The winter sun is always low.
Long angular strips of brilliant yellow squeeze through the gaps in the railings like witch’s fingers, reaching across the playground concrete and tickling the trees.
Boxes of dense shade cast by the school buildings yield to the rhythm of the day’s dying light. Standing inside their squared eclipses, patches of matte blackness that foreshadow a frosty night, produces a shiver in my spine. The trees seem to whisper to the sky.
A shutter on the side of the sports building appears loose, and I climb in after prying open the boards with numb hands. Inside, the air is airless; the day has long drawn its final breath. A reverberation of years of noise has left a lasting impression, carved into the emptiness like Sanskrit; the unruly echo of children’s laughter; the clatter of hockey sticks and squeak of rubber plimsolls against the concrete floor; the metallic clang of locker doors slamming shut.
A sink’s tap emits a rusty creak as I turn it, and I skim my fingertips against the water as it slowly heats. Warmth prickles across my skin as I form my hands into a pallid pail, letting the froths of liquid fill every swirl and lap at the forks of blue veins in my wrists.
In the classrooms, half-finished equations and sentences underlined linger in powdery lettering on the chalk boards. I survey the tarnished wood of each desk, striding between them as if I am the teacher, issuing stern looks, hands on hips.
Breaking the weight of silence, suddenly, is the sound of a door opening. I stand solidly to attention, as frozen as the railings, as quiet as the concrete.
Through the glass pane I peer at a hollow stretch of hallway. My eyes strain large in the dim of the dark.
A beam of light springs from his office, and he exits, standing there with briefcase in hand, a hefty silhouette framed by a rectangle of yellow. Time grinds to a grave halt, and I wait.
And wait. Entire universes are created, amassed and obliterated in the time it takes him to move.
The angles of his face have become deformed by the play of shadows. His eyes are shrouded in black. The light snaps off.
With a raspy cough, he shuts the door and moves away, his small footsteps retreating into the night. When I am sure he is gone, I sprint through lengths of corridors, breathless.
By day, I sink into the primary coloured crowd, the mass of children pressed against the gates, the shrieks and whispers and laughter and secrets.
By night, I merge with pools of obscurity, flitting in the empty halls; they are the narrow space between night and day, portals to the protection of darkness.
Nobody sees me.