Matthew Higgingbottom hated school. It filled him with a sickening dread. Every day was a fight for survival to avoid falling into the hands of the school bully Jason Grigg.
Matthew was the fat kid at school. He always was and he always would be. With a grossly overweight frame coupled with a greasy, spotty appearance and large black-rimmed glasses, it was almost inevitable that he would become the object of abuse. The fact that his personality bore no confidence and he was so easily affected by taunts and bullying compounded the problem.
Matthew lived with his grandmother on a council estate near to the school. His father had left when he was only a few months old and his mother had died of cancer two years ago when he was eleven. Over the years Matthew had grown very close to his grandmother, in fact she was the only friend that he had in the world.
The gentle shaking and the soft voice of his grandmother woke Matthew up from his slumber. He lay there for a few moments and then the usual sickening dread began to pervade his body. It was Monday morning and the horrors of school beckoned again.
“I know dear, but you need to go to school.” his Grandmother said reading the anxiety that was so painfully written on his face.
Matthew forced a weak smile, he knew that his gran meant for the best but it was so hard anyway. He lay there for a few moments more, deep in thought and then got out of bed. He got showered and dressed and ate his breakfast with his grandmother in the kitchen.
“Gran, do I have to really go this morning?” he asked, trying hard not to cry.
She smiled in the same loving way that his mother used to and reassured him that it would be all right, saying that the headmaster was investigating the horrible bullying and that he would be swiftly bringing it to an end.
Matthew smiled pretending to look comforted. He loved his gran and didn’t want to upset her and so got his satchel and put his coat on ready for school, besides she had been very kind to him, allowing him to stay at home most of last week because of the bullying.
He gave his grandmother a reluctant kiss goodbye and set off down the road to wait for the school bus. Once it arrived at the gates, Matthew knew that his day of terror was due to begin. The first challenge was to get to his form room without being spotted by any undesirables. He had almost made it, when suddenly he came face to face with all that his sinking heart dreaded; Jason Grigg with two of his mates.
Matthew was too frightened to make any form of eye contact and lowered his gaze to the floor in submission. The three lads checked that the corridor was clear of teachers and then began their cruel sport.
The attack was brutal. He was dragged into the nearest toilet and then kicked to the ground. His head was then pushed into one of the toilet pans and the chain pulled. After threatening to kill Matthew if he ever grassed on them again they eventually fled, leaving him all wet and bruised and with a bloody nose.
When he got home from school, he went straight up to his room and turned on his computer. Aside from his dear grandmother, it was the only sane thing in an insane and horrible world. He loved the Internet and would often (with his grandmother’s permission of course) spend an hour or two surfing; it was like a comfort blanket to him.
His journey through cyberspace took him to the usual places of interest, various free games sites, the latest releases and so forth. After seeing enough of them he moved on to his favourite pastime, playing “In Shining Armour” on line. He had been playing this on and off for a few weeks now and he loved it because it was a world where he was no longer the ‘useless fat kid’ but a hero who fought for justice and peace and that made him feel good.
His perusing was sudden disturbed by the unwanted presence of a “pop up” advert. He was just about to terminate it when the wording caught his attention.
It read, “Are you being bullied?” And below it “Click Here To Enter”
Matthew clicked to enter.
The monitor went blank for a few seconds and then wording appeared on the screen. It asked the question, “Are You in Any Way To Blame for the Bullying?” and provided a check box for either ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.
Matthew clicked ‘NO’.
He was asked him to give details of what the bullying entailed. Matthew typed a synopsis of his suffering.
After asking him to wait, the screen said, “We are processing the information you have given us.”
It then changed to, “Your case is being considered.”
And then to, “The power of judgement has been awarded to you.”
The screen asked him to wait again and then informed him that it was now redirecting him to a new site.
A few minutes later a new page loaded up, that bore the animated image of an arm wielding a sword. The weapon was thrust forward and red came forth and filled the screen. This in turn formed letters.
“WWW.VENGENCE.COM” filled the screen.
More text appeared below asking the question, “Do you want revenge?” A choice of either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was offered.
He pressed, “Yes.”
The words “Are you sure?” appeared.
Again Matthew pressed the ‘Yes’ choice.
“Please enter the bully’s details.” appeared on the screen with a number of empty fields below for address and postcode details and a large box at the bottom for details.
Matthew tried to fill in what he could about Jason Grigg and then clicked on the ‘submit’ button. A few moments later, the website responded, requesting him for his email address. He entered that and waited.
