Charlie Edison’s mother, Mrs. Edison was furious. Her face was bright red, her teeth were gritted and her hands were balled into fists so hard you could see her long, winding veins.
“NO!” she bellowed at Charlie, “MUST YOU KEEP BUGGING ME ABOUT IT AGAIN AND AGAIN!”. She was fuming now.
“ MUST YOU KEEP YELLING AND THINK ABOUT HOW I FEEL”, Charlie roared back at her. That got her quiet.
“ Just leave me”, her voice was weak now. Charlie felt no guilt or sympathy whatsoever. He turned on his heel and stormed out of the room, slamming the rotting old door behind him. He marched along the ragged carpet to the cracked front door. He heaved it open and welcomed the fresh gust of air that cooled his hot face. He buttoned up his red woolen coat from the charity shop and lifted his front foot before setting it back down on the next step. The snow crunched softly under his feet. As he made his way slowly down the wooden front stairs, he ran his gloved fingers along the icicles hanging from the banister and winced when the ice touched him through a hole in his glove. Once he reached the street he began to quicken his pace from the slow lollop to a fast stride. After 10 minutes of walking the freezing wind stung his ears, nose and cheeks turning them a light reddish, pink shade, and cold wind bit through his stained woolen coat, but he meandered on, ignoring the spiteful rain that began to fall heavily causing puddles to form all around him, and taking the snow away. There was so much of a cutting chill, that his chest hurt but still he struggled on. He had no clue where he was going but was determined to get as far away from home as possible.
A blizzard began, reforming a snowy path ahead of him, hard hail stones hitting him on the head but still he stomped on, treading his way aimlessly through the snow. The snow was gathering up, piling up; to his knees, to his hip, to his belly, to his chest, and then it was too much for him altogether and he collapsed. He used up the remainder of his strength, which wasn’t much, shoveling the snow away from around him so he could actually get up. Once he was cautiously crouched into a comfortable position, he looked around. His surroundings were extremely unfamiliar and he had no clue where he was. He craned his neck to sneak a look at the street sign. It was empty. In fact the road and street were also empty. There were no houses, no cars, no pedestrians, nothing. Except for a wall that lined the street from the very top to the very bottom. He stood up, wobbled, and then fell over. His bum whacked the ice and his head smashed against the wall. He was dizzy and his head throbbed. He definitely didn’t have enough strength to walk home, let alone get off this street to get help. Maybe he could climb over the wall, since there were a few brick holes to help his footing. He breathed heavily and gradually he rose off the hard ground. He gained confidence and stability as he approached the wall. He reached up his hand and grasped onto an out of place brick. It felt steady. He grabbed on with both hands and raised his feet onto some more bricks and gradually made his way up the wall. By 2 mins he was halfway up. Suddenly, he felt his feet sliding. He looked down hurriedly and realised the wall was caving in and the bricks were stretching inward. A mini black hole was forming and it was sucking him in!
He tried to grip onto whatever he could but his hands were slick and sticky with sweat so this was impossible. Charlie felt himself slipping into the black hole, helplessly kicking and screaming. The hole engulfed him and he watched as the hole closed up and sealed behind him. He twirled and span through the tunnel, zooming at high speed. Then he blacked out.
THEN HE BLACKED OUT
When he awoke he was astounded for he found himself not where he had started by the wall, no, he found himself on a dusty begrimed street full of washing lines holding bras and knickers and piles of dung. People bustled around him all wearing rags. He looked down at himself and noticed he too was wearing scraggy cloth. He lay there dazed for a while before scrambling up to his feet. As soon as he did so, two men that looked rather like old fashioned policemen came and took him away. They spoke in an east enders style accent. They dragged him along, while mumbling to each other through their banker moustaches. All it sounded like to Charlie was
“mmmphhh mph humph mmm”
One of the police looked down at him. “we’re takin’ ya to the work ‘ouse we are”
Charlie searched through his mind to try and find a history lesson he had actually paid attention to that might be linked to this workhouse business. No. none that he had paid attention to but he kind of remembered his mum giving him a lecture about the Victorians and she definitely mentioned the workhouses. He gulped. What she had told him didn’t include anything good. He wriggled, kicked, squirmed, did all he could but failed to get free from their iron grasp. The policemen continued to lug him along until they were standing in front of two large black iron gates. They creaked open and an unfriendly looking man stood there looking very grim. He had pale features, thin spindly hands and long ragged hair. “Come this way, child”, his voice was curt. The police shoved him into the frail man’s grasp. Charlie stared up at him with large eyes almost as big as teacups. “What do you want from me?” he asked meekly.
“Oh, we want nothing from you child but something of you”, he smirked as he said this.
