Realms of Reality #1

This is the concept for a novel I actually want to start writing. Well, either a novel, or series of short stories. Here’s my first short story attempt! Hope you guys enjoy it! Usually I would only use italics to indicate the shift between realities, but this website is a little funky on my computer, so it may be easier if I colour code it!

Bio

Stalactites drip from the cavern ceiling, leaking ominous blue fluid onto the shiny, iridescent rocks below. Other than the liquid smack of the substance ticking away like a metronome, the only other sound existed as the clanking of metal and shuffling of cloth which announced the presence of a spelunking guild.

            At the head of the ten-profound, happened to be a graying man. Righteous, golden armour of the high fantasy variety clad his body, engraved in foreign markings and draped elegantly with fine, white cloth. A most massive sword holds steady within the right hand, whilst a bulwark-shield adorns his left. In the darkness of their surroundings, he appeared as a light, quite literally. The man radiates within his attire in divine mannerism.

            Behind him trailed nine others, equally delightful to the eyes. A tall, young man in dark, silver-embellished gear, also carrying a shield in one hand, but an axe in the other. A near-naked maiden in green cloths, only enough to disguise her most private attributes, carrying with her an oaken-staff, laden with garden flowers and creeping moss. The others appear as an assortment of wizards, rangers, and warriors, wearing anything from robes to tight leather (often promiscuous in the case of females).

            The guild traverse down the expanse of jagged rock and gleaming pools, muttering quietly among themselves, all until they reach what appears to be an ornate, ebon archway. It seemed too deliberate to be unworthy of attention; they found what they came for.

            “Ahranna, are the potions ready?” sounds the surprisingly youthful voice of the elderly paladin as he looks over his shoulder at the staff-wielding female.

            “Give me just a few minutes, Commander. I should have enough flowers to sustain us an hour at best. I apologize, for I have had other obligations, and haven’t had the time to collect more,” with that, she places both hands together and bows down in apology. Her long, brunette hair swings from her shoulders and curtains the sides of her angular face. The apparent Commander raises an eyebrow and grunts.

            “I have one hundred rose petals right here, might this help, Ahranna?” says a provocatively-attired wizard. Her curled red hair did a better job of covering her skin than the metal chains which wrapped around the sheer-center of her breasts, fastened between her legs, and somehow up her rear, too. Reaching behind her, she pulls out a cluster of red petals from seemingly nowhere and hands them over to Ahranna.

            “Thank you, Bellanatrix, that’ll extend us to two hours,” Ahranna replies, taking the goods and sitting down on a nearby rock to concoct her potions.

            Members of the guild start to lower down into a sit one by one, prompting another raise from the Commander’s eyebrow, then a sigh.

            “I suppose we shall take a break here. We will continue in six minutes, no later.”

            “Commander, I need no break. Allow me to scout ahead to better prepare us for what is to come,” says the onyx-armoured shield-bearer.

            “Phoebus, I would rather we went together. If you die, our chances of pulling through this tonight will decrease by at least thirty-three percent… and that is a percent that I cannot risk after all the effort we’ve put into getting here,” he responds. Phoebus wasn’t overly pleased with the answer and reluctantly sits down in wait. Following suit, the Commander seats himself, too.

Leonard pushes himself back from the desk; the wheels of his computer chair swivel and squeak under strain of its owner’s weight. Pressing a button on his keyboard, he scrunches up his face and growls, “I must quench myself, for my throat feels as barren as the Doridial Desert.” A few chuckles bounce out of a taped-up pair of headphones strung around his thick neck. Releasing his finger from the button, he stands up, having to push on the armrests of his chair to free his thighs.

His room acted as a gauntlet akin to that of the cavern. Instead of ominous pools of blue liquid, there lay ominous pools of spilled soda, sticky and crusted over with age. Stalagmites of clothes force Leonard to weave to and fro to finally exit his dwelling.

After a quick trek, he finally met clean territory known as the kitchen: the realm of flowing waters and peanut butter sandwich-ia. Half way through filling up a glass of violet elixir, Kool-Aid, the master of the realm arrives.

“Leonard, there are still leaves in the garden. Are those the clothes you were wearing yesterday? Heck-darn, boy…” jitters the voice of a hunched-over, petite old lady. She wields a laundry basket, filled with freshly-pressed clothing.

“Sorry Grandma, I’ll get to it in a few hours.”

“You’d better. I’ve had about up to here with your laziness. You’re a grown man, you’re supposed to be helping me out! Not the other way around!” Though she was a tiny woman, her voice carried out like a territorial crow. Without so much as offering a response, Leonard turns and exits the kitchen, slurping down his beverage along the way.

The radiant Commander rises from his seated position and scans his eyes over the present crew. All but one had risen to receive their neon-green vial of potion from Ahranna. The one person that still sat, a ranger with a hood hanging down all the way to the tip of his nose, was surrounded by a few of the others. They took turns sitting down in his lap, then standing again, then sitting back down in his lap, on constant repeat.

            “Where is Edgy?” inquires Ahranna, joining in on the strange ritual of sitting and standing on the oblivious ranger’s lap.

            “Probably jerking off,” responds Bellanatrix.

            “Please get into character, you’re all ruining my immersion,” Leonard mutters into his headset after jamming his sausage-finger rather rapidly at a faded button on his keyboard.

            The spelunkers halt their foolish actions and instead move to stand in a line under the archway. The Commander turns and eyes them all up one by one in a silent display of control and judgement. Edgy, the hooded ranger, leaps up from his seated position and moves to take his spot in the line.

            “We’ve waited months for this moment, my friends. We faced the twin-serpents, the goblin assault, the corrupted spider queen, and now… we’ve finally made it to the berserking cave giant. If we defeat this foe today, it will place us in the list of the top-ten guilds to have ever made it this far. We’ve suffered set-backs… we’ve suffered the loss of our former co-tank, but we are now accompanied by Phoebus: a shield-bearer far greater than the last.” A gesture is made to the knight in black. Down the line, guild members nod their heads in acknowledgement to his presence. Before the Commander can speak again, Edgy’s body stiffens and fades into a faint opacity.

            “First, he extends his break, then he disconnects. What’s up with this kid?” Leonard growls, “pause until he returns.”

