There is no doubting the lustrous green of a dimwit,
Born of a heady plunge into the depths of the Pit!
The hole in the ground measured five metre by another five, its rim about a quarter of a metre above the ground and about as thick. This was known The Pit which contained a body of viscous liquid of a peculiar green luster, the surface of which resided within about a metre of the rim, rising to about half a metre on a rainy day. Beyond this surface nothing could be discerned and of its depth, no one had an notion, for by all accounts, its bottom had never been seen nor reached by any instrument of measure.
It also reeked! By Jove, what a stink it threw! Its pungence was like no other. As I recall it, it was a mixture of foul smells which when inhaled by the uninitiated, could be very overwhelming and on occasion had been known to cause the onset of a bout of retching. Please pardon me if I do not do the description of the origins of the stench justice for the very recollection of it makes me queasy.
It had been this way, green of liquid and foul of smell, for many years before I started at the school so its primordial contents were a mystery to me. Its more recent contents were more familiar having partaken in and witnessed the contribution of some and more. You guess it, The Pit had received it and with certainty I declare that the more odious your guess, the more frequent its reception. Widely believed to have served as a collector and incinerator of the school waste in the past, it served as the former in my time and more. As a chemical tank it served, into which substances smuggled from the chemistry labs were disposed, the fizz and pop of the surface as the acids and bases reacted providing great delight to the watching chemists. As a graveyard it served, as living organisms ranging from worms and flies to lizards and on one occasion (by hearsay) a rabbit were introduced to struggle against the pull of the depths before disappearing into green nothingness. As a torture chamber it served, above which miscellaneous precious items were dangled to the plea tunes of the tortured and more often than not dropped by the sadist (I lost a bike in this manner). And as a sewage tank it served into which bodily waste of all kinds were introduced. Yes, waste of the fluid kind (of which I contributed my share) and worse! The origins and nature of the pungent smell thus being made clear, I shall now rest my case on that unsavoury issue. As for its colour and viscidity, I attribute this in the most part to being due to the proliferation of highly resistant moss and weeds (there certainly was no deficiency of nutrient!) which I have since been reliably informed by a botanist lurked within with good probability. In small part lay the blame on the chemicals we gleefully dispatched into its bowels. Also culpable, albeit on a smaller scale, is the one amongst my peers who, upon feeling a little worse for wear, projected from his gut, an issue of bile-like vomit straight into its centre. Yes, I concur with you – The Pit was a nauseating and abominable place!
Revolting as it was though, The Pit also served as a playground for those amongst us whose noses had grown well accustomed to its pong and could approach it without ill effect. A source of amusement to us was a game we dubbed The Hurdle which involved the execution of a leap from one side of the rim across The Pit to the other – the other being one of the sides immediately perpendicular to the one from which the jump was started. Many great leaps had been performed over the years to the acclaim and adulation of watching peers but none had yet conquered The Ultimate Hurdle – a leap from one side to a side opposite, across the whole of the five meter gap. Numerous attempts had been made only to result in failure on the point of take off – the sight of that vast expanse of the surface and the dread of discovering the mysteries of its depths putting an immediate stop to the enterprise. I had suffered the same fate on occasion, the fear dampening fast my foolhardy courage of a few seconds previous.
You might have noticed that in the preceding paragraphs I have referred to The Pit in the tense of the past. This is no literary lapse. The Pit, as we knew it, exists no more, the sight of its liquid and accompanying pungent fumes denied to all by the slab of concrete that now reclines with the aid of heavy bolts across the rim. It has remained in this passive state for nigh on twenty years, having been put there suddenly one day, the events of which I shall now proceed to relate to you.
I was late for my class. This was the sole cause of my haste as I made way from my dorm through the muddy paths to the school buildings. It had rained the night before and the air was humid, so that the profusion of sweat induced by my panic was well aided. Two hundred metres away, between me and my destination, stood The Pit and very soon its putrid offerings were discernible in the heavy breaths I took as I raced towards it. It was especially foul that day, I noted.
Now it was when I was all of fifty meters from it that a thought suddenly occurred to me, the impression of which grew and did not leave me be till I had heeded its wish. I was to attempt The Ultimate Hurdle there and then! Permit me now to explain the origin of this idiosyncratic whim.
Having failed to execute that challenge of challenges time after time, I had at length tried to analyze the source of my failure. On plain ground, I could just about leap five meters with some distance to spare, so what stopped me accomplishing this over The Pit? Apart from the fear which I have described, I was of the mind that a small part of the obstacle to my glory was due to the immense pressure put upon me by the watching multitudes – a strain so great as to make my feet dig into the ground even deeper and refuse to propel me as I wished.
