Skip to main content

The First Sense

Summary

A highly imaginative, futuristic novel set in Lakes City, in North West England, revolving around three intriguing characters with extraordinary abilities. 

Eiko uncovers secrets from shadows, smells memories, and reads between life’s lines; café owner Thorsen alleviates his customers’ mental afflictions with his mysterious culinary creations, and Zach gate-crashes others' private thoughts for his self-gratification. All three characters struggle to understand their unwanted gifts, and as their stories unfold and lives intertwine in this new British city, their mysteries unravel with tragic consequences. 

This is a captivating story about human longing, loneliness and love - stitched with humour and irony, and the imaginary Lakes City provides an alluring backdrop for this futuristic fable. This cross-genre, fictional novel combines magical realism, science fiction and fantasy with the very real complexities of human relationships. 

Lakes City sprawls across what was once Cumbria, and this new city retains space and natural beauty unlike other British cities which have become over-populated and plagued with inner-city viruses. Eiko is both an orphan and a lost soul; she moves to Lakes City to study, and her lectures provide a political and cultural backdrop of the time. But Eiko cannot escape feeling lonely and disheartened, as her insight leaves no room for surprise because she sees bad intentions before they are even fully realised by their owners. Much of Thorsen's story is set in his café, The Edible Remedy. Interesting and unusual people are drawn through his doors with their problems and modern phobias, but they are unaware Thorsen is curing them, as well as consoling them. Yet Thorsen’s own life is falling apart, not least because he harbours a devastating secret about what will happen to those he loves. Zach mainly uses his ability to mind read to manipulate women into bed. Highly intelligent, Zach is used to getting what he wants and he is easily bored. At work, he develops an illegitimate computer programme to do his job for him, which leads him to trouble. Usually the insincere lothario, Zach falls unexpectedly and desperately in love, but he cannot escape the web of deceit he has spun. 

Despite all three characters' extraordinary abilities, they are more emotionally vulnerable than most. Their quest for acceptance and knowledge brings them closer to the truth of who they are, but it comes at a devastating price. You may conclude that sometimes, it is better not to know all the answers.

 

Full novel available on http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-First-Sense-N-Postlethwaite-ebook/dp/B00EDQJJHM

Prologue

I found my name when I was seven. My mother chose another name when I was a fern tip floating in her womb, but she would never get to say it, so as soon as I was yanked out into the cold air, my search began. I thought my name may be concealed in pictures, hidden in texts, or in the whispers that brushed across my ears as I slept; I searched the depths of eyes and the pauses in conversations, but my search was as endless as the sky. 

Then seven years on, on a blistering hot afternoon in October – after I’d turned

everything I could think of, upside down and inside out - my name came to me. Just like that. I was at home in the kitchen and I’d flipped my homework onto the Hub, eagerly hoping for a ‘pass’ so I could escape outside, when my com turned itself off. I commanded the com to come back on but nothing happened.

‘That’s not right,’ I mumbled. Neither was what happened next. A digital, red butterfly

appeared in the middle of the black screen; I clicked at it with my fingerMouse but it wouldn’t budge. So I spat on my shirt and rubbed the screen, but it wouldn’t go away. Defeated, I decided to give in and go outside, but suddenly, an explosion of sparkling white stars appeared on the screen, and I watched them twinkle away until the screen went back to black.

Then to my complete horror, a red cut appeared across the top of the screen - as if an

invisible knife had slashed it. Dark red blood oozed out of the wound and leaked across the screen. I tried to touch it, but it wasn’t wet - it was on the other side. I wondered whether to get help, and feared the com was in pain, after all, it could see, speak, listen and react to touch, but a state of calmness glided over me when my inner voice said ‘stranger things have happened.’

I watched the blood slowly creep into lines and curves until letters were formed, and they soon became the words: Every Individual Kills Order. My face burned. The red letters rolled off to the right of the screen, only for more to appear from the left. They read: Everything Inside Kicks Out. I swallowed a lump and watched the words roll away again. Next came, Erase Identity - Keep Open. I wondered if that message meant I should keep myself open to it, because I had only recently tried to shut it off. Then came: Early Instinct Knocks Opponents. I had already guessed that my unusual ‘instincts’ may be essential to my survival.

