Peter hated junior high. He had already been in the seventh grade for a week, and already it sucked. It was a social experiment full of imbeciles.
Is it true? Have assholes taken over the Earth? If so, are these their offspring? He considered that possibility in the boys' locker room, as he watched a rather hefty boy named David Mullon throw a punch at Scott Bandy. The punch stopped several inches short of the chubby little boy's face. Unfortunately, Scott being a human, relented to his first instinct to flinch. It was his tragic undoing.
David smirked and proclaimed loudly: "Two for flinching, you pussy!" Next came two thumping slugs to Scott's tender shoulder. Scott crowed with pain and rubbed his arm. David moved along, looking for another kid to torment.
"Uhhm…. it's Peter, actually."
"Yeah sure, Piss-Pants! You're the little sissy that pissed himself on the school bus." Damn. Why in the hell did kids have to keep bringing that up? Peter could not have helped it. He looked around him at the other laughing boys.
"It was because of a bladder infection, David!" Peter was turning an unpleasant shade of red. And they wonder why we shoot each other in school, he thought to himself, harshly.
"Ha! You pissed yourself cause your mommy forgot to put your diaper on that morning! Looks like she still forgets!" Now all of the boys in the locker room were in a gail of laughter. One of them was even making the sound of a sobbing baby, mocking Peter.
"I bet even your mother has a few embarrassing bed wetting stories about you she would have told me last night," Peter spoke with the trace of a grin, "but her mouth was kind of full, if you know what I mean." Peter wished he had not said a word. He should have just shut up and let them have their fun with him, but no - he had to open his big fat mouth. Maybe the numb-nut won't even catch the joke.
But, he did.
"What'd you say about my Momma?" David then shoved Peter back against the lockers with a loud thud.
"I'm sorry David I'm sorry!"
"Better be, motherfucker!" Before Peter could react, David snatched the glasses from his delicate face and threw them to the ground. Peter only watched in outrage as David brought the heel of his right foot down on them, shattering the lenses and bending the wires in bastardized angles that no loving god ever intended them to be.
"If you would wear your glasses instead of dropping them, you wouldn't step on them by accident, would you?" David reinforced his lesson with a balled up fist, waiting for Peter to dare argue with him.
"I guess not…" Peter mumbled, looking at the remains of what had once helped him tremendously in reading the board from the back of the classroom.
"What was that, Pissboy?"
"I said I guess not!" The last two words came out trembling. He fought back the tears, for the boys would only tease him more for being a baby.
* * *
Finally, after waiting close to ten minutes in the lunch line, Peter took his tray of substandard food and searched for a table. They all seemed to be occupied by other kids, to his dismay. After a few more minutes of searching, he saw a table that had three empty seats, and a beautiful girl sitting in the fourth chair. Her blonde hair reached somewhere down the middle of her back, and her eyes were a deep, ocean blue color. She looked to be a ninth grader, for she seemed a lot more mature than seventh grade girls.
Argood Junior High was composed of grades Kindergarten to ninth grade. Argood was a rather small town, so overcrowding was not much of an issue at all for the school board to worry about.
Peter calmly approached her and sat his tray down across from her. She looked up at him with an icy stair and said "These seats are taken, so go away!"
Okay, so maybe her maturity only goes as far as her looks, Peter thought bemusedly. "Look, there aren't any other tables! Just let me eat my food here. I'll not say a word!"
"Get the fuck away, you little troll, before I kick your scrawny little ass!" A firm hand came down on Peter's shoulder and gave him a shove. If he had still been carrying his tray, he would have dropped it. He spun around and found himself looking up at three menacingly tall ninth graders.
"Fuck off, shrimp, or I help her kick your scrawny ass!" Said the ninth grader who had grabbed Peter from behind. He was possibly the tallest boy in the school. And, he looked to be a member of the football team. Of course, there was no way the guy would play on the junior high team, no. He attended football practice with all the big teenagers at Putman County High School.
He was the big fish in the small pond, and everyone knew it.
Peter picked up his tray and turned to leave, but before he could get out of range of the guy's reach, he felt a foot wrap around his right ankle. He thought he could still maintain his balance, when he was all of a sudden shoved forward. Down he went with a big splat.
