A schoolboy goes missing.
|Story idea by Angel. For part two of
A young boy, fifteen years of age dares his fourteen-year-old cousin to jump off Craggy Rock, a dangerous place they are all warned about. Rocks lie below in several places; raging waters from a waterfall close by make currents strong enough to suck a person under and drown.
After some persuading, the boy's cousin decides to go for it, but after jumping he disappears:
1. Is he dead?
2. Has he been washed downstream and pulled out by someone?
3. Has he time jumped partway down?
4. Has he disappeared into an alternate reality?
Word count 1468
The bedroom was getting hot from the sun streaming through the window, even though it wasn’t yet six am.
Sheets lay heaped on the floor where they’d been cast aside during the hot, sticky night.
Sixteen-year-old Ben climbed out of bed and paddled to the bathroom, yawning and bleary-eyed. He gave the still sleeping form of his friend a nudge with his foot as he passed the mattress on the floor.
“Piss off,” a voice from under a pillow complained.
“Sorry, Bro,” Ben grinned, but Sean still didn’t move. “What’s up, mate?”
His friend rolled over on to his back and stared at the ceiling. “Nothin’ much. Just another massive fight with the folks. Christ, it’s hot in here. What time is it?”
“Ten past six. We could go down to the pool, they open at seven.”
“I’m bloody hot. We could go down to the river.” Sean suggested. Suddenly energised, he
extricated his long frame from the sleeping bag and made a grab for his clothes on the floor.
Sean had called late last night asking if he could stay. He’d said something about needing to get out of the house. Ben’s parents said he could, but only for one night. Sean had recently got into trouble at school and Ben’s mother worried he may be a dangerous influence on her son.
Sean still hadn’t said what was wrong and Ben didn’t ask, thinking he’d say in his own time.
The boys were soon on their bikes. They made sure they were quiet when they left. His mother would definitely have said no to the river.
Neither spoke during the ride. Ben saw the troubled look on his friend’s face but said nothing.
The sun was beating down, and soon sweat was pouring down their red faces.
“We should have had breakfast, I’m starving,”
Sean just grunted and pedalled faster, getting ahead.
“Hey, wait up.” Ben laughed as he tried to catch up. Soon they were racing toward the sound of the river. Torrents of water tumbling down a steep terrain, racing over hidden rocks after the unseasonable downpours of the last week.
They threw their bikes onto the grass and lay panting. Ben was laughing after the exhilarating ride and turned to look at his friend, but soon realised he wasn’t joining in. There were tears mixing with the sweat.
“Christ. What’s going on, mate?”
“I’m in trouble. I don’t know what to do.” Sean’s voice caught in his throat, before he scrubbed away the tears and jumped up. “Fuck it. Let’s go.” He ran down the grassy bank and dived into the water.
Ben followed, feeling unsure of what was going on with his friend. He seemed reckless and desperate. He didn’t know what to say to him.
“Come on!” came a shout from the middle of the river.
Grasping the rope that kids had fastened to a branch of a large paperbark tree on the riverbank, the boy swung himself into the water and swam with strong strokes through the fast flowing water.
The boys messed about for a while. Sean seemed better, more cheerful. They laughed, dunking each other under the water and racing to the other side of the river.
Sometime later, Sean lay on his back, looking up at the towering rock face downstream. “How high do you reckon it is?” He squinted up at the overhanging rock.
“It’s probably about fifty feet to the water.”
“I’m going to climb up. Coming?”
The boys dried themselves and slipped their shoes on before climbing the steep path to the top of the cliff.
Peering over the edge, it seemed higher than they’d thought. Sean gave his friend a playful nudge, making him gasp, “Shit, mate, don’t do that, I could have gone over.”
Sean sneered, “People have jumped off here. It’s not that high, it just seems like it.”
“How deep’s the water at the bottom of the cliff? You’d have to check the depth and make sure there're no rocks or you could break your neck.”
“It’d be a blast. Let’s do it! Together?”
Ben’s face paled, he could see by Sean’s face he really wanted to jump. He shook his head. “No way! Come on, let’s get back. Mum will wonder where we are.”
“You’re such a mummy’s boy. It’s time you grew up. You know nothing.” Sean gave Ben a look he’d never seen before.
“What’s got into you, mate? You’ve been acting strange all day.”
“You wouldn’t understand, you’re just a kid.”
“Shit, you’re only six months older than me.”
“Are you going to jump with me, or not?” Sean dared him.
Ben looked down again at the green water below. “I’m going home. You can please yourself.” He turned to leave, felt a hand on his arm and then Sean was gone.
He heard him hit the water. Ben dropped flat on to his stomach. Lying on the hot rocks, his eyes scanned the water for his friend. He never surfaced.
The scared boy ran down the path to the water’s edge. He went to the place where Sean had gone in to the river and dived in. The visibility wasn’t great. All he could see was green water and bubbles, the sound of his blood pumped in his ears. He groped around until he ran out of breath. Diving time and time again until he was exhausted he eventually staggered out on to the grassy bank.
His bike lay alongside his friend’s on the bank where they’d left them. Ben hated to leave alone and yet he knew there’s was nothing else he could do. He didn’t know how he’d explain what had happened to his family and to Sean’s parents. Would they blame him for what had happened? He knew he must have died. There was no way anyone could have survived the jump from the cliff.
It was as bad as he thought it was going to be. Answering the same questions repeatedly.
Whose idea was it to climb the cliff? Did he jump deliberately, or did he fall? Were you fooling around up there and there was an accident? Over and over. By his parents, the police and Sean’s family.
Ben felt accused and guilty. Even though he knew it wasn’t his fault, he wondered if he had he done enough to dissuade Sean. Why hadn’t he tried to find out what was wrong with him?
The police divers were on the scene within hours. Repeatedly, over many days, they dived, searching the river in a grid system. At last, the search for the body of Sean McIntyre was called off.
All of their friends were questioned. The police wanted to discover whether it was suicide or an accidental death. Even though a body hadn’t been found, it was agreed upon there was no chance of finding him alive.
Sean’s girlfriend informed her parents that she’d found out she was pregnant and had told him the previous day. His parents discovered money missing, and drug paraphernalia was found in his room.
“Time to move on, mate. Take your stuff, people are trying to get into the shop.” A police officer ushered the homeless man along from out of the doorway. “Don’t forget your bag.”
The guy shuffled back to pick up the plastic shopping bag full of old newspapers; the police officer it held out.
“Thanks,” he said, his voice horse from sleeping out in the cold.
It was raining; he scurried along to the Harbour Bridge, where he found a place to sit amongst a crowd of others. Down and outs like himself.
“You got a fag, Sam?” someone asked him.
“Nah, sorry, mate. Not today. Pension day tomorrow. We’ll be okay then.”
He leaned back against the damp stones and opened his bag. The newspaper cuttings were yellowed and torn from being handled so much. He pulled out one and read:
The search for missing school boy, 17-year-old Sean McIntyre, was called off today. Although presumed drowned there has been no sight of his body which was thought to have been washed out to sea.
There was a picture of a handsome young man dressed in private school uniform.
“Sam” cast his mind back to that hot Sydney morning. His plan had worked. The bag he’d hidden the day before was still where he’d stashed it behind the rocks. He’d made sure Ben had witnessed him going into the river. He felt little concern for all the angst he’d put his friend and his family through.
He wondered if his girlfriend went through with having the baby. He shook his head in disbelief he could be a father of a five-year-old.
He didn’t care, his family were here, on the streets. His only concern was his next fix.