When Dipak tore off his arm, no one made fun of him. He walked out in front of the school, leaving a blocked toilet and a pile of clothes. No one shouted. No one stole his bag. No one put chalk dust in his hair, shouting: “White enough now!”
It wasn’t just his arm. It started as a patch of hard skin just above his BCG scar. He felt it under his shirt all through maths. At lunchtime he went to the changing rooms.
He had to dig around with his nails to get any real purchase, but it didn’t hurt any more than a scab or a wobbly tooth, when he started to pull. A strip peeled off with a delicious slide. First one strip, then another. If he didn’t go too fast he could get a whole arm-length in one pull, until it popped off at a fingernail.
He bolted himself inside a toilet when the bell rang. Half way through a leg he heard the clatter of rugby boots. Someone might see his trousers under the cubicle. Might take them. For fun. He was as still as he could be. Being nobody.
“You’ve got to be a somebody! The best! You must stand out.” Every night his father said the same thing. “Your name means light! You must cast your light!” He’d go mad when he found out Dipak had been skipping violin lessons.
In his damp office, Mr Reeves’ chat on how Dipak was settling in was just a watery smile, and: “That won’t last. The other boys will realise we’re all the same under our skin, eh?”
Dipak doubted that. Not everyone else was translucent. He looked in the mirror as he did his face, peeling the rubbery strips down his nose. Under it he was see-through, slightly blue, like a jellyfish or that stuff they put on his mum at her scan.
At the last bell Dipak, skin-free, heat haze where his shadow had been, walked out in front of the school. No one shoved him and no one gave him a dead leg and no one snickered. No one noticed him at all.
Beaming, he tried to yank the car door open. His parents were inside, still proud to see him walk out of those ancient buildings. The door was locked.
Dipak knocked on the window. Neither moved. He banged again, louder. His father brushed a non-existent fly from the side of his face.
“Hey! Dad! Dad!” Dipak shouted, “Mum!” Neither was taking any notice. It occurred to Dipak as he began to scream that no one was taking any notice.
With a twitch, his parents looked at each other. Like they couldn’t work out why they had come. His father said, “Maybe one day.” He patted his wife’s belly and started the car.
They drove away with a new light in their eyes, and Dipak cried and cried and cried, and no one made fun of him at all.
This story was originally entered for the Campaign for Real Fear.