LOST INSIDE THE INTERNET by MATTHEW WILDE * PART TWO – WEBSITE EXTRA
The Autumn School Swimming Championships are now two hours away. It's 8am and I feel like I haven't slept at all.
My pyjamas are itchy, from the knees down. My pillow's flat. My sister Hannah and her friend Sydney, snoring in the next room, sound like a band of heavy metal rock pigs with swine flu.
The worst thing of all, though, is that I think my mum just spoke to me. And she's been dead since I was one. And not only did she sit on the end of my bed like a proper ghost, she also told me there was going to be a terrible accident today and that if I wasn't careful I'd end up stuck inside the internet. In other words, what you're looking at now.
Next door, I can hearJack Maxwell and his parents revving their car. It's big and white, like their cat. Everything the Maxwells own is white. Their fluffy dressing gowns with TEAM MAXWELL embroidered on the back. Their mega-mansion with the statues and fountains outside. Their shiny, white teeth. Even Jack's special bathers are dazzling white – they are made of the tightest, lightest material you can find (it makes him go 0.01 of a second faster in the pool, according to his dad, and that's why he's always beating losers like me.)
Have you ever felt like not bothering with something? That's exactly how I feel this morning. There's no point in even entering the race against Jack. I'm so tired I'm bound to come last.
As the Maxwells' big, white car pulls out of their driveway, one of our neighbours shouts 'Good luck Jack!' and waves his newspaper at them. Jack pulls down the window and and waves back. It's not really a wave though. He holds his arm up high and stiff, out of the car window, like one of those Olympic gold medallists who've just won an event.
Suddenly, Sydney and Hannah bash open the door, followed by Ginger, the cat. They are wearing each others' pyjamas, because they swapped them. They swap everything. I'm surprised they haven't even swapped cats.
'We made a banner for you,' they say, and show me a sheet painted in our school colours – yellow and black – with KINGS PARK SCHOOL written at the bottom, and 'Go Matthew go!' at the top.
'Oh no,' I say. I feel embarassed just looking at it in my bedroom, znever mind in front of thousands of people. 'What's wrong with it?' Hannah says in her snarliest voice. 'We thought you'd like it!' Sydney says, and she's already getting her phone out of her pocket so she can send a tweet to everyone on Twitter telling them that I don't like my banner.
Then I think of something – and who knows, Sydney might even know the answer.
'What's the fastest rotating part of the earth?'
'Huh?' Hannah says, before Sydney can reply.
'Just tell me if you know. Where is the fastest rotating part of the earth?'
Both of them shrug and make silly faces.' But maybe I can find out. Somewhere in between here and the swimming carnival, anyway. Because according to the ghost of my mother, finding the fastest rotating part of the earth is the only hope I've got – when I have the accident that's about to come my way.
There. I'm actually believing it. Now I really know I'm going crazy.
Dad comes in, after that, and tells Hannah and Sydney they're in big trouble for using his computer to log onto eBay last night.
'We were only looking,' Hannah says, putting her hands on her hips.
'No more eBay!' Dad warns. They were banned from it last Christmas when they swapped all the presents they didn't want and then tried to sell them instead.
Then - just as Sydney is about to open her mouth and come up with some very clever but mad explanation for why they looking at eBay – we hear a huge crash.
Dad runs to the window and swears. He never does that, so it must be bad.
'The Maxwells,' he shakes his head. 'They've just crashed the car in their own driveway. Look at it. He's smashed it straight into a statue.'
After that, we all run outside.
The mermaid statue near their wide, front gates is broken in two, with the tail on the ground. And the Maxwell's big, white car is squashed at the front, from the headlights all the way back to the driver's seat. Mrs Maxwell is sitting with her legs sticking straight out in front of her, on the grass, holding her jaw as if it hurts. Mr Maxwell is telling all the neigbours, over and over again, that they only rushed back to fetch Jack's towel, because he'd forgotten it.
'Looks like he won't need the towel anyway,' Hannah says. 'Look at his leg with that huge cut on it. He can't swim today.'
'My leg's okay!' Jack yells, watching me out of the corner of his eye.