            The spectral dimness of the hooded ranger boldens until his body once more becomes whole again. He shifts from side to side, jumps once, then stands still. Looking at the Commander, Edgy holds both hands together apologetically and bows deeply. Bellanatrix pulls back her hand, then clips the man across the head with an unholy strike. By default, the man is forced to fall flat-on his face. Literal stars circle his head until he finally regains his former stance.

“Leonard! Leonard!”

“What, Grandma!?”

“You didn’t clean the bathroom either. Dorris is coming over in an hour; I don’t want her seeing your urine stains around the toilet bowl!”

            The Commander stands idle, broodingly staring Edgy down with an empty expression. All heads turn to gawk at the two in their face-off.

            “I’ll clean it, I’ll clean it! Just give me at least one attempt at this boss!”

“While you’re living under my roof, I’m the boss! Do as you’re told!”

“Fine!” hollers Leonard. Without thinking to tell his guild that he would be leaving the keyboard, he gets up to do the bidding of the abode-master.

“Commander? It was a… one-time thing. I swear I will be fully present throughout the rest of the eve’,” Edgy whimpers. Alas, the aged Paladin doesn’t so much as flinch. A few guild members curl their lips up into grins, all but Phoebus. The darkly-garbed gent swings his axe at the air, staring into the misty-beyond of whatever lay after the archway. He said nothing, paying no attention to those around him.

            “Oh, great Commander Leonard, if Edgy disappoints us one more time, I can summon a demon to replace him… our outcome might even be better if we do that straight away,” Bellanatrix hisses, stepping out of line to walk a seductress’ circle around her Commander. Once her bare-feet came to a halt, the silver-haired man lowers down to a sit. The guild gasps. Never had their own leader disappeared without warning. The initial reaction for most of the guild members was to sit on Leonard, whilst a few merely jumped up and down on the spot in a very un-in-character-ly way.

“After you’re done with the bathroom, I want you to dust the living-room,” the old crone demands as she leans against the doorway, watching Leonard scrub around the toilet on his knees.

“Grandma, I have things I need to do right now…”

“Cinderella can’t go to the ball until she finishes her chores. Pull up your pants, I have a weak heart.” Leonard reaches back and pulls up his underwear to conceal his long crack.

            “Are we just going to sit around and wait? Can you do nothing without your Commander?” Phoebus speaks up, breaking the line to pace up and down the length of the ancient archway. Ahranna fumbles with her staff and makes her way to his side.

            “That is the way we work, Phoebus. We are a family, we do everything together.”

            “How cute, even when he stands in the way of your fame?” Phoebus spits at the mist, the globule of saliva slaps up against an invisible wall and leaves a line of goo suspended in midair. Ahranna frowns, shuffling uncomfortably in her sandals.

            “We couldn’t have gotten this far without him, he’s one of the best tacticians in the Realm. The best guilds around have been trying to steal him for years. If we want to do this right, we need him,” she urges. Phoebus grunts, rolls his eyes, then pushes past Ahranna and clambers up a rock to view the guild fooling around below.

             “That’s not good enough, Leonard. All you’re doing is pushing the dust from one side of that windowsill to the other side. You must use the polish, not just the rag. Didn’t your mother ever teach you how to clean?”

“My mother didn’t make me clean, she didn’t abuse me like you do…” Leonard growls, pulling his pants up again after reaching down to pick up the spray-polish.

“Abuse you? Sonny, you’ve got it easy, try growing up—”

“—growing up in your day… yes, yes… back when your major concerns were sabretooth tigers and the great t-rex.”

“I promise you’ll find none of those when you go out and clean those leaves up off the driveway. Maybe a butterfly or two, could you handle that?” A laugh akin to a rapidly-croaking toad emits from the cracked lips of Leonard’s grandma as she carries a mug of coffee with two hands out to the porch.

            “Quit fooling around!” snaps Phoebus. The melanoid shield-bearer raises his axe into the air. A surge of red builds up from his feet and shoots upward in a pillar of mystical rays. It lingers for a few seconds then fades. As intended, this taunts and captures the attention of the guild. Each person snaps their heads up to look at the man. At least three people sit upon the Vacant-Commander’s lap, but they get up and move to stand in line.

            “Phoebus, you can’t assume leadership. You aren’t even a full member of the guild yet!” calls Ahranna.

            “She’s right, you know. I’m sure Leonard has a perfectly justified explanation for his disappearance. He never does this; he’ll be back in no time at all,” Bellanatrix adds.

            “I am tired of waiting. The longer we wait, the less chance we have at being awarded our titles. Let me lead you… I have the experience.” As he speaks, Phoebus lowers himself down from the rock to stroll up and down the line, looking each person in the face. Ahranna and Bellanatrix scowl at his approach.

            “What experience do you have? Leonard told me you haven’t even been in a guild before. The last time I checked, you can’t get experience without a guild, it doesn’t count,” says Ahranna.

            “Yeah, you’ve not experienced a challenge yet until you’ve actually tried learning coordinated tactics. Running through dungeons without a guild is just chaos and luck,” Edgy adds. Phoebus narrows his eyes at the gathered, scowling further than usual.

            “It’s not hard, I’ve watched other guilds do this boss before,” he snarls, shifting his armoured weight to suddenly address the hooded ranger.

            “That’s cheating. We learn the tactics through facing enemies ourselves. Where’s the fun in being shown what to do?” Ahranna claims, moving to stand between Phoebus and Edgy.

            “Exactly.” With that, Phoebus barges past the two scantily-clad ladies to enter the mist.

“Oh my god, Grandma. Let me at least run back and tell my friends where I am, they rely on me,” Leonard moans, hastily slapping at leaves on the ground with a broom. His poor proficiency in two-handed weapons causes each assault on the felled leaves to be a failure.

“And you rely on me, else you’ll be sleeping in a cardboard box. Can’t fit a computer in a carboard box, sonny. Now get t’sweeping!” With desperate strikes, Leonard tries to best the leaves. All the while, his heart pounds with anxiety, yearning to be reunited with his technology once more.

            “We can’t let him go in there alone, he’s going to lower the rating of our guild if he dies in there,” urges Edgy. All eyes shift from the ranger to Ahranna.

            “How many attempts do we have before we can’t make the top ten anymore?” she replies.

            “About three, maybe four if the guild directly below us get unlucky.”

            “It’s worth a shot,” adds Bellanatrix, swaying her chain-clad body toward the wall of mist separating them from Phoebus.

