The following story may or may not be very loosely based on true events, but is definitely fictional. Any similarities that may be found in characters’ names, personality traits, or their recollection of certain events to real names, personality traits, or recollection of actual certain events is completely coincidental. No metaphors were harmed in the production of this story.
The lunchtime period at secondary school was often host to a myriad of activities. Children would relax in park benches under the trees, watching with amusement as the monkeys, which lived in trees on the fringes of the schoolyard, chased their more naive peers away from their lunchboxes. They could also be found on the hard courts, matching their skills with each other at tennis or cricket, the latter of which was banned due to the likelihood of a ball slamming into one of the school hall’s windows.
Students even exercised their skills at negotiation during this time. This ranged from seniors trying to extort juniors of their pocket money with overpriced candy in order to support a fictitious cause, to juniors themselves learning the subtleties of negotiation through their interactions with the servers at the canteen, claiming the chips they ordered should be free since they were “a weekend old”. Numerous activities, whether legal, sensible, or otherwise, found themselves to be the main stars during that one hour of reprieve.
Of course, none of those activities appealed to me. I was never one to be particularly fond of cricket, tennis (whether road, table and otherwise) or sports in general, and having failed at establishing my own monkey army, I found it perfectly okay to stay within walking distance of my classroom and talk nonsense with my friends. This attitude persisted all throughout my junior years and well into my senior years, where persons were often too swamped in work to do anything else.
Not to say that I never played a sport before. In fact, the one time I played tennis at school indirectly led to cricket being banned. Wasn’t my fault the wind messed up my serve. Or that the batsman next to us chose to move his head into the ball I served. Or that he did it while hitting the fated window-breaking ball. But still, I found that my hand eye coordination skills were less prone to vandalising anything when put to use in video games, and thus I stuck to sending my friends’ characters into the stratosphere.
And played video games we did. It didn’t matter that we had SBAs (School Based Assessments) to finish, or that a mere few months separated us from our academic future within the CAPE exams, playing video games was fun as hell. If there was one game that was particularly popular amongst my circle, it would be the crossover spectacle involving famed video-game mascots laying waste to the laws of physics in their determination to defeat each other, also known as “Hyper Mascot Relatives: Skirmish”.
It was a game played religiously amongst my group, from the time we first entered senior year and saw Kemar playing its predecessor “Hyper Mascot Relatives: Battle”, on his brand new (old) laptop. It was just a simple matter of persons conjuring up controllers, making sure Kemar’s laptop did not crash from the strain, taking hostage of a power socket and a desk, making sure Kemar’s laptop did not literally crash, and we had a past-time that helped us survive CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate).
As time passed and Kemar’s laptop began to show its age, I acquired a new, more powerful laptop of my own (although Kemar would beg to differ), and soon we were engrossed with our favourite way to blow off steam. Thus the status quo was maintained in all its glory one lunchtime in February.
“Look at y’all trying to take each other out. It would be a shame if this bomb were to land … right … between … annnnnd you’re gone!” I said, grinning wickedly as my character, a princess with a taste for arson, disintegrated Aaron and Dario’s characters.
“Noooo!” Aaron replied, mashing the buttons on his control so that his anthropomorphic chipmunk would recover more quickly.
“Uh … did I just die?” Dario asked, a newcomer to all things “Skirmish”.
“You see now? This is why Eric plays Princess Nuke all the time. Her bombs have too much range!” Kemar complained, right before eating her with a rubber chicken.
“You know, your complaining would be a lot more convincing if you didn’t hit me each time I’m open,” I retorted.
“Just because your moves leave you open doesn’t mean they’re not overpowered.”
And we played on, with our banter being as vital of a weapon in this game as a pixelated hammer. Those with nothing better to do would watch us play as they ate, laughing at the mishaps we threw in each other’s way. Eventually, other persons began to populate the classroom. These would be:
- the Biology students, who were always found deep in conversation. They tend to have a territorial vibe, often snarling at passers-by if they walked within a mile of their cell sketches.
- The football fans who, eventually tiring from debating the virtues of their team’s MVPs, took a cue from us and resolved their quarrels in football videogames, and
- the couples, similar to bats in the way they preferred dark, enclosed spaces. Any unlucky pair who failed to mark their territory over said spaces often found themselves competing for the corners of the classroom.
And it was one half of such an unlucky duo who came running into the classroom that evening. Having just “officially” gotten together the week before, Jevon and Danice had gone full throttle into embracing their raging hormones. This led to them sneaking around to a ridiculous degree during school-time, and popping up in deserted places after school-time. Apparently there was no such thing as spending too much time exploring the intricacies of another’s mouth. Thus it was quite the shock to see Danice, alone, bursting into the classroom with a wild look in her eye. Before anyone could marvel at the fact that she was more than two feet away from Jevon, she started talking.
“Jack’s coming up the stairs!”
We stopped playing immediately. Mr. Jeffrey Jack was infamous amongst schoolteachers. With some teachers, you got the distinct impression their entire purpose of showing up that morning was to collect their cheque at the end of the afternoon. With other teachers, they saw their jobs as the perfect opportunity to embrace power they may not necessarily deserve, and were thus particularly strict with students simply for the chance to abuse their authority. Then there were the ones who cared, who believed their actions would be a turning point in establishing our bright futures. This particular type of teacher could be split into two categories: those who were so new to teaching that they forgot how frustrating teenagers can be, and those who were so set in their idealistic views that they could be the Coach Carters of another generation. Mr. Jack was the latter.
He loved to show how much he cared by confiscating our electronic devices. Easily standing around six feet tall with the girth to match, he towered over most seniors in our year. Which made it all the more disconcerting when he would show up at inopportune moments as if he had materialised from the shadows. Students would call him “Tiny”, to highlight the contradiction in him having the ability to sneak up on unsuspecting students when they were right in the middle of doing something they were not supposed to be doing. Like what we were doing right now by playing “Skirmish”. For a moment the whole classroom just stared at Danice, as if still trying to comprehend her words. Until Aaron broke the silence.
“Hide the controllers!” he proclaimed, proving why he was voted “Most Likely to Survive Zombie Invasion” in the yearbook.
It’s incredible what can be accomplished with fear and a little adrenaline. In the seconds after Aaron yelled out his command, we all unplugged our controllers, became aware of Kemar’s partially open backpack laying right next to our desk, came to an unspoken consensus, and lobbed our controllers inside with more finesse than the West Indies’ best fast bowler. Cellphones disappeared underneath blouses and in pockets, playing cards and magazines were sorted into desks, while couples disentangled from each other and quickly reviewed their ability to breathe through their own nostrils. Now all that was left was to close “Skirmish” itself, which would have been a relatively simple task had the game not decided to freeze.
“Hurry up Eric!” Kemar said, as he dropped some books over the controllers.
“I’m trying!” I replied, doing my best to wrest some control back from my computer. If only I could get the damn game to come out of fullscreen, then I could hide what we were doing at the very least. But it failed to respond.
It was then that I began to be aware of a certain inconvenient truth: if Jack were to come into our classroom right now, we would be in a position where the laptop screen would be quite visible to him. Shifting the angle of the screen along with our chairs would not make any sense either, as the Bio students scribbled away to our left, whilst the wall lay to our right and the door to the next classroom right in front. We could not have picked a better position to screw ourselves over.
Mr. Jack seemed to agree, since he chose that exact moment to step in.