'It's not okay!' his mother yells back at him, then she holds her jaw again, because shouting like that with her mouth wide open was probably a big mistake.
Dad, Hannah and Sydney look as if they don't know what to do. Our neighbour on the other side, Mr Michelsen, tells us that an ambulance has been called. Jack might need stitches, and they think he might even have mild concussion.
'Not much we can do here,' my Dad says. 'Come on everyone. We'd better get you to the carnival, Matthew.'
Suddenly, everything seems to stop.
Mr Maxwell spins around in his big black trainers and looks at him as if he's going to hit him.
Mrs Maxwell takes her hand off her jaw and stares at Hannah and Sydney with her mouth wide open.
And Jack Maxwell gets up, hobbling from the cut on his leg, and elbows me in the side. Not hard, but enough to give me a jolt.
'If you win today, everyone will say it's because I wasn't there,' Jack says, in a low, quiet voice.
'But it doesn't matter,' says Sydney suddenly, typing furiously into Twitter on her phone, so she can keep the whole school up to date. 'Because if Matthew breaks a record, nobody will care if you were there or not.'
'I really think we'd all best go inside,' my Dad says nervously, 'hope the ambulance turns up soon, Jack. Sorry about the car.'
'Phew,' Sydney says, as we walk back to our house. 'I thought the Maxwells were going to explode then.'
Later, when we're all sitting at the table having big bowls of porridge and sultanas for breakfast, I remember my weird nightmare. The ghost of my mum said there was going to be an accident. Well, it looks like this was it. But now what?
The rest of the morning goes quickly. Dad drives us to the school car park so we can all get on coaches to take us to the carnival. Everyone is talking about Jack Maxwell being out of the race. And nobody is looking at me. It's like they actually believe what Jack said – that if I win today, it will only be because he isn't there.
The coach smells of food, because everyone has a packed lunch. Dad forgot to give me, Hannah and Sydney anything, though. I suppose we'll have to starve again as usual. He's always forgetting.
I wonder if I should have told him about mum, and the dreams last night? Probably not. He wouldn't believe me anyway.
Finally, the coach pulls up outside the swimming centrel. Everyone is staring out of the windows at the other schools – we're so used to our brown and yellow uniform it's weird to see everyone else wearing something different. I'm so glad Hannah and Sydney didn't bring that banner, though. Except – They have. It's there. They're even holding a corner each, waving it at everyone as they step off the coach.
'Go Matthew, go!' they yell at me, as I jump off the bottom step. I can feel myself going bright red.
Miss Foster, our Phys. Ed. Teacher, makes them put the banner away.
'We can have this up once Matthew's race begins, butnot before, ' she says, trying to be heard about the giggling, the shrieking and the screaming, as all Sydney and Hannah's friends gather round them.
Why is it that everyone seems to be more excited about the swimming carnival than I do? I just feel sick. And really tired. I'd love to get back in the coach and curl up on the back seat right now and go to sleep.
'Do you feel sorry for Jack?' some kid in Year 7 asks me.
'Oh yeah,' I say, because I know that's the right thing to do – but I wish he hadn't asked me, because I really don't feel sorry for Jack Maxwell at all.
Then our swimming coach turns up. Mr Cittadini.
'Feeling okay, Matt?' he asks me. He's the only person who shortens my name to Matt and it always makes me feel weird. He doesn't say anything about Jack being out of the carnival. Maybe he hasn't heard. Although he must be the only person in the whole school who doesn't know.
'Get a good breakfast this morning?' Mr Cittadini asks, as Sydney and Hannah disappear with the stupid banner. 'We had porridge,' I tell him. Though just thinking about it now, with all the sultanas swimming around in the milk at the bottom of the bowl, makes me feel sick.
'How do you feel about going in the diving?' he says, as we go through the gates.
Well, what am I supposed to say? I hate diving, especially from the top platforms. But it's hard to say no to Mr Cittadini. He just smiles at you as if he knows that you're going to say yes.
'Sean Pascoe's pulled out,' he explains. 'His mum rang me this morning.'
'Because Jack Maxwell's out as well (oh, so he does know) , we thought you could fit more events in. Without Jack on your tail, you're going to have an easy day today.'