            “Wait!” Ahranna shouts, running to stand in front of the gathering. “What about Leonard? None of us would even be here without him.” At the mention of their commander, the guild looks conflicted. They peer between one another in confusion, only to be cut off mid-thought by the sound of a long, loud horn.

            “Idiot… there goes one of our attempts. We’re down to two. Come on, if we don’t go in there now, Phoebus is going to knock us out of the league,” says Edgy, charging in through the mist, followed by many of the others. Bellanatrix and Ahranna look at one another, then eventually enter the mist themselves, accompanied by the remaining members.

            What could be seen of the room was not an awful lot. The illuminating puddles of blue did not carry out into the boss’s domain. In fact, there was no light at all other than a mysterious circle in the very center of the darkness. The only indication that they were still in the cavern was the obvious rock walls and odd mounds of earth.

Phoebus’s body lay within the very center, impaled by a lance made of uncut rock. Two, black, armour-clad legs stick out from the makeshift weapon. The guild settles themselves accordingly. Rangers and wizards press closely against the walls to stay out of the way of close-ranged attacks, whilst the warriors form a wall before them.

Ahranna takes careful steps toward the fallen Phoebus.

“Not too close, Ahranna. I am guessing the light will trigger the encounter!” Calls Bellanatrix, whom of which perches herself upon some raised ground to get a good view of the battlefield. The staff-wielding maiden stops, then extends her hand out toward the decimated man. Ribbons of green and gold energy twist around her body, spiraling over the outstretched hand. Her hair rises with the surge of mystical power, along with the impossibly short dress, displaying her generic, plain undergarments for the room to see. Once the intended spell completes, the magic rushes out toward Phoebus, eating away at his body like millions of tiny termites until nothing could be seen of him at all. The ‘termites’ return, only to re-form the shield-bearer’s body on the ground before Ahranna.

“Congratulations, you ate up one of our attempts at getting a clean kill on this boss, ‘Phoebee’,” barks Edgy. The ranger notches an arrow to his bow and shoots it directly into the chest of the revived man. Nothing happens; no blood can be seen; Phoebus doesn’t flinch; no harm had been done. The arrow fades after a few seconds, made obsolete by the lack of purpose and rules of friendly fire. Similarly, the lance of uncut rock used to originally kill him shimmers into nothing.

“But it got you to follow me, didn’t it?” The man cockily says, pushing himself up to a stand. He eyes Ahranna up and down, then reaches behind him and withdraws a blue vial out of nowhere and hands it to her. The healer accepts the trade and downs the entire vial in one tremendous gulp, revitalizing her energy pool.

“Idiot, we need to wait for Leonard, don’t screw it up for us any more than you already have,” chimes Bellanatrix. 

“Such little faith you all have. You forget that I know how this boss fight works. If you just listen to my tactics, we’ll get through this quick and easy. If we’re fast enough, we can even do it again for Leonard,” says Phoebus, readying his axe and shield.

“We only have two attempts left, if you think we’re getting this on the first go, you’ve got shit for brains,” blurts Edgy.

“Suit yourself. But, since your guild enjoys that element of surprise so much, enjoy this.” Phoebus rushes out toward the circle of light and stands in the very center. He casts his head to the side to offer the guild a malicious smirk, then diminishes into thin air like a slowly extinguishing candle.

“What a bastard…” murmurs Edgy.

“Immediate kick from the guild, as soon as Leonard returns,” adds Ahranna.

            The ground trembles; the cloud of smoke under the archway thickens, disabling anyone from being able to escape. Rangers notch their arrows; wizards start their incantations; the warriors raise their arms; Bellanatrix cants her right hand to the heavens and summons impish creatures to her sides, and Ahranna hides behind the closest rock.

            “Puny… soft… squishy things…” booms a voice from the shadows, “… thinking you can best me… ha! I smash!” silence then ensues. The guild is kept in suspense.

            “Does anyone see him? I mean, it’s supposed to be a giant; shouldn’t be hard,” says Bellanatrix.

            “I can’t see a thing, maybe move the close-range attackers into the light,” suggests Edgy. In agreement, the line of fighters shuffle forward, centering themselves in the light. “We don’t have a shield-bearer, so you’re all going to have to mitigate the damage by taking turns taunting the fella’.”

            “Ahhh… right where me can see you!” yells the inarticulate voice of the giant. A pillar of stone swipes out from the dark and clubs the entire row of valiant battlers. A resounding cacophony of profane words and gasps fill the air.

            “Fire at the north wall!” Edgy yells, leading a volley of projectiles in the direction of the suspected creature.

“Yes, Grandma, love you too!” growls the agitated voice of Leonard as he locks his bedroom door, tediously tip-toes around the clutter of his beloved den, then wedges his rear down into the chair.

“Don’t be too loud, Dorris has ears like a hawk, and she thinks what you get up to is fruity and unhealthy!” retorts his Grandmother.

The Commander raises up from his seated stance, only to find that his followers were nowhere to be seen. “Friends?!” he calls out, “a witch temporarily hexed my mind, where are you?”

            “Welcome back, beloved Commander. We’re currently dealing with the aftermath of Phoebus’s betrayal… in the boss room!” Bellanatrix responds over the clattering sounds of falling bodies and cheering voices. Despite the massacre currently taking place, everyone sounds relieved.

            “I felt something off about him the moment he joined us. I should have had better judgement… I am sorry, I guess we won’t have a chance of being in the top ten after all,” Leonard utters, placing both hands upon the invisible wall which kept the boss-room off limits to him. A vague image of a bloodied body sliding down the other side of the wall could just barely be made out from his point of view; locks of brown made it unmistakably Ahranna.

            “Don’t say that, Commander…” the healer says in a pained tone, keeping true to character as her body crumbles down to the floor in a ragdoll heap, “… you’re the best tactician in the game… we know you’ll make us prevail through this last attempt!” To add dramatic effect, she coughs, followed by a dying groan.

            Being that she was the last person to die, the invisible wall drops and Leonard stumbles through to the room, where he witnesses a masterpiece of sanguine horror. His friends: all scattered hither and thither, mangled and maimed, beaten and flattened. With a hung head, the silver-haired paladin kneels beside Ahranna, scooping her torso up into his arms.

            “Come back to me…” he whispers, raising a golden glove just above her chest. A glittering light beams from his palm and gradually engulfs the form of the maiden. Moments later, she gasps and flutters her eyes open to look upon him.

