rip her open.


“You like that, little whore?” he mocked. “Feels good, doesn’t it? Yeah, scream louder. Shame Mommy and Daddy aren't here to save you.”

With each thrust, blood poured from newly formed wounds inside her like hoards of tiny rats escaping their burrows. Once her larynx could sustain her constant screeching no longer, she simply hung limp, her thighs and lower abdomen trembling violently as she gritted her teeth and dug her nails into her palms, too drained to fight back, bearing the pain and praying for death.

The better times of her life flashed past her eyes as she waited for her ordeal to end – enjoying the sunset with her father, baking cakes with her mother. How desperately she wanted to see them again.

He released her and she fell onto the floor, a shivering slab of meat. Then he pulled the bat out of her one last time, and licked the bloodied end.

“You taste disgusting as always, little whore.”

Rosie lay barely conscious and unmoving, breathing lightly.

“Lock her in the basement and remember to feed her after a day or two. Take care, darling.”

He walked away, wiping the blood on his trousers, leaving the two girls alone in the room.

“Ouch, that looked like it hurt, sis.” Posie giggled.

Why?” came a weak, monotone reply from below her.

“Haven’t you worked it out yet? It’s because you’re a bastard you piece of trash!” Laughed Posie.

“You deserve it! Plus, it’s good fun obviously. Oh by the way, I thought I should mention, everyone at school’s missing you. Not! You should see the way they grab their bags when I walk past thinking I’m you, scared they’ll get their cash nicked! Ha ha! You do embarrass me sometimes.

“I didn’t actually mean to do this at first, you know. That idiot Wickham wouldn’t stop going on about how much pocket money Daddy gave him this week, so I thought why not shut his big mouth up for once? It was pissing me off.

“But then... I noticed they had cameras, and suddenly I had a great idea to make you suffer again. Should’ve seen it coming when I told you to switch bows with me, you slow fuck. Not that you had much of a choice.

“My oh my, should’ve seen the look on your face when you were watching that video! You looked like you’d just crapped your pants in public – which you probably did anyways.”

Posie paced up and down the length of the room, a mad twinkle in her eyes, glowing with blue fire.

“And to think you would dare to call the police on us that time Daddy locked your sorry ass in the closet! I think this serves as some satisfying retribution. Makes me angry every time I think about it. Did you really think they were going to believe you?

“Then, you didn’t learn your lesson and tried to rat us out to Miss Parker! Even the police couldn’t be bothered to help you, so what made you think she would? Luckily Dad is a good actor, so she didn’t take it any further. But oh, what a stupid girl you were back then.

“I’ve told you before, Rosie – you and I are one. Everyone sees it that way, and you can’t do anything to change it. If I say I’m perfectly happy, then so are you. Nobody’s going to believe you if you say otherwise. But I’m sure even you’ve figured that out by now.”

For a second, she thought of Marty. What would he think of her after finding out? Would he think she was petty, and hate her like everyone else?

“And I thought we had a mutual agreement, Rosie. My friends are yours, and your friends are mine. Now this emo kid tells me you’ve been talking to him behind my back. How sneaky of you. Don’t go making friends with dodgy strangers, do I make myself clear? Get in the basement, motherfucker.”

Part Eight[]

Rosie returned to school after serving her two weeks of suspension. Teachers did not praise her when she did good work. Students did not smile at her down the hallways. She only spoke when spoken to, and she was never out of the company of her sister, who answered all personal questions for her.

Marty was unable to approach her, as she would give him a cold stare whenever he was near, warning him to back away.

He didn’t understand why she was so cold to him now, but assumed she was just upset about the incident. After a few failed attempts at starting conversation, he decided to drop his efforts.

He would occasionally throw a glance at them in class, and he might see Rosie clutching her stomach as if she had cramps. Sometimes, he thought he spotted her trying to disguise a slight limp. On the contrary, Posie always sat completely still and walked with the same rhythmical elegance as always.

Perhaps Rosie had injured herself – he wanted to ask if she was alright, but she wouldn’t let him get close enough to do so. Eventually, he decided it wasn’t in anyone’s interest to keep trying.

Then one day, on a cold, icy morning, Posie collapsed during the middle of a lesson. Nobody knew how or why. An ambulance escorted her away to a nearby hospital. Her red bow clad twin sister begged to accompany her, but school staff insisted she didn’t miss any more lessons. So she remained in school.

And that fateful afternoon, in the empty classroom after school hours, Marty Dawkins took his chance.

