‘Listen,’ Miss says, ‘to the wind tonguing its way around loose windows in the classroom. It’s got muscle.’
Silence grows skin, and I grow goose-bumps because Miss wants us to write about ourselves, to delve into feelings and spit out our hearts.
‘Conjure a world away from here!’ Miss waves an arm like a wand. She takes a black marker pen, its nib so thick that her words on the board – ‘Creative Writing’ – even smell masculine to me. Miss knows nothing about me or the place I call home with my father and brother. Miss has it all. All that honeysuckle perfume, fairy-tale ring on her finger and Snow White eye-shadow.
For inspiration, Miss reads aloud something written by a dead bloke. Words billow out as smoke, squeezing a throat and clenching a heart until its faintness is terrifying.
I take a biro in my hand like it’s an amulet and feel surprised when ink drips, black as a magpie’s tail.
Fat Vinny gets out of his chair forcefully as though he’s avoiding a fatal collision. He says it’s too hot to concentrate and cracks open the window like he’s slamming on the brakes. I hear a muffled half-sigh of air. I know it, like breathing into a pillow to stifle pain, subdue a scream, a cry for help. The rest of my oxygen is on paper.
‘It’s like a fucking séance in here!’ Vinny says.
Miss pretends not to hear, as if ‘fucking’ is beneath her. She keeps moving slowly around the classroom, performing some kind of ritual that’s meant to help us weave spells to build our own palaces.
I conjure a waterfall in slow motion, turning me to liquid, purifying every cell and tissue in my body.
A reckless gust of wind rattles the window to remind us of its muscle. ‘The wind’s ripped!’ Vinny jokes. ‘Like me.’ And he wobbles the white blubber on his stomach to raise a laugh. His belly button is submerged in the riptide. The motion of flesh drags me out of my waterfall onto a cotton sheet stained the colour of cherries, tomatoes and squashed plums. No amount of washing gets it clean.
If only words could slice the rotten, heal wounded flesh, and hide what can’t be undone under a permanent layer of snow. Miss will hear my voice soon, like the wind trapped between opaque glass.
I title my piece Dad’s Stick of Dynamite and sit back. Vinny dislikes something about the freeze frame and throws his chair across the room. Paint red as blood spots chips onto the back wall. He grabs my story and swallows it whole. Hungry – as I am – to fill the hole inside.
Choking, Vinny tries to cough up my words. The poison of its content clearly doesn’t suit his palate. Miss thumps him on the back with an impressive whack, but still his airwaves are constricted and his bloated red face turns to blue. He jerks forwards, trailing his pudgy hands down the whiteboard, smudging the words ‘Creative Writing’ Miss wrote less than an hour ago before I knew my power. He lands heavily on the carpet.
Perhaps I do have a voice, after all.
“Teacher – Listen” was first published by Horla in 2020.
Louise writes about the complexity and the darker side of the human heart in the genres of horror and psychological thrillers. Many of her stories explore motherhood, mental health disorders, revenge and family. Her tales are imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings with strong female characters and multi-layered plots. She is at her most poetic describing the dark and disturbing. The latest release is Doctor Glass.
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