art by Wi Waffles
Sticks and Stones
by Kevin Pickett
I watched the boy lift the faux-fur lined hood of his Parka coat up around his red-cheeked face and pull the weather-beaten door closed behind him. The wind pushed against his tiny frame as he hurried along the sloping grass embankment outside the short row of council houses. Twice the cruel wind whipped about him, and he stumbled like a drunkard at midnight, but he righted himself and began the hard trek up the hill beside the Priory ruins. Those familiar sandstone remains of tumbled ancient structures were like half-buried bones rising from the grass along the cliff top bluff; broken and twisted by the spite of time.
I felt the cruel January chill, though my encapsulation field protected me from the atmosphere beyond my enviro-suit. I could taste the salt on the air as the waves crashed onto Haven beach, though my lungs breathed pure filtered air from the breather tanks on my back. As I watched the boy wearily clamber the winding path beside the ancient cliff, pulling his school bag up onto his shoulder, I turned away. I did not need to see any more.
I knew how he felt on this day. Cold. Dejected. Alone. Frightened.
I knew what he thought on this day. There was no way out.
I knew what he wished on this day. For someone to stop the bullying.
I knew that no one ever did.
I watched them waiting for him at the school gates. Four boys; older, bigger, stronger.
I powered up my enviro-suit and maintained the cloaking field. Walking along beside the little boy--invisible to him--I slowed as he slowed. I stopped as he did. But as the four youths brandished their sticks and stones, ready to unleash their cruel spite on this little boy, I reversed my time-suit polarity.
As they brought their arms to bear, I too raised my armor-suited fist, watching the spiraling surge of warp-time build around my arm like fireflies at dusk. The little boy crouched defensively, making a smaller target for their cruelty, but knowing their aim was good.
I was sure that my own was better.