I can't think of anything to say, so instead I look at my feet – something Dad is always telling me not to do.
'No worries if you don't feel like it.' Mr Cittadini says, 'but you're pretty good on the platform.'
Well, when it comes to diving, I'm okay on the platform. Not pretty good. So that bit's wrong, from the start. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?
'Up to you,' Mr Cittadini says, giving me a big, beaming smile again. There are times when everyone says he looks like the Joker in Batman. I've never seen it, but now maybe I can.
The trouble is, as I soon find out in the change rooms, everyone knows that Sean Pascoe isn't going to be in the diving, which means – unless I do it, our school is going to lose a big, fat 20 points in the overall trophy count.
'Or, if you add it up imagining that we're going to win every category,' Sydney tells me, 'you could be leaving us 50 whole points in the lurch.' I suppose I have to believer her. She's always been good at maths.
We are standing back outside the swimming centre gates, when she tells me, this , lining up to order pies for lunch, because Mr Cittadini's just found out Dad forgot our sandwiches, and I've been allowed to break the rules and buy some food.
And it's at that very moment that Jack Maxwell strides through the gates, with his parents, his friends, and even some newspaper photographer, and pushes straight past me.
'Uh-oh, 'says Sydney, typing furiously into Twitter on her phone. 'That's a surprise.'
I look at his leg. There is no sign of the cut from this morning. He doesn't even have a band-aid on it. And he looks happy. Really, really happy, as if he's going to win.
Miss Foster, the Phys. Ed teacher, suddenly appears at the other side of the gates and points at Sydney.
'You, back in your seat. And you Matthew, go and sit with the team.'
'I had to get something to eat for lunch,' I tell her.
'Well you've done it now, so move on.'
Then she realises that it's Jack Maxwell who's just walked past, and races off to tell someone.
'I thought about your question about the fastest rotating part of the earth,' Sydney whispers, as we go back to our seats, with the rest of the school. 'And I asked people on Twitter. But the answer is, although it's true that the earth is rotating faster than it ever has since the 1920s nobody knows the answer.'
'No need to be like that,' Sydney says.
'Well that's no good at all, is it!' I hear myself being mean to her, but I can't help it.
'You're just stressed out about Jack Maxwell turning up, ' she says. 'That's not my problem. If I wanted to find the fastest rotating part of the earth, by the way, I'd head left. I think it's probably on the left-hand side. Just a feeling.'
Then she runs off, because Miss Foster is back again, giving her a foul look.
I go and sit with the rest of the team, on the front benches, where we can see every gulp of air that the swimmers take in the water. We're so close to the edge of the pool that we also get hit by every passing splash.
The freelance relay starts. I'm not in that one. Mr Cittadini wanted me to save my energy for the 200 metres, and the other races with Jack. And now, the diving too. Thanks very much, Sean Pascoe.
Jack Maxwell is Captain of his relay team and starts the race. It's really hard. One lap each of freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke. It's hard to believe Jack hurt his leg this morning, though. Even after the second lap, he's well in front.
'He'll be really tired after this,' a nice girl in our team tells me. I've never seen her before. But she seems to know who I am. And then the most peculiar thing happens – just as I'm taking a better look, she seems to turn into my mother. Oh no! Not my ghost mum again. But she even seems to be have her small, pointy nose – and her sticking-out ears.
If this really is a dream, it's been going on for far too long. You're not supposed to still be having nightmares when the sun is shining.
'Let's get you over to the diving pool,' Mr Cittadini calls me over, and I clamber out. The nice girl says 'See ya' and then I realise she is back to normal again. No pointy nose . No big ears. I must have been imagining the whole thing.
The platform at the pool is 10 metres high. I read somewhere that when you enter the water, you go in at over 60 km an hour. Is that close to the fastest rotating part of the earth? Is that what my ghost mum meant?
Because – I know now – this is probably going to be the real accident. The one that mum told me about in the dream. It wasn't the stupid crash that Mr Maxwell had in the driveway at all. Mr Cittadini was wrong when he said I was pretty good on the platform. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I can't. And I know, because a few months ago, when I was mucking around with Hannah and Sydney, I hit the water so fast I thought I was never going to come up.