The room heaved like a lung. I stepped out of myself to watch the scene from the other

side of the room, and if that sounds odd, well it wasn't the first time. My other-self hugged my other-knees – where I was precariously balanced on a stool, my other-face paler than pale with blood-red letters reflected onto my other-eyes. It was only then that I realised each message began with the same four letters. Another round of words confirmed this: Esoteric Intuitive Keen Outsider.

I slammed back into myself with a thud. My body went cold as I realised all the messages

were deeply personal and relevant to my life so far, but where had they come from? The last message was: Emotional Ironic Knowledgeable Orphan. A dog whined, it took more than a minute to realise it was me. I felt completely overwhelmed to receive affirmation of my life like that. I tore my eyes away from the screen as the room began to spin. I turned as sticky as the day, slipped onto the floor and held my rolling head in my hands until everything became still again. Eventually, I rubbed my eyes but yelped when I saw the four letters: E I K O singed onto the inside of my eyelids.

After spending seven, long years lost in a dark, dense forest, I had stumbled into a clearing. My name was ‘Eiko.’

 

Chapter One - Eiko

I never knew the man that left me in my mother, and I hoped he hadn’t passed down any part of himself to me. That was wishful thinking, I now know. My mother, Mia, left me when she was twenty-seven years old and thirty-eight weeks pregnant. I was told she died from a ‘heart attack’ during labour, but that was not exactly true, I know her broken heart really finished her off. 

Mia died exactly three minutes before I was born. As a child, I’d often watch the seconds

on a clock tick by for three minutes, and I was always surprised how easily they slipped by, when three not-to-be-taken-lightly-minutes stole my mother away from me. I also spent every birthday alone in my room; no amount of bribery lured me out because it didn’t feel right celebrating the date my mother died. Instead, each year, I wondered how much more like my mother I’d become.

I saw in pictures that I had the same fierce blue eyes and prominent jaw, but I wanted to know if she would raise her left eyebrow, just to be insolent, but couldn’t raise the right one, or if she had trouble remembering her nine-times table, so did her ten-times table instead, and worked backwards. I particularly wanted to know if her eyes ever dropped to the floor when she met new people, because she was drawn to their shadows instead of their faces. I never found out any of the answers to those questions, but I often heard her whispering to me with a voice as soft as butter. And once, while I slept, I felt her body heave under me while the tide of her breath washed over my face.

            My mother's only relative was her brother, Edward James, who I called ‘Uncle Eddie’ and he brought me up with sheer persistence. When I was growing up, I often begged Uncle Eddie to tell me about my mother’s death, because I was desperate to uncover more. Unwillingly he complied, but the story was always the same.

He had taken my mother to hospital, held her hand, and soothed her for seven hours as she sobbed and told him she couldn’t go on. Poor Uncle Eddie had been with her when her heart stopped, and then surrounded by a wall of faces, barking orders. A nurse tried to make him leave, but he wouldn't abandon his little sister; eventually he was moved outside and watched helplessly through a window as they tried to revive her. Although Uncle Eddie never actually said so, his eyes told me the scene had been violent and undignified as they worked over her body. After the longest three minutes Uncle Eddie had ever known, a surgeon pulled me out from a cut across my mother’s abdomen. Uncle Eddie's eyes usually glazed over at this point, or he would pretend to clear his throat, but I always caught the sob strangling in his breath.

            On my very first night in an incubator egg, Uncle Eddie watched over me through the night; every time my mouth threatened a wail, Uncle Eddie hummed and my cry never hit the surface. When I woke, my fresh eyes stumbled across the senseless shapes in the dim room and then I locked eyes with him - I saw things remarkably clearly even then - his eyes shone so brightly with love, that they almost detracted from the grief ravaging his face. As I searched Edward James’ eyes for the very first time, I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.

           

Uncle Eddie called me ‘Li’l un’ and to the world I was ‘Lill Jansen.’ I accepted ‘Lill’ as a temporary name until I found my real one, but I was infuriated by people who assumed I was a ‘Lillian’ or ‘Lilliput.’