“Rosie,” he called out. She turned, her features bright, as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. They were the last two in the classroom, gathering up their belongings ready to leave.

“Rosie, I know you probably don’t want to even come close to the likes of me right now. I don’t blame you, nobody ever does. But hear me out, okay?”

She nodded.

“Thanks,” he smiled with a hint of relief, “I just wanted to thank you for helping me that day, when I got attacked by Wickham and his gang. I doubt I would still be here if it wasn’t for you.”

He fished out the small package wrapped in Christmas paper and Sellotape.

“I trusted your sister to give you this, but somehow it ended up in the bin,” he rolled his eyes. “She’s useless, I can tell she doesn’t want anything to do with me. But anyway, take this as a token of my thanks.”

She took the package and unwrapped it gingerly to reveal a tiny keyring with a rose painted onto an acrylic decoration hanging off the chain.

“I know it’s not that much, but I saw it in a shop and it reminded me of you.”

Her eyes started to redden as the tears began pouring out in tiny beads. Her fingers wrapped around the chain and she pressed her closed fist against her chest.

“H-Hey, there’s no need to cry about it.” Marty was inexperienced when it came to such situations. He became fidgety and uncomfortable.

“It’s not that I don’t want to come close to you, or that I don’t like you or anything,” she sobbed, “it’s just that… it’s just…”

“It’s just what?” he whispered, putting a hand on her shoulder.

“I… Posie, she… ”

even the police couldn’t be bothered to help you, so what made you think she would?

did you really think they were going to believe you?

what made you think she would?

luckily Dad is a good actor

did you really think

even the police

good actor


“Marty,” she said, her voice suddenly calm, “do you think I stole from Wickham?”

“Everyone seems to think so. Like, security footage doesn’t lie." He paused for a while, a finger at his lip, thinking. "Even though it would’ve been pretty dope to see Wickham rage if you hadn’t got caught… I’d still like to believe you wouldn’t do something like that.”

She smiled.

“I see. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt.”

“Wait… the hell do you mean by that?”

She sighed, and he decided not to push the matter any further.

“Listen Marty, I lost someone close to me – my mom died last year, and I’ve had a hard time coping, but I’ve accepted her passing now. I want to make the only family I have left happy and Posie gets a bit irritable if I’m around you. She thinks you're weird. So don’t take it to heart if I’m harsh towards you, okay? She just doesn’t like people like you, I don’t mean no harm.”

“As I said, I don’t blame you guys. That must’ve been hard for you. I went through something similar.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, long story short, my dad killed himself five years ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Marty.”

“He was a fan of punk rock and heavy metal and all that. From that day on, I changed my style and swore to look like this for the rest of my life, whatever anyone else said. To be honest, I didn’t like metal that much, never have.

Somehow, I managed to convince myself I was a diehard fan at the time, and I’ve stuck with it over the years. It was my escape from the pain of losing him – my way of holding onto a part of him I guess.”

“Thank you.” She looked down as she edged slightly closer to him. “I feel better when I talk to you.”

“Me too.” He nodded in agreement. “You’re the first person I’ve ever told that to. Guess it does feel better to talk.”

“And I know someday, you’ll learn to let go like I did.” She smiled.

Rosie looked up at him, and their eyes met, two outcasts contemplating their loneliness together. He found comfort in hers now. The blue was the same color as the periphery of a sunset, and it calmed him. She put her arms around his neck and leaned forwards, then closed her eyes as she felt their lips meet.

He sat on the table in her embrace, feeling her cold hands on the back of his neck, frozen in the moment. Her right index finger traced the outline of a heart shaped tattoo just below the nape of his neck. Marty didn’t understand it, but he didn’t try to – he simply let himself enjoy it.

Rain began to pour, and it tapped rhythmically against the roof and window panes. He could hear the intermittent chirping of birds in the distance.

She pulled away, tears still streaming down her cheeks. Rosie rubbed her eyes as she began to sob again.

“You’re gonna be alright,” he whispered, as he pulled her closer to him. She held still in his arms for a few seconds.

“I have to go now,” she said abruptly. “My dad is gonna get angry, he’s waiting for me in the hospital with Posie. I need to go and see them, see what's happened to her.”

“Hold on,” said Marty. He rummaged through his rucksack and tore a piece of paper from a notebook. He found a pen and scribbled his number onto it. “Here, call me if you’re worried about anything, or you just wanna talk.”

“Ok, thanks Marty. See you.” She took the scrap of paper and folded it, sliding it into her pocket.