Now on that fateful day, the thought that crept into my mind was that this encumberance was the only obstacle and from it came the fear I have described. The fear was not of plunging the depths but of the humiliation I would suffer should such an accident befall me. Now without a single pressuring soul in sight, entombed in the classrooms as they were, what better chance would I have of dispelling my fear by proving myself right there and then before returning to leap again in triumph to the rapturous applause of a gathered crowd? Boy, what a chance! Or so I thought.
Dropping my rucksack ten metres away from my goal, I now readied myself for the run-up that would provide me the wings to sail across the surface, which due to the rains of the night before, I could just about spy from where I stood. Taking a deep breath, I broke into the run, speeding up in my approach. Less than a metre from the rim, I planted my right foot upon it and propelled myself forward with all the strength I could muster.
I recall my right foot giving slightly, checking my progress as it came into contact with the slippery ledge that was the rim! I recall a lump suddenly developing in my throat as though my heart had escaped its bony cage and was making its way out from within! I recall thrusting forcefully forwards whilst in midair in vain attempt to counter the slip! I recall the very second I realised I was doomed to be swallowed up by The Pit – a screech and a yelp issuing from me as my long conceived horrors of its depths became vivid! I recall the downward plunge that was my course as the green surface approaching with rapidity! Finally, I recall the searing pain that shot through my head as it smashed forcefully against the adjacent side of the rim as I lost consciousness and my world turned in an instant from green to black!
Being thus encumbered, the rest of this narrative is now taken up by my good friend Luke in bold type, who at that time was present to witness the events that succeeded my plunge.
Splash! My maths lesson came to a halt upon hearing this unmistakable sound from The Pit for there was only one body of water within that establishment capable of making such a sound. And from the sound of it, it had just claimed something huge! We dashed to the door, pupils and teachers alike – me, thanks to my speedy feet, being one of the first to reach The Pit and peer inquiringly into its depths. Its surface bore ripples which told of a recent disturbance but of a sign of its source, none was to be seen! `Perhaps it was a thirsty goat’ suggested one. This was not implausible for stray goats were known to roam the area. This notion offered some excitement, for a goat in The Pit was a new addition and we were determined to find out for sure. A stick was sought that we might jab the depths to see if the goat perchance floated somewhere within reach between the surface and the bottom. One of some great length was found and Big Pete who was built like an ox was trusted with the task of a-poking and a-prodding. The poking and prodding had not gone on for more than ten seconds before suddenly a great disturbance was occasioned within the depths and expressed itself at the surface in the shape of a huge swell. Something was on its way up! We shrank back in fear all excepting Big Pete who stood rooted to the spot as though paralyzed as he clung desperately to his possession! ‘Something’s grabbing the stick!’ he yelled. We had scarcely any time to impress upon him the wisdom of letting go before our attention was diverted from his person to the ghostly behemoth of green that burst forth from the depths accompanied by a huge column of that foul green liquid that had imprisoned it moments previous. The blood curdling yell as of a monster that escaped it sent a chill right through my spine as I shrank further back. What a ghastly sight to haunt my dreams for days after!
The green beast clinging desperately to the rim of The Pit now proceeded to clamber out, all the while letting out a series of guttural sounds as stream upon stream of green liquid escaped its mouth and nostrils. Once clear of The Pit, its claws now set to work, scratching and tearing at its skin of green as though it wanted to undress its very flesh. Ten to the dozen its arms worked, clawing away and scraping from all over its body, clumps of what we thought was skin but later found to be clothing. Very soon it was devoid of this and stood before us scratching at its now fully naked skin and issuing incoherencies that our ears could not fathom.
Seemingly despairing of the scant relief the scratching provided, he (being naked, we could now see clearly it was male) dropped to the ground and rolled around as one would do when ones skin was afire. This action removed some of the green of its face and the beast was finally recognised. ‘It’s Shay!’ went the cry from Big Pete who was the nearest to him ‘By God, I see him clearly now. It’s Shay!’
Oh, stupidity came in various guises in those times and this was the best disguise of them all! It was all clear to me now too albeit in a rather different way to the clarity evident in Big Pete’s eyes. It was all I could do from bursting into a long and loud laugh and I dare say I would have obliged had the seriousness of the circumstances not been impressed upon me by the sight of two teachers bursting past me to aid the poor invalid.
Let me explain myself. The source of my great longing for mirth was not borne of my mean-spirit but because I had many a time warned our victim of the dangers of attempting The Ultimate Hurdle for I had no doubt now that was the cause of his malaise! He had bored me at length with his theories on how the demon of fear could be vanquished so that the quest might be performed, all to which I had responded by labelling him a fool to even contemplate so perilous a venture. Dear readers, he had scoffed at me, laughed at me and called me weak and there he was now in all his green glory rolling around urging me to have the last laugh! Oh how hard-pressed was I to heed the urge!
