10.

10.

Andrew

"You are a teenager with the ability to measure how "dangerous" people are on a scale from 1 to 10 just by looking at them. A normal child would be a 1, while a trained man with an assault rifle might be a 7. Today, you notice the unassuming new kid at school measures a 10."

---

I was fourteen when it all started. I'd been out one day, waiting for some friends at the park, as you do. I was eating a chocolate bar and apathetically tossed the wrapper aside. An old lady approached me.

"Don't you have any respect? Pick that up."

Naturally I ignored her, being the lovely young man that I was until she screamed.

"Fine! Have it your way! If you shall litter the Earth, then I shall litter your mind."

She promptly left and I was confused, I assumed she was just a bit of an old bat. The wrapper blew away, and my friends turned up. We played some football, I was always fairly horrendous at that.

The next day, I woke up. For some reason the first thing I thought of was the old lady. I realised that it was fairly obnoxious for me to act that way to someone. Ah well, I'll probably never see her again anyway. I went downstairs and greeted my mother who has been a bit of a struggling single for a while now (I guess having an obnoxious teenage brat doesn't help much). There was a two, hovering above her head; cyan in colour. I wasn't really sure what it meant at the time. I knew that, objectively, this was strange. Intuitively, however, it felt oddly natural. So I went about my day.

As I went through school that day, I noticed everybody had the numbers. Notably my friend Tim who was a brown belt in karate had a blue four, our loud ex-military teacher who enjoyed startling sleeping students was a yellow six. The school bully was a turquoise three. Most students were a one or a two; shades of green. I could never see a number above my own head in reflections or anything like that, much to my frustration.

When I watched TV I noticed that powerful people tended to have quite high numbers. The anchor had a five, the prime minister had a nine, some footage of an army doing a parade seemed to show a range from six to eight (a vibrant red).

Eventually, after having thought about this for a few weeks, I concluded that the number corresponded to danger. Being dangerous can mean many things. It can mean you're potent in a fight, or it can mean you have a lot of say socially.

One day, I was sitting in the park with my mother and some of her friends on a day out. She introduced me to someone new. Short, goatee, slicked back hair and an eight. He sat there, casually sipping on a can of lager. My mum introduced him as Sean, "my new boyfriend."

"WHAT?!"

So I couldn't control that little outburst, I must admit I panicked a bit. An eight is a member of the cabinet, a soldier, a serial murderer (What? The numbers come up on Crimewatch as well, you know).

He interjected, "Haha! Relax kid. I'm going to be around for a while"

At which point he leaned in and kissed my mum. This was not affection; this was dominance.

In the following days, I took my mum aside repeatedly to try to convince her to get out of this. She was, how can I put it? Thoroughly unwilling. So now I was anxious, I was frustrated. We were around Sean's house at the time. He came in later that day, bringing home some shopping, he bought me a chocolate bar. Well, that was nice? Thanks.

So it started out nicely enough. He could tell that I was anxious, and so he'd buy me little things to try to win my affections. To be honest, it started to work. My mum was in love with him and despite the red flags, I was honestly settling to the arrangement. What I hadn't noticed were the little things. At first it began as complaints; "the jam isn't in the cupboard I said to put it in", "clean up that fucking cat shit". Benign, but said with a sharp tongue.

Eventually he offered to fully support my mother. I'm not really sure how he was able to do this as he didn't have a job of which to speak, but it seemed to work out. My mum quit her job at the supermarket and now had much more free time to... "do those fucking dishes," to "make a doctor's appointment for me". He spoke repeatedly of their sex life to me. Thanks for telling me. Over time his demands were shouting.

Mum's number dropped from a two to a one. Something was wrong.

This kind of behaviour carried on for a year. I was the frog in the pot.

Eventually he started doing things; hitting her when I wasn't around. I didn't notice of course, although I started to pick up the signs. Then one day I did. They had a huge argument. They were shouting, things were thrown. They wouldn't stop. The walls closed in. I had nowhere to go. In my right conscience, I had nowhere I could go. I was just as frightened as she was until that is I heard a crack; he headbutted her. Blood poured forth. I freaked the fuck out. I started screaming. I started crying. I had no idea what way was up. I briefly ran into the bathroom to try to collect myself and figure out what the fuck I was supposed to do. I was scared. I was shaking. I was angry. I was livid. I was FURIOUS. And through the tears I saw the stained bathroom mirror. Everything was blurry but I saw it right there. Black as night, floating right above my own head. I could finally see it: Ten.

"Fuck them, fuck him, fuck everyone. Fuck this abusive piece of shit. I am taking control of this situation."

In that very briefly lucid state, I called an ambulance.

I then broke the mirror, threw it at the ground. I picked the the largest shard of glass and looked at myself again. Ten. Definitely ten.

I called down. "Sean! Let's fucking talk!"