She was wearing the new burgundy t-shirt, which said ‘Spiritual Gangster’, scrawled over a fickle heart-shaped emblem, on the front. The back was empty. Her hair was greasy, scrawny straggles, flopping in thin wisps onto her shoulders, bent over a book. Cowering underneath the (fake) strains of taking examinations. Fake? Since these weren’t the real tests brought by Life. And yet they symbolised the hardest question of all: would she be good enough?
That was the stupid yet recurrent question lurking and regurgitating in her throat. She looked up. The old, crumpled, bitter woman walked over, with a piece of paper in her hand. She stopped a few feet away from No Name (sic. This girl had still not made a name for herself.), peering down at her.
The girl could not, would not wait. Her small, green-cum-yellow eyes prised themselves upon the teacher’s piece of paper, seeking her results. The woman breathed in harshly, about to utter. The girl saw the flash of her marks, breathed in terror, and bolted.
E, E, E, E, E, E, NA (worse than E. Eliminated, Dissolved, Failed, Not Even Worth Considering.).
She ran. From the cell, from the school, from the institution, from the arena, from the prison, from the tower, from the hospital, from the family, from her stupid, worthless self. Be clear: not just to get away from those lines on a piece of paper, from exam results. She was running away from all the nuts and bolts that prevented those impatient neurones from manufacturing A Method of mutating time: barring freedom.
Not known for athleticism, the girl embodied that emblematic t-shirt, vaulted over the fence (somewhat ungracefully), and lurched across the street. She knew where she was going.
Immediately, the old trout shouted at her and demanded that she stop, stay, and receive appropriate punishment. Suppression. No Name ran faster. Old Trout set off the alarm, and alerted the Authorities. By this time, No Name was out of sight. She had to escape before the police tracked her down and restrained her. Detained her. Sedated her. Murdered her.
No Name ran towards the hedgerow. She tried to puff and wheeze (since she was not used to running) quietly, unobtrusively. She ran through the fields. It was dark by now. On the right was a bridleway. A Polish horse and rider roamed past. The horse was mincing on long, black legs that jiggled around the stones on the ground. His rider held the reins high in the air and resembled an Oriental artist. He was dressed in auburn breeches, a pink flappy smock, and white leather gloves. The horse snorted, he could smell No Name. She was going in the right direction.
It was past midnight by now. No Name knew she was a runaway in danger: the police would not be far behind. It would not be hard for them to have found inside information on where she would go. Where she always went. But that did not stop her. No one had ever quite found her Hell, except she. Hell was some atrocious hidey-hole; yet inescapable. Inevitable.
An interlude: At the crossroads in the woodland, No Name discovered a fountain spurting spouts of pure unbroken ambrosia. It was the bottom of a rainbow. The liquid glowed like magma, flirtatiously. Green shoots popped out, blooming into pretty fuchsia petals. Around the ornament a number of dappled ponies danced. Riders were small and lithe; on perfect, lilting strides of bounding connemaras. But they disappeared. In the space, No Name stepped into the ambrosia, bent her knees and drank.
Immediately the magnanimous liquid warmed her spleen. The air erupted into shingles of the rainbow’s spectrum. A pinto Marwari horse with pointy ears that touched themselves trotted past her. Revived now, she followed. She must flee.
The Indian horse galloped away. No Name found her own narrow path by the hedgerow and proceeded with determination. In the distance she could hear the blaring noise of a police car. It seemed to get ever louder, ever closer, ever more threatening. She was near to her place, and yet so far.
No Name tripped in the mud and fell over. She slipped into a thick, rambling wad of rough crop, grown to rear pheasants. Tumbling down the field, the earth dissolved and enveloped her. Swallowed whole, she scraped her way through the mulch and dug herself ever deeper.
Eventually No Name had buried herself entirely, until her short, scrubby fingernails broke through a hole in the soil. She had reached the tunnel. Flopping onto the floor (again, ungracefully), she heaved a breath, which was hard, since there was little air down here. Crawling on her knees, she edged forward. Her body was hot, wet with sweat, and whet with the threat of those advancing imminently behind her.
Soon she reached the end of the tunnel. It opened out into a large spray of lavender. The smell was pacifying, but intoxifying. She was close. Pushing through the pale blue flowers, No Name stood up. By now it was nearly morning. At the end of the garden was a plain house. She was in France, in Provence, near the village called Cotignac. This was her parents’ house. They came here once a month. But now it was empty.
No Name found the dungeon near the moat, and she jumped into it. With the last remaining surge. Around the corner was her place. The walls were red; a dark, dark red. Almost black. She had painted these old walls herself, with her blood. The space was a testimony to the foundation that beguiled all but No Name. Each time she escaped, blood burst here. It could end here.
No more exams. No more cells. No more school. No more institutions, or arenas. No prison, no tower. No hospital. No family. No more stupid, worthless self. With No Name. Here was The Method of mutating time: opening freedom.
There was a moment here, which was indescribable. Before the future took over the present (with time mutated); it was over. The blaring nee-naa of the police siren reached a harsh crescendo. A man burst in, with his truncheon (a shot of lorazopam) at the ready. No Name tried to resist; but cowered. There was nothing more she could do.
Old Trout appeared, grimacing with eerie disgust at the smell. We’ll take you away to the place where you always get better. Her words were reasonable, but No Name did not want to go back to that place, where she had No Name. Yet here was blood, just blood. Nowhere was free. Perhaps she would have to call herself: No Name Nowhere.
I took a breath, and opened my eyes. I was at the farm, with my dog still sleeping, curled up in the crook of my arm. Quite safe. With a name: Lorna Collins.
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