Authors: Kevin Brooks
The formula for calculating the velocity of a falling object from a given height is: v =
, where v = velocity, a = acceleration (9.81 m/s2), and d = distance.
The mobile phone that shattered my skull was a 32GB iPhone 3GS. It weighed 4.8 oz, measured 4.5 in x 2.4 in x 0.48 in, and at the time of impact it was traveling at approximately 77 mph. Of course, I didn’t know any of this at the time. All I knew at the time, the only thing I was vaguely aware of, was a small black object hurtling down through the afternoon sky toward me, and then . . .
A momentary flash of blinding pain . . .
And then nothing.
Twenty minutes earlier, everything had been perfectly normal. It was Friday, 5 March, and the streets were still mushy with the remains of last week’s snow. I’d left school at the usual time, just gone three thirty, and I’d started the walk back home feeling pretty much the same as I always felt. Kind of OK, but not great. Alone, but not lonely. A bit down about things, but not really worried about anything in particular. I was just my perfectly normal ordinary self: I was Tom Harvey, a sixteen-year-old kid from South London. I had no major problems, no secrets, no terrors, no vices, no nightmares, no special talents . . . I had no story to tell. I was just a kid, that’s all. I had my hopes and dreams, of course, just like everyone else. But that’s all they were — hopes and dreams.
And I suppose one of those hopes, one of those dreams, was the girl I was thinking about as I made my way along the High Street, then down Crow Lane, toward the familiar gray sprawl of Crow Town, the projects where I lived (its official name is the Crow Lane Estate, but everyone calls it Crow Town).
The girl’s name was Lucy Walker.
I’d known Lucy for years, since we were both little kids and we used to live next door to each other. Her mum used to babysit for my gran sometimes, and my gran would babysit for her, and then later on, when we were both a bit older, me and Lucy used to spend a lot of time playing together — in each other’s flats, in the corridors, in the elevators, on the swings and stuff at the kids’ playground in the center of the projects. Lucy didn’t live next door to me anymore, but she was still in the same tower block (Compton House), just a few floors up, and I still knew her quite well. I’d see her at school sometimes, and occasionally we’d walk back home together, and every now and then I’d go round to her place and hang around for a while, or she’d come over to mine . . .
But we didn’t play on the swings together anymore.
And I kind of missed that.
I missed a lot about Lucy Walker.
So it’d been kind of nice when she’d come up to me in the school playground earlier that day and asked if I could come round to her place after school.
“I need to talk to you about something,” she’d said.
“OK,” I’d told her. “No problem . . . what time?”
And I’d been thinking about her ever since.
Right now, as I cut across the stretch of grass between Crow Lane and Compton House, I was wondering what she wanted to talk to me about. I was hoping it was something to do with me and her, but I knew deep down that it probably wasn’t. It was probably just something to do with her stupid brother again. Ben was sixteen, a year older than Lucy (but about five years dumber), and he’d recently started going off the rails a bit — missing school, hanging around with the wrong kind of people, pretending to be something he wasn’t. I’d never really liked Ben that much, but he wasn’t such a bad kid, just a bit of an idiot, and easily led, which isn’t the worst thing in the world . . . but Crow Town is the kind of place that preys on easily led idiots. It eats them up, spits them out, and turns them into nothing. And I guessed — as I went through the gate in the railings into the square beneath Compton — I guessed that was what Lucy wanted to talk to me about. Did I know what Ben was getting up to? she’d want to know. Had I heard anything? Could I do anything? Could I talk to him? Could I try to make him see sense? And, of course, I’d say —
Yes, I’ll talk to him, I’ll see what I can do
. Knowing full well that it wouldn’t do any good. But hoping that Lucy would
appreciate it anyway . . .
I looked at my watch.
It was ten to four.
(I had thirty-five seconds of normality left.)
I remember realizing, as I headed across the square toward the front entrance of the tower, that despite the mush of snow on the ground and the icy chill to the air, it was actually a really nice day — crisp and fresh, bright and clear, birds singing in a sunny spring sky. The birdsongs were almost drowned out by the usual manic soundtrack of Crow Town — distant shouts, cars revving up, dogs barking, music booming from a dozen different high-rise windows — and although the sun was high and bright, and the sky was bluer than blue, the square around Compton House was as shadowed and gloomy as ever.
But it was still a pretty nice day.
I paused for a moment, looking at my watch again, wondering if I was too early. Four o’clock, Lucy had said. And it was still only just gone ten to. But then, I reminded myself, she hadn’t said
four o’clock, had she? She’d said
I took another look at my watch.
It was nine and a half minutes to four.
four, wasn’t it?
(I had five seconds left.)
I took a deep breath.
(Four seconds . . .)
Told myself not to be so stupid . . .
(Three . . .)
And I was just about to get going again when I heard a distant shout from above.
(Two . . .)
It was a male voice, and it came from a long way up, somewhere near the top of the tower, and just for a moment I thought it was Ben. There was no
for it to be Ben, it was just that I’d been thinking about him, and he lived on the thirtieth floor, and he was male . . .
I looked up.
(One . . .)
And that’s when I saw it — that small black object, hurtling down through the bright blue sky toward me, and then . . .
A momentary flash of blinding pain . . .
And then nothing.
The end of normality.