Internet and Fishing Nets
This story is best read after reading ‘Where is Uncle Pete?’
If your teenager is suffering from cyber bullying this story may help, please read the story first yourself to see if it would suit your child.
It was a long time since Sam had visited Uncle Pete’s small planet. He was now in his third year of Secondary school. There were girls as well as boys in his class and he had made friends with a girl who was new that term. She was quite quiet and shy and the other girls didn’t seem to want to help her settle in. so he thought he should try and talk to her. When he asked her why she’d moved to this school, she quickly changed the subject, mumbling something about her parents thought this school was better for science subjects.
Like most boys of his age Sam was always looking things up on his ‘phone or chatting to his friends. He was fascinated by the universe and the idea of life on other planets. He would explore the internet to find out what the latest discoveries astrophysicists had made about inhabitable planets in the Milky Way and other galaxies – he was always hoping they would discover the small planet where he had seen Uncle Pete. Of course he used the internet to help him with his homework too, particularly history and geography. Because Sam lived in the UK, he would have to choose what subjects he wanted to study for his GCSE exams in two years’ time, so it was important that he did well in the subjects he wanted to study. He noticed that Francine, for that was his new friend’s name, would always hide herself in a corner when she went on line and would often get very flushed when she looked at her ‘phone – If he looked in her direction she would quickly switch her ‘phone off. When he had tried to talk to her about it, she mumbled something about girls from her old school trying to contact her and they weren’t always sending nice messages. Sam couldn’t understand this. Fran was such a kind girl he’d never heard her say anything nasty about anyone. Sometimes the other girls in the class would tease her about her shock of bright red hair, but she never complained. Sam had found that girls could be mean like that, and boys too sometimes, though with boys it was usually more physical, like tripping up the slow kids.
Sam thought Fran’s hair was lovely, a bit like a halo round her head. He told her the other girls were just jealous and she was quite right to ignore them.
She squeezed his hand. The next day he found Fran crying in the library, but he couldn’t get her to tell him what had upset her, she said she just wanted to be by herself for a bit.
Sam decided to do a bit of detective work. He usually didn’t bother with social media, he was far more interested in radio astronomy and discoveries of new planets in the nearby galaxies. But now Sam visited some of the sites that he thought Fran might be visiting. That’s when he saw the pictures and the things other girls were saying about her. Of course, none of them were true, but he guessed that was why she’d changed schools – to get away from the girls who were writing such nasty things. One of the pictures showed Fran with a boy of the same age – his cheeks went scarlet – the boy was Sam. He knew at the same time it couldn’t be him, he’d never been to the place in the picture, especially in his swim shorts! He expanded the picture – it was quite difficult to see how it had been done but the more he looked the more obvious it became. Someone had done it deliberately to embarrass her – and him! Though normally he wouldn’t have seen it, he never looked at those sites. Two different pictures had been merged together, very skilfully, he couldn’t help being impressed! ‘Poor Fran, what a dreadful thing to do to someone, but why?’
Sam wasn’t sure what to do next. Should he tell Francine that he’d seen the messages or would she be upset that he knew about them and especially the awful photos including the one with him? He decided to wait. He saw her on the way home, but he put his hood up and hurried past hoping she hadn’t seen him, he didn’t feel ready to talk about it.
The next day was Saturday. He needed some fresh air and time to think. He decided to take the dog for a walk. As he went to his favourite spot by the river, he saw a flash as someone leaped into the water from the stone bridge. They disappeared under the water and without thinking he kicked off his shoes and jumped in after them. He saw a red head pop up ahead of him then disappear again – Oh no – it was Francine! He was a strong swimmer – he mentally thanked dad for taking him to the swimming pool regularly when he was a kid – then he dived down where he’d last seen Francine enter the water.
He found fran struggling weakly with a fishing net that someone had stretched across the river. He tried his best to disentangle her but he began to get himself tangled up in it as well. He couldn’t hold his breath any longer, they were both sinking down, down, down – Sam thought ‘there’s so much I want to do, I don’t want us both to drown’ – the water washed down his throat – it was slightly salty – but the river was miles from the sea!
‘Here let’s get you out of this, whatever have you done!’ He knew that voice from long ago on the small planet. Strong arms gripped him as they floated to the surface and he felt the net fall away. But Francine, although free of the net was lying on the sandy bottom of the sea, he could just make out her red hair like red seaweed.
‘Uncle Pete’ for he knew now who it was ‘She can’t die! No-one dies here! Where are the light people?’
‘No, of course not, but she’ll have to take her place in the queue like everyone else.’ As he spoke Fran floated past them and then was gently washed up on the shore. He saw her shake herself and then walk over to what seemed like an endless queue of people.
‘But how long will she have to wait?’