            “Commander… your light shines so brightly. Lead us through this darkness,” she weakly murmurs.

            “You can count on me. Rise, help me raise our friends,” says Leonard. Together, they both traipse carefully around the room, resurrecting the rest of the guild. Once they had all been accounted for, they gather at the entrance, staring with determination at the lit circle on the floor. One of the wizards reaches behind his back and pulls out skins of water for the group at a questionably fast rate.

            “Well, we clearly have to avoid that thing on the ground; it just one-shots whatever touches it,” Edgy states, downing the water-skin in one quick gulp. The skin, once empty, disappears.

            “How interesting…” contemplates Leonard.

            “Can’t see it though, that’s our issue. We tried firing into the shadows, but that only made it realize where we were,” says Edgy.

            “Did you try making your own light?”

            “Well, we didn’t exactly get a good shot at it. Phoebus sorta’ pulled the bugger, then logged off- I mean… disappeared into… wherever,” Edgy quickly corrects, remaining as in-character as possible.  

“Creatures in the dark can never hide from a Paladin; I think I know what it is we must do,” the Commander exclaims in righteous pride. Raising his shield, he ignites it with a tremendous aura of light. “Come, my companions! All of you! Together, we will show this fiend what it means to be great!” A clamor of cheers sings through the air as the guild huddle together behind their leader and prepare for whatever was to come.

“Puny… soft… squishy things…” booms the behemoth voice again as the group merge onto the peculiar circle, “… thinking you can best me… ha! I smash!” The familiar club of stone swings down upon the group, but contacts the shield and bounces back. For a few moments, the giant’s body is revealed, coiling back from the reflection of the glowing bulwark tightly gripped in Leonard’s grasp. Gnarled, muck-coloured skin loosely bound the thirty-foot creature, garbed only in a loincloth to hide its unmentionables.

“Attack, now!” he commands. Rangers fire off their arrows, embedding them into the neck-area of their foe. Wizards blast shards of ice and bolts of fire around the torso. The warriors cut and slash at the legs. Bellanatrix sends her devilish companions out to gnaw and nip at the giant’s ankles. Ahranna merely keeps close to Leonard’s back, watching her companions with a hawk-like stare, spying for any signs of harm being dealt back to them.

“Now me not nice no more, now me show you how me is when angry!” the giant roars in a berserk rage.

“Quick, this way!” Leonard yells, jerking his shield down, and with it: extinguishing the light. His group follow closely behind him as they dip into the shadows nearby. “Basic tactics, it attacks on triggers, we avoid the enrage,” he murmurs to the preparing group behind him.

“Where they go?” the giant blubbers. Leonard bends his knees, preparing to storm back out into the circle to repeat the former actions. Before he can so much as take the first step, a figure forms back into view, clad in black armour, an axe, and a shield. His head still tilts to look behind him, but of course, he sees nothing.

Phoebus begins to form words, but a colossal rock is mashed right on top of him, instantly wiping him out.

“Ahhh… right where me can see you!” yells the giant.

With a bored, agitated stare, Leonard sheathes his sword and offers a quick salute to the squashed Phoebus. “I hereby relieve you, knight,” he states with dignity. As his hand lowers from the salute, Phoebus’s body disappears from the room and an out-of-place chime echoes through the ears of the guild, signifying the banishment of the impatient man. “Right, friends… let’s win that ranking!” Leonard exclaims, rushing out into the circle with his trusted companions.

Cheers of encouragement ensue as the band of friends coordinate well through the powers of camaraderie, eventually leading them to defeat their foe and place fifth on the guild rankings list. Thanks to the misfortune of another team, however, Leonard and his followers are bumped up to fourth.

Stood around the body of the totaled giant, the gathered thank one another for the exciting evening, then gradually disappear in small clusters at a time. It was late after all, and bed beckoned everyone.

Ahranna and Leonard gaze at one another, sitting beside the warty nose of the humongous creature. The maiden pokes her staff at it for idle amusement.

“Ahri…”

“Yeah Lenny?”

“I know I’ve said this before, but you put on a -really- convincing girl voice, you know, for a guy.”

“Thanks,” Ahranna chuckles, which only prompts a giggle in response from Leonard.

“Fruity, very fruity…” groans an elderly voice from just outside Leonard’s door. The man whips his headphones off and looks behind him into the reality of his poorly-kept room. His immersion broken; his dignity wounded.

-End

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Cliché but with a Twist

“Catch up, Humpty; there’s a nice cake in it for you when we get back to the showers!” Yells the heckling voice of Eaglevalley University’s football superstar, Brick Williamson. A squabble of snickering and chest-beating ensues, made by the sheep-minded hyenas surrounding their beloved ringleader. “Finish at least one lap, and I’ll even serve you the cake myself!”

“Run Forest, run!” laughs the jock with his nose furthest up Brick’s prized behind. They were already done with their five laps, but stayed behind to watch their long-term victim, Humphry Jacobs, struggle through just one.

Loud, labored breathing purveys the air, pumping from the lips of the overworked locomotive which was Humphry. He hadn’t run a day in his life, at least not since he learned how to plug himself into a computer and uninstall real-world obligations. Kids since as early as middle school made fun of him for being large, but it oddly didn’t seem to bother him at all. Anything spat his way never seemed to penetrate his ears.

“He almost did it!” one of the other jocks yells, leaping up from his seat in the bleachers to join Humphry on the field. He blows into the boy’s pasty face and fans him with his hands. Another jock rushes down to do the same, over-exaggerating the importance of this completed lap.

“Boys! Stop messing around out here and get your asses to the shower room!” roars the Coach, bearing his teeth and displaying the intensity of an enraged grizzly… even if he looked more like a sunburned pelican with a vein-ridden throat tempered from fifty years of denying the need to simply approach closer rather than yell. The pests scatter; Humphry never reaches the finish line.

In the male locker room, the hiss of ten showers can always be heard going off at any point in the day. Eaglevalley raised many a sports star, so physical education classes occurred every hour.

Humphry quietly peels off his sweaty gym clothes and takes a clear, Ziploc bag from his trendy satchel with him to a chosen shower. Within said bag was a simple bar of soap. After tediously picking it out of its confinements, he sets it down on the ledge by the faucet.

The blaring, snare-drum noise of the less-than-warm shower occupied Humphry’s eardrums, making it impossible to hear Brick switching out his soap bar for one of the used urinal cakes next door from the lavatory. It didn’t take long for Humphry to realize what he had just lathered his chest in. Even the loud cackle of a gathering swarm around his shower got through to his ears and made the reveal all the more worse.