It's the same kind of dive that I'm going to do now. Standing start. Then reverse. You stand with your back to the pool below, and then you jump up as high as you can go, flip over in mid-air, and shoot straight into the water. No splash. If you splash they take points off.
Miss Foster is actually a better swimming teacher than Mr Cittadini, even though she's not our coach. And she said something to me in my first ever carnival, which I remember now.
'Don't think about the people who are watching, don't think about yourself, don't think about anything except the water.' she said.
Some of the people in my class think Miss Foster is a joke because all she ever wears to school is a tracksuit – but I think she's good.
I know there might be an accident coming, but all I have to do is think about the water. If I just concentrate on becoming part of the water, everything will be fine. Nice and smooth. No splash. From the platform down, it's about three seconds. The water in the diving pool looks beautiful today. Really blue and cool.
It seems like ages ago that I was lying in bed at home, listening to Sydney and Hannah snoring, thinking everything was normal.
Then I see her. My ghost mum. She's standing at the bottom of the steps that lead up to the diving platform, eating an ice-cream. It's an old-fashioned cone, with two flavours. It looks like strawberry and chocolate. Suddenly, I feel hungry.
'Good luck, Matthew, ' she says, walking over. 'I put you in the river when you were a baby. I knew you'd be good in the water. And you are.'
I've never thought about that before. When there was a fire in the caravan, in the woods (the fire which killed her) the only thing she could think of to do, was put me in my crib, in the river. Maybe that's the whole reason I'm good at swimming, after all.
And then I see Jack Maxwell, with his white towel, and his white bathers, and all his friends. He's too far away for me to hear him – though I can see him saying something to people about me, behind his hand – but I can see him so clearly in the sun, it's as if there's a spotlight on him.
'Go Matthew, go!' he shouts, from the other side of the pool, and I can tell he and his friends have seen Sydney and Hannah's stupid banner.
Then – ' Go Matthew, go!' all his friends yell, and then burst out laughing.
My name is called through the speakers. It's horrible to hear it. 'Matthew Wilde, Under-16 Boys' Platform Dive. Kings' Park School.'
I have to remember what Miss Foster said. I have to become part of the water. I can't think about myself, I can't think about the people who are watching, I just have to....dive in.
I walk up the hard, cold, concrete steps to the top of the platform. I wish my legs didn't feel so shakey, but it's just nerves. It will go if I stop thinking about how high up it is.
'Quiet please,' the announcer says.
This is it. A slow walk to the edge of the platform. A deep breath. A calm turn, with my back to the edge of the pool. First a jump, and then a twist. Straight and smooth through the air, and then into the water – no splash. I've done it before, so I can do it again.
As I jump off the concrete, though, I hear someone yell. Is it Jack Maxwell? It's just a stupid loud yell – it could be anyone. But in the seconds it takes for me to jump above the board, then come back down again, I hit my head on something sharp and painful.
And then -
Circles come towards me in the water. Spinning wildly. Left then right. I can't breathe at all now, the stinging chlorine in the pool is coming in everywhere. Up my nose. Down my throat. Help me. Someone, help me.
What did Sydney say? Where is the fastest rotating part of the earth?
I think she said it was left. It was definitely left. So I push myself through the water that way, even though I feel like I'm dying (am I dying?) and then I find myself coming up for air at last... air, sweet air... in a forest of words.
I look at the words and I realise they are about me. I'm in a sentence about myself. It's a sentence that Sydney has typed about me, into Twitter.
My mother was right and Sydney was wrong. I should have aimed for the fastest rotating part of the earth and I went the wrong way. And now I'm inside the internet. I know I am, because my mum warned me.
And there she is, still eating the strawberry and chocolate ice-cream, while Sydney's tweets swim around my head.
'Hello Matthew' says my mum. 'I think you've just fallen into Twitter. Anyway. Now that you're here – welcome to Web World.'
'It's where a lot of people end up these days, when they – you know.'
'You're not dead Matthew,' my ghost mum comes forward and gives me a big hug. 'You're somewhere in between. And if it's the last thing I'm going to do, I'll try to get you back.'
*As Told to Jessica Adams