The cheap movie tie-in toy promised on the cereal box wasn’t what Marlon found when he sunk his hand into the new Honey Puff packet and groped about, the sticky puffs of wheat clinging softly to his skin like insect eggs. His hand rising out of the cereal box like an amusement park claw clutched a small set of cards wrapped in cellophane. Marlon brushed the last tenacious puffs from his forearm and set about tearing the wrapper from the cards.
He flipped through the deck of four and his brow furrowed. Scanned them again to check they were what he thought they were. He laid them out on the table next to his empty bowl and stared at them.
‘You finished breakfast yet Marlon?’ his mother called from upstairs. ‘You’ll be late if you’re not careful.’
Her words sent a chill up his spine and he stacked the cards and stuffed them in his blazer pocket.
Marlon didn’t go to school that day. Instead he headed to the den by the canal. In the rubble of the old lock cabin, hidden from view, he prepared a fire with some twigs and matches stolen from the kitchen at home. Once the little fire was burning he pulled the cards out from his blazer and flipped through them again. Though he was older in the pictures he recognised himself. Each picture showed him dead and each one was part of a set of one hundred.
The first, number 29, showed him as a young adult disappearing under the wheels of lorry that had run a red light. The second, number 47, showed a middle-aged Marlon washing up on a beach, his skin white and wrinkled from days in the water. The third, number 62, a picture of him burning in a house fire, an old man trapped and banging on an upstairs window as flames snaked up his pyjama trousers. The last, number 10, showed Marlon looking his age, choking on a spoonful of Honey Puffs, the cartoon character on the box pointing and laughing as his face turned blue.
Marlon burned each picture slowly, watched each one curl and blacken and die before starting on the next. He decided it best not to tell his Mum about the cards. He would ask her not to buy Honey Puffs again though.
In this way Marlon Flutter, aged ten, became truly aware of his own mortality.