As she lifted her head and their eyes met one final time, his eyes became wide in shock and confusion. He bit his lip to stifle a scream, as he felt the lump in his throat resurface and begin to grow larger. She noticed the sudden change in his expression.

“What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing. See you, Rosie.”

“Ok, bye-bye.”

Only her left eye was blue. Her right eye was now green.

He waved at her as she waved back gingerly with four fingers, and turned, running down the hallway.

Part Nine[]

The very next day, the teacher announced to the class that the Coulter twins had moved away to a new school.

Marty kept his disappointment to himself, silently pained at the fact he might never see the girl who took his first kiss again. Each day, he waited for a call or text he worried would never come.

During this time, Marty was beginning to feel slightly less isolated at school – he was always with Daniel, who was tight with a few other kids in the year. They’d introduced himself, and Marty realised he now had people to hang around during the lunch break and in lessons. He even began to enjoy school at times, and attended classes more often. He started joining clubs, playing sports, coming out of his shell, as the adults would say.

But every time he laughed along to a joke with his new friends, or jammed out to music with people other than himself, the face of a girl with a red bow and kind smile would flash in his mind. He was always thinking about her – the girl who had given him the confidence to open up.

and I know someday, you’ll learn to let go like I did...

A lot of memories he had of the Coulter twins didn’t add up in his mind, and he found himself thinking about them whenever he was alone. Things just didn't seem to make sense. The lesson where Rosie called him a retard, the way she appeared like an angel behind his assaulter, as he was taking his dying breath that same day, the way they kissed while the rain poured outside. The same moments replayed over and over in his head every night as the months passed.

you’ll learn to let go...

On the penultimate day of the school year, Marty Dawkins was not recognised when he walked through the gates. Teachers repeatedly asked his name, refusing to believe there was ever such a kid that looked like him in their classes. This kid had short brown hair with a slightly longer, spiked fringe, exposing his forehead. There was no wax in it, neither did it cover his eyes.

There were no fake tattoos up the side of his neck, or studs on his nose and tongue. His light brown eyes were not surrounded by copious amounts of eyeliner – in fact, the only makeup he wore was a bit of chapstick, dampening his inherently dry lips. The tiny punctures in his earlobes from which skulls previously hung were now empty, and gradually shrinking by the hour.

Had he a little more muscle, one could’ve mistaken the boy, clad in a sports tee and jeans, for a typical jock.

Marty walked through the room and sat down on a seat near the front, his friends eyeing him nervously.

“Dude,” began Daniel, but he couldn’t find the right words to continue. The others just stared, dumbfounded.

“That’s years of pain and effort down the drain,” sighed Marty.

“Man you look like some hockey player… not the Marty Dawkins I know!”

“More like Marty McFly, eh?” squealed a fat kid. Everyone laughed.

“Nah man, you ain’t Dawkins! I’m not gonna believe it – what’ve you done with him? You’re an imposter!” Daniel shook his head.

“Then, I’ve gotta be the most badass motherfucking imposter you’ve ever seen in your life.”

“Shame you can’t use your makeup as an excuse for being late to morning registration anymore,” Daniel smirked.

“Shut up.”

Clear the lockers!” came the janitor’s shout from the hallway. “Don’t want no mouldy cheese in here over summer like last year! All unattended locks to be cut open by tomorrow!”

Marty usually kept his stuff on him at all times, and he was pretty sure there was nothing left in his locker that he still wanted. A bit of old gym kit, perhaps. He decided it wouldn’t hurt to check. He went to his locker and rummaged around, salvaging a few old socks and textbooks.

As he prepared to head back into the classroom, he glanced at the two adjacent lockers that used to belong to the Coulter twins. The one on the left, which had once belonged to Rosie, had been opened by the janitor. The one on the right remained locked with a small pink padlock. He remembered that Rosie never used to lock hers.

To his surprise, as he walked closer, he spied a folded piece of lined paper in the left locker. He took it out and unfolded it.

A heading written in blue ink read: Freedom. Underneath was a poem of four stanzas, written in incredibly neat handwriting. There were red ticks across it. He smiled, rolling his eyes. He had been wondering when that detention at the end of the first term would come. It seemed like she had been his guardian angel, she'd come to his rescue again, this time without him even knowing it.

Before he could read any further, he heard the sound of a bell, and a sudden vibration against his leg. He took his phone out of his pocket and turned on the screen.



Another came straight after.

‘is this marty dawkins?’