‘Well she tried to jump the queue’ answered Uncle Pete ‘Her time wouldn’t be for another ninety years!’
‘Gosh, she’d be an old lady by then!’
‘That’s quite right. Your old lady as it so happens and you would have had a daughter and twin sons not to mention several grandchildren.’
‘Does that mean she’s got to queue for ninety years?’ said Sam
‘I’m afraid so, she should have thought of that before she jumped in the river’ Uncle Pete replied.
‘But that’s so unfair, it’s my fault for not talking to her when I saw her after school’ Sam was really upset now.
‘No it’s not your fault’ said Uncle Pete, ‘You did your best. But you can choose to stay here with her if you like.’
‘Yes, I’d like to do that – but ninety years, it’s a long time!’
‘Have you changed your mind?’
‘No, of course not, you said we were meant to be together’ said Sam.
‘But it means no friends here, or children, or grandchildren, or dogs,’ said Uncle Pete ‘She must be a very special girl. I’ve never heard of this happening before – except once, a long, long time ago, her name was Euridice, she lived in Greece.
‘What happened to her?’ said Sam ‘I’ll have to Google her.’
‘Orpheus, that was the boy’s name, he was Greek too, he had to go back without her – oh, and by the way, there’s no internet here either.’
‘That’s really sad about Euridice,’ said Sam, ‘but can Fran and I have the loving water?’
‘You can’ said Uncle Pete ‘but Francine will have to wait’
Sam walked over to Fran. ‘Uncle Pete says you’ll have to wait in the queue for 90 years!’
‘That’s awful’ said Fran. Suddenly a little cloud burst over her head. She put out her tongue ‘It’s salty’.
‘That’s because those are the tears of your little sister, Rosie’ said Uncle Pete.
Suddenly Fran was caught in a downpour ‘Those are the tears of your Mum and Dad and all your friends’
‘but I don’t have any friends!’
‘Well maybe you’re wrong’ said Uncle Pete.
Fran burst into tears ‘I want to go home!’
‘No-one is allowed back, except in very special circumstances, and they don’t apply to you!’
Sam wasted no time and ran over to the light people. He took a glass from them and carried it carefully over to Fran who was sitting on the sand looking very sad.
‘Here’ said Sam ‘drink this’
‘NO’ said Uncle Pete and the glass seemed to tip up of its own accord.
‘Time for you to go home’ called Uncle Pete ‘and don’t try to come back again before your time!’ Then he added ‘and send my love to that brother of mine’
‘Thanks’ said Sam ‘I will and we won’t try to come back again, will we Fran? Promise’
They looked back just in time to see Uncle Pete go off like a firework. Sam was glad Uncle Pete was one of the lucky ones who’d been chosen to move to the next stage, like going to uni, but it would be sad to think he wouldn’t be there on the planet any more when it was time for them to come back.
‘Uncle Pete must have stayed on the small planet so that he would be able to help them escape from the internet – or was it fishing net?’ he wondered.
They were feeling so happy that they were going home they didn’t notice the big rock which tripped them up. They fell heavily and coughing up water they looked up into the face of a man who stepped back and said
‘We’ve done all we can, keep them in the recovery position until the emergency services arrive.’
Sam could just see one of the girls from school taking pictures with her ‘phone.
‘Oh no’ thought Sam, then he realised he didn’t care.
A policeman came over ‘Are you ok? You’re a very brave young man you saved this young lady’s life!’
The girl with the phone butted in ‘and I’ve got the photos too!’
‘Well done,’ said the policeman ‘we need pictures like that, it’s great to see someone who’d risk their life for a friend.’
That was the end of Fran’s problems with the internet. They were talked about, yes, but in the right way and somehow no-one noticed Fran’s red hair any more. She was so glad to be back at school with her friend Sam and all her other friends! Yes, to her surprise she had several really good friends who were glad to see her safe and well.
It was only now that she remembered what her Grandma used to tell her about when she was an actress. She used to tell them that she never read the reviews of her performances because if they were bad, she’d rather not know, and if they were good someone would always tell her.
That was a lesson that Fran would always remember now. She would never read anything unless it was kind or interesting and she could always rely on her friend Sam to remind her if she started to read anything nasty about her or anyone else.
Then the ambulance arrived and interrupted her thoughts.
The medic checked them over.
‘You seem fine now, we’ve called your parents, we found the numbers on your ‘phones’
Mum and Dad arrived.
Mum hugged him tight. ‘You’re a brave boy, but you nearly lost your life. Thank goodness you’re ok!’
‘Thank Uncle Pete’ said Sam. Dad squeezed his hand. ‘Oh and he specially sent you his love Dad’.
Work with your child to help overcome fear, phobia and anxiety