Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write for the SUSPENSE and/or THRILLER Genre (10/23/14)
- TITLE: Playing the Field
By Katherine (Kat) Kane
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Thud thump... thud thump... thud thump...
A minute passes: my heart rate quickens. Nausea beats its own rhythm in my stomach. Inside my head, panic’s ostinato completes the cacophony.
I cannot stay here, he will come looking and I will be found. No escape, nowhere to hide. I draw a deep breath as I close the front door behind me. The finality of the ‘clunk’ sends a chill down my spine. Meanwhile, the wind assaults my face with dagger-sharp leaves that vent their anger at being disturbed from their slumber.
Headlamps of passing cars cast eerie, shimmering illusions through the freezing air onto the frosted ground. I pass the frozen football fields. My dream, my obsession, is to be Jed Hammond, finest midfielder ever to play for England, scorer of the World Cup-winning goal. Now, it taunts me. I am my own worst enemy; a man so consumed by his dream that he lets slip his grip on reality. My parents do not want me ‘wasting my talents’ on a football career, and will use any pretext to prevent me from playing. Father insists I follow in his and my grandfather’s footsteps, studying English at Magdalen College, Oxford. But I breathe for my sport alone. I cannot help it; it is who I am. I am not the author of my destiny; I am forced to choose between football and family tradition, and pay a terrible price either way.
The brewing storm draws closer and intensifies as I approach the jet-black, wrought iron gates. Both the building’s exterior and its sterile, grey corridors within give this place the aura of a psychiatric institution. I notice the anomalous colourful shields adorning the gate and consider prising one off for defence purposes, but decide against because of the attention it would attract, especially that from The Lion.
Too late; the door opens. I blend in seamlessly with a cluster of black-clad kids drifting aimlessly into the waiting labyrinth of corridors, where at any point The Lion could be lurking, prowling, stalking... waiting for me, demanding I make the dreaded choice. I can avoid his usual lair, but he is a cat, a master hunter; dangerous, resourceful, cunning... He has ears everywhere – even the walls whisper to him. And like all cats, he plays with his food before going for the kill. At this moment, the Minotaur seems infinitely more preferable.
I formulate a plan: I will head to the sanctuary, my safe haven. It is nearby, although I must plan my route with care to minimise the likelihood of encountering The Lion. I require all the speed, accuracy and stealth of a nuclear missile to accomplish my goal. Adrenaline courses through my veins – I make my move.
I turn right, past empty rooms containing only furniture. I pass a deserted hall with metal rails on the walls and ropes hanging down, reminiscent of pictures I’ve seen of torture chambers used by the Spanish Inquisition. I do not stop to draw breath, but whisper a silent prayer for the poor souls who must endure that place today, and press on straight ahead.
Wait! Is that him ahead?
I turn sharp left, straight into a crowd. On one hand it slows me down, but on the other it offers the perfect disguise. I hide amongst the noisy scrum the length of the corridor. I break into a run as the end of the corridor finally appears. Adrenaline revs up a gear and hope beams bright as I see the final flight of stairs before me. At the top, I see the beacon of colourful glasswork on the door, guiding me towards a comfy chair and peace. What could be a more welcome sight than the refuge of the Sixth Form common room? Relief’s relaxing warmth floods through me as I turn the handle, only to abruptly flee when I see reflected in the glass...
“Mr Lyons, Sir! Fancy... seeing... you... here...”
“Mr Hammond! I was beginning to think you were avoiding me. Hiding on the football field again?”
“Er, no, Sir―”
“Oh, good! I watched your less-than-orthodox route, bypassing the English corridor, via CCTV. How fortunate the blind spots were fixed last week. Now, I have waited three weeks in rapt anticipation to be delighted by your English assignment, which could potentially be your ticket to a glittering academic career at Oxford. And, considering the creativity of your excuses thus far, it promises to be exceptional...”
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