Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Assignment 1: Insane in the Mainframe

    I trudged through the deep snow, every inch of my body shivering. I hugged myself tightly and tugged at my coat in a futile attempt to keep warm. I could feel snowflakes clinging to my eyelashes so when I blinked my eyes stung with cold. My toes were numb inside my boots despite the two layers of socks I was wearing.
   The sky was full of clouds but I could see the round, silver moon in a break, hanging in the sky like a sequin. Snow lashed at my face like a whip, falling down from the sky thickly with incredible speed as the ferocious wind blew the large flakes into my pale face. I could barely breath it was so cold, it felt like my lungs were freezing up inside me.
   There were bare, lifeless trees on either side of the barely visible path, claimed in the clutches of deep winter. They leaned towards me with long, thin branches that looked like claws ready to rake me to pieces. I could have sworn they were alive.
   I was lost. There was no doubt about it. Fresh tears splintered from my eyes and froze on my cheeks.
   Then, just ahead, I saw the outline of a wonky, old, stone wall. And beyond the wall I could just about make out the outline of a rickety cottage. I gasped with wonder and hope, breathing in flakes of snow which made me cough and splutter. I hurried forwards with new found determination.
   I soon made it to the cottage. It was two-storey with small windows and a crooked chimney perched on top like a hat. The cottage was made of large stones which were covered in moss. The roof had many slate tiles missing and the green paint on the wood door was flaking. Ivy was growing around the door but it was lifeless and brown, the leaves crispy like dried flowers.
  The garden was covered in snow but of what I could see all the bushes were dead and brown. The grey, stone, birdbath was frozen over. The whole place seemed frozen in time; all was still except for the howling wind blowing snow through the air.
   I looked around me. There was nothing else for miles around apart from dead trees and endless fields covered in snow. Cautiously, I crept forward and pushed open the old, metal gate. I let go of it as I walked through and it creaked on its hinges as it shut. Snow crunched under my feet as I made my way to the door.
   As I drew closer, I realized that the door was open a fraction. My heart raced faster. Was it abandoned? I stepped up into the porch and, after taking a deep breath, pushed the door open and stepped inside.
   It was dark, completely dark. I could vaguely make out the staircase in front of me and several doors leading off to other parts of the house. I rested my shaking hand on the hand rail and immediately pulled away. It was covered in inches of grey dust.
   “Hello.” I called out hesitantly. “Is there anybody here?”
   Drip. Drip. Drip. 
   I looked up. 
   On the ceiling there were bare floorboards, from which dripped a steady flow of blood. There was a thump from upstairs. I began to back away, my mind reeling. I had only one thought, to get out of there.
   “Where’d you think you’re going?” Said a stern, imposing voice. 
  I spun around; standing in the doorway was a man. His face was hidden in shadow. He was tall and lean; in his hand he held a long knife.
  I screamed.
   “Willow! Get up! You’re going to be late for school!”
   I sat bolt upright. The sound of my mother’s shouts dragging me from my nightmare. My skin felt clammy and my fringe was stuck to my forehead. My heart was racing and I was panting as if I'd just run a marathon.
   I glanced at the digital alarm clock perched on my dresser. It was almost eight o’ clock in the morning. I slumped back down onto my pillows.
  “I’m up!” I bellowed back.
  I flung my quilt away from me and hauled myself out of bed. There was a faint light sifting through my pale, red curtains but apart from that the room was dark. I struggled out of bed and pulled on my horrendous school uniform and ran a brush through my hair, before dashing down the stairs.
   My mum was in the kitchen, making herself her morning coffee. “There you are!” She said as I stumbled into the room. “I made you some-”
   “Thanks mum!” I called as I caught the toast as it leapt out of the toaster.
   “Aren’t you going to sit down to eat that?”
   “Do you want me to be late for school?”
   I opened the front door just as my best friend, Aiden, was about to ring the doorbell.
   “Are you psychic or something?” He asked.
   “No, of course not.” I replied as I plucked my jacket from its hook and slung my schoolbag over my shoulder.
   “Do you want that toast?” He asked, pointing at the piece of burnt toast in my hand.
   I rolled my eyes and chucked it at him. He caught it then took a bite.
   “Delicious.” He murmured.
   I was eyelevel with him when I was standing inside the house, but as soon as I stepped down next to him and shut the door behind me he was taller than me again. He had flat blonde hair that shone in the early morning sun. His eyes were light brown in the centre with a dark brown ring around the edge, like melted caramel mixed in chocolate. His black and navy tie was wonky, so I reached out and straightened it for him.
   “Hey!” He exclaimed. “I like it like that!”
   “It makes you look like a rebel-wannabe!” I replied.
   “It makes you look like a rebel-wannabe!” He mimicked.
   I swung my bag round so it hit him on the arm before slinging it back over my shoulder.
   “Ow! That hurt!” He howled.
   “That was the point.” I answered jokily as I bounded down the driveway, laughing as he chased after me.
   He grabbed my shoulder and spun me round so I was facing him, he was laughing too. 
   It was then I noticed that his laugh had faded and he was looking curiously at something past my head.
   “What?” I turned around and that’s when I saw him too.
   The man from my dream was standing in an upstairs window of the house opposite mine. His face was cast in shadow, but I could tell it was him.
   “So…when did the creepy guy across the road move in?” Aiden questioned as we strolled down the street.
   “Mum said that the only person moving in there was a widowed old lady with no family.” I answered, trying to hide the fear in my voice. How could he be here?
   “Maybe it’s the ghost of her husband come back to haunt her!” He said spookily.
   I looked at him sceptically.
   “Ok then, maybe not.” He said.
   I glanced back over my shoulder. My heart thrummed in my chest. He was standing there, on the drive, watching me.
   “Hello! Earth to Willow!” Aiden was snapping his fingers in front of my face.
   I jolted around to face him.
   “Are you alright?” he asked.
   “I’m fine.” I lied as we crossed the road towards the school gates.
   “You sure?”
   “Yes!” I snapped. “Sorry.”
   He shrugged. “That’s ok; I understand that you’re a freak.”
   “Hey!” I dashed after him as he escaped through the crowds of students just as the school bell rang.
   When I first entered the art classroom nothing much seemed different to usual. The walls of the small classroom were covered in paintings and drawings done by students; even the ceiling was filled with artwork. At the end of the classroom was a large desk covered with pens, pencils, rubbers, glue, scissors and other stationary as well as folders and books. There were five, large, wooden benches in the room, each with four, old, wooden stools. Across the wall opposite the door was a large window, the blinds were up letting golden sunlight stream into the classroom. Nothing unusual.
   I took my seat by the window, on the table I had all to myself, and reached into my bag, eventually pulling out a fluffy, blue pencil case. As I looked up I realized someone had just sat down opposite me. I was just about to tell them to scram when our eyes met.
   His eyes were like shining emeralds; his hair was wispy and black. His skin was pale and smooth; his lips were very pale pink. Everything about him was perfect, his lean and slender build, long legs, smooth nails. Perfect.
   I looked around the room; no-one else had noticed him. How was that possible? Usually all the girls would be begging him to sit at their table, batting their eyelashes, while the boys asked what his favourite football team was. But everyone ignored him as if he wasn’t there. Maybe he wasn’t. No he definitely was, sat opposite me, looking me up and down with curious eyes.
   I was about to ask him who he was when the teacher strode into the room, tying her apron up as she entered. Her hair was a mess of brown curls as usual, tied up in a bun, and there was a paint stain down the sleeve of her cardigan.
   “Settle down class!” She bellowed.
   The boy took one last look at me before pulling out a sketchbook and drawing the beginnings of a portrait.
   Throughout the lesson I glanced up from my work to see what he was doing. The portrait looked familiar, it was in the anime style. It was a girl with long hair that flowed down her back in graceful dark red curls. Her eyes were glittering blue. She was slender with an elegant frame, wearing school uniform…
    The boy finished the last bit of colouring then put down his pencil. That was when I realized. He’d drawn a portrait of me. I gasped and looked up at him, he was staring into my eyes. I felt my cheeks burning red. 
    The bell signalling the beginning of lunch rang and he snatched the drawing off the table and strolled out of the classroom. The teacher didn’t even notice him leave.