He sighed before leading him to the courtyard and jostled him into the queue. The queue went down quickly and eventually it was his turn. The man standing there was thin and withered and looked 100 years older than he actually was. This man stripped him and hosed him down, before pulling a sack over his head and sent him behind to another man who was also thin and withered, but looked 200 years older than he presumably was. This man shaved his beautiful curly brown locks off completely and herded him into a crowd of boys all looking exactly the same as him, except, they looked tired and weary and had purple bags under their eyes. He followed them into a large hall with tables and benches all lined up in rows. They then filed on to each bench, not seeming to make any fuss about who they sat next to like at Charlie’s school back in his world. On each place was a wooden bowl with a spoon. A plump chef with a menacing scowl and a gruff voice came round and plopped a spoonful of glop into each bowl. Languidly, they began to eat it. The taste made Charlie sick. Everyone finished at around the same time. They rose from their seats in unison and trudged out of the room to a classroom with a low ceiling and candles on each desk. The desks were also wooden and in two’s. Again they did not fret about who they sat next to, so neither did Charlie. He tapped the person next to him and asked “What’s up with this place?” The boy, (or girl, he couldn’t tell), turned to him sharply and mechanically held a
finger to their lips. At that point, a tall man walked briskly into the room. “stand”, his voice was sharp and laconic. “Repeat after me. GOD IS GOOD, GOD IS LOVE, GOD IS KIND”
“GOD IS GOOD, GOD IS LOVE, GOD IS KIND”, chorused the class.
Instantly, there was a loud scraping of chairs, before silence. The teacher brandished a cane, every so often tapping it against his hand.
“My name is Mr.Regge”, he rolled his R’s. “Take out a mini black board and chalk, then write out a richly written piece. The person next to him started scribbling randomly. Charlie frowned and began to write a piece about a football match. Mr.Regge glided gracefully up to him and grimaced. He placed a tiny pinkie onto a word on his board and said “That word does not exist!” Mr.Regge put two fingers to Charlie’s ear and squeezed, causing Charlie to sink to his knees.
The cruel teacher then dragged him along the aisle to the front of the class before dropping him on the floor, seizing up his leg and shaking him around in the air, then announcing to the class that we do NOT make up words. Charlie was horrified, but the class looked as if it might happen every day. He scrambled to his feet and darted back to his seat.
Charlie and the rest of the boys and maybe girls went to an area which was lined with beds (boxes more like) in which they were allowed to sleep a few hours only for they had to wake up at 3 in the morning. Charlie reluctantly shuffled sleepily to his box. He couldn’t stay one moment longer even though he’d only stayed for a day. He would escape tonight…..
Charlie glanced down at his watch. Perfect. Midnight. He arose from his bed and threw on his sack. He flattened down his hair and crept along the rotten wooden floorboards. He peeked out the keyhole in the door. Uh Oh. There was Mr.Regge. He held a deeply concerned look and tried to turn and creep back to his box, but Mr.Regge’s razor sharp ears heard him and the teacher turned sharply and said “HALT”
Charlie’s neck vanished into his shoulders as he turned round and cowered away from the teacher. He marched toward him and scowled.
“What are you doing?”
“Escaping aye boy?”
“Technically no…yes…no….yes”, Charlie looked up at him fearfully.
“To the escapee hut”, he raised his pointy finger to the left at a looming, isolated hut, “And prepare for a beating every day for a month.
“Absolutely no buts”
True to his word, Mr.Regge came in in the morning for Charlie’s beating. He had his cane with him except this time it looked twice as menacing as before. He demanded Charlie to bend over and pull his trousers to his knees. Reluctantly, Charlie did so. Mr.Regge readied the cane and with all his might struck Charlie’s buttocks causing them to turn beetroot pink and bounce around. Charlie whimpered in pain. This was the very sad result each of the 10 times. After the dreaded month Charlie’s bottom was purple and blue and his sack was stained with blood. He had refused pettily to eat the gloop he was offered so was slim and flimsy like a ragdoll. They treated him terribly and after a while he hadn’t the strength to move. Mr Regge came to give him a lecture that there was absolutely no need to escape because he was allowed to go as long as he either had a job or a home. He took that to mind. Charlie made a fake address and gave it to Mr.Regge who was incredibly suspicious, posted a letter to this address and a few days later a reply came saying he could let Charlie free. Unwillingly, he led Charlie to the gate and disposed of him and discarded him. Charlie was free. He began to walk unstably to the wall and stumbled after a while. He never once looked back at Mr.Regge’s defeated face no matter how much he wanted to. He followed the policeman’s footsteps that were left in the dust until he reached his destination. He placed hi gunky, ink-smeared hand on the wall and felt for an opening. He checked every nook and cranny but nothing. All was lost. He sunk to his knees and began to weep. He was seized from behind. He turned his head wildly and dead fear turned to joy and a carefree smile leapt onto his face.
He cuddled her. After the moment of sheer happiness he asked inquisitively,
“how did you get here?”
All she did was tap the side of her nose and grin.
“I love you mum”