She came for him at the crack of dawn. He heard her cross the room and the small boy hoping to hide, slid deep beneath the bedding. But there was no escape that way. She ripped back the covers and dragged him sobbing from the bed. He begged and pleaded all the while looking up hopefully, but the look of grim determination on her pale face told him there was to be no mercy. He struggled to escape, but the hands that encircled his upper arms tightened, her bright red nails digging into the flesh of his skinny arms. He cried out, went limp, and when she changed her grip broke free and made a break for the door.
But he was there, and he filled the opening from top to bottom and side to side. It wasn’t fair he couldn’t fight them both. The figure in the doorway bent, large calloused hands lifted the boy, carried him from the room, dumped him on the bathroom floor and growled, ‘Wash! And don’t even think of trying the window. I’ll be here, right behind you.’
He glanced in the mirror, the man stood behind him arms folded, his blue eyes as hard as ice. The boy’s shoulders slumped, it was no good; he’d just have to get on with it. He washed and dried.
It hadn’t been like this in the beginning. In the beginning they had been kind. The man would bend, ruffle his hair and ask him what he had been doing that day and he would look up at the red face with the warm blue eyes and the friendly smile and tell him all he knew.
She had been different too; she’d smiled a lot, had a habit of brushing her blond hair from her face that was nice, and best of all, she would tuck him in and read him a story at bedtime.
But it had all been a sham, a trick, to lull him into a false sense of security and he had been taken in by it. But last night when he sneaked down for a glass of water, he had overheard them discussing their plan to get rid of him. He’d tried to escape then, but the man had caught him and forced him back to his room.
The man led him from the bathroom to the kitchen, where they forced him to eat. She left the room and returned with a uniform and made him to put it on. Black shoes then socks, trousers, shirt and jacket, all drab grey except for the symbol on the jacket that was bright yellow. Next came the cap, also grey, with same yellow symbol on the front.
A satisfied look on their faces they led him out to the car. He was bundled in the back; she came with him and held his hands scotching any chance of escape. Ten minutes later they parked the car and walked towards the building. It was now or never, he made a break for it, he could hear the shouts and thump of boots behind him. He didn’t get far; the man caught him before he reached the corner. He gave in then, but he wouldn’t let them see him cry.
They dragged him past high walls with black railings, to the gate that had an archway above it bearing the same yellow symbol. When they pushed him through the gate he knew this was the end. He joined the line of other children dressed in grey, and shuffled through the door, it closed behind him. His first day at school had begun.
Worldwide Copyright Fred Watson 2006