And of course, the lunch special of the day - by some cruel twist of fate - happened to be spaghetti.
The noise level shifted from a juxtapose of conversation to loud juvenile laughter. Peter only rolled over and looked down at what had once been a clean shirt. The laughter continued, but the world seemed to sway out of focus for Peter; and it was not from the fact that he was not wearing his glasses.
Awareness snapped back into Peter's consciousness as he saw The Principal standing behind the ninth grade guy and the two girls. The laughter had trickled away, in fact, a pin dropping could probably have been heard at that moment.
Noticing that something was way out of kilter, the three big kids turned around and saw The Principal. His features were stern, and seemingly carved from the most unforgiving stone. Some said He had once been a Navy Seal before becoming The Principal.
A legend had circulated through the lower grades of Argood that The Principal had an electric paddle, and used it to administer actions of most serious discipline. Being a sophisticated seventh grader, such elementary school superstitions were normally forgotten about, but Peter had never truly realized how strongly such fears had remained in the recesses of his psyche. The Principal was a living god on earth, and He always would be feared in some deep primal way - even if Peter lived to be ninety.
Even the ninth graders feared him.
The Principal looked down at Peter in his pathetic state, and then to the older kids standing before Him. When He spoke unto them, his words were low but audible throughout the cafeteria.
"Go to the office."
They scurried away from him without making eye contact. Only the blonde female at the table remained. The Principal cast His gaze upon her for a moment before speaking again.
"Miss Kathy Hennly." It was not a question. He knew her name, as He knew all who entered his school.
"You will escort Peter McNeal to the home economics room, where you will wash his shirt."
So let it be written. So let it be done, Peter thought to himself.
"Yes… yes sir." If she was displeased by the change of events, she dared not show it. She would just have to hope that He would not stare too deeply into her soul.
"Give me your shirt," Kathy said coldly as she opened the lid to the washing machine in the home-ec room. Peter only looked down at his feet and blushed at the thought of exposing his puny chest to the ninth-grader.
"What, am I speaking Greek? You ain't the first boy's chest I've seen, so get over it." After a couple of moments, Peter reluctantly unbuttoned his shirt and handed it to her. His chest was as plain as the Russian tundras. In fact the only thing worth noticing was a sizeable bruise on his lower-left ribs. "That must have been some fall."
"Uh…err… why?" Asked Peter. Gooseflesh stood out all over his delicate frame.
"Your side's bruised up, what else would I be talking about."
"Oh… that's not from the fall… we were playing Battle Ball today and David Mullon…"
Kathy added detergent and closed the lid. After turning the various dials on the machine, she sat down at a lab table and regarded Peter with a look somewhere between annoyance and amusement. "You might as well pull up a seat, this is gonna take a while to wash and then a while longer to dry."
Peter hesitantly pulled up a seat and sat down quietly. He wrapped his arms around his hardened nipples and stared at nothing for close to five minutes before Kathy broke the silence. "You don't talk much. Got any friends?"
"Umm... no. My best friend moved away when I was in sixth grade."
"Alright, look… you wanna be friends?"
Peter was taken totally be surprise. All the hostility earlier, and now she wanted to be friends? A girl wanted to be friends with him! A girl! A real girl! Legend had it that a girl's breasts didn't have staples between them, like the pictures in his father's magazines at home.
She wanted to be friends!
"Umm.. yeah.. sure!"
She likes me! Wait'll the guys hear about this!
Science class, later that day, was a confusing time for many students. Not from the lecture taught, but from the rumors circulating around the room. Somewhere, things became somewhat misunderstood, and many people heard that Peter had a girlfriend. A ninth grade girl at that! Many comments were made when the bell rang.
"Him?" One person asked.
"Yes…Peter!" Another spoke.
"What would Kathy Hennly want with him?"
"They were in the home-ec. room for two class periods!"
"Peter, are you really going with Kathy?"
"Get her Pete! Get her!"
