Billy Beckforth was his new best friend.
Billy was clever too and sat just in front of him in class. Billy had straight black hair combed forward into his eyes. He had freckles and buck teeth which meant he had to wear a brace. He had a posh voice too because he was adopted.
One afternoon after school he went round to Billy’s house to play. They played soldiers in the war. Billy was the Germans and Chris was the British paratroopers with their own armoured personnel carrier which they could parachute into enemy territory. All the paratroopers had machine guns. He took his own soldiers with him because they were his favourites and they played up in Billy’s bedroom. Nobody really won, they just made up the rules as they went along. In the proper world the English won the war. After they finished their game Mrs Beckforth gave them lemon curd sandwiches and Ribena to drink. Then it was time to go home. He said goodbye politely and thanked Mrs Beckforth for giving him a nice tea. Mrs Beckforth was really nice and sometimes he wished she was his mum instead. Then he thought his own mum was all right really. She just suffered from nerves, that was all. She worried too much, that was the problem. She couldn’t help it. Most of the time she was all right, especially when she laughed. It was great when she laughed.
When he went outside it was much darker than usual. Normally it was only five minutes walk to his house. When he ran home it only took about two minutes. Tonight he couldn’t run because it was so foggy. As soon as he moved away from the street lamp in front of Billy’s house it became pitch black. He held his hand out in front of his face but he couldn’t see it. He looked down at his feet but he couldn’t see them either. There was a funny taste in the air and it hurt to breathe. He started coughing. He tried to turn back but Billy Beckford’s house had disappeared in the fog. He felt a bit dizzy. He started walking in what he thought was the direction of his own house.
After a bit he realised he was lost. It was the fog. It was so thick you couldn’t see nothing. He walked into a chain link fence and scratched his face and then he grazed his right knee when he bumped into a wall. He started crying. He wanted to go back to Billy Bickford’s but he didn’t know which way it was any more. He started to scream but no-one came. The fog muffled his screams.
Then he tried to find the edge of the pavement but it wasn’t there. After a bit he stood on a cat’s eye and realised he was walking in the middle of the road. Very slowly he edged back across the road until he came to the pavement. He sat down on the edge with his feet in the gutter and started screaming again.
“Mummeeee! Mummeeeee!” But no-one could hear him and no-one came.
He didn’t have a coat and he was getting very cold. His jumper was damp. His teeth started chattering. Suddenly a car went past very slowly, its headlights blazing dimly like lights in the sky. The car was about a foot away from him but he could hardly see it. He yelled out but the driver didn’t hear him.
He got up and started walking along with one foot on the pavement and one in the road. When he came to a drain cover he fell over and grazed his other knee really sore. He picked himself up and kept going, limping along. There was nothing else he could do.
Eventually he came to another street lamp. He couldn’t see the top of the lamp, it was just a dull yellow haze like the moon when it went behind a cloud. He clung onto the street lamp and started crying again. He had wet himself because he was so scared and his trousers and pants were cold and wet. He started praying in case he was going to die. “Our Father who art in Heaven…”
He had no idea where he was. He started to think about what might happen to him. A gang might come along and do him over. He might get abducted. He tried not to think about it. Instead he repeated the prayer over and over again. “Our Father who art in Heaven…”
Then he heard a man’s voice. “Blimey, it’s a kid.”
A man and a woman appeared out of the fog. “What’s the matter, son, are you all right?”
“I can’t see where I’m going. I want to go home.”
“It’s a real pea souper, all right,” said the woman, “It’s that London smog come down the river.”
The man asked him where he lived. He told him his address. The woman said, “That’s just round the corner. Here, hold my hand and we’ll take you.”
Her hand was warm and soft. She put her arm round him. He clung to her waist.
When he got home his mother said, “Where have you been all this time? I’ve been worried sick about you.”
He had his tea and went early to bed. He hung his underpants and trousers on a chair so that they’d be dry in the morning. He was exhausted and had a headache. In the middle of the night he had a nightmare about being buried alive in a coffin and scratching at the lid and almost suffocating. After the nightmare woke him up he had to get up and be sick.
Before he climbed back into bed he knelt down and thanked God for saving his life. He also promised God that he wouldn’t ever stay out late again and that next time he went to mass he would light a candle to God as a token of his gratitude for saving his life.