The screen remained how it was for a minute or two and then went black. A few seconds later the words, “Thank you. We will contact you in due course.” appeared and then the computer disconnected itself from the Internet and shut itself down.
Matthew sat staring at his machine for a few moments and then switched it back on. He fired up the Internet and tried to get back to the site but could find no trace of it. Even stranger, there was no Internet history associated with it.
The next day was Saturday and Matthew slept in until midday. The moment he got out of bed he went straight to his computer to look for the site. He checked his emails but found nothing but the usual Spam. After a few hours of finding nothing he gave up, feeling depressed and decided to get dressed. He needed to get out; the stuffiness of his room and the frustration of not being able to find what he was looking for had got to him.
Matthew took a walk down to the local Spar shop and bought a copy of Monster magazine. He would have preferred the town where the shops were but it was far too dangerous; Jason Grigg was always hanging out down there.
When he got back Matthew sat with his grandmother for a while and then went up to his room. It wasn’t long before the computer was back on, as he had an urge to check on his emails again. This time unfortunately his gut feeling was wrong and there was no correspondence to be found from “WWW.VENGENCE.COM”
It was some four or so weeks later that Matthew finally received an email from them. With heart beating with anticipation he opened the message, which read,
“Hello Matthew, we have examined your case and we have made the decision to confer authority of judgement upon you……Do you wish to proceed?”
A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ choice was provided.
Matthew clicked ‘yes.’
To Matthew’s amazement, two photographs appeared. One image was of the bully himself and the other was of a house that he presumed was the home of Jason Grigg. Below the pictures, there was some information. He scrolled down to read it.
It was titled, “A message from the Judgement team.” And read.
“We have concluded comprehensive research on your antagonist and are satisfied that our research has yielded sufficient information for your good self to render effective judicial action.
Please use the curser to target vengeance areas on either the perpetrator or the property associated with him as we have conferred upon you the right of ‘Supreme Authority’ with regard to the transgressor Grigg and so leave his fate entirely in your hands.
Whatever you decide is your decision and you will not be found guilty by the law of the land, only by that of your own conscience.
Thanking you for allowing us to adjudicate your sad case.”
The Judgement Team.
Matthew moved the curser that had now changed to a sword shape over the two images and watched how it changed to a swiping blade at certain points on the photographs. He stopped over the Jason Grigg’s nose and smiled to himself. He paused for a moment, unsure of what to do and then painful memories of his sufferings made up his mind for him. With a snarl on his lips and revenge in his heart he clicked his mouse.
A question popped up, “What would you like to do to this bully’s nose?” and three choices were offered him.
“1. Break it.”
“2. Burn it.”
“3. Sever it”
He quickly moved on to one of the eyes and clicked on that. Two choices were offered this time.
“1. Black it.”
“2. Lose it”
Matthew moved on to the picture of the property and examined the points of change in the curser there. Again a number of choices were available to him, from the breaking of any of the windows, to graffiti on the front of the building. When he pointed to the front door, he could either ‘deface it’ or ‘kick it in.’
As Matthew perused the various options provided on both images he began to feel a little disturbed by what was offered to him on this strange and somewhat sinister web page. The option to ‘kill’ had appeared several times on either image and had been available through various means including, ‘throat slash’, ‘shotgun blast’ and house fire’
He thought about the macabre options and wondered what would happen if he selected something. Would it come true or was this all just a bit of fun to make him feel better? If it was just a game, then why had they, whoever they were, spent so much time and effort in tracing Jason Grigg and taken the photographs of him and his house. Matthew continued considering the options of revenge whilst mulling these thoughts over in his mind.
Finally he concluded to himself that if he chose something that wasn’t hurtful then no real harm would come to the bully, so after analysing the availabilities he settled on the ‘letter box rat-a-tat-tat.’
Monday was back to school and Matthew as normal spent the day trying to keep a low profile with regard to his tormentor. The tactic worked and he managed to enjoy a day with relatively little incident of bullying, save for a few derogatory comments in the corridor that were quickly quelled by Mr Harper who intimidated even the likes of Jason Grigg and his cohorts.
The rest of the week passed by with very little happening in the way of torment to Matthew and he wondered if anything had happened to the Grigg’s letterbox. He would not have to wait long for an answer.
The attack came as a complete surprise and before he could even draw breath, he was bundled into the familiar confines of the torture chamber that was all too familiar; the boys’ toilets.
“You kept me awake, all night!” shouted Jason Grigg pushing his face into Matthew’s.