It was from an unknown number. His heart began to race as he typed back.

‘Yeah this is marty. Who is this?’


‘its rosie. how have u been ?’

‘Pretty good! WBU how is posie and ur dad?’

‘not that great actually. a lots been going on this year’

The replies came almost instantly.

‘Sorry abt that. gtg now but we can talk later’

He saved the number into his contacts. Another message came.

‘i have something important to tell u. how about u come over to dinner at my house after skl?’

He suddenly became ecstatic. He couldn't believe that she'd just reappeared in his life after all this time, and couldn’t wait to see her again.

‘Sounds like a plan.’

‘k. ill send u the address. cya.’

‘cya later’

Part Ten[]

Later that day, once school was over, he searched up the address she had given him on his phone. He found the place and hurried there eagerly, speeding through the city on his bike. She lived in a town surprisingly far from the school, in a quiet and secluded suburban neighbourhood of small population.

It was an unfamiliar location, a town he had never visited before, and it took him far longer than he’d expected to get there. He guessed that it would’ve taken them a substantially long time to get to and from school, even by car. By the time he had reached his destination, the sky was beginning to darken.

He spotted a bike rack at the head of the street, and he locked his bike to it before descending down the rest of the street on foot.

It was very wide, surrounded by tall trees which cast angular shadows over the houses on both sides. Some of the houses seemed to have been abandoned, becoming ruined and dilapidated. They gradually faded into the shadows as the sun descended beneath the orange sky.

Crows came out at dusk to rest on the overhead cables, alongside several pairs of old trainers which dangled from the laces fifty feet above the ground. He looked around, but wasn’t able to see anyone else walking down this street. A chilly breeze made him shiver, and he zipped up his jacket.

He walked up to the house and knocked. The door opened, and he couldn’t help smiling at the sight of a familiar face and red bow. Upon seeing her, adrenalin started to flow through his veins, accelerating by the second – he had become so wildly ecstatic, almost unsure of what to do with himself anymore.

“Rosie! Rosie!

“Marty? Is that really you?” Her eyes were wide in disbelief as she scanned him. There was not a single aspect of him she remembered that had not changed since their last parting.

“Yeah, it’s me. I missed you, Rosie.”

“You look… pretty cool.”

“Thanks, you too.”

Like him, she’d grown taller over the past few months. The curves of her hips had become more pronounced, and her breasts had developed… quite a bit. He suddenly averted his eyes, and smiled sheepishly. But when he met her eyes again, he noticed they were incredibly sunken in. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in days.

“Come in! It’s great to see you!”

He went in, and headed towards the living room. She closed the door behind him, clicking it firmly shut, then she sat down next to him on the couch.

The house was small, and felt a little cramped. It had an antique feel to it; the wallpaper, carpets, cushion covers – everything was in shades of brown, grey and green. There were various paintings of animals and nature – deer, wolves, and birds of prey all framed in a thick golden border hung on the walls around him.

It felt different, not being surrounded by Apple products and other gadgets or items of modern technology, which were always proudly on display when he visited friends’ houses. The deeper he entered into this house, the more he felt as if he’d been transported back in time.

"Shall I get us something to drink?" She smiled.

"I'm fine, you can go get something."

"Oh, I won't bother."

“Where’s your dad and Posie?” Marty asked.

“They’re out at the hospital,” Rosie replied, “but Dad is gonna be back soon, hopefully with food.” She let out a tiny squeal of excitement.

“Posie still not feeling well?”

She lowered her head, and was silent for a while.

“I was going to tell you,” she began, “Posie was diagnosed with leukaemia.”

“Oh shit, I’m so sorry –” Marty was shocked and speechless. He put a hand on Rosie’s shoulder, making an effort to comfort her, but she seemed relatively undisturbed.

“It’s fine, it’s old news anyway. We knew that day we left the old school. They told us she had about a year to live, and we couldn’t believe it. I felt like part of me died that day as well. As of now, she has about four or five months remaining.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the clouds drifting apart outside the window, revealing an ever darkening sky. The initial rush of seeing his old friend had begun to die down as his mood dampened.

Marty wondered what it would be like to be told you only had four months to live. Perhaps, he would desperately long to hear the sweet sound of birdsong in the morning, to hear the voices of family and friends, and savour the taste of sour candy melting on his tongue, in fear that every time he did so would be his last.

Or perhaps he would lock himself up, alone in his room, waiting to die. Or perhaps he would do something else.

