Prologue of a new project I am working on.
I stand frozen to my spot in the dimly lit tunnel as the boy approaches me. He’s probably a year older than my eleven years, but the way he carries himself makes me think he is older. Everything about him is dark and mysterious, from his neatly cut hair to his strange black uniform. The blackness is broken up by his pale skin, bright white belt, and the strange white symbol on his shoulder. The only color on him is his golden eyes, which boar into me as he draws closer. But in those eyes I see a softness that does not frighten me despite the fact that I have just been caught sneaking around an underground tunnel.
I am wedged between the wall and a huge metal crate when the boy stops in front of me, the last step of his clunky boot echoing down the tunnel. He crosses his arms over his chest which should intimidate me but I can see the curiosity behind his accusing glare. We stand looking at each other for a time not saying a word. He looks angry and uncomfortable, like he doesn’t know what to do with me. I think I notice all the tension leave his shoulders so I slowly extend my arm and hold out the apple I have been clutching in my hand. He looks at the apple for a second before turning his glare back to me. He doesn’t reach for it so I hold it there long enough for my outstretched arm to get tired and for me to be insulted. So, I roll my eyes, reach out with my other arm, snatch his wrist out and plant the apple in his palm. He takes his eyes off me to examine the apple, twisting it around several times and even bringing it to his nose to sniff as if he’s never seen one before.
What a strange boy.
Then I hear the echoing clanks of more boots and we both turn in the direction of the noise. Without looking at me he holds his hand out gesturing for me to stay, but I am not scared until I see the panic on his face.
“HLZ437?” I hear a voice call from the intersecting tunnel to my right.
“I’m here,” says the boy in front of me. “Be right there.”
I am completely hidden from the intersection, but I can see through a crack behind the crate. There is a group of boys standing there waiting.
“What are you doing?” the voice asks.
I move my head around to get a better view.
“Nothing,” the boy answers.
I see their uniforms first. All black except for the same white belt and symbol on their shoulders. Then I look more closely and my heart pounds in my chest. My mouth drops open and I don’t know why I cover it because screaming doesn’t even cross my mind. But I think I did stop breathing, because the whole group of boys, all eight of them, despite varying ages, all look unmistakably exactly like the boy standing in front of me.
“Well then, come on!” says one of the look a likes as he leads the others down the opposite tunnel.
The boy turns back to me and lets out a puff of breathe in relief. He takes the apple he’s been hiding behind his back, throws it in the air, catching it with the opposite hand, then takes a hardy bite and tosses it back to me with a wink.
And then I breathe again.
I go back the next day to see if she comes back but she doesn’t. So, I try again the next day and the next. I bring my sketchbook and sketch her face because it’s one I’ve never seen before. She still doesn’t come.
Eventually I give up.