School: Shawlands Academy, Glasgow
Morning sun smashed into the concrete wall like a bird into a window. Jerk pulled himself up from his mouldy mattress, smoothed his fark, greasy hair with a hand cur and caked with dirt. The Slaughterhouse windows were tiny, like arrow slits on a fortress, but that precious beam of light illuminated the grave like manager’s office. Mik was slumped over in a ripped office chair., his eyelids not quite closed and a burnt-out cigarette perched precariously between his scarred middle fingers. He was clothed in a bloodstained polo shirt that looked like it was about to burst off his bloated torso, while a rancid river of vomit had rolled its way down his bearded chin and formed a lake, stagnant on his chest. Beer cans formed an army over in the corner, but Jerk couldn’t tell the difference between the new ones and seniors who had been there for years. His father, in all his glory, looked like he’d been through a car crash. Jerk knew he was working late cleaning out machinery, and that he had probably left work out for him. And he couldn’t in his wildest dreams imagine waking the beast before him. Fury raced through his veins. Mik didn’t have to haul himself out of bed any time soon.
Downstairs, Jerk trod silently past various torture devices. Abattoir was the official name given to his home by the council, but Mik, partially because he couldn’t pronounce the alternative, had always referred to it as a slaughterhouse. In a strange way it felt less sinister. It wasn’t sugar-coated, but abattoir could really mean anything to a town full of people where those who graduated high school weren’t much more educated than those who didn’t. But no emotion crossed Jerk’s face. He was numb to the horrors, at age twelve he had taken more lives than everyone in the richer areas of Scotsville combined. In fact no one in the rundown ‘holiday destination’ seemed dazed by the mass murders that took place down the road. The local school even paid an annual visit where they set out to learn about ‘agriculture and nutrition’.
A cardboard box dripping with foul smelling juices had been dumped at the door, a torn post-it note covered in dirty fingerprints half stuck onto the side. The boy scanned over it with his muddy, dead eyes. They were roughly the same colour as his thick hair, and seemed to have lost their sparkle a thousand years ago. Scrawn across the paper in almost illegible handwriting were the words: leftovers, dump at greasy goats, bobbys fryup. These were the slaughterhouse’s main customers. Scotsville wasn’t the most diverse in terms of food. Or anything else, really. It seemed that for the majority of residents life ended outside the city limits.
Jerk didn’t stop to ponder. Silent like a ghost, he unbolted the heavy door and slipped his slender frame out into the morning sunlight. His eyes strained and flickered, a gentle warmth wrapped its fingers around the boy, giving him a sense of safety he only felt when alone.
Humans were just walking problems. The hill had been scarred by the elements, endless fires left only coal black spears jutting out of the earth. Over the horizon of grey, a sapphire blue sea shone just too far out of reach. Now and again, Mik would roll his son down to town in the beaten pick up truck, but today was not one of those days. Dust hung danced around his feet, and a coal black beetle scuttled through the nothingness.
The boys feet turned to rocks by the time he reached town. It was deserted, apocalyptic even on this early hour on Sunday. Even the parking lot was dead. Greasy Goats was an eery scene. They wouldn’t be opening for just over an hour, but a faint light glowed from inside. Jerk darted past, heaved the box up over his head and slammed it hard against the cracked brickwork. Like a bomb, buts of debris went everywhere. Meat, a sick, greyish colour, spewed up the wall and under the door. Unidentifiable liquid squelched out, a foul smelling puddle forming dangerously close to his feet. Jerk couldn’t tell what possessed him to do it, but he wasn’t the type to think things over. There was rattling by the window now, and the door handle began to twist. The boy’s feet moved before his mind, he darted through the fence and onto the abandoned street. Angry words chased him, hunting him down. ‘VANDAL, GET OFF THIS PROPERTY, YOU BRAT! YOU’RE VERMIN! GET OUT!’ snarled a voice thick with fury.
Jerk’s heart was beating like a sledgehammer. His lungs burned and his throat was coated in sandpaper. He had run about two miles, but Jerk almost expected to end up on the other side of the country. The boy’s face was bright red from the sun and trails of salty water divided his face. the boy doubled over, sunken in the dirt with his head buried in between his cut knees. Rage boiled up inside his very soul and he let out a scream.
Time seemed to have gotten away from him by the time he finally hauled himself up. Immediately, he noticed the iron roof of Georgette’s shed. Then he saw her. Perched in a dead tree, her fire red hair hanging effortlessly from a loose ponytail on top of her head. The girl’s olive eyes caught Jerks’s for just a second, until he flitted away awkwardly. Jerk and Georgette had been neighbours since age six and could kill hours just laughing together for no reason. But their friendship was always awkward, a secret thing that locked up like buried treasure at school. She was so calm, so put together for someone whose life was so falling apart. Georgette was strong and tall, bigger than Jerk, she swore in almost every sentence, and was extremely athletic. She and her father, Dul, lived and worked on a cattle farm, where Georgette had learned to wrestle with a raging bull. Jerk adored her. But his tears were to be shared with no-one, not even Georgette, and his whole face turned scarlet.
‘Hey,’ the girl said coolly.
‘Hi,’ grunted Jerk half under his breath.
The pair sat in silence for a long time, blending into the ugly landscape.
‘Ya know, I’ve been thinking.’ She finally broke the silence. ‘I wish I could just fly off sometimes, you know? Not live here, on this stupid hill until I die. I mean, jeez, can you imagine 80-year-old me sittin up in that tree for hours?!’ She giggled and the tone was sad and insincere. Then, out of nowhere, the girl grabbed Jerk’s wild hair and pushed him face first into the soot. With sun burning her pale, freckled skin, Georgette started to wrestle him. Hours flew by, until an iron grip locked in place on Jerk’s bony shoulder.
‘What were doing, playing hide and seek?!? Get your butt inside, spoiled brat!’
Georgette shot him a sad look as the boy retreated into the darkness.