Photo courtesy of TheShakes72 (via The Angry Hourglass)
Running The Gauntlet
They will be there, waiting. They always are. Leaning casually against the lockers at intervals along the corridor – wanting - needing - Mark to run their gauntlet. Instead, he is crawling towards the group of guys standing between him and his exit into a world beyond theirs, within these walls.
“Div!” Whispered words, tone low; still he hears them as he passes Daz, the first of them. Already, he is retreating into himself, head tucked hidden, a small shouldered curling, feet sliding forwards, as though sticky substances seemingly glue them to the ground underfoot. He feels them threatening to pull him in; to consume him with what they see. He tells himself he cannot – will not - be devoured by their daily lessons in diminishing.
“Spaz!” Louder, as he walks passed Chris avoiding eye contact, then Mark is on his hands and knees, fingers outspread to catch himself, as his feet are out and from under him in one swift motion and he is feeling the friction burns on his skin; the dull ache in his leg in the aftermath of its initial contact with the floor. His right ankle is a separate, competing sting. Water threatens to spill and blur from his eyes. He holds it in, heaving - in, out.
Suddenly, they are circled surrounding him, silent, whilst he sprawls stunned on the cold tile, red stains from his grazes marking the otherwise ivory white, the broken frames of his glasses to his side.
“See ya later, Specs!” Joe says, pointing into his face, he thinks, and they are turning en masse, walking away whooping with one another, leaving Mark to catch and calm his breath, which is still racing through his chest, along with the thud of his heart.
Mark breathes, eyes suddenly – thankfully - shut, constructing the layers of himself again from scratch, building them, bit by bit, spiralling forwards, upon each other, as best he can, whilst he remains closeted within darkness, keeping out external threats.
Finally, he raises himself to his feet, with them steady beneath him, surface shell restored. One day he will build layers such that they can’t hurt him anymore.