“See! Told you I’d get you your cake, Humpty!” Brick pulls back the clinging curtains, showing off the poorly pleased boy to the entire locker room.

“Urinal cake! That was a urinal cake!” laughs a captain obvious.

“Shut up,” says Brick, returning his full attention to Humphry.

The bullied boy doesn’t cry, or yell back, or even acknowledge the other people in the room mocking him. He simply stands there, trying to wash off the blue smear from his torso. Eventually, the spectacle became boring; it wasn’t fun if there was no reaction to make it that extra bit juicy.

“He’s so dumb; bet there’s nothing even up in that head of his. Doesn’t even know when he’s being spoken to,” a voice from the crowd spits out, finalizing the decision to disperse the swarm. Whether Humphry truly was absent in the mind at all wasn’t known to many; he seemed to be just a strange, careless oaf in the eyes of his peers.

Once all the suds cleared away, and with clothes rightfully hiding that which had previously been laughed at, Humphry made his way out to the bus stop.

A conveniently placed plug in the nearest wall serves as an excellent place to marry his phone charger. Blankly, he stares down at the black block in his hands, pressing down the power button to revive it as though he was trying to give CPR to a hand-held pet.

Before his phone can so much as enter the welcome screen, a myriad of beeps, dings, and whistles sing from the speakers in a chorus of attention-seeking. Slowly but surely, Humphry’s rather dull face peaks into an excited smile. Feeling eyes upon him from confused people also sat with him at the bus stop, he puts the device on silent and tries his best to open notifications as they pop up on his screen. A few untamed chuckles burst from his lips.

“Looking at porn?” sneers a voice from behind, belonging to just one of many throughout Humphry’s day to day. No response is given to him, however. Displeased with the lack of reaction, the man tries again, “hey! Egg-head, I’m talkin’ to you!”

The bus arrives, only giving Humphry a chance to charge twenty percent of his phone’s battery. With the amount of notifications he was receiving, it wouldn’t last long. Disregarding whomever had just rudely blurted out to him, he boards the bus and takes a seat right at the front, where nobody liked to sit. If bully number eighty-four still yelled out at him, he wasn’t paying enough attention to comprehend any of it. The goofy, happy grin remained plastered to his face.

“Any plans for Spring break, Humphry?” the bus driver asks, used to offering idle conversation to the person whom always sat closest to him. It took the boy a while pulling down his oral filters to realize who was speaking.

“Going to Europe, Mister Carl,” Humphry speaks up.

“Well… I’ll be damned. What’s got you goin’ over the pond? Is it a girl?”

“Lots.”

“Oh? Is that so?” chuckles Mister Carl.

“Mmhm.” And with that, the conversation was over. Mister Carl felt amused and confused all at once; Humphry sat up-right in his bus seat with a smile to make up for the terrible day, ten times over in fact.

Three days into Spring, Brick hosts a party at his Uncle’s beach pad. The jocks gather around the television. A hoard of hot wings, tortilla chips, cheesy dips, and donuts conceal the coffee table from sight. Empty beer cans litter the floor, being picked up by a few quietly gossiping girls.

“Hey babe, you hooked the right channel up to this thing, right? Hey!” Brick snaps to the blonde of the bunch.

“Yeah, yeah… Sports.” she snorts back, throwing a hat picked up off the floor at his chest. He catches it and uses the back-end of it to spank her thigh. She releases a shrill gasp and giggles away with her entourage.

“These don’t look like the normal commercials though… looks like a bunch of dork shit I’ll never buy. My laptop already has a keyboard…” Brick chucks his hat back onto the floor and cracks open his beer with one finger. Foam and liquid spill out onto the floor, but he couldn’t give even an inch of care about any mess he makes.

The television finishes up a commercial advertising an eighteen-button mouse for smoother performance in high-intensive games. What comes on next portrays a large room filled to the brim with cheering people waving flags of various countries. A commentator with a booming, German accent blasts through the speakers: Welcome to Galaxy Warlords’ Fifth Annual E-Sports Championship!

“Aw, babe… are you serious? It’s E-Sports… Whatever the hell that means!” complains Brick.

“I thought the E stood for ‘every’… like every sport!”

“Dumb blonde…” Brick reaches for the remote, only to be slapped on the chest by the jock to his right.

“Dude, dude, dude- check it out!”

“I’m changing it, shut up!”

“No, look!” the jock grabs Brick’s face and forces him to look at the screen. Representing the United States, top of the leaderboards, not only in the US of A, but worldwide… four-time champion… the grand-daddy grenadier… star-destroyer supreme… Humphry Jacooooobs!

“No… fricking… way…” Brick breathily whispers, spreading his arms open wide to hold back the other boys at each side of him, more-so to cope with the shock.

“I love you, Germany! So glad to be back here, maybe I’ll stay this time!” Humphry announces. The crowd cheers; cameras pan to show a sea of girls screaming over the edges of the stage, holding their hands out toward him. Humphry looks to the commentator beside him, murmurs an inaudible question, and is given a confirming nod. He then gives the microphone over and rushes toward the edge of the stage to touch the hands of various girls, sign autographs, and take pictures. Ha, ha ha! We’d love to have you, Humphry, looks like you won’t have any trouble in finding a place to sleep. At these words, the crowd erupts into laughter and wolf howls. Will anyone be able to beat this Galactic Hero? Or should we just hand over the two-million-euro cash prize to him now? Naaah, only joking! Up next fr- the broadcast comes to an abrupt stop as the television screen is switched off.

“I can’t believe it…” Brick whispers, “all this time I thought he was just some kind of idiot… but he was just playin’ dumb with me this whole time-… I’m not the dumb one here! I’m not!” He flails his arms like an infant being told no. During his tantrum, he knocks the beer out of the jock’s hand to his left and ends up with a wet crotch. The guy to his right cackles out in a chimpanzee laughter. When Brick turns to glare at him, he notices a phone being pointed in his face.

“Best reaction ever, this is going on YouTube!” he yells, leaping up from the couch to avoid Brick’s gorilla arm-swings.

“I’ll break your phone, I swear to god. Get the hell out of my house, everyone!”

