|Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 10:46 am
|This one's a bit long at 2600 plus words. It's up for publication at the mo' so i might have to delete it if it's accepted. Hope you like it. (There's a logical reason for the title btw and everyone who's read it hasn't spotted it yet..there's a Guiness for the first who does)
Fortune favours the grave.
The unspoken motto of St. Gordon’s Primary school.
Fortune favours the grave, as in, you’re going to be far better off in your tiny wooden box, children; six feet under, safe and snug with the bugs and slugs, than attending the blot upon the educational system that I know every decent loving parent should be made aware of…
Come sit beside me, my loves, within the attic of your dreams. I’ll dust off your cobwebs, light a flame for your minds and tell you another Fairy Wail that was written in stone, extracted from the halls and the corridors of the most horrific of scholastic establishments affectionately known as Gordon’s Prime--the sad and sordid tale of two brilliant, ambitious yet hellish of little ten year olds you would ever want to meet.
Lucinda Morgan’s light-blue national health reading glasses clashed with her bright ginger locks to such an extent she could have been regarded as uncomely, but the large silver braces she was forced to wear to try to straighten her ever so crooked teeth landed her within the realms of pig ugly. Or even repulsive. Not a very charming nomenclature, to say the least, but one that fit her like Cinderella’s slipper.
Candice Primrose, on the other hand, was an enchantress. The complete antithesis of her rusty maned rival. Her hair was as black as oil; sheen and alive, It flowed down her back like a thunderous waterfall, full of curls and suggestions of the beautiful woman she would eventually become. Her vivid aquamarine eyes sat atop the most exquisite of cheekbones--proud and perfect--as offerings to gods…or other, less charitable omnipotent beings.
Despite their differing looks, Lucinda and Candice had so many other things in common; you would have thought they were one and the same person. They were born on the same day; started eating solids the same day; crawled, walked and talked at exactly the same time, yet lived on opposite sides of the village.
When they were in pre-school they drew pictures, read books and solved math at an astounding level-- far advanced for their age, and on a perfect par with one another--so as you can well imagine, even before the incident at the village hall, there was already a fair amount of unhealthy competition between the two.
Within weeks of enrolling at Gordon’s Prime, their teachers noticed a strange phenomenon. The scores from their tests were not just similar; they were identical.
It was thought they were cheating somehow--hidden signals to each other during exam time, some kind of code maybe? But after they were separated to different rooms during a geography test, and were duly given 92%, and both got exactly the same things wrong, it was considered there was some sort of psychic link. Brows were creased, shoulders were shrugged, the fuss died down, and life continued on. They were invariably top of their class so everyone stopped questioning the mysterious connection between the two and just accepted it.
Everyone except for Lucinda and Candice that is, who continued to regard each other with the antagonism and vile contempt only little girls are capable of.
I say invariably top in their class because woodwork and metalwork were not subjects Lucinda and Candice excelled in, or cared to excel in for that matter. Nails would be broken and hair would be muffed. Boy subjects, which gave little Harold Cunningham, the new boy from down south a chance to shine, bless him. He was a wizard with his hands and produced work of such wonderful quality.
One day, during break, the girls found themselves at the notice board next to the teacher’s common room staring at a pronouncement tacked to the cork detailing the particulars of a competition--a spelling competition--that would be the climax of the village fete scheduled to take place the following month. Both girls signed their names on the entry form attached and whirled away in opposite directions, wicked knowing smiles plastered upon their lips.
In the days and weeks that followed, both hit the books with a dedication even their parents hadn’t seen. Dictionaries and encyclopedias littered their bedrooms, lists of multi-syllabic tongue twisters appeared beneath the magnets on the fridge. Words, Words, and more words they crammed into their youthful brains.
Their schoolwork suffered.
Little Harold Cunningham beamed with delight as he came first in a History exam. The girls barely noticed; they were oblivious to their surroundings, such was their concentration on the competition and rivalry.
Diligence and commitment are wonderful attributes to be sure, but when taken to their limits—as we shall see-- they turn into obsession and mania. It was all to end in tears, I fear.
