The crowd was growing restless.
They had gathered in the stadium hours before the start, in anticipation of the big match, and now, with the continued delay, there was a strong chance that things might turn ugly.
The empty pitch and the blank Jumbotron screens served as a mocking reminder to the swelling body of eighty thousand plus people that nothing was happening. Pockets of violence broke out every now and then, dissipating as quickly as they began.
Gregory was at his first big match event. Just ten years old, he’d loved all of this ever since he could remember. He looked up at his Dad, who seemed to be shouting angrily at the rain. The stands were covered, but the pitch was not, and the big match couldn’t start if it was wet.
But Gregory knew it would happen soon. He had a sense of the rain stopping. And before he could articulate this to his Dad, a huge roar went up from the lungs of eighty thousand frustrated fans.
The rain had stopped.
Music struck up through the stadium’s PA, a thumping beat that vibrated up through Gregory’s feet and spine. The screens came to life, bright, vibrant, and full of dramatic images designed to stoke the crowd’s excitement.
And then it happened.
The pitch opened up.
Both halves of the turf clunked loudly and moved apart, splitting at the halfway line, to reveal a dark cavern beneath. Every light in the stadium pointed at the growing chasm. The music reached a crescendo, so so loud, but still drowned out by the screams of the crowd, whipped into a frenzy now.
From the darkness it rose.
First the red sphere, emerging from the black.
Up it came, huge, magnificent.
And pushing it up into the air, the light brown stalk, as thick as a dozen tree trunks, lifting out from below, on and on it went, never seeming to end.
And there it was.
Like nothing Gregory had ever seen.
“That’s a big match,” he screamed, his throat hoarse.
It didn’t matter that it didn’t get lit this time. He went home happy. Next time, he knew, deep in his soul, he’d get to see the big match on fire.