    “Aiden! Aiden!” I skidded to a halt next to my confused best friend.
    “What on Earth happened now?” He exclaimed.
    I collapsed down next to him on the bench. A group of kids playing chase ran past us. The sun was warm on my face as I tried to get my breath back.
    “Have you seen the new boy in our year?” I said, exasperated.
    “I think I’d know if there was a new boy in our year Willow.” He replied sceptically.
    “But there is!” I cried. I explained everything that had happened in art but he just stared at me like I was crazy.
   “Well if you can show me this mysterious guy then maybe I’ll believe you.” He said.
   I looked around the playground frantically. I spotted the mystery boy leaning casually against the wall of the school building. He was watching us curiously.
   “There!” I pointed him out to Aiden.
   “Right there, leaning against the wall.” I whispered, aware that the boy was watching us.
   Aiden shook his head. “There’s nobody there Willow, you must be imagining things.”
   “But there is!” I looked up at my friend, he wasn’t joking, he really couldn’t see the boy.
   “I do have one theory.” Aiden said, a smile blooming on his face.
   “What?” I asked hopefully. 
   He stood up and pulled me to my feet. “Come here.” He said.
   I came closer.
   “I think…that…”
   “Yes…” I prompted.
   “…you’re insane.” He jumped away from me.
   “You’re such an idiot.” I thumped him on the arm playfully, he was laughing hard.
   I tried to laugh to, but something inside me was clawing at my soul. Maybe I was insane. After all, I did keep having weird dreams, and then there was the strange boy who sat opposite me in art and drew a portrait of me. And how could I forget the man in the window.  
   Something wasn’t right, and I had a feeling it was me.

   I said goodbye to the cheerful Aiden as I reached my house.
   “See you tomorrow insane girl.” He joked as he dashed away to avoid another thumping.
   I ignored his comment and was about to turn to walk down the driveway when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I looked up at the house opposite mine. There, in the same window, was the man. The man holding the knife. The man in the shadows.The man from my nightmare.