avatarNichola Scurry


Chapter 5: The Dog Prince


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Jeremy wove through identical streets full of identical houses. He’d worked out that if he kept heading up and to the right, he’d eventually reach the park.

A gust of wind hit him head-on. Jeremy hunched forward, hands in pockets, and shivered. Centimetre by centimetre, he sped up until he was jogging, channelling his way through the wind.

Slowing as the park came into sight, Jeremy’s mouth formed the unfamiliar shape of a spontaneous smile. The park was deserted, the grass was emerald. Not a single kid scrambled across the play equipment or kicked a ball across the lawn. The park was all his own.

Jeremy took off running across the grass. When he reached top speed, the day disappeared. Chad, the sharks, the bruises forming on his foot — it was all as forgotten as the rest of his past. The wind that hit Jeremy’s face now felt friendly. He zig-zagged through the park, jumping in the air each time he changed direction. Jeremy greedily drank the wind and spread out his arms so that he was flying.

‘When you’re running, you’re free, no matter what imprisons you,’ someone once told him. Who was that? It was someone who’d loved running too. A flash of white cartwheeled across Jeremy’s vision. Then it was gone.

In its place was the girl from the other day. Black hair, pink fringe. Jeremy stumbled then circled back to increase the distance between himself and her. He stopped by the trees to catch his breath and watch her.

The girl moved in the same sleepy-swinging way as before, but today she was faster and definitely headed towards the trees where Jeremy stood. He could see that plugs matching the pink of her fringe were pierced into her earlobes. Jeremy wondered if it hurt to make holes that big in her flesh.

But it was the way the girl moved that fascinated Jeremy more than her appearance. She knew who she was. She didn’t care if she was seen or unseen, she moved for herself. She was deliberate. Jeremy felt the same when he was running, but she probably felt like that all the time.

She was getting closer. He could have easily ducked off in the opposite direction and avoided an awkward encounter, but instead Jeremy stayed still. It was practically the bravest thing he’d ever done, staying there. Braver than facing a thousand Chads.

What would he do if she spoke to him? He wouldn’t know what to say. Maybe she’d be disgusted by his messy hair, maybe she wouldn’t even notice him. Probably. That made him anxious. Jeremy wanted this girl to notice him, to be walking not towards the trees, but towards him. He breathed in deep.

But the girl came no closer once she was parallel with Jeremy. She leaned into a right-turn as if she was running and angled away from the trees towards the riverbank. She mustn’t have seen him. Jeremy must’ve been invisible again. That would be handy at school, but he didn’t want to be invisible with the girl.

Her ponytail swung in time with her steps. And just when she was about to disappear down the riverbank, she stopped. Jeremy counted three seconds and then the girl turned around and looked right at him. Her gaze was as deliberate as her walk. His stomach shrunk to the size of a peanut and he spun away from her. He didn’t need a mirror to know that his face had turned the same colour as fresh blood.

He’d seen fresh blood once, splattered across grass. Jeremy forced the memory from climbing out of the locked part of his head and onto the grass in front of him, the same way he forced vomit from climbing out of his stomach when he felt sick.

Jeremy ran. He ran around the park’s border twice and then he ran to the bridge. He kept his head facing straight, but let his eyes slide down to the riverbank. The girl was gone.

Jeremy crossed the bridge and stopped when he reached the middle. The river flowed fast, fat with recent rain. The reeds that grew on the edge were now underwater, but Jeremy could still see them, lush and green. He knew they would still be there tomorrow.

Jeremy calmed as he walked home. The combination of his run in the park, the girl with her self-assured walk and the strength of the river reeds soothed him. It was only when he reached his front door that he remembered he’d have to go to school the next day. Chad and his sharks would be waiting for him. So would that memory of blood.

When he opened the front door, a wave of heat rolled down the hall and knocked into him. A blare of television followed close behind, piercing his ears. Jeremy went to his room and took off his jumper and shirt. He sat on his bed in his singlet and trousers, sweating.

‘I put the heating on.’

Jeremy jumped. Jan had followed him down the hall, but he hadn’t heard her underneath the noise of the television.

‘Oh, okay.’ He wanted to ask her to turn it down, but it was still very much hers and Gary’s house. Not his.

Jeremy sat on his bed and Jan stood in the doorway, smoothing her apron.

She opened her mouth, but words didn’t come out right away. One, two, three. ‘Dinner’ll be ready soon.’


Jan turned and left. Jeremy sat on his bed and waited.

Follow the Dog Prince pub to read all chapters in chronological order as they’re released.

The Dog Prince
Serial Novel
Dystopian Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
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