Sentinel

on the horizon from winds unknown,
some ship or bird dark.
dry grass in the fire and no breath,
no matter how deep,
is enough to fill me.
the sand waits for the waves,
my watching to ebb,
but I keep an eye out there always,
daring myself to swim, swim
out into the nothing.

Lock Down (draft excerpt)

It’s first period and the halls are empty. I’m armed with a walkie-talkie clipped to my back pocket, beeping and fuzzing with static, a blue broccoli elastic holding it together. I’m doing the circuit, monitoring the corridors from the third floor to the first, peeking into open classrooms, sipping from the water fountain, looking down into the cafeteria from the second-floor entrance. Those students notorious for sneaking out of class to roam the school haven’t arrived yet, their alarm clock or parents having failed (or enabled) them. It’s sleepy and quiet with lessons humming in the background, the distant sounds of basketballs in the gym, singing from the drama room, like a dream of my own long-forgotten high school days.

The gunshots come from the office first, two at a time, ten seconds between them. Then the shots are in the halls, men’s voices yelling, high-pitched wailing. I look down to the foyer from the balcony and see a hooded boy laden, a shotgun slung across his back, a hunting rifle in his hands, a decorative sword from the knife shop at the mall, some homemade devices dangling from a belt, tucked in his pockets. I know him, I had him in a few of my classes as a substitute teacher the year before. I’m not surprised it’s him.

He’s coming up the stairs. I hide behind the wall next to the stairwell. The muzzle is the first thing I see, so I catch it and point it at the ceiling before grabbing him around the neck. He lets go of the rifle altogether and digs for a knife at his waist. Then I have his wrists as he kicks at my shins and knees. His strong right hand is in my weak left, but he’s soft and uncoordinated and I trip him backwards onto the floor, falling with him, the polished hunting knife gouging my forearm. I kneel on his bicep and put my elbow into his neck while he punches my ribs with his free arm. I can see his eyes watering, the shotgun digging into his back. He’s afraid now and lets go of the knife. I punch him hard in the face and he gurgles something, spit gathering in the corners of his mouth. He stops struggling and I punch him hard again to make sure. Something pops in my knuckle and fiery pain shoots up my arm. I stand and drag him, whimpering and semi-conscious, into an alcove. His arms flail above him, so I stomp his stomach and he curls into a foetal position. I hear shots from the other side of the school and pull off the vest and weapons. The custodian appears carrying a broom handle and we arm ourselves.