The Witch's Victim

Chap. 1 Being Short Guy

Henrick Marsh woke to his alarm clock screaming in his ear that first day of September. The sixteen-year-old groaned and rolled over in bed. Not already. Today would be the first day of school, but the boy desperately wished he could just remain enmeshed in the blankets. But, no. He knew it was his duty to get up.

Henrick sat up and rubbed his eyes with his fingers, swiping away the matter that had collected in the corners overnight. His glance strayed towards the wall beside him, falling on the small wooden crucifix where a copper Christ hung, arms outstretched. Sometimes he felt just like that, pounded down. Henrick sighed and yawned widely. He climbed slowly out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. He could hear Dad moving around in the kitchen, humming pleasantly to himself.

Following his shower, Henrick picked out the clothes he wanted to wear from his closet. A white undershirt. A checkered long-sleeved shirt. Blue jeans. Once dressed, the young man surveyed himself in the long mirror.

There he was.

His scrawny, short self gazed back at him, his face delicate, lightly freckled and dotted with a bit of acne. Sandy, thick hair in a Beatle-cut and getting in his blue eyes. Henrick heaved a sigh. At 5' 3, he was so short for a sixteen-year-old guy. Why can't I get any taller? Last school year, there had been plenty of fellows who had towered over him. Henrick expected that his junior year wouldn't be much different. Though he had never been bullied, he had often been politely ignored and left out by his male peers in high school. As for the girls – well, he felt rather shy around them, and they usually only spoke to him out of necessity.

Prior to entering high school, Henrick had attended a private Catholic school. Consequently, he was still adjusting to the changes in structure and culture at his school. However, he had already gotten through two years, so he knew he could get through two more before graduating.

Henrick thumped downstairs with his backpack. Dad greeted him at the table. "Hey, Hen, how are you?" he asked cheerily. He was already dressed for his job at the parish rectory.

"I'm good," Henrick replied, though he wasn't sure how "good" he really felt.

"First day of school, huh?"

"Yeah. Eleventh grade."

"Great, son. You're really getting up there." Dad reached across the table to pick up a box of bran flakes. "You like some cereal?"

"Okay." Henrick felt an unknown ache in his heart. Mom. He remembered how she used to mix up a scrumptious coffee cake for him in the mornings. She had passed away from breast cancer when he was ten. Losing her still hurt sometimes.

Once he was done eating, Henrick knew it was time to set out. "Bye, Dad," he murmured.

"Bye, have a nice time, okay?" Dad patted Henrick's shoulder.

The school building was only a block away. The boy walked slowly, clutching the straps of his backpack in his slender fingers as if they could somehow give him strength. His heart pulsed in his thin chest, and he concentrated on exhaling shakily to quell his nervousness.

Here comes another year of being Short Guy.