When I was around six, I was cornered in a school corridor by some older girls, the ring-leader said, ‘Lill is only half a name because orphans don’t deserve full ones.’ So I slapped her so hard, she burst into tears, because I was angry with her calling me an ‘orphan’ - Uncle Eddie was mountains more than any father could have been to me.

            Poor Uncle Eddie, he put up with a lot in my early years, I had terrible-twos right up to

torturous-fives, what with screaming tantrums, sleepless nights and hiding from mealtimes, bedtimes, shower times, visitors and their shadows. I once refused to brush my teeth for a whole month when I was four, insisting I chew grass like next door’s dog. Uncle Eddie eventually gave in and even washed the grass for me, until I grew tired of the taste. It was times like those that Uncle Eddie’s ‘Li’l un’ became ‘Troubled un’, an insightful relegation, as my bad behaviour was mainly due to me being disturbed by other people’s behaviour towards me. Many adults, as well as children, were visibly scared of me, and so I often found myself left on the peripheral of social situations. I suppose in my early years, I didn’t help things much - I reacted too easily to my uncanny interpretations of people and events.

When I insisted my name was ‘Eiko,’ with little justification except for it being ‘my real

name’, Uncle Eddie went to explain the name change to my head teacher, and he told her it was only right I had a name that I was truly happy with. Uncle Eddie unquestioning support was constant when I was growing up, he allowed me to make a lot of strange decisions, while gently guiding me through my childhood, and that must have been a difficult balance to strike - when he never knew what was at the root of my troubles. Ironically, Uncle Eddie still called me ‘Li’l un’, but only out of affection so I allowed it, but the rest of the school viewed my name change as confirmation that I was very strange. 

 

Uncle Eddie never had a girlfriend after I was born, although he wasn’t short of opportunities, he was a handsome man - albeit weathered by his loss and the sea. Over the years, numerous single and attached neighbours popped round our house, to offer Uncle Eddie a hand as he raised his turbulent niece. They brought round home-cooked meals, old toys, books and hand-me-downs from their spurting kids. Uncle Eddie was always very grateful but he never showed any other interest. A children’s advisor from the council took an obvious shine to Uncle Eddie for about a year, but he just quickly showed her round on her bi-monthly visits and politely ushered her out the door. If I ever asked Uncle Eddie why he didn’t have a girlfriend he’d reply, ‘One bloody-minded lass is enuff for me to deal with,’ and he gave me a wink. 

Years after I left home, I asked him the same question. He sadly muttered, ‘You just get

used t’ dealing with the important things.’ Then as he went to make us another cup of tea, I realised that the worry I had caused him, left him no room for anything else.   

            We lived on Well Bay in the North East and our terraced house looked out onto the grey North Sea, where Uncle Eddie sailed out to pot crabs and lobsters for a living. When I think of my time on Well Bay, the memories edge back and forth like the tide; I feel a gentle release inside and I want to weep for the past. Some memories are strong, like the bitter North Sea wind pinching my limbs with icy fingers, or the damp sand caked between my toes as I searched the Bay, but for what I can’t remember. How it would all change - although I didn’t know it then – there would come the building of land onto the sea.

As I nod away, I recall the ‘slip-slap’ sound of the waves against Uncle Eddie’s boat that was cream with a blue bow. I can almost feel the cool cotton of my favourite stripy dress; its pockets once housed a pair of sparrow chicks for a whole afternoon, they had fallen from the nest. I took the chicks home to Uncle Eddie, and he nursed them in a padded box under a lamp so they could grow strong enough to fly, but only one chick survived, the other one died, and the sight of its translucent skin over tiny feathers-flecks - that would never break the surface - made me cry until my eyes were as raw as steak. The memories ebb back and forth: dark mornings, where I forced myself awake by washing under freezing water, and tedious walks to school where the wind ravaged me to the bone.

