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art by Wi Waffles

Sticks and Stones

Kevin Pickett lives in the green and pleasant county of Norfolk, England with his future wife. Member of the British Fantasy Society, he is the author of the sci-fi novel "Dignity Nine-Eight" and the story collection "Iceberg Blue." Writing is his passion and he would like to take this opportunity to thank Daily Science Fiction and its readers for their support and kindness. It means the world to him.

If you want to tweet with Kevin, you can find him on Twitter @KingSolitude or go to his website kpickettauthor.com for more stories and news on upcoming projects.

This is Kevin's third story to appear in Daily Science Fiction.

I watched the boy lift the faux-fur lined hood of his Parka coat up around his red-cheeked face and pull the weather-beaten door closed behind him. The wind pushed against his tiny frame as he hurried along the sloping grass embankment outside the short row of council houses. Twice the cruel wind whipped about him, and he stumbled like a drunkard at midnight, but he righted himself and began the hard trek up the hill beside the Priory ruins. Those familiar sandstone remains of tumbled ancient structures were like half-buried bones rising from the grass along the cliff top bluff; broken and twisted by the spite of time.
I felt the cruel January chill, though my encapsulation field protected me from the atmosphere beyond my enviro-suit. I could taste the salt on the air as the waves crashed onto Haven beach, though my lungs breathed pure filtered air from the breather tanks on my back. As I watched the boy wearily clamber the winding path beside the ancient cliff, pulling his school bag up onto his shoulder, I turned away. I did not need to see any more.
I knew how he felt on this day. Cold. Dejected. Alone. Frightened.
I knew what he thought on this day. There was no way out.
I knew what he wished on this day. For someone to stop the bullying.
I knew that no one ever did.
I watched them waiting for him at the school gates. Four boys; older, bigger, stronger.
I powered up my enviro-suit and maintained the cloaking field. Walking along beside the little boy--invisible to him--I slowed as he slowed. I stopped as he did. But as the four youths brandished their sticks and stones, ready to unleash their cruel spite on this little boy, I reversed my time-suit polarity.
As they brought their arms to bear, I too raised my armor-suited fist, watching the spiraling surge of warp-time build around my arm like fireflies at dusk. The little boy crouched defensively, making a smaller target for their cruelty, but knowing their aim was good.
I was sure that my own was better.
As I unleashed the surging time-field upon them, the coils of sizzling power enwrapped themselves around their confused faces. I watched along with the startled boy as the bullies grew steadily younger, shrinking within their school uniforms, time slipping away from them along with their hatred and intent.
The crouching boy stood. Confused, but no longer frightened. He hefted the bag onto his shoulder and hurried inside the school gates, while four young boys cried for their mother. They were much too young to go to school, but I hoped today they had learned a valuable lesson.
As the school bell began to ring, I felt my twisted bones realign and the old scars fall away from my body like spiders from a web and I knew then that the red-cheeked boy in the Parka coat would be alright.
Today's lessons included Theoretical Science and Physics. His favorite subjects.
He might even grow up to do great things.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Author Comments

The title is taken from the schoolyard saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Writing is an extremely enjoyable process, and sometimes it can be cathartic. This story, for me, was both of those things. I am not unique in the fact that I have been bullied in the past--sadly, it happens to far too many people. From my own experience I know that in the absence of any time-traveling, cloak-enabled, bully-busting, exo-skeletal suited heroes--just talking to someone about it can be the next-best thing.

My very best wishes. Thanks for reading.

- Kevin Pickett
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