Peter's ego had inflated tremendously from the events that had led up to lunch time. A distant portion of his thinking skills, known as logic, protested the situation. Kathy was not his girlfriend. The only thing she had offered was her friendship. But, she's a girl... and she's my friend!
Quite frankly, he loved the misunderstanding. Well...lie. He enjoyed the lie. It was bound to not last long, but while it did, he would bask in the glow of attention and gossip generated by the latest school-yard scandal.
He only lived a couple of blocks away from the school, so getting to and from the hell hole was via the leather express. Unfortunately, he was not the only kid who walked home.
About a block away from school, was an old cemetery. Peter had passed the old graveyard that set off the road a piece and was overgrown with ivy hundreds of times. It was often a place where teens would drink, smoke cigarettes - among other things - and make out. Upon passing it that particular evening, he saw a familiar face. A familiar face smoking with some other fifteen year-olds and her boyfriend - her real boyfriend.
It was Kathy Hennly, and she noticed Peter the same time he noticed her. "HEY! There's the little shit!"
Peter attempted to sprint for all he was worth till he reached the sanctity of home. Unfortunately, when he took off running, he neglected to look forward during those first, crucial steps; at the telephone pole.
He collapsed on the ground, trying to regain his breath. As he staggered to his feet, wheezing, two pairs of strong hands seized him and dragged him into the cemetery. The game was up, and no wit was time to pay for his fun.
All in all, it was the most terrible day in Peter's life.
"I-I can explain!"
"Explain what, you little fuck?" Kathy demanded. "No one embarrasses me and gets away with it. NO ONE!"
"I didn't mean to- " Peter's words were cut off when Kathy sharply kicked him in the groin for all she was worth. Peter fell to the ground, and began vomiting, of course he had never had a chance to eat his lunch, so only stomach bile came up in painful wretches.
"You spewed on my fucking boot!" Kathy's boyfriend shouted. Next thing Peter felt was that same boot kicking him in the ass. His buttocks screamed in pain as he fell face-forward in his own stomach juices.
If Peter thought the day would just end with a literal ass kicking, he was mistaken. "You got us in trouble, you little fuckhead. The way I see it, you need to be taught a lesson or two." Peter rose to his knees, but was met with a swift kick in the face by the other fifteen year-old male. Peter's world began to grow dim, the next thing he knew he was lying on his side, as blurry forms loomed over him.
"Let's get the fuck out of here." One of them spoke.
Peter lost consciousness.
Peter stirred a little in his sleep.
The gentle hand touched his cheek.
Peter's eyes flew open.
The only light was from the full moon. Fog loomed everywhere about him. A street light shined from the road. He realized that he was still in the cemetery. His mother would be worried about him.
"Are you feeling better, sleepy head?" A soft voice asked. It was the soft voice of a girl, to be more exact. Peter turned and looked up at the girl crouched beside him. "You should be mindful of where you snooze, boy."
The person looming over him was probably the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life. Her hair was long auburn, and her eyes were blue. Not the blue of a deep ocean, but the blue of depths much darker. They seemed so cold, yet so expressive at the same time. She was wearing faded jeans and a Misfits T-shirt.
Peter tried to stand up, but found his balance off considerably. Before doubling over again, the girl caught him by the forearm and pulled him up to his feet. Her touch was cold, but alive with a charge that seemed to make all the small hairs on his body stand on end.
He disregarded the sensation as nothing but cold.
"Uhh... thanks." Said Peter with a weak smile. He felt so out of sorts. He was cold, his clothes were damp, and he had never fallen asleep in a cemetery. Such an act made his skin crawl. It was a foolish thought, but sleeping in a cemetery was just asking to be found by someone or something unpleasant. "So, umm, what brings you out here?"
"Oh," the girl chuckled a little. "I happen to reside close by. I'm glad I found you."
"Why's that?" Peter asked.
"Cemeteries aren't always the best place for someone to sleep, especially when you're still alive. It's just asking to be found by something unpleasant." Peter's breath froze in his chest. Had he not just thought that?
"Hey, I'll walk you home!" She shouted in a chipper tone.
"Oh, I wouldn't want you to go through the trouble of- "
"It's not a problem, dove! I don't get out as much as I would like. C'mon!"