The evening before the contest, both girls knelt before their beds to pray: hands slapped tightly together, chins on thumbs. They blessed their parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, like they’d done countless times before. Tonight however, they added a codicil. At precisely the same time they said, in a soft conspiratorial dream of a whisper, “And please, please, please let me beat that horrible girl Lucinda/Candice tomorrow night at the contest…just this once…please, please, please…just this once. ”
As they continued their pathetic mantra, the lights in their bedrooms dimmed--or rather were smothered by a dank, clammy, claret potency that oozed from their eyes. White turned red, as though a big glob of warm strawberry jelly forced its way into the little girls rooms, ejected from their souls; squeezing even time itself into the darkest corners. Still, they muttered.
“…I’d give anything, just this once to…”
The atmosphere around them stank with thick, fetid bloody intentions that infected the air.
“…just to see her lose…”
Before their faces appeared a small deep-scarlet faceted orb which pulsed and began to spin.
“…just to see her cry…”
It spun faster and faster; a manic ruby, crazed and crimson.
“…just to see her…”
The speed of its revolutions increased and it threw out ever-increasing shards of red light until…
The girls’ ears gave way under pressure; they opened their eyes and shook their heads as they emerged from their somnambulant trance. Everything normal.
Except it wasn’t.
Lucinda Morgan and Candice Primrose stared at the velvet heart-shaped boxes lying on their beds, begging to be opened.
And open them, they did.
Inside hers Lucinda found a silver necklace and a note, which she unfolded and read. She placed the necklace around her neck and fingered the initials upon the pendant. “LM” set with the most exquisite rubies.
Candice’s box also contained a piece of jewelry and a letter. A ring, encrusted with the same stones as her rival’s. “CP”. She read her missive with hungry eyes.
The fete had been a resounding success—apart from some weird occurrences at the pie-eating contest, which will be related at a later date—and the villagers entered the hall, full of anticipation. There was a buzz of excitement, a natter of voices as family and friends made their way to their seats whilst pointing at the kids in the limelight.
A dozen fidgety ten year olds were assembled in a semi-circle at the back of the stage, sitting on hands and picking in noses.
The school’s resident English teacher, Mrs. Broadbottom—who didn’t actually have one—stood stage left behind a rather impressive looking plinth usually reserved for the local cattle auction. It had a nifty little night-light that lit her notes but kept her face in the dark. Center stage, illuminated by an aggressive spot from above, was a microphone stand, to which she would invite the first child. And, after a short speech thanking the Fete committee and the school governors, she settled the crowd with the bang of a gavel she’d found hanging on the plinth.
“I’d like to call the first competitor in our inaugural Spelling Bee. Would Sarah Jameson please come to the microphone.”
A not-too-happy looking Sarah approached the stand as she would a smallpox inoculation and gulped audibly. She shielded her eyes with her hand and peered into the gloom for her parents for support.
“Sarah, your word is…” Mrs. Broadbottom-who-didn’t-actually-have-one was a closet drama queen, so the pause between her word “is”, and the word that Sarah was knocking her knees for, was interminably long.“…enigma.”
Sarah placed a shaky hand over her mouth—as all polite young children should—cleared her throat and said.
“That is correct Sarah, you may sit down.”
The audience clapped politely, and there was an enthusiastic “Woohoo” from Sara’s father who received an elbow in the ribs for his efforts from his ever-so embarrassed spouse.
And thus it began. The children were called--each in turn--to stand before the microphone and spell their allotted words, beaming ear-to-ear as they made it to the next round. Nerves ebbed, and the audience settled into a sort of zealous boredom until the first wrong answer came.
Roger Black--a big lad who would one day play Rugby for his country--spelled “rhythm” with an “I”.
“I’m afraid that is incorrect Roger, you may leave the stage.”
After a slight pause the crowd realized something different was required of it and gave out a sympathetic “Awwwwww…” and applauded him off stage.
After that, the kids fell like ninepins.
Suzie “The Spots” Harrison fled the stage in tears when she misheard the word “logorrhea” and spelled something completely different. The laughter coming from the crowd haunted her for years, poor girl.
One-by-one they fell, until the group of twelve had been whittled down to three. Lucinda Morgan, Candice Primrose and little Harold Cunningham. It was Harold’s turn.
“Harold, could you spell the word diphyllous please?”
Harold missed out an “L.”
“I’m sorry Harold, that is incorrect. Would you sit in our third place chair please?” Mrs. Broadbottom-who-didn’t-actually-have-one gestured to an underling off-stage, who brought on an extra mike stand and set it up next to the original one. Harold—who looked a little star struck-- shrugged and went to sit.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have now come to stage two of the competition where our finalists, Candice and Lucinda will spell three words each. If, at the end of the six words there is a tie, then they will read their own special word, in turn, that they themselves have chosen to challenge the other”
The audience looked blank: totally confused.