“I – I don’t know what you mean.”
“Let me remind you.” the bully hissed, giving him a sharp jab to the stomach.
“Do the words, letterbox and bang, bang, bang mean anything?”
“No.” was the whimpering reply.
“I think you’re lying. You wouldn’t lie to me would you, fat boy?”
He shook his head, too terrified to speak.
“Was it you then, fat boy?”
Matthew still could not speak but he had a good idea what Jason Grigg was referring to.
“Well!” demanded the bully.
“What did I do?” Matthew finally managed to stammer.
“You know what you did!” growled the reply.
“I don’t.” tears started to roll down his cheeks.
“My letterbox, you fat pathetic cry baby!” The insult was accompanied by a sharp slap across the face.
“I didn’t do anything, please don’t hurt me.” Matthew begged.
“Yes you did, you kept me, my mom and dad and my little brother awake all night!”
“It wasn’t me!”
“Don’t lie to me! You were there banging and banging the letterbox! All through the night!” More vicious slaps followed.
“Teacher!” The warning cry came from one of the gang who was acting as lookout.
“I don’t think it was ‘im anyway, he’s too fat to runaway.” Another said.
Jason Grigg nodded his head in sneering agreement and then gave Matthew a nasty backhand across the face.
“That’s just in case you were thinking of doing something like that!” he snarled and then fled the scene with his associates. This time, Jason Grigg had gone too far and now he was going to be made to pay.
The moment Matthew got home from school he was straight onto the Internet. It was strange; there was a message from them in his ‘inbox’. It was as if they knew what he was planning to do. The email generated the same photographs as before and this time Matthew moved to the eyes of Jason Grigg and submitted a request for them to be blackened.
It was about a week later that Matthew saw the results of his request. From the far end of the school corridor he could see Jason Grigg walking toward him but something was different about the bully’s appearance. As he got nearer Matthew tried to stop the smile that was spreading across his face but found it impossible because of the appearance of his tormentor. With his two black eyes Jason Grigg looked just like a panda bear! Then for a split second their eyes met. Matthew froze; there was something in Jason Grigg’s stare that chilled him. It was as if he knew.
Later that evening, Matthew went onto his computer to play ‘In Shining Armour.’ and had just got onto a new level when suddenly a loud crash filled the room, causing him to almost fall off his chair in fright. A house brick landed near to his feet and broken glass covered the carpet. The bedroom window was now a gaping, jagged hole that was letting in the cold from outside.
His grandmother came into the room, white with worry. “Are you alright Matthew? Are you hurt?”
“I’m okay Gran, someone’s thrown a brick through the window.”
“This is ridiculous, I’m calling the police.”
“…And you can tell them, I know who did it.”
The police found Jason guilty of criminal damage and with a history of bullying already against him; he was expelled from the school.
As the years rolled by and with his tormentor gone, Matthew began to gain confidence and change in character. By his mid twenties, he had sadly developed into an arrogant and somewhat belligerent individual with several months in prison because of violent behaviour. By the time he was thirty, he had become a powerful aggressive man who seemed to have forgotten what it was like to be bullied and now acted as a bully himself.
It was during one of Matthew’s frequent visits to The Zone nightclub that he came across an old familiar face. He thought at first that he was seeing things but as he waded through the bodies on the dance floor, he knew that his eyes were not deceiving him. It was no other than Jason Grigg himself!
Matthew looked at this former icon of terror and sneered to himself. Jason had always looked so hard at school but now he looked like nothing. He was at least a foot smaller and a good deal lighter. The beer inside Matthew told him that he could take him with ease but not here.
He waited patiently for his old school enemy to leave the nightclub and then followed him outside. He remained about twenty or so feet behind, so as to avoid detection and stalked his quarry through the town centre and out toward the residential areas. It was through a known short cut along a secluded gully that Matthew made his strike.
In a small room with curtains drawn, sat a man huddled in front of a computer, operating the mouse with one hand and holding his ribs with the other. He looked to be in pain and his body gave evidence of injury with heavy bruising to his face and a bloody bandage wrapped around his head.
He had been assaulted a few days ago on his way home from a nightclub. The assailant had attacked him from behind, punching and kicking him to the ground, leaving him concussed and with broken ribs. As far as the police were concerned the attacker’s identity was unknown but that was a lie. The man at the computer knew exactly who had assaulted him and he knew exactly how he was going to have his revenge. Jason Grigg looked at the image of Matthew Higgingbottom on his monitor and smiled to himself.