Whatever had initially creeped him out so much about the girl faded once they got back on the somewhat well-lit road. She was even more beautiful in the light. In fact, she seemed to have a glow all to her own. From her looks, she appeared to be around fourteen years old.
"You might want to get that bruise on your face looked at. They could have caused you internal injuries. Those are the nasty wounds. Nothing too bad on the outside, but the wound's still deep down."
"Did you see the ones who beat me? If you have, you wouldn't be surprised about why they don't give a fuck. Redneck trash."
"They've been in the cemetery a few times before."
"You hang out there too?"
"No more than I have to, dove." She turned her head away from him, staring at nothing in particular.
"Well, I'm glad you found me!" That was somewhat true. She was beautiful, charming, kind, and Peter could have caught a nasty case of pneumonia out on that cold ground. Still, something seemed out of sorts about the two of them walking together. As though it should not be taking place at all.
Yet it was.
"So, who'd you piss off?" She asked.
"Hey, you know, I didn't get your name. And I pissed off a ninth grader over a bit of a misunderstanding."
"Oh, my name's Julie. I thought you'd never ask, Peter." Had he told her his name? Wait! They probably went to the same school, although he had never seen her before in his life.
"I can't believe I haven't seen you until now, in such a small school. I'll be sure to look for you tomorrow."
"You mean you want to see me?"
"Well yeah, who wouldn't!"
"That's so sweet of you. Why would ninth graders dislike such a sweetie like you?"
"Well, I told a bunch of people that me and this ninth grade girl named Kathy were boyfriend and girlfriend."
"So, what's so bad about that? You're kinda cute." Peter blushed and stared down at his feet, sheepishly.
"Well, it was awful for her. She and her boyfriends decided to teach me a lesson. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. Maybe they aren't through with me."
"You know, what you need is your friends to stand beside you."
"I have no friends."
"Well, what do you consider me? I am walking you home, after all!"
"I.....err.... you really want to be my friend?"
"That's not the question here. The question is, do you consider me to be your friend?" The air seemed to charge up with a roaring silence that was beyond the surreal. It seemed as if the night itself wanted to know the answer. Peter's hairs stood on end yet again. He wet his lips before speaking.
"Yes." The words held a sort of resonance that seemed to vibrate the air around them. Julie smiled warmly and took his hand in hers. Together they walked.
"If these children try to harm you tomorrow, I'm certain we can deal with them." The comment puzzled Peter. Children? They were older than him!
When Peter awoke the next morning, he half expected to be in the cemetery, but instead he was safely in his bedroom. When he tried to recall the events from the night before, his mind seemed to be garbled. He remembered being kicked. He remembered sleeping in the cemetery, then walking home. And, there was a girl too, wasn't there? She had walked him home.
He stumbled down the stairs in his usual morning grogginess. His mother was comfortably seated at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee.
"Hey, bud." Spoke his mom. Why wasn't she asking about the bruises or the long absence?
Stumbling into the bathroom, he regarded himself in the mirror and began inspecting the damage...only there was no damage. He had not a single bruise on his body. He shrugged and hopped into the shower and began the morning ritual of getting ready for hell, or school.
His mother, feeling unusually generous, gave Peter a ride to school, for which he was thankful. He did not want any more chance encounters with Kathy and her garçons de jour again.
After home room, Peter went to gym class. He expected more of David Mullon's bullshit, and of course, David didn't let him down. After gym, right before the boys showered, he was strutting around like Mussolini with a hard-on.
Poor Scott Bandy found himself getting a wedgie as he was stripping for the dreaded shower. It was bad enough around the boys who had already grown pubic hair, but David Mullon would never let it just remain embarrassing. He had to take it that extra step.
When Scott was put in his place, David looked for other prey. Peter decided to wait as long as possible before taking a shower. Maybe David would go strutting away, leaving Peter to peace and quiet.
Peter stayed behind his locker door until he was sure the other boys had exited the room. David, being the Alpha Male of the group, should have gone up stairs with the rest of the guys.
