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[Image of Mr Impossible] The World at Eleven Microns
by Pablo

The beam on Kate's face as she bounced into the lab holding up the flyer for me to see showed vivid magenta in the false colour of the thermal camera I was calibrating. Her grin was off the scale.

'Back To School Party!' it said. She pushed gently against me as I read it. Watched me. We laughed together at the irony, the accelerated sense of nostalgia - twentysomethings marking their departure from university with a recreation of only a few years before.

Though not a recreation for Kate. A creation. And a desire.

'Shall we go shopping, angel?' I asked, and she didn't need to answer. Her head nodded against my chest. I'd promised her soon. Now was soon enough.

In the shop, she pulled me from shelf to shelf, knowing exactly what she was looking for, but wanting mostly to show me, to hear me say yes, see me smile. As if she wouldn't ever get exactly what she wanted.

And so I took my girl home and dressed her to go Back To School. Forward To School, maybe. Back wouldn't have taken this inner-city kid anywhere near here. She stood quiet and straight, chin dutifully raised, as I fastened her collar, tied her tie, checked the pigtail ribbons, smoothed the kilt-pleats. She looked exactly as proud as I felt.

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It wasn't the most convincing tweedy professorial type who guided his charge to the party, but Kate seemed pleased with the transformation. We were both a little quiet, though. It was one of those moments when time ratchets forward, never to return, and we both knew it.

We wandered a little through the laughing and dancing, catching a few smiles and hellos on the way, but seemed inevitably to soon find ourselves in a cosy corner with tall drinks and with each other. I saw Kate smiling to herself and raised an eyebrow. She found my ear and remarked in a necessarily-loud whisper that we seemed to be a little over-dressed for this school. I smiled back and kissed her forehead. Here a striped, crested blazer and there a jauntily-angled boater, but mostly parodies of uniform thrown together as the price of admission.

It wasn't us. And I think we both felt a curious satisfaction in that, as if we had to come that night to reassure ourselves that we were still different - that our secret was still safe.

Besides, that night I only had eyes for my girl, only room in my brain for her. When she took me by the hand, smiled, said, 'Come on, Science Boy', and led me away from the noise up to the quiet of the lab, I was floating.

I spanked my girl. I put her across my knee and I spanked her until my hand ached, and her bottom glowed. The sound of the party drifted in the background, only making us feel more special, more apart. Our secret. Not theirs. Ours.

I held Kate tight on my lap, her school knickers still tangled about her knees, while she cried happy tears into my shoulder. Presently I led her obediently but nonetheless ear-first to the corner and tucked her kilt waist-high. She pushed her nose right in. I sat, listening to her breathing in slow, soft sighs.

Kate will always argue that what I did next had been planned way ahead. I will always deny it, with a face that's perhaps a little too straight to be convincing. I carefully took out the thermal camera, calibrated for rosy, warmed cheeks, and silently captured some infra-red moments. The warmth of Kate's bare thighs and the knit of her fingers behind her head glowed a healthy orange beside the colder yellows and greens of what uniform remained in place. But the gorgeous magenta shades of my girl's smacked bottom burned as if in flame.

Kate was a little rainbow.

I laid the camera aside and looked back at her in the corner. She was still a little rainbow, and I knew then that I truly loved her.

The Zip drive whirring to grab the images for posterity, Kate turned, squeaked in indignation and grabbed for the camera, giggling now and finding sufficient voice to call me a 'big dork'. I gave chase, warning her that if anything bad happened to the camera, she'd not be sitting down for a whole week. (How soon the cliches seemed to flow once we'd begun.) She tore down the stairs and back along towards the party.

At the door to the party room, she slowed, turned to face me, held the camera up to her eyes and remarked with a giggle that my face was much redder than the thing I'd been looking at. I smiled back. She was trapped now and would be crying more tears over my lap before bed.

Looking for escape, she pushed into the party room. I followed, a little frustrated now, needing to rescue the camera from her.

'Kate,' I grunted. 'That's enough. I need that thing now.'

'No, wait!' she said urgently. 'Wait.' Her gaze travelled slowly across the room, then just as slowly back again, pausing here and there for a moment, her mouth gaping wider. She lowered the camera to look at someone without it, then brought it to her eyes again.

'What? What is it?'

She spoke almost dreamily now. 'Take a look, Science Boy,' she said, handing me the camera.

I looked, and I started to gape too.

Across the room, in every direction, picked out against a background of warm, partying bodies, were the magenta shades of smacked bottoms. Here a hand reached under a pleated skirt to rub a smacked bottom. There one smacked bottom danced with another. They bounced and slid and bopped and shimmied. I followed a cane-striped bottom across the room to the bar, then another covered with bright palmprints back to the dance-floor. I lowered the camera, letting the bottoms disappear anonymously into the visible spectrum.

A genuinely professorial type brushed past me with lollipop-sucking tutee in tow. I made a silent bet with myself, took up the camera and was grinningly delighted to lose. I passed the camera to Kate and relished her gasp of surprise. We moved aside as a soundly thrashed schoolboy was brought back to the party, his prefect-ish partner running her fingers across the back of his neck as they curled up together in a quiet corner.

We sat for a while and watched the comings and goings. Couples slid away unobtrusively, only to return shortly afterwards, at least one pair of cheeks glowing brightly. Their secret. Not ours. Theirs.

Kate said something, but I was miles away.

'Hmm?'

'I said,' she said. 'D'you think any of them know?'

'Maybe. Maybe not.' I looked around. 'Hey, we could show them.'

Kate shook her head and took the camera, gently this time, and set it down between us - suddenly so much wiser than me.

'Let them have their secret for tonight,' she said. 'And let's keep ours, too. There's no hurry. It'll be gone quite soon enough.'

She kissed me once on the cheek. I nodded seriously.

'Come on, Science Boy. Let's go.'

I took the camera back to the lab and packed it carefully away for the last time.

We leave tomorrow, Kate and I, for the rest of our lives. The Zip disk, I wiped before we headed to bed tonight. It wasn't important. We'll carry with us the world at eleven microns, and, at least for the time being, that will belong only to us.

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