Depended on whether the subject of said scenario was the old Marty, or the new Marty – which one was he? He realised he didn’t even know himself well enough to predict the outcome of such a situation anymore.

“So what’s been going on since then?” He sighed.

“Posie lived for a while at home with us, but she’s been in and out of the hospital more often recently. I moved to a new school closer to our house, and things have been fine on that front. I do miss some friends and teachers from the old school though. I’ve been thinking about you sometimes as well.”

“I see. So have I.”

“Anyway, it’s been a long time. How are you, Marty? How have you been?”

“Things have been pretty good for me this year. I usually hang out with Daniel and them, and I sometimes hang around with other people too… um, my foster mom’s taking me to New York to see my grandparents in the summer break, so looking forward to that. Just that I guess.”

“You’ve changed, Marty.” She coughed slightly.

“A bit,” he laughed, scratching his head.

“Your entire look has changed. You’ve got friends, and you even speak so different. Seems like you’re a lot happier now.”

“Yeah, I am. Dare I say, Rosie, you changed me.”

I did?” She sounded bewildered.

He nodded.

“Huh,” she looked pleasantly surprised. “No idea I had that effect on people.”

He edged closer to her, his grip on her shoulder tightening slightly.

“I realised I wasn’t being myself, dressing and acting like that. I didn’t really want to shun people out of my life – I wanted to be accepted, but I didn’t know how. I was afraid to talk to people, so I convinced myself being alone was cool, and I didn’t need other people.

“Then, when I met you, I realised it was possible to open up again. I’ve been wanting to thank you for that, for a long time now. You saved my life twice. You taught me how to let go of him and move on.”

She smiled, but still looked a little confused.

“Let go of who?”

“My dad. You… do remember the day I told you, don’t you? It was the day we…”

“Oh yeah, of course. I remember now. I remember that day.” He felt himself blushing as she leaned against him, resting her head against his chest.

She pressed against him, pushing herself up until her head was tucked against his neck, half her face obscured by the shadow of his chin. He put an arm around her, feeling her move up and down gently as she breathed against him, and began stroking her hair.

“It would’ve been cool if we spent more time together before you left. I’m sorry if I scared you the first day we met. I thought that was the reason you guys tried to avoid me most of the time. And the questionable way I looked, obviously.”

She didn’t reply, and continued to breathe quietly, resting against him. He felt her breathing quiver as she started to cough and splutter for a moment, her hand over her mouth.

"You alright? Need some water?"

"I'll be... I'll be fine." Her voice was hoarse.


Something gradually slid out of her pocket as she nudged up against him. He looked down and caught sight of a bloodied tissue. He stared at it for a second, before his heart started to race. This time, it wasn’t from excitement.

“Um,” he began, but paused for a while before continuing, “you do remember the day we first met, don’t you? Outside the school gate?”

She remained silent for a few seconds.

“Kinda,” she finally replied.

Marty froze, unable to take his eyes off the tissue which had now fallen out of her pocket onto the couch. Something was very wrong.

He let go of her.

“What’s wrong, Marty?”

“Undo your top button,” he instructed.

She narrowed her eyes.


“I thought that collar looks a bit tight around your neck. Just do it, it won’t kill you,” he said sternly.

She glared at him, and proceeded to unfasten the button holding together her shirt collar. It revealed the tip of a scar at the base of her neck, tilting diagonally towards the left side of her chest. He exhaled with relief.

“You satisfied? Shall I undo them all? ‘Cuz I can if you want.” She smiled seductively, her eyes shining with blue fire as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself closer to him. Her breath was warm and moist against his face. He tried to push her away, but she kept crawling up him like some sort of creature, resisting his force.

He suddenly felt very uncomfortable, and a wave of nausea came over him as his heart continued to race.

The sound of a car pulling into the driveway made him jump. The room was almost completely dark, and the headlights of the car illuminated it slightly from outside the window.

“Sorry, I’d like to stay longer, but Mom says I have to be back before eight.” He glanced nervously at his watch.

Her smile faded, and she let go of him. He stood up hastily, straightening his jacket.

“Aw, is it, Dad? He’s not scary at all, I’m sure you’ll like each other.”

She suddenly grabbed hold of him by the shirt again.

"What's wrong, Marty?" she whispered.

He lurched backwards in shock. Beads of sweat had begun to gather upon his brow.

“I should get going now.” He picked up his rucksack and flung it over his shoulder. “Thanks for inviting me over.”

She blinked, disappointed by his hasty self-dismissal. She loosened the grip on his shirt. Never mind, it was his speciality after all.

