Thon Maker, at this particular moment, was very thankful for the extremely dark tone of his skin. His trip to Perth was not a secret, but his middle-of-the-night excursion to the campus of his former high school, Aranmore Catholic College, was very secret indeed. As long as he stayed outside the range of the occasional lights which dotted the buildings, he would easily evade detection.
That is, unless he was forced to break into the school’s library, the contents of which were the target of his midnight sojourn. The front door was locked, and his old high school ID must have been deactivated at some point, because it didn’t work when he waved it in front of the sensor. There was no other obvious way to get in.
Giving up on the mission was not an option, and neither was returning during normal business hours. Thon knew he would attract too much attention if he visited campus while people were out and about. Even walking the streets of downtown Perth, he would get stopped every two minutes by somebody who recognized him from the NBA. The students of his alma mater would be even more likely to strike up conversation, and he would never get the privacy to do what needed to be done.
His aim was simple: enter the library of Aranmore Catholic College, and destroy every yearbook that might have his picture in it.
A month before, Thon had sat down with his laptop and began composing an email, the recipient being a list of addresses that a kindly school administrator had given him.
“Hey 2010 classmates!
Thon here. You know, the tall kid who played basketball? Well, now I’m in the NBA (that’s the American basketball league) and I’ve got a big favor to ask you guys.
Can you send me any yearbooks you have with my picture in them? I want to autograph them and give them out to the kids in my community. It would mean a lot to me.
Thanks m8s! Aranmore rocks!”
But, in the weeks that followed, only one yearbook came in the mail – it was from somebody who explained that they had accidentally ordered two. Thon was disappointed at this outcome, but not necessarily surprised; in Western culture, yearbooks were a cherished reminder of one’s younger days, never to be parted with.
Unfortunately for Thon, each one of those books contained irrefutable evidence that his stated age was a fabrication. More drastic steps had to be taken to ensure that this information did not reach the wider world more than it already had.
An hour later, Thon presented a newly-acquired ID card to the sensor, and was relieved when the door unlocked itself with an audible click. He was not proud of sneaking into an unlocked dorm room to steal the card from its sleeping owner, but the plus side was that, if somebody reviewed the access logs after Thon’s deed was discovered, the blame would all be on a certain “Rohan Gallagher”.
Guided only by dim moonlight, Thon navigated carefully to the corner of the library, where yearbooks dating back to 1903 waited patiently for somebody to peruse their glossy pages. Leaning closer to read the spines, he soon found the four yearbooks in question, dated 2006 to 2010.
His breathing rate began to elevate as he withdrew the lighter from his pocket. He flicked once, twice, three times, before it produced a small flame. Thon stared at it for a moment, entranced by its sinister beauty, before remembering what its purpose was.
He took the flame and touched it to the spine of the first yearbook. When the spine proved resistant to being set ablaze, he pulled the book off the shelf a few inches and targeted the book’s pages instead. The flame took, and slowly spread across the top of the book, blackening and curling the pages in its wake. This process he repeated with the three other yearbooks in question, and soon they were all burning.
Smiling, Thon felt a sense of ease that he hadn’t really felt since the allegations about his age had first come out. Now, the few copies of the Aranmore yearbooks that were publicly available for journalists to investigate would soon be reduced to ashes, and the question of his true age would forever remain just that: a question.
Thon had slipped away into his own thoughts, and was only brought back when he heard the building’s fire alarm going off. With a small jolt of panic, he saw that the fire had spread to the rest of the yearbooks, and the wooden shelf itself was also ablaze. As he watched, a burning ember landed on the carpet and started a small fire there as well.
He went to find a fire extinguisher, but the task was difficult in the dark, and by the time he returned and unloaded its contents onto the growing conflagration, it was of little use. The fire was out of control.
Not knowing what else to do, Thon ran. He ran out the doors and across the lawns of the campus. When he heard approaching sirens, he ran even faster. But underneath the panic and shame, there was also a twisted sense of triumph: now nobody would ever again dare to question his age.