Akuma was first published in the tenth anniversary edition of Offset, a Victoria University publication.
When I dredge memories of high school I always reminisce about Japanese classes. By the wisdom of the coordinators or by the beard of Madam Fate … my first Japanese class comprised the worst students of my year level—not necessarily the worst in terms of intelligence (?) but the kind of kids who thrive on disobedience, disruption and violence.
Some pranks were genuinely amusing—teacher would press play on the VHS tape player while a smart arse in the back row repeatedly hit the ‘eject’ or ‘pause’ button on the remote; when we had a substitute teacher some students would ‘substitute’ their name with popular aliases such as Max Payne and Duke Nukem; a student would be asked to read from their text book and the prick would feign a learning disability.
And then the shenanigans escalated. The Japanese room had a mobile carp hanging from the ceiling. Chalk, markers, pens, rulers, pencil cases and other items kept that carp’s belly bloated. Students shouted across the room and flipped tables. Some threw chairs.
An oaf of a boy once hit my friend constantly in the back with a metal ruler because he could. I watched my friend’s face change from pale white to angry red, tears streaming, teeth grinding, groan keening. Understandably, my friend lost his shit.
The Japanese teacher was a short, timid woman and she even cried on her birthday. She lacked the confidence and the gravitas to discipline the troublemakers effectively. Jap class was ruled by the idiocracy.
My one regret back then was not standing my ground when some people needed the help, but then I had this other friend who did that for us. One memorable day, there was a beautiful exchange of profanities in the corridor minutes before Jap class started and then there was an equally beautiful exchange of balled fists. The class champion defied the class clown.
Year seven Jap class taught me that everybody has their breaking point. There is only so much a person can tolerate before they do something to change the status quo, which is what inspired the hyperbolic action in that crazy story, Akuma.