It was time for the game.
The boy walks down the hallway, head bent, mind closed, ignoring the peals of laughter and the wail of a broken heart.
Let the game begin, he thinks.
A hush encompasses the crowd as a tiny specimen of a child enters the arena, facing a battle for his life. Three wild creatures, the gamers, step forward to destroy their opponent.
Their eyes, murderous. Their lips curl up with a snarl. They are the most evil of monsters, a horror unimaginable.
The battle commences and a flurry of movement sends the crowd into bouts of continuous cheering as they hungrily watch the slow destruction of the tiny specimen of a child. Yet they say nothing.
The three gamers surround their victim. Like a panther, the first sneaks slowly behind the child and pounces, gripping the child with its talons. The second is a snake that slithers into the child’s mind, sowing feelings of despair. And finally, the last gamer, a powerful stork, steps forward and slices through the child’s chest, piercing his core. The crowd goes wild. It looks like the game has a winner.
The child kneels on the floor, weakly pleading for its life. Its blood washes the floor in endless rivulets, it’s tears are rushing brooks pouring forth from a dying soul.
Help me, it whispers, can no one hear me.
But the battle is not yet won, and once again the gamers attack. The child flings its arms protectively around itself, a useless shield, and is pounded until bruises blossom like buttercups over its skin.
It is nothing but a thing. This daily game has reduced it to nothing more. The game has sapped at its ability to survive and the child sinks beneath an all-consuming ocean.
The whimpers of thing that is no longer a child, eventually fade into silence. It is now merely a husk, a demon living in shadows.
The game is over.
The boy has reached the end of the hallway.
He looks behind him at the 3 tired gamers and the one destroyed thing.
He blinks. Not one of them has moved. There is no arena, yet an epic battle has been fought.
3 boys face one boy with a dusty uniform and no shoes. Their only weapons, their words. They jeer and the boy at the end of the hallway closes his eyes and tries to pretend it is all in his head.
But when he opens them, his eyes meet a pair of bare feet. And in defiance the almighty tiger steps forth into the arena, accepting the challenge to slay the gamers, swearing to protect his brother.
Game on, he whispers, game on.