Johnson is, quite frankly, the thorn in my side. He lives to challenge me, and sometimes I wonder why I go along with it. If he wasn’t my only friend, maybe I’d say no once in a while.
This time he wanted me to sneak onto the building site behind our school and hide the team mascot. All because our nemesis, Scott Duncan, had taken his latest prank a step too far and Johnson wanted retribution.
‘Game on’ I text back and crept out of the house through my bedroom window.
I knew Johnson would be pacing in front of the football field by now. He lived right next door to the school and patience wasn’t in his vocabulary.
We’d earned quite a reputation for ourselves, and though far from a famous duo, we did have something in common with the comedy greats – Johnson was always falling into catastrophe and dragging me with him.
‘What took you so long?’ he grumbled, stepping into my path.
I had to swallow the laugh that bubbled in my chest when I spotted him in full camouflage. It was just like him to dramatise the event.
‘I’m here, aren’t I?’
He didn’t say anything to that so we walked for a while in silence. It didn’t take us long to get to the site.
‘It looks harmless enough,’ I muttered, and it did. The equipment surrounding us was well-maintained, materials were stored safely. Better still, there were no cameras to catch us in the act.
In fact, there was no indication of the danger lurking beneath us, that a poisonous gas was seeping through the earth, and penetrating our system. We were breathing it in, oblivious to the effects, because all we could smell was the cool damp earth below us.
‘Did you find out why they stopped construction?’ I asked him, feeling uneasy for the first time.
‘Sometime about a hidden danger.’ He chuckled. ‘The only thing that will be hidden around here is the mascot.’
I glanced in his direction as he dumped his rucksack on the floor. A cloud of dust shot up into his face making him gag.
‘What the hell?’ he choked, rubbing his eyes.
I turned in a full circle, trying to get a better look at the environment; sensing that all was not as it seemed.
I’d barely made it back round before the dizziness hit. It was intense, made me worry I might puke my supper into the dirt.
It was worse for Johnson. He was on his knees now, groaning and clutching his head.
‘We need to get out of here,’ I said, and then stared in stupefied horror as Johnson’s body crumbled to the ground.
‘Okay, you’ve had your fun. Let’s get the hell out of here, man.’
When he didn’t answer I crouched beside him and gave him a little shake. He moaned in protest and it was a weak, pain-filled moan.
‘Shit,’ I muttered, as the panic crept up my spine. What the hell was happening?
My head was pounding by now and I squeezed my eyes shut in defence; they felt like they were bleeding.
I tried to think, tried to ignore the horrific realisation that it wasn’t blood running down my face, but tears. I don’t know which was worse. All I knew was that something was very wrong.
As the hard ground came up to meet me I wished for the safe comfort of my room. I wanted to be anywhere but here, wanted to feel anything but the subtle hum beneath my body.
It took me a long moment to realise I was no longer lying against the hard dirt and my eyes shot open, despite my fear.
I stared in confusion at the walls of my bedroom and took another minute to assess the damage. I no longer felt nauseous. I wasn’t sure what I felt, but it wasn’t sick.
My brain tried to make sense of it and settled on the fact it had all been a dream. I almost bought it, until I spotted the soil staining my trousers and felt the powdery residue all over my hands.
The next moment I was on my feet and rushing towards the window. Johnson, I thought in a panic far greater than that I’d felt a moment ago. What the hell had happened to Johnson?
Written for this week’s speakeasy contest.
Thanks for reading