There was always spring to look forward to – it grew longer each year and summer

spilled well into where autumn once was. Uncle Eddie had a lovely smell: a heady mix of warm wood and fresh air, and I used to breathe it in as deeply as my lungs would allow. Sometimes, we sat outside our house, untangling monofilament lines and attaching on light lures to catch us mackerel for tea. Occasionally, I joined him for a sail, and I was always fascinated by the tiger-striped mackerel that leapt onto the glowing lures as many as four or five at a time, as if they couldn’t wait to die. Those fish would beat an eerie death dance on his boat’s deck until Uncle Eddie called time with his priest.

Whenever we returned home from a sail, I would warm up in the lounge where the walls emanated a soothing orange colour, although they were actually painted white. Sometimes, I’d count the seashells embedded in the room’s useless mantelpiece, that once framed a roaring fire, but I could still smell the wood burning in it. I loved that useless mantelpiece because it was home to a few photographs: one was of Uncle Eddie and my mother Mia, taken a year before their parents were killed in a car crash. In the photo, Uncle Eddie was eight and Mia nearly four, both were stood rigid in their school uniforms, and he had a hand gripped tightly around one of hers. Mia’s hair still held the soft whiteness of babyhood, Uncle Eddie wore a huge smile, and although I had seen him as proud, I had never seen him as happy.

On our fish-evenings, we would huddle on the sofa with plates of fried mackerel and mash - that tasted more like butter than potato - or we would eat the mackerel with tomatoes on toast and soft boiled eggs. After tea, Uncle Eddie played old songs from the ONY soundCell that once read SONY. Often, I’d sit up with him and read when I really should have been in bed. I was always enchanted by Uncle Eddie’s shadow; it would wrap itself around me like a blanket, or rock me back and forth in its arms.

When I finally did go up to bed, I would lie awake under the sheets for hours, dreading

the morning when the sanctuary of home became the harsh reality of school. 

 

Chapter Two - The Others

School stank of urine, disinfectant and pheromones. The reek of stale urine is horrible enough but I could detect the smell of urine long gone, masked by disinfectant and paint, from decades of children. As for the smell of pheromones, I’m sure most people don’t pick this up, so imagine a metallic smell that catches at the back of your throat, before a musky cloud takes over.

There was no obvious pattern to what I could smell or when, and that was the most

frustrating thing; it wasn’t as if I could upgrade my ‘normal sense of smell’ to an ‘enhanced smell’ when I wanted to. Hidden smells revealed themselves to me, whereas, some of the strongest smells of the past lay forever dormant. That’s memories for you, some are deeply buried and forgotten, others reside near the surface of consciousness to tease your senses, and others are annoyingly repetitive.

            Anyway, school - I hated it and not just because it stank; I enjoyed the learning part as I was far from stupid, but it was the others that troubled me. I didn’t make friends with other kids, because they acted just like kids, and I didn’t relate to other adults because I easily unnerved them. 

Mr Simmonds, my behavioural science teacher, obviously didn’t understand his subject

matter, because he once wrote in my report: Eiko Jansen is a highly intelligent and perceptive child, yet she uses these strengths to undermine authority, and this display of arrogance lets her down.

            Strong words for a seven-year-old child, don’t you think? The problem, and note I say the problem not my problem, was that I learnt way beyond what my teachers taught. And as shocking truths were revealed, my behaviour towards certain teachers changed.

For example, I knew Miss Hassan - who taught life balance - was romantically involved

with the euroHistory teacher, Mr Urswick, as I’d see their shadows embrace when they walked past each other. Yet in the flesh, they would scuttle past each other - Miss Hassan’s face as bright as beetroot, and Mr Urswick’s eyes fixed a little too firmly on his papers. Then there was Mr Kuziemkowski – the Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian languages teacher - if he ever picked up a glass of water, the shadow of a wine glass fell from his hand, so it didn’t take a genius to work out he was an alcoholic. Those teachers’ secrets I kept to myself but other teachers weren't so lucky.