Peter undressed, laid his clothing on the damp bench, and stepped into the steamy confines of the shower room. The showers should have been turned off, but the idiots left them on. Maybe they knew he was waiting to shower, so they left them on. Maybe...
David Mullon came out of the steamy mist from Peter's left. He was naked, and smiling in a way that Peter had never seen before. It was almost like David had a special surprise in store for him.
"Well well... Pissy Pete."
"David... Just leave me alone. Let me take my freaking shower please."
"I'll make a deal with you, Pissy Pete."
"What are you talking about?" But some part of Peter's young mind was slowly beginning to understand the nature of the situation, but all too slowly.
"I can either kick your ass in front of all the other guys from now till we graduate, or we can become friends...but special friends." David began stroking his furry, hardening genital region.
For a seventh grader, the boy was massive. Of course, he had been held back a year during elementary school. Problems with his home life, supposedly. It may have been why David carried such a chip on his shoulder. Peter was beginning to realize what those problems at home might have been. He was also realizing that those problems were about to become his.
"So, you wanna be friends?" David stepped a few feet closer and reached a hand out, stroking one of Peter's nipples gently. The fact that David was being so gentle seemed twice as disturbing as his normal violent behavior.
Peter thought about it for a moment. Maybe if he ran screaming, he could get away from David. Maybe if he just closed his eyes and let whatever David had in store for him run its course, he could gain an actual ally and not be beaten or picked on by other children.
Those thoughts were not given a chance to proceed any further. David forced Peter down to his knees. "Get on all fours, Petie." Spoke David, softly. Peter did it without thinking. It was better not to think. "Spread your legs a little." Once again, Peter complied. David got behind him, ready to do what seemed like it was going to hurt.
"I have a friend, now." Peter heard himself say.
"Yeah Petie, you're right." But, Peter was not referring to David. He was referring to his only friend.
"Julie," Peter whispered. "Help me." All of a sudden, Peter whirled around and elbowed David in the face. The guy fell back rubbing his cheek in shock. When had anyone last hit him outside of his home? Peter got up and ran for the door. Just as he reached the door leading outside of the shower, David grabbed Peter in a bear hug, and then slammed him down to the floor.
Peter looked up and was astonished to see that something was not right with David. His pubic hair was virtually gone.
"David! Stop! Look at yourself! Something's not right here!" That was the understatement of the century.
"Shut up Piss Boy. I'm going to teach you not to fuck with me once and for all. I tried....to be...your...friend...." His voice trailed off as Peter stood up.
For the first time, they were standing eye to eye.
David turned and walked away, shaking his head in disbelief. Something had definitely frightened him, and something had also definitely shrunk him.
Out of the mists of the shower stepped Julie, minus any clothing to speak of. Oddly enough, she was completely dry. Peter finally understood fundamentally what she really was. He only stood there as if...well...as if he had seen a ghost.
"Well, hello Peter."
Peter only continued gaping at her in disbelief from her nudity as much as her exis-
tence. From the lockers screamed a young boy's voice in frustration and fear. Peter ran to the child's voice and saw David, except he seemed like he had shrunk even more.
"Pete...Peter! My.. Clothes.... they're too big! What's happening to me!" WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME?!"
Peter was speechless. Sanity, rhyme, and reason had long sense gone down the drain. David ran to Peter with his baggy shirt and pants on. He looked to be no older than nine, but he was becoming even younger.
"You gotta help me! I'm shrinking! My voice! I'm gettin' little again. His pants pooled at his feet, and he began to sob uncontrollably.
"It's a dream," Peter tried to tell himself, but it did not feel like a dream.
"Yeah... it's just a dweam!" The five year old piped in front of him. David left his pants behind and began walking for the locker room door. By the time he reached it, he had to pull his shirt up to keep from tripping. The whole time he kept repeating to himself: "It justa dweam it justa dweam justa dweam jussa dwee jussa dwee juh dwee."
He could no longer reach the door knob, in fact, he sat down on his butt and began sucking his thumb. The process continued on, still, until the toddler became an infant.
Peter truly hoped the youthening would end soon, for there wasn't much left of David but a newborn staring off into space.
Máire Flynn (firstname.lastname@example.org)