“No problem, take care.”

“Uh, you too, see you soon.”

He leaned away, but she still managed to peck him on the cheek before he made a swift exit out of the front door and made his way down the street.

In the distance, he heard the faint laughter of a male voice as he turned off the ignition and slammed the car door shut. Then, another higher pitched voice joined him, and the laughter of the two voices resonated through the house, gradually fading until he heard the shutting of the front door –


Part Eleven[]

In the early hours of yesterday morning, the body of a fifteen year old girl was discovered by local residents on top of a red Mercedes Benz, after having jumped from the top of a five-storey car park. The girl, formally identified as Karen Williams, was addressed by the name Rosie Coulter before an autopsy and investigation was carried out, which revealed a long-standing identity mix-up.

Stepfather Richard Coulter, 52, has expressed deep sadness at her passing. “She was just like a daughter to me, and we treated her as our own flesh and blood. Karen had always been a deeply troubled girl, especially after the passing of her mother last year, and in the end it was all too much for her. She will be missed.”

Half sister Posie Coulter, having been diagnosed with leukaemia last year, is also struggling to cope with her loss.

If you suspect you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call suicide prevention hotline at –

“Ain’t that crazy!” exclaimed Daniel. “To think she was sitting in our class just last year… just five seats or so away from me… and what’s more, they weren’t even twins! Can't frickin' believe it, they looked identical... Holy shit! Tough times, man, weird, tough times.”

Marty stared at the smiling face of Rosie, Karen Williams, fixed on those large, familiar round eyes. His hands started to shake as he held the paper.

“Yesterday morning?” he choked.

“Yeah, it says that’s when they found her.”

Tears began to well in his eyes. It was all going through his mind too fast for him to process at once. Fear, dread, and sadness, alternated with confusion. His face flushed, and his eyes reddened.

“I-is this real?”

“I mean, it’s gotta be. Hey man, you ok?”

He fell to his knees.

“How is this possible? How can this be?” Marty shook his head violently, arms clutching his head.

“Did you know her? Dude, you alright?”

He snatched the paper and walked out of the classroom in silence, unblinking. A few heads turned as he exited, nobody thinking anything much of it. Marty found his way to an empty corridor and sat in the corner, staring at the smiling face in the image of the black and white newspaper.

you do remember the day we first met, don’t you? outside the school gate?


let go of who?

in the early hours of yesterday morning...

He had overlooked too much last night at Rosie's house. The first time he met Rosie was not outside the school gate, but under the stairwell. He knew that, and so did… Karen. But Karen was already dead by the time that conversation had taken place.

diagnosed with leukaemia...

He thought there was something up with that bloody tissue in her pocket. He knew it. The dark circles around her eyes, the way she coughed. That strange, catenary shaped smile...

he’s dodgy...

just ‘cuz I almost made you cry like a toddler last week!

I don’t remember anything like that happening at all...

I didn’t mean to call you a retard...

temporarily suspended...

So, he realised, it wasn’t the first time she had done it either.

is this marty dawkins?

here, call me if you’re worried about anything...

is this...


It all came flooding back to him now, conjuring the waves of sudden revelations.

long-standing identity mix-up...

call suicide prevention...


shall I undo them all? ‘Cuz I can if you want...

Marty trembled as he put the paper down. He sat with his head buried in his hands, and began to weep uncontrollably. He wept for a good friend, his own stupidity and the cruelty of mankind. He'd suspected something was up - there was a chance he could've saved her from her own sister, he knew there was. If only she'd told him the truth, then he could've... what could he have done? He couldn't think of an answer to that question.

Something shuffled in his trouser pocket. He reached in and pulled out a small folded piece of paper. Gingerly, he unfolded it and read the blurry words through his tears:

Freedom – a poetry project

You might think freedom
Is not being labelled by grades
Being allowed to show who we truly are
Without being at all afraid

Some people might think freedom
Is doing whatever you want
Realizing your dreams of fame and fortune
And eating from fancy restaurants

Other people might think freedom
Is being able to accept what we are
Letting go of your past
With opportunity for a new start

I think that freedom
Is just another stupid word
When you can never escape it has no meaning
Forever I will remain silent and unheard

Marty stared at it in dismay, teardrops staining the paper.

another stupid word...

He seized his phone from his pocket and dialled.

“911, what is your emergency?” The voice from the other end was calm and unwavering.

“I'm calling to report a suspected murder.”

Written by Fairly7Local
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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