            One unlucky teacher was Mr Edwards, who taught me mathTech when I was ten; he hated teaching with a vengeance. How did I know? Well, just one glance at the heavy shadow dragging itself behind him, holding a silhouette of a golf bag, told me all I needed to know. Like many miserable people, Edwards made no attempt to hide his misery, probably in the hope that if he shared it, it would halve. At other times he would resort to that (ridiculous) miserable person’s logic:

Miserable person + Miserable Person Makes Other Person Miserable =

Miserable person is less Miserable.

 

Enter the Other Person: Georgie Cooper. Georgie was already the primary target for the

school bullies who made fun of his orange hair and extra weight; I only came second because Georgie never stood up for himself.

One morning, we were sat in the comSuite waiting for Edwards to arrive, and when he

did I knew he was more depressed than usual, because his shadow lurked behind the door and refused to come in. Throughout the lesson, Edwards was highly irritable, and he sighed and paced the floor like an addict. Then out of nowhere, Edwards threw a ridiculously hard maths problem to the class and it just floated over my head. But Edwards jabbed his index finger in Georgie’s direction as if stabbing him for the answer. Georgie’s face froze.

‘Come on!’ spat Edwards.

Georgie blubbered, ‘But, I - I don’t know the answer, Sir.’

The class cackled.

‘You’re going to have to do better than that!’ Edwards drummed his desk with his bony

fingers.

Two pupils turned round in their seats and glared at Georgie as if he could make Edwards stop the torturous tapping.  

‘I … am … waiting, Cooper.’ Edwards’ lips furled with sarcasm. ‘Come on, you’re a

clever lad.’ Some of class sniggered and Edwards rapped the desk even harder.

Georgie scrolled his finger back and forth across his comScreen, as if somehow the answer would miraculously appear. The waiting was painful.

Edwards eventually ceased his terrible tapping. ‘Have you gone to sleep?’

Georgie quickly looked up. ‘No, Sir.’

Edwards grinned victoriously. ‘Then you must be the most stupid boy in class!’   

The class jeered and I felt the fury rise in my throat, and before you could flatten a gnat,

the following words charged out of my mouth: ‘For King's sake, stop picking on him, he can’t help the way he looks!’

The class erupted into vicious laughter and Georgie turned as orange as his hair. I had never meant the sentiment to come out like that.

Edward’s smile drooped and his beady black eyes bulged out of his skull. ‘Quiet!’ he shouted at the class. Then, he turned to me and said, ‘Step outside.’

            As the comSuite door closed behind us, I focused on the swirling patterns on the corridor floor and willed them to swirl me away from the impending onslaught, but Edwards didn’t shout. I finally lifted my eyes and then he spoke.

‘I can safely surmise you were suggesting one of two things with your little outburst: I single out Cooper, because I don’t like the way he looks, or you attribute his lack of intelligence to the way he looks. Which is it?’ Edward’s eyes narrowed.

I looked away, neither option was correct. I took a deep breath and explained to Edwards that I knew - although I didn’t say how I knew - he singled out Georgie and was mean to all us, because he hated his job and had to drag himself into school each day. Then I suggested he find himself a job that would make him happy, like one on a golf course.   

A bead of sweat rolled down Edward’s forehead. He took a moment to find his tongue

and then he said quickly, ‘I don’t know what has got into you, Eiko, I don’t hate teaching or want to find another job - why you should even think that is… bizarre. Don’t interrupt my class again or use the King’s name in vain, otherwise you will be up to see the Head.’

Then Edward’s shadow appeared and pulled itself up behind Edwards, it placed a shadowy golf club across the back of its shoulders, hooked its arms over the ends and lazily swung its hands.

‘Do you understand me?’ Edwards asked more firmly.

‘I understand you completely, Sir,’ I glanced at the shadow, ‘I understand you’d rather

be out playing a round of golf than telling me off.’

A bead of sweat slipped down the embankment of Edward’s nose and hung dangerously

on the ledge. ‘I …’ he shook his head and the sweat-bead launched itself onto his suit and bled into a dark dot. ‘Get back into class!’ he ordered. ‘At the end of class you’ll apologise to Cooper and you’ll not utter anymore nonsense about what I do or don’t like. Do you understand?’

‘I understand,’ I said quietly, but I only understood that I had pranged a nerve.