“Brick?” calls out his girlfriend,

“Even you, just go, get out!” With haste, wet-pants Brick kicks everyone out of the house, forcing them to find their own ways home or elsewhere. He drags his feet back to the couch, where he flickers on the television again. It showed an interview between Humphry and an extremely enticing lady with bright-blue hair in a slim-fitting black dress.

Before either Humphry or the interviewer could speak, Brick mutes the television and just looks between them with his head in his hands. Although what was being said was inaudible, pictures often flashed up on the screen showing Humphry celebrating with his presumed fans. One of the pictures displayed him sat intensely gaming whilst bikini models tried to pine for his attention.

Amidst the collage of images being presented, Brick occasionally caught his reflection in the mirror; not only himself, but also the trash cluttering the floor, the cheap food on the table, and the wet stain on his crotch from the spilled beer. No friends, no girlfriend, not even his uncle, just him alone.

Humphry’s face appears back on the screen, he smiles into the camera and gives two giant thumbs up.

Brick reaches for the remote and turns off the television screen.

Thanks to the release of a video depicting Brick’s reaction to Humphry’s online fame, the cat was out of the bag. The bullying came to an abrupt stop for the fifth-time Galaxy Warlords Champion. As an act of truce (but also a means of getting on the rich kid’s good side) jocks have been lining up to smear urinal cakes over themselves. An online club started at Eaglevalley University to show the hard-done-by students a new side to life. Finally: Brick transferred to a new state, where he’s now being mentored by people which he would have bullied at one point in his life in the arts of e-sports… hoping to one day knock the crown off of Humphry’s head, all in the name of pride. End.

Cyber Reincarnation

I’ve been toying around with this concept for a novel a while now. Did a bit of an introduction! Hope you enjoy!

1

How much Benjamin liked what he saw could be found in the way he judged himself up and down in the bathroom mirror. First, he turned left, prodded the fat on the side of his hip, then did the same to the right. The way his finger sprang back out again, like bushing down on a memory-foam pillow, displeased Ben. Aged fat, judging by the density of the mass between bone and skin. Without a doubt, Benjamin’s overweight body caused him a great deal of shame. Sucking in didn’t help, it just made him look like wide oval instead of a wide circle, besides, he didn’t have the strength to keep that big gut sucked in always. It didn’t matter what the rest of him looked like; the first thing people thought of when they saw Ben, involves his unhealthy eating habits. Though, the condition of the rest of him certainly did contribute, at least a little, to his overall first impression. Greasy, dirt-blonde hair meekly hangs from atop his potato-shaped head, clinging to the sides of his pimple-face like an octopus desperately trying to hold on to a boulder during rough tides.

Gems amidst muck, a suitable description for the only appealing part one may pay attention to about Benjamin’s overall visage. His eyes. These are the kind of eyes that photoshop geniuses spend hours trying to produce in vanity photo-shoots. A green that can’t be compared to any corny gemstone or precious material. With any true treasure, however, it must be found. In Benajamin’s case, his eyes can only be found when he separates forehead fat from cheek pudge.

He had an appearance difficult to adapt to; luckily for him, he didn’t spend enough time around other people to give them the chance of judgement. Like many others in this technological era, cyberspace allowed Benjamin to be the person he wanted to be, and cram as many carbohydrates into his maw as he so desired. Psychologically, this fat lard convinced himself that every poor choice made in the real world, could easily have a pretty ‘cover’ thrown over it.

“I’m headed to the Gym,” he might say to one of his many lady followers. Little did they know, what he really meant goes along the lines of: “I’m about to mute your chat for enough time to convince you I was away at the Gym, but I’m actually just going to sit here and finish off my chicken wings so that I don’t get oily slime on my keyboard.” After Ben cleans his hands off enough to type again, always forgetting to pick out the crumbs from under his nails (Which he ends up chewing on later anyway), he might unmute the chat and say something like, “Man, I felt like I was the only one there. Had all the machines to myself, lol.” Of course, the reactions of praise from whomever he spoke tricked his internal chemicals to make him feel good about himself. Even if the life he created didn’t exist: who could call him out on it? It may as well be true.

What girl settles for an over-grown lima bean living in their mother-pod? Yes, to compliment poor Benjamin’s already unfortunate existence with a tasteful cliché: he lives in his parents’ basement. What used to be a recreational living space and laundry room: now a complete bedroom and bathroom for the chick that could never fly from the nest. At first, his parents seemed fully on board with the whole idea of staying an extra few years at home until confidence eventually plucks him away, but the notion has since grown less-appealing with Ben’s twenty-eighth birthday passing by.

Despite the many hundreds of times his parents have threatened to kick him out of he doesn’t start his own life, they just can’t bring themselves to following through and forcing him away. Benjamin had a troubling childhood. His weight gained him no friendships, and a whole bucket of bullies. Always a struggling little victim in his mother’s eye: he will always require babying. The generosity and patience of Mister and Mrs. Cole (Ben’s parents): two notions constantly taken for granted by their unmotivated son. With no idea what he wants to do or where he wants to go ‘when he gets older’, the Cole-family trio sits in limbo.

A resounding creek bounces off the walls of Benjamin’s little nook, created by an overburdened computer chair. If a reward existed where furniture could be commended for their outstanding performances, this chair would be the reigning champion ten times in a row. The arm-rests: naught but lazy limbs which loosely hung by each side; over time, Ben’s expanding thighs broke the sockets, leaving them impractical. The acne-laden oaf makes a few bold scoots forward; each time his rear lifts to jolt the seat forward, it lets loose an unintelligible scream of pain which humans can only acknowledge as a squeak. For everyone living above him, this noise symbolized two things. 1) Benjamin woke up and can now accept his lunch, or 2) Benjamin just returned from the bathroom. Any squeak before one in the afternoon indicates that he pulled an all-nighter.

A desperate stab at the computer’s on-switch, followed by irate tapping on the desk means all is not to accord with the pint-sized hippopotamus. An open phone on the un-made bed behind him, depicting a long wall of text from a female, confirms this. Sweat oozes from only the armpits and under-breast; adding fresh patches of hue to the other miscellaneous stains found on Ben’s sleep-shirt. When a blue screen pops up stating at a system update temporarily seizes his computer, two fists come down upon what appears to be a table. Plastic bottles, stiff tissues, and candy wrappers cover every inch of the desk; the only time when room is made upon it is when Benjamin swipes a corner-full of trash onto the floor and replaces it with trash-to-be. By the time Benji the Glutton manages to uncurl his sausage fingers and get the blood running through them again, the update completes.