Curtailing this desire bravely, I watched as he was lifted bodily by the two teachers. A deep gash on his forehead was now visible, the deep red of the blood flowing from it mingling with the green complexion of his skin. He was rushed to the facilities where a cold shower was administered. They say this treatment sent him instantly into shock, tensing up stiff like a corpse whence he was rushed to the local hospital where he resided for a month before rejoining us. We heard little news of his condition during this period but in the week before he returned we were informed of it and looked forward eagerly to his reappearance.
He was a lucky boy! Save for the stitches in his forehead, his skin bore not a mark or scar to evidence the ordeal he had been through. Why, his skin even looked purer than before as of a newborn freshly washed! Upon closer inspection, I soon discovered the reason for this. His skin gave off a faint glow of a greenish hue that in the right light glistened and sparkled to give the illusion.
As for his tale of the depths, I very soon lost interest, for the telling of blatant lies was no sin for that boy! He had seen numerous monsters, the nature of which varied with the time of day and his audience. The first minute they were serpents of gargantuan proportion, the next it was a shoal of fish with teeth the size of kitchen knives. Then they were crab like creatures, a hundred times larger than sea crabs or were they a gang of octopi with tentacles entwined one around the other so as to encircle him? These had all set about to make a quick meal of him ad would have done so had it not been for the grace of the stick that had been his winch to salvation. How we wished he had not been so lucky, for his imagination did run wild and it was all we could do to keep up before we wearied of his lies and lost him the bulk of his audience. He remained a hero amongst the younger and more impressionable pupils who hung on his every word and revered him for his experience. This made us despise him even more, so much so we composed a rhyme to him which ran thus:
Some say there is the green accustoming envy,
Or perhaps they are mistaken and it is of jealousy.
Others say there is a green accustoming a sickness,
Or perhaps they are mistaken and blue is its witness.
But there is no doubting the lustrous green of one of dim wit,
Born of that heady plunge into the depths of The Pit!
Believe me when I say he was well deserving of this and a lot more besides!
Some harsh words there from my friend though I am sure they are in jest. We remain friends of the sort who think it sport to trade insults – I believe the term for it is ‘banter’- and very soon he shall be receiving my riposte in equal measure.
It is now left to me to furnish the missing details of this narrative that it might become a complete work. I have to admit not recollecting much of the rest of that hazy day although I very much recall the moment I awakened within the depths to spy a world of darkest green and nothing much else afterward – the sharp sting that pierced the core of my eyeballs teaching me to shut them. I had seen no monster but of what use was that as a tale to an attentive audience, I ask you? It must have been at that very moment that the stick was thrust in for I had barely commenced frantically thrashing around in search of the surface to alleviate my suffocation when my hands alighted on it and I pulled myself to safety. I recall the incessant itch that consumed every inch of my flesh and seemed to double in intensity with every second that passed. I recall the pain of a different kind that coursed through my body as the cold water hit my tortured skin and made me cease up, my bones aching from the immense strain offered by contorted muscles. I recall the time spent in the hospital where I had my stomach and lungs pumped clean of the remnants of the liquid I had ingested. I had been very lucky indeed I was informed. A minute or so longer in The Pit and the toxins I had ingested would have rendered all antibiotic treatment futile. I was subjected to chemical baths daily, each seemingly more painful than the last but thankfully, each restoring my skin ever closer to its natural hue and each diminishing the intensity of the itch which persisted till the day I was discharged. And what a day that was! I recall it clearly and you would not deny me the broad smile that now plays upon my lips as I relive it once more. At the very moment I had begun my downward course into the bowels of The Pit, I had given up all hope of seeing this world again and not even my quick rescue had convinced me I stood a chance of survival. But here I was on my way back home looking even better for my torment!
But what of The Pit? That very same fateful day it was boarded up to ensure that the mysteries of its depths were kept secret for ever. A dredging had been considered but none had been found willing to perform so dicey a task and for the safety of all, a bolted lid in the form of the concrete slab was employed.
So to this day, I remain the first and last to attempt The Ultimate Hurdle, mustering enough courage to proceed beyond the brink. Of this much I am proud but to a small degree. For the evidence of this feat, as compelling as it was then and as enduring as it remains in the annals of the history of the school, marks me out also as the first and the last to have plunged its depths in recompense for my utter stupidity. Oh the ignominy I suffer as I realize anew the trouble I caused not only myself but others who suffered with me. And all because of my single minded determination to earn some bragging rights. The shame of it will never leave me, however much I wish it away. For many has been the night that I have awoken drenched in my perspiration from a nightmare reliving not the plunge, as one might expect, but rather reliving my shame to the humiliating refrain:
There is no doubting the lustrous green of a dimwit,
Born of a heady plunge into the depths of the Pit!