Edwards was never the same with me again. Instead of scowling at me as part of the masses, I’d often catch him staring at me, and when caught, he would quickly look away, but I could tell he was really rattled. Like most teachers, Edwards guessed there was something unusual about me but he could never work it out. Georgie blanked me from then on, even though I apologised for my comment. Before, he would give me the odd clumsy grin, and although we’d never been friends (I didn’t have any) we were silently united as outcasts. Anyway, Georgie didn’t have any more ‘bad afternoons,’ not in Edward’s company, at least.

            You would think I learnt to be more discreet about my keen sense of others, but the lesson wasn’t really learnt, until the last teacher felt my wrath. Her name was Angela Liddle and she taught environmental science.

            Liddle was a pretty, strawberry blonde and quietly spoken; although in her mid-twenties she dressed in leather-tweeds, box jeans and frilly collars (more suited to forty-somethings at the time.) Liddle also wore her hair in a somewhat ageing chignon. If one of Liddle’s strawberry curls ever made a bid for freedom, Liddle would glance nervously around the room, as if she’d given something away, excuse herself from class and then return with her hair neatly reset.

Although Liddle looked immaculate, she actually smelled of stale male sweat and old beer, but the odours weren’t apparent to the rest of the class, as believe me, they would have been mentioned. Yet they were as obvious to me as if she had been physically plunged in the putrid liquids, and that was the first clue. The second clue came one Friday morning. As Liddle lit my Bunsen burner, her shadow fell across the desk, and it didn’t resemble her dressed as she was in a weave-blouse and baggy jodhpurs, but it appeared naked with its shadow breasts heaved high in its shadow hands. As if that wasn’t a shock enough, her shadow swayed its bottom provocatively back and forth in the lap of Tim Waite, who was sat opposite me and totally oblivious, although he would have been delighted if he’d known.

I was mortified and feigned a coughing fit to hide the damage in my face. It didn’t stop there, Liddle’s shadow plucked a shadowy piece of paper out of Tim’s fleece pocket, folded the paper up and shoved it between its’ shadowy buttocks. I started to choke for real, and the real Liddle walked around to where I was sat, patted my back, and asked me if I was alright, her shadow, thankfully, disintegrating. I said I was fine but inside I felt quite nauseous because environmental science would never be the same again. Sweet, albeit stale-male-sweat-and-old-beer-reeking-Liddle, my teacher, took her clothes off for money. It was as simple as that, or so I thought.

I never intended to tell a soul, but it came out about a month later. I was sat at the back

of the lab, as far as possible from Liddle and by then, her regularly appearing shadow. Sue Big the largest and scariest member of the class (who I secretly called ‘Sue Pig’) plonked herself to my left, and her sidekick, spotty Sarah Samson (who I secretly called ‘SS’) sat on my right. As they opened their books, they chuckled sinisterly to each other, and I knew there would be trouble but all the other seats were taken, so I couldn’t move.

It wasn’t long before Sue Pig struck: she grabbed my electronic diary and chucked it to SS. I tried to get it back, but they poked and shoved me like a piggy-in-the-middle, although Sue was a better fit. Then SS sat on my diary and smirked so hard, her spotty face threatened to crack. I managed to ease a corner of the diary from under her arse, but Sue Pig pinched me on the arm and kicked me hard in the shin. I didn’t cry out, despite the pain, instinctively, I grabbed my pen from the desk and jammed it into her fat pink trotter. Sue Pig squealed like a stuck pig. Although my shin angrily throbbed for a rub, all I could do was watch the Indian ink and Sue Pig’s blood pool onto the white desk.

Sue Pig began squealing and pointing at me with her unstuck trotter, and Liddle rushed

up to investigate. Liddle carefully pulled the pen from Sue Pig’s trotter, wrapped it in a cloth and raised it to stop the bleed. Then Liddle turned to face me, her pretty face contorted with rage. I had never seen her even mildly angry before.

She shouted at me ‘You STUPID girl! What is wrong with you?’

The green walls of the lab glowed red with her anger. I tried to explain it all started with

the theft of my diary, but SS had slyly slipped it in front of me. So by the time I got to how Sue Pig pinched and kicked me, Liddle didn’t believe a word.