“Lucinda Morgan and Candice Primrose.” The English teacher boomed with loud dramatic aplomb. “Will you please take your places for the final of St. Gordon’s first annual Spelling Bee.”
The audience erupted in wild applause as the two young children made their way to their places at the front of the stage. They glanced at each other and snapped their heads away at once to face the town. Focused. Their mutual hatred seemed to encompass and asphyxiate, but also empower and charge them.
Mrs. Broadbottom began the final.
“Lucinda. Would you please spell the word xanthosis?”
And, to the crowd’s approval, she did.
“Candice. Would you please spell for me the word coleopterous?”
Again, a rapturous ovation poured onto the stage from the seating area of the village hall.
Endoradiosonde, paludicious, recumbentibus and staurolatry were the final four words given to the girls, and as you’d expect from our two young finalists, each word was spelt exactly as it should.
“Well isn’t this exciting?” said the English teacher. “We have now reached the knockout stage. Girls. Do you have your words with you?”
Lucinda and Candice both nodded—as one—and lifted the pieces of paper they had received the night before.
“Then let’s begin then shall we? Lucinda you can start us off. What is the word you’d like Candice to spell for us dear?”
Even before Mrs. Broadbottom had finished the word “dear” the quality of the air in the hall seemed to deteriorate. A few people coughed and tugged at their collars, eyes were rubbed and sneezes were sneezed. The atmosphere then became thick with a ruddy gelatinous goo that settled upon the townsfolk, fixing them in their positions.
Only the two bright spots upon the stage, and the combatants within, were free from the spell.
Lucinda’s hand felt for her newly acquired necklace, she turned to her nemesis, raised the piece of paper and spat the first of the two remaining words.
Before Candice could answer she felt a tug on the lid of her right eye, which snapped itself shut. Its eyelashes thickened, stiffened, curled over and sewed themselves to her cheek. Her left eye retreated backwards and started moving beneath the skin like a mouse under a carpet to the center of her forehead, where it popped out like a floatation device, ready for action but confused at what precise action it should be ready for.
Lucinda screeched with unbalanced laughter as Candice fumbled with the now one-dimensional parchment clasped between her hands, but stopped silent when she heard the word that was chosen for her.
“Thalidomidic.” Candice said, pointing her pulsating ring at her opponent with a boxer’s fist.
Lucinda gasped as her arms dropped off and fell with a clomp. And gasped with a squeal when her torso dropped to the stage because her legs severed themselves at the hip, leaving her, like Pisa’s tower, waiting for a strong gust to blow her over.
And there they were.
Candice stood holding the microphone, feeling a bit dizzy and seasick. She locked eyes…eye… with Lucinda who was balancing upon the edge of her own personal precipice when they both realized at exactly the same time—just like we have done—that it was a tie.
They raised their heads to the ceiling and screamed…
In a burgundy flash, throughout the hall the air began to move. Two ruby-like orbs appeared above the little girls and began to rotate at an amazing speed, humming and cursing with auditory epithets, shaking the air and scratching; ripping and breaking. Red lightning blazed from them with frantic ordinance, chaos with purpose, passion yet primed. A Spell.
Something had been opened.
And was immediately closed.
The audience shook itself out of its reverie…embalmment…and peered at the empty stage. Lucinda and Candice had vanished; from where they sat not a trace could be seen. They filed out, feeling confused and a little bit cheated, like the father of the bride at the end of the day.
So there you go and here we are.
It’s difficult to think at the end of the story that it’s really the end of a story, I know. You need time to reflect upon the reasons and the whys, the wherefores and the how’s, the secrets hidden and the morals bidden; but mine’s not to know of either, I can tell you. I’m here just to tell the tale.
If you’re looking for morals, then there are morals a plenty; but you can look for them yourself because I’m too scared. And there are secrets of course, secrets deep. But I’m not the one to be digging for them because, if I have to be honest, I’ll not be the one who happens to care.
So who does care do you think?
You think little Harold Cunningham cares?
Harold Cunningham—with the putrid red eyes-- who stared at the little shits steaming upon the stage whilst clutching first prize with one hand and rubbing his initialed cufflinks with the other, do you think he cared?
I don’t think he did.
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