Here’s something else we did in Creative Writing class in-class. We were given names and a location. Mine was Mui Sim and Katherine and the location was a school. The challenge was to subvert a character archetype. And this is the product. I actually couldn’t think of a title. But here it is:
Eye for an Eye
The school bell blared through the speakers marking the start of the dreaded half hour break time. Sim packed her bags slowly while the rest of her classmates were already on their ways out.
“You alright there, Sim?” Mrs Paulson, who’s at the door, asked.
Just as Sim walked past her, Mrs Paulson put out her hand. “So it’s been a month, how do you find school?”
Sim considered telling her the truth but the smile on Mrs Paulson’s face that was brimming with optimism was clear. Mrs Paulson wanted to hear only one thing and that, Sim decided to deliver.
“Good, off you go then. Enjoy the rest of your day!” Mrs Paulson shooed Sim away and closed the door on her.
The hallway was brimmed with students shuttling between classes and break. It’d been two months since she moved from Singapore to the US along with her family. And a month since she started high school and yet she was no where close to settling in. She trudged her way to her locker that was down the crowded hallway. But it was no easy feat. Just as she had endured a month, she had to once again struggle through a crowd that pushed her into the walls, into the lockers and onto the ground. Some did it by accident – the ones who apologised – and some did it intentionally – the ones who made fun of her single-lid eyes telling her to open them and watch where she was going. The very first time she’d faced such crap from a boy a month prior, displeasure had risen within her. She’d never gone through anything like that back home. She’d stared the boy down. She even readied herself to say something about the boy’s buck teeth, about his acne-ridden face. She would’ve. But as the hallway quietened down, she found more boys and girls standing behind the boy, while the only thing behind her was a wall. Backed into a corner, she could only apologise. And apologise she did, powerless to change anything.
She neared her locker and noticed a sticky note pasted on it’s door.
‘GO BACK TO CHINA’ it read on top of a very poor rendering of what Sim figured was her. She didn’t know what made her feel worse, the stickman art that someone had bothered to give a head full of straight hair which covered two lines on the face that was arrowed out to a word that said ‘eyes’ or the fact that she wasn’t even from China. She peeled off the sticky note and pasted it onto the locker beside hers. She switched her bag with her lunchbox and made her way in the opposite direction of the cafeteria towards a storeroom. The boy she’d stared down on her first day turned out to be one of the boyfriends of the girls she shared History class with, Penny. And with all the notes and the rumours Penny had been spreading about Sim, it seemed like Penny took Sim’s glare more personally than her boyfriend. Penny even went as far as to spit into Sim’s lunch box two weeks ago. Since then, the storeroom was where Sim ate. ‘It’s not that bad of place,’ she consoled herself as she turned the doorknob. She greeted a dark room, one filled old furniture. Broken tables and chairs piled up in corners. Old skipping ropes, basketballs and other gym unused gym equipment littered the cement floor.
Who was she kidding? Even she knew this was a terrible place to eat with all the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. But still, she went in and took her seat on a chair she’d grabbed from the nearby classroom and started eating in the dark. Her mother had packed some Chinese style fried noodles. It wasn’t a favourite growing up but it sure did become one after she moved to the US. She couldn’t help the tears welling in her eyes as the taste of home filled her mouth and as the memories of home played in her mind. She longed for everything home. But that longing was interrupted by a voice.
“I saw her going this way.”
Sim brushed away her tears and hurriedly put away her lunch box. She swallowed her mouthful of noodles whole and fought a cough as she glanced around the room in search of a hiding spot. The footsteps outside in the hallway got louder. Sim was a ball of nerves. Her stomach churned. She tiptoed to the back of the room and found a small and wooden cabinet to hide inside of. It was covered in dust but some dust was nothing compared to getting seen by those girls out to get her. She got on her knees and squeezed herself into the cabinet just as the door to the storeroom creaked open. Sim held her breath.
“Maybe she’s in here,” another girl said.
The sound of footsteps piled into the room.
Sim didn’t dare to make a move. Her ears twitched catching any and every sound but nothing was as loud as the pounding of her heart in her ears. That blocked out everything. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead and dripped down the side of her eyes but she didn’t so much as dare to wipe it away as the girls continued scouring the storeroom yelling out racist taunts while mispronouncing Sim’s full name, Mui Sim. It aggravated Sim. But what really did her in was the dust. The taunts, the sweat, were all bearable but the dust started to tickle her nose. Her eyes brimmed with tears trying to hold it together. The girls were on their way out of the storeroom when Sim sneezed.
She cursed under her breath as the sound of footsteps rushed towardnes her. She braced herself.
But the cabinet door didn’t fling open. No, the girls surrounded the cabinet and started kicking it. They turned the cabinet over, door-side down, and started pushing it from side to side. Stuck inside, Sim ached all over from the impact of hitting against the wood as the cabinet moved. She cried out to them to stop. But the girls only laughed. Until another voice.
“What are you guys doing?”
The girls stopped kicking the cabinet.
Only Sim’s muffled whimper filled the silence.
“Mrs Clark is looking for you guys.”
Sim heard the shuffling of feets out of the storeroom. And the door slammed shut. In the empty room, the sound of her crying was amplified. She let herself lay there unable to get the taunts out of her head and her body numb from being in the small space for far too long. It got the best of her and soon she was gasping for her. She struggled to rock the cabinet upright but on her third try final managed to do it, with tears running down her face. She crawled out of the cabinet, her body trembling she didn’t have the strength to get up. It only upset her more. The people in her school couldn’t be trusted but to have even her knees so weak, her eyes fill easily, her voice lost when needed infuriated her. Her hands closed into fists, she leaned against all the old furniture around, getting dirtied by the dust as she struggled to pull herself up. The bell rang just then. Before she could even reach the door, the hallways were busy with activity again. She fought every urge to burst out the door and show herself to everyone, to show them what they did to her, to show them for the animals that they were. But as the tears burned her eyes, she told herself she wouldn’t be remembered that way. She didn’t want to be pitied or worse despised further for being a snitch. She waited for the hallways to quieten and then slow and steadily dragged herself up to the computer lab which was thankfully empty. She logged onto the computer closest to the door and took out her thumb drive from her pocket. She opened an image. Many in fact, and started printing them. She wiped away the tears as the sound of the printer ran behind her, gazing at the wounds on her arms and legs. The bruises throbbed. Using the age-old excuse of having fallen down might not work this time but it’s no one ever bothered to probe further. She dragged her feet to the printer and saw the fresh print-out of the buck-toothed boy hugging one of the other girls in Penny’s gang. Another print-out, this one with the couple kissing.
Well, the character archetype I was going for was like ‘victim’ to ‘aggressor’. Both of which are not the 12 common archetypes that we were asked to choose from in class. Or at least ‘Hero’ to ‘Rebel’? I don’t know where I was going with this story.