Although the symbols on his keyboard’s buttons rubbed away long ago, Benjamin programmed his mind with the pristine whereabouts of each letter and number. Typing away through the dark nights trained him quite well. In a blur of movements, the password is typed in, and an instant messaging program pops up across the screen. After observing how quickly her son could type, Mrs. Cole often joked to her husband that Benjamin could be an Olympic racer if only the energy transferred to his pitiful excuse for legs.

Gulping down a wad of nervous saliva, Benjamin scrolls through a list of contacts: none of them bore notifications less than fifteen: popular for the wrong reasons. Britney, Samantha, Alie, Emily, Tania, Chloe: all female names. As the seconds rolled by, more notifications send a light ping through the speakers hidden beneath the plastic fallout of what looked like a child’s feast. The names scrambled as each new notification sent that particular girl to the top of the list, only to be taken over by another. It doesn’t take long to find the odd one out: Kat, with only one notification.

“I know who you are, and quite frankly, it makes me sick. I can’t believe you lied about who you are. That’s called Catfishing you know? It’s not right. You’re messing with people’s emotions. I’m going to make it my personal goal to talk to every single one of your followers and show them my evidence. You’re not getting away with this, Kevin- or should I say, Benjamin? Sick freak. This just goes to show that you -are- just like all the other guys. You aren’t as different as you say you are. Thanks for ruining my world. – Kat.” Attached to the bottom of the message is a screenshot of Benjamin requesting for edits to be made on a picture he used to serve as the mask to his cyber-identity. Most certainly, tact lacks in this instance. Foolish boy, to think that a few mere edits to an already existing picture might throw followers off his scent: karma in action.

The longer Ben stared at the message, the lower his heart sunk into his chest. His spine had been torn out and ice water filled its place. With a trembling hand, he dares to open the other messages.

“I told you my secrets… -Emily.”

“We were going to get married one day… -Samantha.”

“I hope you literally get hit by a car… -Britney.”

“LOL you’re so fat! -Tania.”

They all knew. Benjamin’s cyber life potentially ends here. All the relationships he’d been working on for the past eight years; all the memories and phone calls; all the emotions felt sat within a funeral coffin that embodied his instant messenger program, laid out for him to stare at with nothing but a quiver in his chin, and a sniffle at his button nose.

Protecting himself from real life consequences prompts Benjamin to delete every single profile he ever made. The last thing he needed: his parents brought into this humiliating mess. With everything deactivated and swept from the face of the internet, deleting his messenger account only remained. Plucking up the courage, the grief-struck man pushes his cursor toward the ‘Options’ button, treating it like a heavy paper-weight. On the way, he clicks once more on Kat’s chat box. He had one last thing to say.

“I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” The words typed are misspelled a few times, for the sporadic hiccups which make Ben’s entire torso bob up and down prove a difficult obstacle to work around. Immediately the bottom of the chat box displays the words, ‘Seen: 2:36 by Kat’. Three dots follow, indicating the girl’s reply is eminent.

Too afraid to see what she might have to say, Benjamin bolts his cursor around the screen and deletes his account then and there.

What could he do now? Any sane person might see this as a sign to break the cybernetic bonds and do something with their lives at last. Benjamin is not a sane person. At a steady pace, the cursor moves down the screen. Click: ‘Create New Account’; They never do learn.

Salad-Extravaganza

It was about that time again; University students often spent half the day worrying about school, and half the day worrying about what to make for dinner. Already five in the evening, and I still don’t know what to do. My stomach grumbles a storm, still grumpy from the morning of baby carrots and Dasani water. Hey, as long as it killed the hunger pains, right?

I had nothing in the fridge, nothing in the cabinets, heck, nothing hidden in the back-seat of my car either… which was odd. Sometimes, if I got lucky, I could fish out a packet of crisps from a forgetful Subway sandwich trip.

I sat my rear down at the desk, pulled back a drawer filled with menus, and laid them all out before me. “Greasy, greasy, greasy, healthy -but- boring, greasy… Perhaps I’ll just do pizza?” I spoke aloud. My self-conscious told me the right choice would be to pick something health; I -did- promise myself I would try not to pig out on as many carbs. Do I want that bikini-body or not?

As I reached for the menu of the local salad-extravaganza bar, the menu for Pizza Hut flipped over and covered the top of it. My heart leapt up into my throat for a sheer moment, until I realized the window was open. After dealing with the problem by shutting it, I returned to slide the Pizza menu to the side. Let’s try this again. I reach out to grasp the salad-bar menu, but this time, the 5 Guys menu dives in the way.

Abruptly, I stand up. The air conditioning had been off all day; the wind wasn’t causing anything to move. With fright spurring me to dash, I spin and flee toward the door. Before I could get my hand upon the doorknob, fast-food menus slapped against the door like a raining volley of ammunition. Regardless, I tug swing it open and charge toward the stairs. The menus cling to my body, making me run slower and slower. Each step forward caused my breathing to accelerate in exhaustion. The plastic, laminated material made my skin sweat and uncomfortable.

“Enough! Enough! Enough!” I cry, ripping each menu from my body to try and dispose of them within a garbage bin at the end of my apartment’s road. Goodbye burgers, goodbye fries, goodbye pizza, goodbye fried chicken. As each menu laid to rest within the bin, it seemed eternal.

I returned home, sweaty and unnerved, frustrated and tired. There sat upon my desk was one remaining menu.

Salad-Extravaganza.

Good Boy!

“Who’s a good boy?” Coos the voice of Young Master Mary. Every time she wiggles her table scraps above our heads, her pastel-gray hair springs up and down on her shoulders like the long, skinny noodles she often eats for lunch.

“Mary, stop feeding the dogs from the table, they’ll develop bad habits.” Says Master Mom. If there was one thing canines and Humans had in common, it was that the young typically looked rather similar to their parents. Master Mom, too, had springy hair, but it’s a much darker shade of gray, and always tied up on top of her head. She’d be a poodle in another life.

Whilst her bright silver eyes were distracted, my co-dog, Dude, leaps up and snatches that which my short, stubby little legs can’t muster a bounce strong enough to reach. I whine, widen my eyes, and then scoot up to the heel of Young Master Mary.

