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Walking through the giant gates opened wide, Sarah watched a colossal ‘WESTHIGH’ crowning one of the three buildings looming before her.

The highschool campus was empty, except for the few early arrivals scattered here and there. They each glanced her way in open curiosity, making her nervously fiddle with the charm bracelet her Grandma had gifted her that very morning.

Sarah had never found comfort standing out from the crowd. And being the new girl at school was daunting.

Wanting to avoid their scrutiny, she decided to take a tour of the school herself. It was far better than the school she transferred from in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Every amenity–classrooms, gym, track, football-field, indoor summing pool–of WestHigh, in the small town of Westerley, located on the north-western part of surreal Upper Michigan, could rival with the best of any big city moneyed school.

It was hard to believe this was all due to the goodwill of a benefactor, who preferred to remain anonymous. Except for the few important members on the School Trust Body, no one had even an inkling of who he might be.

Grandma had said, though the people of this town craved to know his identity so they may get to personally thank and honour him for his generosity, they also didn’t want to disrespect the man’s wish to continue remaining nameless.


A heavy, dull noise interrupted Sarah’s expedition.

At the back, within the school premises, a large tract of land was under construction. It seemed the sound issued from there, though at the moment no work was being done on the single storied structure.

Sarah listened again, but nothing came to her this time. Still a sudden anxiety churned, wanting her to leave here. She could not explain this restive feeling. But before she did anything about it, yet another sound caught her notice. A sound that closely resembled a muted.. scuffling?

Wonder at its source overrode her anxiety. One wary step after another, she neared the closest brick wall as faint talking replaced the earlier scuffling noise. Even as the quality of the voices suggested it contained a trace of repressed aggression, she couldn’t stop herself peering from the end of the wall.

As it was, her instincts weren’t wrong. By the picture she witnessed not thirty yards from her, it appeared a bout was being carried between two boys.

One with the sandy brown hair was sprawled on the ground. His limbs frantically laboured to raise him from his degrading position. But when this effort met with the other’s quelling foot planted squarely on his chest, whorls of anger contorted his features.

Since this other boy, with his raven head, had his back to Sarah, she couldn’t see his face.

“You don’t scare me, Maximus.” The sandy haired boy spat up fighting the weight keeping him down. “Nothing you do, would make me admit something I haven’t done.”

At the challenge, the imperious foot entrenched on his chest slid its way up to his throat, splaying him over the ground completely and thus effectively stopping his bid at freedom, since struggling would only have had the pressure on his windpipe choke him.

Although the boys were physically bigger, Sarah didn’t think they could have been much older than she. However, this Maximus seemed to grow even larger as he nonchalantly rested one arm over the leg bent at knee, that still had the boy underneath its captive, while his other leg extended back powerfully on the rough ground.

“You’ll do well to fear me, Mike.” He sneered so low and deep, it took all of Sarah’s concentration to gather what he threatened. “I always, always get what I want.”

The blade of absolute conviction in his words slithered down her spine, rousing her to the danger he was.

She needed help. Mike needed help.

Her sight madly searched the long pavements, empty parking-lot, gardens now deserted of even the few students who sat there only minutes before.

“Not this time, Maximus. Don’t walk away from me!”

The sharp retort had Sarah swivel in time to see Maximus’s dismissive back moving farther away from both Mike and where she stood hidden. But before she could breathe easy believing the fight finally broken, Mike wanting to even the score on his humiliation, lunged after him without warning.

With the advantage of having his opponent’s back turned, Sarah thought Mike might succeed. But remarkably, Maximus had anticipated this comeback.

Swift as lightning, without having looked back, he bent precisely under the arm that reached out to hit him. Then using this continuous motion to skilfully generate enough force, he landed one of his own solid punches in the dead centre of Mike’s guts.

He didn’t stop at that. As Mike hunched at the loss of active breathing, together with a killer pain battering his diaphragm, Maximus, not encumbered with scruples, mercilessly backhanded his face.

Mike doubled over on the ground, trickles of scarlet seeping down his nose and mouth.

The scene Sarah witnessed, drained her blood. Their violence evoked memories of her only too raw, turbulent past. She didn’t ever want to see anyone hurt again. Spurred into action, she spun around and screamed.

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