The boy was no longer at ease. His little feet revealed his fear, failing to move in line with the excitement of the others. Here was something pretty, and amusing. His three friends scurried along, lighting up those bangers-the explosive little sticks that brought terror and titillation in equal amounts. They ran with the thin red sticks hoisted above their heads, ready for attack, huge grins fixed firmly on their faces. Then, at the right time, they would hurriedly fling them from their grasps, to the feet of an unsuspecting victim, who would be startled by the loud bangs around him. And then more running. This was how they always heralded the holidays- the easiest of traditions…But he was no longer at ease.
As he stood there, feet stuck to the ground, he was overly aware of everything around him: The sparks of rainbow lights that popped up and momentarily coloured the dark blanket of sky above; his friends whose hearts raced faster than their feet as they dished out boyish revenge. And the five bangs as each little stick hit the ground. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. He was too familiar with this game, and its less comforting versions. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Like the sounds he heard around him that day when there was nothing to celebrate, and it was still quite bright outside.
Bang one. Came from a stick quite a lot bigger than these ones. Like those he wielded in his brother’s video games. Bang two. The force with which his mother pressed his head to the ground. Bang three. The shouting from dark men whose words were not heralding a merry Christmas, or happy holidays. Bang four. The thuds of heavy feet against the concrete as people ran for cover. Bang five. The dizzying heart beat escaping from his chest, betraying a rhythm only dealt by fear. No amusement here. He felt the legacy of the five bangs in the car afterwards, as he ran his stubby fingers through the traces they left.
“Join us!” The boy was startled back to the present. He wiped a stray tear as he watched the children act his age, wishing he still felt the same. It was the unwelcome death of something familiar. Inhaling deeply, he unstuck his feet and walked back towards the front door, causing his friends to pause their merriment. “I’ve heard enough”, he shouted as he went inside to start something new.