The trees made a mess of the classroom. I remember the branches, all black and dying, twisting themselves around the desks and the chairs; reclaiming the furniture for the forest.
I was immersed, bewitched even. I had never experienced this kind of magic before. My world was colliding with another. With this sense of awe there came a fear, a deep dread that makes me shiver even to this day. The sound, that terrible sound, of the skittering movement above my head and the blur of black in the corner of my eye, were etched into my mind forever.
I had never really liked them, but that day made me feel repulsion. Something so seemingly insignificant and everyday to be made gigantean, to be cast into a world of magic I had so far sought refuge in . . .
Most people probably quaked in their boots at the dragon. Not I.
To think of them now makes me itch. I always thought that I could feel them in my hair, crawling down my neck. My sweating palms held on to the lifeline, to my escape from the buzz of the playground, but I imagined them coated with web, attaching me to the chair, trapping me in for their next meal.
I could see them climbing the classroom walls. Too many legs to count. All of those eyes staring . . .
I wanted to throw something, but I didn’t think a pencil case or an exercise book would do enough damage. I wanted to squish them. I looked around in panic but I could find no weapon. I had no sword and there were no rocks to throw. I exclaimed out loud “Be careful.” No one paid any heed to my fears, my shaking hands or itching neck, because everyone else was outside in the sun.
I was in the shadows of Mirkwood.
I was part of it all now. The pages claimed a piece of my heart.
Something came alive in me that day. As I sat reading in the classroom I realised that in my trembling, sticky fingers I held his life; I held all of their lives. And the only way to save them was to carry on reading.
I just never realised that one day they would save my life.