Carson was never going to win any popularity contests. He knew this from an early age when the other children threw stones at him to stop him from joining them on the tennis courts, he knew it from the faintly disgusted looks that his teachers threw him when they thought he couldn't see. It bothered him for a long time, until he turned 12. It was then that he moved to a new school, in a new district.
With it came a whole new range of students and teachers that, like a pack of predators sensing a weak member of the herd, began to make his life a living hell. He cried when he thought nobody would notice, but the eagle eyes of the children around him soon made certain that new nicknames and torment were added to his already overloaded serving.
One afternoon found him skulking along a storm-water drain that ran alongside the path leading to his school gates. He was down by the water line, hoping vainly to avoid the notice of the other children wandering home down the track. He could hear the voice of one particularly savage thirteen year old who was normally a ringleader in Carson's daily torment. Already wincing in expectation of the ordeal to come, Carson crouched down behind some tall reeds growing along the banks in an attempt to hide himself. He peeked out from between a gap in the reeds and saw with relief that the savage and his cronies were already further along the path, having not seen Carson's hasty retreat.
Carson sighed to himself, and began to hoist himself back up the bank when he heard a strange noise coming from behind him. A loud hissing, honking noise erupted, and before he could react, a large swan charged at him, knocking him into the mud. It charged again with its wings spread wide, almost taller than Carson himself. It pecked viciously at his shins and knees, causing several deep gashes that made him scream out in pain and panic. He almost made it to his feet, kicking the swan in its neck by accident in his flailing. Its thick muscular neck just bent gracefully under the blow, but it had the effect of enraging the giant bird even further.
It stretched as tall as it could go, and buffeted Carson violently with its wings. The force of one of the strikes was enough to break his wrist and ulna, and Carson shrieked in pain.
At that moment, the muddy river bank crumbled underneath him, pitching him violently into the water, still screaming. The drain was quite full as a result of the heavy rains that had hammered the district for the last week, turning the ordinarily placid stream into a white-water tempest. Carson only managed half a breath before he was plunged under the waters, and lost even that when his broken arm smashed against an underwater rock, forcing an involuntary scream out of Carson's lungs.
After what seemed like forever, he bobbed back up to the surface and snatched breath after breath of the precious air. He tried to catch onto something, anything, that would be able to halt his headlong rush down the drain, but was thwarted by both the smooth slippery banks of the drain, and the agony that resulted from moving his arm at all. And so he was swept far downstream, smashing against rocks and debris until finally he passed out, unconscious from the pain, and slipped under the water.
Several hours later, Carson awoke in horrible pain, coughing and choking from the water that he had unwillingly ingested. He was wedged on a steep bank of the drain by a pair of rocks that had his ankle pinned in place. Moving as carefully as possible, he used his good hand to free his ankle, and began the long crawl to reach the top of the embankment. Almost half an hour went past as he slowly made his way up, pausing twice to vomit up more water.
Finally he rolled over the top of the embankment, and down into a muddy ditch on the other side. He lay there spreadeagled for a while, gasping his way through the pain, crying and retching in turns. Eventually he hauled himself to his feet and staggered towards the road, but then something caught his eye.
Something glinted in the mud, a silver shard of light that drew Carson in a weary shuffle towards it like a magpie.
Half buried in the mud, filthy and scratched, lay a hunting knife, about seven or eight inches long. The very tip of it had snapped off, which made Carson think that this was why it had been discarded. The handle was black horn with two shiny silver pins holding the blade in place. Carson stared at it for a long time, and was never able to fully explain what made him reach down, wincing with pain, and slip the knife into his pocket.
He very slowly walked home, his thoughts never leaving the weight in his pocket. Luckily, his parents were not home when he sneaked in the back door, and so he was able to hide the knife in the space underneath the drawers in his cupboard before they could see it and ask questions. They arrived home not long after, however, and were dutifully horrified at his injuries, rushing him off to the hospital to get his arm splinted and put in a cast.
He was in the hospital for a number of days, as the doctors were worried not only about his arm, but also the possibility of the water in his lungs doing severe damage to the small child. The whole time, his thoughts were only of the knife now hidden in his room.
Finally he was released from the hospital, and he returned home with a bright blue plaster cast on his arm. The first thing he did was go the cupboard and retrieve the knife. It was heavier than he remembered it, but it felt good in his hand, somehow more real than anything else he had ever held. He put it under his pillow when he went to bed, and it was the best night's sleep he had ever had in his young life.
He returned to school the following day, and was vaguely relieved to find that the thirteen year old that he had hidden from was suspended for the following two weeks. The other children still teased him and tried to torment him, but they quickly found that he was not the same as he had been before the accident. Before where he would have cried, he now just stared at them coolly until they got bored and moved on. One boy tried to shove Carson out of the way at the drinking fountain and was knocked to the ground while everyone else pointed and laughed.
The next two weeks saw Carson gain a certain reputation around the yard as someone to avoid, and Carson was happy with that. Every night he slept with the knife under his pillow, and every afternoon saw him walk home alone, spending hour after hour grinding the tip of the knife back into shape with his father's power tools before his parents got home.
The following Monday, Carson walked into the yard to find the thirteen year old had returned and was itching to catch up on lost time. Within fifteen minutes, Carson had been shoved to the ground and made to hand over his lunch money with his good arm twisted up cruelly behind his back.
Carson bore it all in silence, which only seemed to enrage the other boy more. Luckily, a teacher nearby intervened, and Carson was able to pass the rest of the day without seeing the older boy again.
On Tuesday, Carson walked back into the yard to see the older boy waiting for him with a ring of his cronies around him. The bully strutted over and demanded Carson's lunch money again. Without waiting for a response, he shoved Carson to the ground, who landed awkwardly with his cast underneath him. The bully seized the opportunity and jumped on top of the fallen child, punching and slapping him hard while hooting and laughing with his flunkies. He was so distracted by his antics that he didn't know that Carson had pulled the knife out of the cast until it stabbed through his arm in mid-punch. The bully shrieked in shock and pain, and tried to jump off, but the knife through the meat of his bicep meant that this just pulled Carson on top of him. Carson was swift to take the opportunity and wrenched the knife out of his arm, and began slashing wildly at the bully, an animalistic roar spilling from him at the same time, drowned out by the terrified screams of the onlooking children, and the panicked cries of the teachers only now beginning to run over.
Carson was covered in the bully's blood, as he slashed the knife backwards and forwards over the bully's outstretched arms. One of the male teachers tackled Carson off of the older boy, breaking Carson's arm again as he did so. The knife went flying and gashed the leg of a young girl who was screaming nearby with the rest of her class.
Carson had stopped his wild roar by this point, and fell still and silent. He didn't speak another word that day, or at any time through the police investigation.
The bully eventually recovered from his injuries and was transferred to another school 100 miles away. Carson was put into a mental institution for young and violent offenders, and remained there for the majority of his short life. He never spoke to anyone, not even his grieving parents.
In his 25th year, Carson tied an extension cord around a ceiling beam in his prison cell, and slipped a noose around his neck. As he kicked the chair away, he remembered all that he had seen while he was unconscious underwater, and all that he had done. He wanted so badly for his last thoughts to be of his family, but in the last seconds, with the noose tight under his jaw, and the room turning black around him, his last thoughts turned to that knife, and the way he had felt when he grasped it for the very first time.