‘You terrible, terrible liar!’ she shouted as Sue Pig smirked behind her tears. Liddle shook her head and two of her curls bounced free, but she didn’t notice that time. ‘You really surprise me, Eiko, I never thought you had such a dishonest and nasty streak. Go to Mrs Sanderson’s office at once and tell her what you’ve done - without telling anymore terrible lies.’

A liar I certainly wasn’t, so that insult amalgamated with my throbbing shin was akin to

igniting a bomb. The redness of the room quickly deepened and I realised I had misread it as a sign of Liddle’s anger, when it was warning me of my own. So I blew up and I yelled at Liddle, ‘I’m not a “liar”, never mind a “terrible liar”! You’re the dirty liar, pretending to be all prim and proper when really, you take your clothes off for money!’

What can I say? Liddle turned a horrible shade of white as if the colour had been strangled right out of her. She dropped Sue Pig’s trotter and when it thudded onto the work bench, Sue Pig squealed, but Liddle didn’t hear an oink. ‘How on earth – ’ she said, but quickly shut her mouth.

I just stood up and hobbled the familiar route along the long corridor to Sanderson’s

office, tears brimming in my eyes and my head heavy with shame. I knew I had disappointed Liddle, but I didn’t realise the extent of the damage.

            I just got a detention for stabbing Sue Pig because by the time I saw Sanderson, I had evidence of provocation: a boot-shaped bruise on my shin. I didn’t mention my other outburst to Sanderson as I’d said quite enough that day. Sue Pig also got a detention, but not until the day after, because she had to get the pen hole in her trotter glued up, but I was glad Sanderson punished her too. 

            I think Sanderson liked me, because she always gave me a toffee before I left her office, even though I was only sent there to be told off. Sanderson must have liked Uncle Eddie too; he said she made a beeline for him at every parent’s evening and he went to every single one, even though he felt out of place. I can just imagine him queuing up to speak to the teachers and doing that foot shuffle thing he always did when he was nervous.

At the last parent’s evening before I turned sixteen, Sanderson said to Uncle Eddie, ‘You must be really proud of Eiko, she is an extremely intuitive and gifted child that the education system cannot fully comprehend.’ I think Sanderson understood a lot more than she let on. She would have been deeply disappointed to know it was me that broke the story on Liddle.

            The school turned into a rumour mill after the incident with Liddle, but the gossips never named me as the primary source, of course, true gossips enjoy owning the scandal. For weeks afterwards, tales echoed through the school corridors: some pupils reported finding Liddle’s stripping video-cards in comBooths throughout the city, but of course, the evidence never surfaced; one pupil claimed he’d seen Liddle on the Hub on a sexPoint in our school uniform, and another said his grandfather had peeled off Liddle’s underwear with his false teeth at a strip club. The lies were relentless and poor Liddle tried to soldier on, but eventually she went off sick.

Weeks later, Sanderson announced that Liddle was leaving the school, and later that day, I

found out the truth and it was far too dull for the gossips. I was sat alone in the hidden stairwell that I favoured most at lunchtimes, when I overheard two teachers discussing Liddle. The first said Liddle had lap danced years ago to finance her teacher training, and the second, added that Liddle was so traumatised by the gossip that she was quitting the teaching profession and area for good.

            I never forgave myself for humiliating Liddle, but she provided me with the most valuable lesson in my life: I had to keep my mouth shut about what my remarkable sense of others revealed, so not to destroy anyone.

            There were many things I learnt at school which were not on the curriculum: I learnt that the shadows I saw were usually part of a bigger picture and had to be interpreted in context and with care, like the smells which only I seemed to smell, the shadows belonged to no specific time and could relate to the past, present or future. So I learnt not to react unless there was an obvious danger; the strange colours I saw around me sometimes helped me decipher truths because they were always linked to the present. I also learnt to be more analytical and patient, and I learnt that I’d be learning every, single moment of the living day, but I would be no more knowledgeable than the last, because every answer would lead to another question… except for now.