It was the perfect day
for skipping off school
. The sun had drunk every last drop of cloud, and jubilantly beamed a
gentle warmth upon the world. I felt that it wanted everyone to share in its delight at having the sky to itself. Everyone
we passed was smiling, or walking along looking content and dreamy. The sweetest of little zephyrs
pranced around and
played with any stray wisps of hair it came upon. Impossible on a day like this
to sit a double class of Biology
cold, windowless laboratory. Impossible to slice carefully into dead flesh
and discuss preserved anatomy, when the day
demanded that you enjoy and celebrate life
, celebrate being alive. We had our lunches in our bags, Geraldine had brought
along a new horror novel, and I had brought along plenty of cigarettes
We set off for our usual haunt, in the Bonbrook woods. The spot, which we had discovered the year before, was a secluded
bower deep in the woods on the bank of a river. It was perfectly beautiful and peaceful. The only sounds were the little
zephyr whispering to the trees, bird carols, and swans and ducks quacking at us.
And so we settled down to spend our day of freedom. We took off our clumpy shoes and knee high wollen socks, opened a few
buttons of our shirts and rolled up the sleeves, and pulled up our thick bottle-green gabardine skirts and tucked the ends
into the waist in a desperate attempt to bring some tinge of colour to our Irish, school uniform-smothered skin. After a
couple of fags and a chat we decided to just chill out. I lay down on the trunk of a fallen tree and dozed, and Geraldine
sat cross legged at my head and read aloud. Eventually, the day grew too hot to even read and we both fell fast asleep.
When I opened my eyes all was dark green and gold, it was slightly cooler, and Geraldine was gone. I sat up and called her,
but got no answer. I quickly put my shoes and socks back on - calling for Geraldine all the time - and started to look
around for her. It wasn't easy work, in the laggard light of sunset. The woods were getting darker and my heart was
beating faster by the moment.
A branch cracked just behind me. My head whipped round expecting Geraldine, but instead... Shadows had crept into the light
in place of the gold and the trees were an older, darker green. Even the ducks and swans had disappeared. A few feet behind
me, a man was on his hands and knees, grinning at me menacingly. I had never known that a smile could be like that. I
didn't realise until then that something so lovely could be so terrifying and alien. I was frozen. I couldn't address
him, knew there wouldn't be any point anyway. I knew he wouldn't answer. He'd just smile at me. His eyes were opened very
wide, as if he were surprised, but at the same time they were blank. He was still smiling at me. I still couldn't move, I
just stood, staring at him.
And all the time he was crawling towards me very, very slowly.
I just looked at him. He was clothed, but his shirt was torn and clung to him with sweat. And he was sneaking closer to me,
and slowly, slowly starting to stand up. At last, something in me snapped and I bolted. Through the trees I ran, I didn't
know what direction I was going, I couldn't see very well as the light was fast deserting me and my eyes were full with
blurring tears of panic. But I heard him running close behind me, and in my mind I saw him smiling as he ran. When I
couldn't run anymore, I pressed up against a tree and sobbed and gasped for breath. He had stopped too. I turned around,
and he smiled at me. He was bending down, slowly, slowy. Getting onto his hands and knees again. And when he was down,
he started crawling towards me slowly, slowly. I backed away, but he didn't speed up, he crept almost as if he thought I
couldn't see him.
But he knew I could, and it made him smile.
I couldn't run anymore, I didn't want to stop and turn around and see that smile again. So I stood against the tree and
faced him. Slowly, slowy he crawled towards me, his eyes wide.
When he reached my feet, I closed my eyes and thought about what a beautiful day it had been.