Extract from “Missing”
The news bulletin flashed onto the screen, once again. Up popped the picture of Shade Morgan, a tall fourteen year old boy, with short, black, greasy hair. It was the third time this week. Still missing.
“This is the most recent photograph we have of fourteen year old Shade Morgan,” the news reporter announced.
I studied the picture of the boy. He looked familiar, yet I couldn’t put the name to his face. His eyes scared me. They were looking right into mine, as if trying to possess me. I looked at his nose. It was long and pointed, slightly off centre. Maybe he had broken it in the past. He had a small mouth, with pursed lips. He seemed to be in the middle of changing his facial expression when the picture was taken. His neck was thin and long, like a giraffes. He was extremely thin. He looked as if he never ate anything. I looked away and continued reading ‘The Beano’.
“I wonder where he is. Do you know him? He is about the same age as you, Demi,” mum asked me.
“Hmm. What?” I replied.
“I said do you know him?” mum repeated.
“Who?” I asked.
“Oh Demi, do try and pay attention! Shade Morgan, he’s in your year at school. Do you know him?” she asked me once again, sounding slightly irritated this time.
I put down my comic and glanced at the picture again.
“Dunno, he seems familiar. Maybe I do,” I told her.
She let out a sigh and continued dusting the old, chipped ornaments that sit on top of the fireplace. I don’t understand why she keeps them. Most of them are cracked down the middle. They are hardly worth any money.
The news reporter spoke again.
“At the time he went missing, Shade Morgan was wearing a navy blue Nike cap, red Adidas t-shirt, navy blue Adidas trousers and white Nike trainers, with a distinguishing blue tick. He was carrying a black Nike bag. He had been playing football with friends in Hawkshead Park.”
The news reporter pointed to Hawkshead Park, which had a small football pitch, where the boys regularly played football. There was a young girl in the background, laughing, playing in the sandpit. The news reporter continued speaking.
“At six o’clock, he told his friends that it was time for him to go home for his tea. They all said goodbye to him and that was the last time he was seen. His father, Fergus Morgan, told the police that Shade had not returned home for his tea at six o’clock. Police and members of the community are searching for Shade. It is not yet clear as to why Shade went missing, but his father is convinced that he would not runaway. Any information about the whereabouts or well being of Shade Morgan would be greatly appreciated. Just call the police on zero, one, one, fou…”
I couldn’t be bothered listening to the rest. I wonder why he has gone missing. He is fourteen, the same age as me and I’m quite capable of looking after myself. The police are looking for witnesses, but I can be of no help, as I was having my tea at the time he went missing.
The rain lashes against the windows, as I sit, hunched up in the corner of the living room in the famous Beatrix Potter’s house, eight miles from my home in Hawskhead. I sit, as if expecting something to happen. There is a strong wind outside blowing hard against the trees, making them creak. It is quite spooky. I wonder if anyone is looking for me yet. Probably not. I am just Shade Morgan, a boy hardly anyone knows exists. I have been gone for three days now, maybe dad will have noticed that I am not in the house. I doubt it. He never notices anything since mum left. He just sits in front of the box, watching the cricket, but there is no point. England are playing rubbish, but he doesn’t appear to pay that much attention. Oh well.
It’s freezing and dark outside, so it must be quite late. I curl up in my blanket and eventually fall asleep.
“I’m going to bed mum,” I shout.
“Night Demi,” she replies.
I walk slowly up the stairs, stepping on my younger sister Olivia’s toys. It’s dark and I can’t see anything, so I turn on the light. I crawl in to bed, exhausted and lie awake, reading, but it is hard to take in the words. As I read, the picture of the boy on the television is in my head. I hope he is all right, wherever he is. Eventually I drift off to sleep with the light still on.
I’m hungry. I didn’t bring enough food with me. Two sandwiches, a packet of crisps and an apple. Hardly enough to survive on. I still have enough water though. Two big bottles. Dad didn’t even notice the food had gone when I went out to play football with the boys.
The rain has passed, but grey clouds still fill the sky. It’s about half past eight in the morning. It’s still the summer holidays, so nobody will be going to school. Even if the schools were back I would have no need to worry because this house is far from anywhere. It is situated in the middle of a woodland, surrounded by sycamore trees, which have millions of leaves on, so I’m well hidden.
