School: Woodmill High School, Fife
Tim’s eyes opened as soon as the alarm began its high pitched scream. He grunted and moaned as he hauled himself out of bed. His old navy blue dressing gown, the one his mum got him for Christmas was within reach and he hauled it about himself as he stumbled into the day. The alarm continued to ring so he picked up the nearest book and launched it like Thor’s hammer rattling through the clouds – that shut it up.
In the kitchen, his dad sat munching on a piece of toast that looked like it had been burnt to a cinder. “Hi son. Hope you have a good day at school,” he said cheerily through a mouthful of breakfast as he picked up his jacket and headed off to work. Still half asleep, Tim glanced at the clock. 7:15. So he began to organise a large bowl of cereal as his mum appeared. “Hi sweetie. Make sure you have enough time for a shower…” He hurriedly finished eating and reluctantly moved on to all the other necessary preparations for the day ahead – a day he could not quite predict.
As he walked out into the street, he saw a group of boys from his Primary school. He fell into step with them as they discussed what might lie ahead. Bigger boys. Cruel teachers. Traditional rituals and any truth about them. Just as they approached the entrance to their new world a bell rang to signal the start of classes. He immediately found himself detached from the group and panicked as he suddenly felt completely lost. In the distance, at the end of a long corridor he could just make out the sight of his friend laughing as they moved off to their first lesson. He scrambled for his timetable. Social Studies. He had Social Studies first thing. What was that, he wondered? Hoping for inspiration, he looked up from the crumpled piece of paper to see a tall boy walking his way. He was wearing a blazer with loads of badges down the lapel. The stranger gave him a sympathetic look, asked if he was lost, then offered to show Tim the way to G corridor and walked him to the correct room. Tim could not help but be impressed by the way the boy spoke so casually to the teacher as they shared a joke about lost souls.
Last to arrive, he found a seat near the back. Just five minutes in he was jolted forward by a violent blow to his shoulder. He turned around and saw the angry face of the boy who had punched him. He was swinging back and forth on his chair, whistling distractedly. Minutes later, a rubber whistled past his ear like a bullet. This time Tim didn’t turn round.
Instead, he kept his head down, looking neither right nor left and wished the lesson was over. Already a gnawing fear was growing in him that the lessons to be learnt in this place were going to be more about survival than passing exams.