Some are white and pure. Others are black and dirty. Their skin stains, showing the marks from the touch of another colour.


2. First

Sneaking out of your bedroom window at two in the morning isn’t easy at the best of times, especially when your parents could give national security a run for their money. Sneaking in when the sun is threatening to peak over the horizon isn’t much better. However, when both of them are passed out on the sofa with a half bottle of wine in their veins, things become significantly easier.


I push open the window, wincing when it creaks and pausing to make sure that the only sound coming from downstairs is the gentle hum of a reality show rerun. There’s no footsteps thundering up the stairs so I decide that the coast is clear before positioning one leg over the window and haul myself inside. But, despite my careful attempts to stay quiet, my foot catches on something and I fall through the window and land in a heap on the floor, knocking over a stack of conveniently placed school books.


“Crap,” I hiss as half of the pile hits the floor while the rest drop onto my stomach, trying to stay completely still. I hold my breath and try not to make any more noise until a few more moments have passed.


As I’m letting out a shaky breath and gradually pulling the window shut, the dull sound of footsteps echoes across the hallway. It may be easy to lure your parents into an alcohol induced sleep but your older brother – one who would only consider removing his headphones if zombies were breaking down his bedroom door – is the real issue, especially when you tend to forget about his existence.


I abandon the window and scramble into bed as fast as I can, hitting my knee against the bedpost but still managing to wiggle beneath the covers and curl into a ball, clutching at my knee while pretending to be asleep.


“Matt?” he calls from the hall. He opens my bedroom door. “Matthew Anthony Irwin, I know you’re awake. Your window’s open.”


Crap. He sounds angry, even though that isn’t much of a change to his usual tone.


“You were out in the incastum, weren’t you?” he asks, taking a step closer. “With those disgusting blacks.”


“No,” I lie. “No, I wasn’t.”


“Show me your arms or you can save it for the council,” he snaps.


“What?” I splutter. “No. What would they even arrest me for?”


“I don’t know, assisting blacks in their crimes? Now, Matt. Show me your arms before I tell your parents.”


“They’re your parents, too,” I mutter as I reluctantly roll up my sleeves. The pure white of my skin is smeared with black smudges in the shape of hand prints from where Taylor has grabbed onto my arm, trying to climb over the incastum wall. She had only touched my arm through the fabric of my shirt but there were still stains – like bruises – over the paper white flesh.


“What do you think you’re doing, Matt?” he spits. “You disgusting little- I can’t believe you went there again! What are your parents going to say? They could only tolerate one more time.”


I sigh, considering whether or not I should bring up my reasoning for my visits to the part of town where the blacks lived. I choose not to.


My brother senses that the conversation isn’t going anywhere. “How many times have you been over there? Snuck out of night behind everyone’s backs?”


I shrug. “A few.”


“A few? Meaning more than two? You’ve been talking to them, spending time with them, and even risking being seen in the incastum with those blacks? I don’t understand you, Matt. If you’re just trying to find some way to rebel, this isn’t the right way. I’m only telling you this to protect you. There’s a reason why we’re white and pure and they’re black and dirty. There’s a reason why they stain our skin, why we’re ashamed if people see the stains. They’re bad people, Matt. They’re disgusting.”


“But they’re my friends,” I say weakly.


“Just leave them, Matt. You have friends from school. Also, stop sneaking out at night. It’s for your own safety.”


I’m tempted to tell him that I don’t have any friends from school but I keep my mouth shut and nod in response.


Maybe, just maybe, I could tell him and our parents that I’m going to visit friends from school when I’m really sneaking through alleyways to go to the incastum. It would be risky – and dangerous – to go there in broad daylight without being seen, but it would be worth it. Blacks are brilliant people, despite what everyone at school says, and what my family says, and what pretty much every other white in existence says. The blacks are all so intelligent, creative, and civilized, unlike all the ruling whites who are in charge of us, the ones who my family support so strongly.


The council is corrupted and everyone knows it. We’re all just too afraid to say anything.


Or too stupid.


I can never tell the difference.


I wait for my brother to leave my room before tugging my shirt over my head to examine my body for any more black stains. It wasn’t like what he said had got to me. He wasn’t being anywhere near as hard on me as other people would. He was my brother. H was being kind. If anyone at school saw the marks on my arms, they would… I don’t even want to think about what they would do to me.


Even the teachers don’t mind verbally abusing stained kids, or physically hurting them if they were feeling brave. The council always overlooked black-vs-white related crimes if it was the whites who were in the wrong.


Once, there had been a case at a school where a teacher had caught a student with a black hand print on their neck. The teacher had beat them hard enough to put them in hospital for weeks.


Most people would think that that would scare me straight, but it just made me furious. And more determined. It made me want to stand up for the blacks and protect them from anyone who thought they were inferior and deserved to be treated like vermin; kept in cages, spat on and kicked around by anyone who felt like it.


It was horrible. So I decided that I was going back to the incastum, every single night. To hell with the council. To hell with my family. To hell with anyone that tried to mess with me. I was going back and nothing was going to stop me.

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