I sit for a while, looking out of the window at the sky. Nobody appears to be nearby, so I could go for a short walk. I pick up my rucksack and set off through the woods, carving arrows on the trees to make it easy to find my way back to the deserted house. I’ve done this since I got here, taking a different route through the forest each day. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I need food, but have none and it isn’t possible to get any without being seen. When I was younger, my dad used to watch films about people that would go walking through the hills, but ended up getting lost. They would hunt for animals, usually rabbits and kill them for food. There are rabbits here, however, and even if there were I couldn’t bring myself to kill them, so I will starve.
I awoke early this morning with a thumping headache. I must have been in a deep sleep. Mum watched the news and persisted in telling me that Shade Morgan was still missing, even though I did not want to know. It stresses me out knowing that he is out there on his own, probably with nothing to eat. I feel as though I should look for him, but it is best to leave it to the police.
My friend Sarah calls for me about midday wondering if I’d like to go down to the park. I accept the invitation and we walk at snails pace down the road. We don’t say much to begin with, it is Sarah who breaks the silence.
“I guess you heard about Shade Morgan?” she says.
“Yeah,” I reply, sort of distantly.
By this time we are in the park and heading for the swings as we do most days. Sarah always chooses the one on the right and I the left. It is just something we do, but today for some reason, we switch.
“So, do you think Shade has run away or has been kidnapped?” Sarah asks me.
“Don’t know,” I reply, a bit too sharply. I am not really in the mood for this conversation though I daren’t tell Sarah. She seems to notice and changes what she was going to say.
“Hmm,” she says, ending the conversation that didn’t really go anywhere.
As Sarah swings I notice her long, auburn coloured hair, blow in the breeze. The freckles on her face are more noticeable than usual and her green eyes shine, but not in a pleasant way. I look more closely at Sarah and see that she is crying.
I walk for half an hour without stopping for a rest, just going where my legs take me, not caring where I end up. I continue on not forgetting to mark the trees. It will take me a long time to get back to the cottage, but I don’t care, I am not returning home to Hawkshead.
Back home Dad upset me, though he did not notice. He just slumped in his armchair, drinking. It is clear to me that he no longer wants me in the house, that is why I have run away. We rarely spoke at home. If I said the wrong thing it might set him off. He would shout all night, calming only when he filled his system with unnecessary alcohol. I was scared of him so kept well out of his way, crying myself to sleep most nights. If only mum knew what trouble she had caused dad and I by leaving.
Mum and dad split up last year, when dad pinned her up against a wall for throwing out a watch that his dad had given him for his birthday, shortly before he passed away. Mum did not realise that this was the watch granddad had given him. Mum and dad had argued beforehand, mainly because dad was grieving over the loss of his father, anything seemed to set him off. Mum had not realised that the watch was special to dad, because it was an old one, which my granddad had worn when he was alive. Dad got very angry with her. Mum got scared so she left, without saying goodbye to me. I miss her, but she walked out one me, so I learn to live with it.
Nobody seems to want me. With mum gone and dad in such a state I realised that I was on my own with nobody to care for me. It took me only a few days to plan my escape. I got away easily, but never thought of essential things that I might need. I just left and ended up here, at Beatrix Potter’s cottage.
“Sarah, I’m sorry, I never meant to upset you. I just don’t want to talk about Shade Morgan just now,” I tell her, feeling slightly bad.
“Don’t worry, it’s not you,” she says sniffling.
“Then what?” I ask her.
“Erm…” she says pausing slightly. “It’s Shade,” she answers blushing.
I smile with relief. “Tell me,” I say.
“He was in my math’s class last year and I sat next to him. He always poked me with his pencil when he needed help. Sometimes I would help him, but other times I would tell him to get lost.” She cried even harder, not stopping to breathe.
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell her. “He won’t have minded you getting narky with him. He would understand that you needed to get on with your own work.”
She smiles at me. “He was in your English class last year, wasn’t he?” she asks.
Then I remember. “He was, you’re right. I forgot,” I tell her feeling slightly guilty that I had forgotten.
“Shade loved reading. He was always talking about Beatrix Potter books,” I inform Sarah.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks!
“I know where he is,” I say to her. “Come on!”