The Picture of John Colborne

By Connor Taylor

Little Johnny walked south on Forest Hill Road, on his back, of course, his backpack, which contained, of course, his laptop. The canopy hovering over the road had turned an ominous brownish-yellow, but at this hour, was barely visible. The temperature had dropped, and Johnny, clad only in a light blue zippered sweatshirt and gray flannel pants, quickened his pace as the magnificent spire of the clock tower appeared above the hill.

Johnny let a Mercedes cross at the intersection before advancing to the grassy strip on the side of the road opposite the sidewalk. His white sneakers harassed the fallen leaves on the ground and their sharp hisses of displeasure could be heard with each step. To his left, there was a fence covered with ivy and yellow leaves that concealed what was going on behind it. Trees that had been there for hundreds of years lined the avenue, giving off their leaves here and there. Indeed, there was so much life around Johnny! Johnny mused over which game to play when he reached the school.

Upon reaching the ashtray that is Frybrook Road, Johnny turned left through the side gate of the school. He made his way to the large blue front door. Johnny opened the door and walked up the small flight of stairs, looking at his BlackBerry as he trudged on the conspicuous golden crest on the floor. He went down the main hallway towards Laidlaw Hall. To Johnny’s chagrin, a parent information meeting was in session in the Student Centre, meaning he would not be able to use his laptop there. He checked the time on his BlackBerry. His brother would be done basketball in thirty minutes: plenty of time to play Call of Duty.

Slightly flustered due to the loss of his natural habitat, needing some new place to play his games, he could think of no alternative until he turned around and saw the words “LAIDLAW HALL”. He opened one of the doors and poked his head in. Empty. And dark, except for some moonlight that struggled in through the three vast windows on the southern wall. Laidlaw was always cold this time of year, but it felt more frigid than usual.

Little Johnny closed the door behind him and made his way down the aisle to one of the pews in the middle of the hall. All stood for the processional. He pulled off his backpack and set it on the cold wood of the pew. Johnny thought he heard a noise – his body shuddered as if a few volts of electricity had quickly traveled through him. He looked around and saw nothing but the ominous clock above the entrance, illuminated by some unknown source of energy. Must have been nothing. He pulled his laptop out and turned it on. The bright light emitting from the laptop made his face ghost-like in the great hall’s darkness. He opened the Call of Duty application he had illegally downloaded and the sound of grenade explosions calmed his nerves.

Just as Johnny got his fifth head shot in a row, a roar of anger seemed to come from the wall.


Little Johnny was frozen with fear – he couldn’t even press the pause button to stop his battle against the insurgents.

“What in bloody hell is that? It sounds like Maida all over again!” said a voice from the wall.

“I heard that too,” said another.

“Well that comes as no surprise, Dickson. I believe The King himself could have heard those gunshots!” stated another.

Johnny couldn’t put together a word – even if he could he wouldn’t know what to say – and decided to keep on playing Call of Duty.

“Why, there it is again! You! You there!” sounded the first voice.

“Hel…lo?” replied a terrified Little Johnny

“What in His Majesty’s name are you doing? Have you a gun?” the voice retorted.

“A gun? No! I’m just playing a game on my laptop.”

“What’s a laptop?” another voice said.

“Never ‘eard of one of those.” stated another.

“Its a computer that you have, like on top of your lap, like without cords and things,” Johnny whimpered.

“Oh, yes, I do in fact know what one is,” the original voice said, “I’ve witnessed the assemblies and changes all from my perch up here. Best seat in the hall if you ask me!”

Little Johnny looked up at the area from where the voice was coming from. The moonlight from the window illuminated a vast portrait of a military man in a red uniform, holding a sceptre and a sword in a sheath, adorned with bright, shining medals, a red sash, blood-coloured, over his shoulder. His pale, stern face was on top of the red uniform, staring at Little Johnny’s fearful eyes.

“Do you know who I am, lad?” said the honourable man in the red uniform.

“Umm – no, I don’t. Were you a principal?”

“No! No! No! You do not know me? They give me a room, a statue, a portrait, yet they do not do the justice of teaching my students even the slightest bit of the history of this institution –talk about tradition! I am Field Marshal John Colborne, First Baron Seaton, former Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey and of Upper Canada. It was I who founded this institution. I died long ago but I remain here, in this portrait, to witness the follies and successes of this school. Ah! I see you are using your “laptop” for a good end! Let me come down there and see it.”

The man in the red uniform, Colborne, walked from the table in his portrait and jumped onto the Laidlaw Hall floor. Little Johnny could not believe what he was seeing. Colborne’s black boots made a loud thunderous sound as he landed, his medals clinked like pint-glasses, and the sheath of his sword struck the ground violently. He marched towards Little Johnny and his laptop. A mortified Johnny could only stand still. With each step Colborne took, the sound of his black boots and rattling medals grew louder.

Colborne was now face-to-face with Johnny; Johnny’s cowering countenance was subject to the indignant glare of the field marshal.

“Give me that,” Colborne said.

“What? Why?”

“Give it to me now.”

Little Johnny gave him the laptop. Colborne grabbed it, inspected it, and, in a fit of rage, hurled it across the hall to the thrones on the stage. The laptop hit the wall and shattered instantly.

“What was that for?” Johnny asked fearfully.

“You did not really need that, did you? What did you use it for?”

“Call of Duty.” Johnny answered.

“Ah, indeed.”

At that point, Colborne pulled his sword out of its sheath and, wielding it above his head, and struck a massive blow to Johnny’s skull with the cold steel blade. Blood oozed down the floor under the Laidlaw pews, forming a pool near the great organ. Colborne cleaned his blade with a handkerchief and put it back into his sheath. He returned to his portrait – victorious, glorious, and proud.

Standing next to the table in his portait, sceptre and sword in hand, Colborne thought, “Shame for whoever’s on duty tomorrow!”