A New Dawn
Gorey Community School,
The shrill sound of a rooster wakes Ben from his slumber. He slowly opens one eye hoping that the rooster might be mistaken for once but to no avail as the sunrise confirms the dawn of a new day. Ben hates the morning, not because he is tired or lazy but rather the uncertainty of the troubles he would have to encounter or endure in his horrible life. You see, Ben’s Mother died when he was very young and his father was distraught and found it difficult to cope without her. He had been the provider for the family and although he was very caring, he couldn’t adapt and eventually lost his job and turned to the drink for comfort. Ben tried to intervene and pleaded with him to stop but the demon drink had already taken him and Ben felt the full brunt of his anger as he slowly but surely became aware that his once caring and loving father was lost. Ben regularly bore the marks of his father’s rage and had become accustomed to regular beatings. He rarely had breakfast, let alone any lunch so he went to school every day a hungry and broken boy.
However, when Ben arrives at school, he takes on a totally different persona. In here, he reigns supreme and like a Lion, would stalk his prey before finally moving in for the kill, anyone who showed signs of weakness would be hunted down, their lunch used to satisfy his hunger. His reputation grew and no one dares to challenge the king in his arena. Everyone tries to stay clear of him. The sound of the school bell is a welcome relief for all the students.
Ben sits at the rear of the class on his own and that is just how he likes it. He learned to survive by himself and was comfortable in his own company. He is a very bright kid but won’t show it, as he perceives this would be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Instead, he is disruptive and frequently incurs the wrath of his teacher for his actions. Ben is immune to pain; after all, school is comparatively easy to life at home. Ben often dreams of his mother and longs for her affection and although his father is a bum, he would forgive him in a heartbeat just to have some sense of normality in his life again. The school principal abruptly interrupts Ben’s dream, standing at the front of the class with a new student who had recently moved to the neighborhood with his parents. The kid is introduced as Max. He is tall and skinny with glasses and a mop of hair that almost covers his face. Straight away, Ben sizes him up and decides he would welcome him to the arena, sure that would be the only mannerly thing to do! The new kid after some pleasantries is instructed to find a spare seat. He reluctantly makes his way down toward my domain as the rest of the students whisper between each other in disbelief at what was unfolding before them. Max drags the spare chair from the wall and proceeds to sit down beside Ben. The whispers get louder before the principal calls for silence. Ben felt very uncomfortable and could feel his anger starting to build. He gazes at Max and gestures to him making him feel uncomfortable. Ben hates this new kid already and he is going to teach him a lesson. At lunch break, the class makes their way to the arena and wait to see what would unfold. As expected, Ben takes the lead and taunts Max about his appearance in front of the other students. Max doesn’t waver, refusing to take the bait but rather walks in the opposite direction ignoring the tirade of abuse directed at him. This infuriates Ben even more and then the Lion roared flexing his muscles before charging at Max. Ben attacks from the rear and jostles Max to the ground. The impact is hard and just as Ben is about to devour his prey, the principal arrives and the arena falls silent. Both Max and Ben are summoned to his office and the principal quizzes the now sparse crowd to ascertain what had transpired. There is silence; the principal strolls with purpose down the corridor, the boy’s walking slowly behind wondering what was going to happen. You could be sure that if Ben’s father were contacted, that Ben would be severely punished. The principal is furious with them both but lay most of the blame on Ben, which is of course to be expected, as Ben is a common visitor to his office, while Max is still experiencing his first day at his new school. His punishment is delivered, 1 week of detention with no access to the arena and more homework to keep his idle mind occupied. Ben is then asked to return to class leaving Max alone with the principal. On his way back, he meanders down the corridor contemplating his next move and settles to follow Max home after school and to take him down away from the glaring eyes of the teachers. There would be no rescue, no interference, and no mercy.
The school ground is full of laughter and freedom for the duration of Ben’s detention. The students, free to roam. Sanctuary at last! A few days later the laughter ceases, replaced with fear. The demon is back to watch over his arena, however, Max is not attacked. Maybe the demon inside him has been banished? Ben waits for the right opportunity; he has managed to lead them into a false sense of security and he could smell blood. At the end of school, Max sets out for home and as usual, he takes a short cut through an alleyway, never suspecting that Ben is watching his every move. Ben is close now, almost close enough for Max to feel his breath but his attack is aborted when he sees a man approaching. To his surprise, the man seams to know Max and he diverts him to a house close by. Ben is frustrated by yet another failed attack but intrigued. He decides to spy on Max to see if he could find some information to hurt him. As he cautiously approaches the house, he’s startled by shouting and a sound he would never forget…that of hands slapping young flesh. Surely, surely not Max too. His suspicions are confirmed as he peers through the rear window. No wonder he walked the other way, he is suffering just like me. Ben could identify with Max been withdrawn, as he had experienced the same feelings of shame and humiliation in the early stages of the abuse. Ben waits until everything calms down before heading for home. He is troubled by what he witnessed and for the first time in years realizes that he is not alone. Ben lay in bed that night wondering how he was going to approach Max. He looked forward to discussing his problems with someone whom he could relate to.
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