“Sorry, that was the only thing left on the plate. Gonna’ have to wait for dinner.” She apologizes, then contrastingly kicks me away with the bridge of her foot. This was a universal sign to all co-dogs that it was time to leave the food-room. Sometimes the Masters indulge me in a treat from the fridge if I dragged my wet nose across the tiled floor in my departure. They said it made me look sad, like I have ‘real Human emotions’. If Master Dad was at the gathering place for food, however, the chances of getting anything were close to zero. ‘He’s a dog, he’s food oriented.’ Master Dad usually says.

“Dude, you know that I’m Good Boy, why did you take my food?” I yap, staring up at the shaggy, ebon-gray son-of-a-bitch that was my co-dog. Dude looks like one of those bushes I typically pee on with my friends, and the cat, and the cat’s friends. If I focused on that imagery enough, I could distract myself from our clear size difference.

“I’m Good Boy now.” Dude says: his tone, gurgling and menacing: sounding like the machine our Masters use in which food goes in, but drink comes out after the loud growling finishes. In a fit of rage, I defy the preposterous words of the big pee-bush by leaping upon the leather couches in excitement. They were all pushed together, so my stubby little legs easily met each new surface. The light of the living room, dim as it is, caused me to stumble where vision lacked, but I continued my demonstration.

“You cannot be Good Boy! That is my name! That is my name only! They told me! I heard them! You cannot deny it is my name! Look at me! Look at me! I am Good Boy!” My yelling went on and on, crazed. Dude laid under the coffee table, crunching on the ends of his toenails with indifference. Each time my little paws hit the top of his shelter, he’d express displeasure through agitating muttering.

“Shut up in there!” Booms the voice of Master Dad, causing me to lose my balance a final time and knock over a cup of drink.

“Uh oh…” Dude says, scooting out from under the coffee table to watch from the hallway instead. I couldn’t move, the living room wasn’t a living room anymore; it was a crime scene, and I was the culprit! Getting yelled at by the Masters is the worst fate any co-dog can ever experience. Even though I wanted to run away, I knew Master Dad would find me anyway. There I sat, beside the puddle of drink I spilled. My beady, black eyes dart toward Dude; he watched me like a funeral attendee, or a vulture observing the corpse of a fellow vulture: conflicted in what to do.

“Bad boy!” Yells Master Dad. “You are a bad boy!”

Constriction with a Conscience

“Oh come on now, don’t do this to me.” No matter how many times or how many ways I sit down in grandpa’s old pickup truck, the damned seat-belt never wants to cooperate with me. I pull it slow, I pull it fast, it doesn’t matter. Heck, it doesn’t even matter -which- seat I sit in. The things are stubborn. Like tired old asses, the belts won’t progress a step forward or backward, they just want me to stay exactly where I am. They worsened over time, but in intervals.

The first time it came to my attention was when I dropped a nice, thick wad of hubba-bubba bubble gum straight into the buckle. I must have been about eight. Mum let me go on holiday with Grandpa for a week at Disney, but now it was time to go home. He spent two hours trying to get all the melted goop out of the button. It was a hot day and my sunburned skin stuck to the leather seats like syrup on a pancake. If it wasn’t for Grandpa putting on all those funny voices he used to do, I would have been totally miserable.

The second interval was my first day at High School (which I almost missed). Throughout the whole car-ride, I blabbered on about all the boyfriends I am bound to have over the next four years of my life. Grandpa kept shaking his head and telling me to put my studies before all that jazz. Once at the drop-off point, try as I might, I couldn’t get the belt to budge. “Oh for…” almost heard Grandpa swear that day, but I didn’t. The seat-belt confined me to my seat, wrinkling the brand-new clothes I bought two weeks ago for this day only. Eventually, I was released. Without even a fraction of a glance backward, I fled the scene in embarrassment, hoping nobody saw the struggle.

University-bound, was I, when the third hassle came. Mum’s busy working, and Grandpa’s truck is big enough to carry my futon in the back of it. I’m closer to him than anyone else in my family anyway, so I didn’t feel any misery from the lack of parent. “Think you’ll be coming back for Spring Break?” Grandpa asked. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “I just want to party!” Even if he laughed it off then, I wish I’d gone back for Spring Break after all. When we rolled up to my new dorms, I tried to unclip my seat-belt: it simply wouldn’t give out. The nerve and attitude of this damn contraption could put an angst-ridden pre-teen to shame. “You’ll have to take your classes in the car, I’m afraid.” Grandpa said after a good thirty minutes of trying to unjam the mechanics in the ill-mannered belt. Frustrated, I huffed without amusement.

Here I am now, at the fourth dilemma. No Grandpa this time, just me and the truck. Shortly after Spring Break his heart seized, then poof, out like a wick on a windy evening with a wide-open window. I stopped showing up to class; I stopped talking to mum; I stopped giving a damn. All I have left of Grandpa is a few pictures and this shabby pick-up. My intentions this evening -was- to drive out to the pier and drink to forget him, but the damn seat-belt won’t let me go. I tug and I pull, but it only tightens its embrace around me. As I scream out in grief and curse the way I never heard Grandpa curse, the belt pulls me in closer to the leather seats, where his smell still lingers.

Once calm, I decide against my evening of irresponsible intoxication and drive to my mum’s house. As I reached for the seat-belt, it clicked open without even the glimmer of a bother. “Thanks Grandpa.” I weep.

This One Time in Middleschool…

Prose

I once knocked myself out at a basketball match. It was funny, I guess. Funny for the people watching. Funny for the coach, heck, even the mascot found it funny. I wasn’t even on the basketball team; I was just someone in the audience that came down to try and win a free tee-shirt. It was probably just going to end up a sleeping-shirt anyway, I’m not a triple-extra-large, in truth. I found the best way to make it all go so wrong so fast. There was a little trampoline a few meters from the post of the net. The goal was to jump on it and propel the ball toward the large circular goal. I say large, because it was. How hard could this be? Running like a cheetah (an overweight retired one), I leaped upon the trampoline and sprung into the air. Or at least, I would have, if I didn’t land on it funny to begin with. To cut a short story shorter, the trampoline slid backward and I shot to the ground like a faulty missile. The ball flung from my hands, hit the bottom of the basketball hoop and smacked into my face. The laughing of the crowd turned into what could be described as crashing waves at the beach. My dizziness couldn’t quite piece everything together, so I remained there while my half-concerned half-giggling parents attended to me. My adolescent pride was snuffed like a burning wick, attributing to much of my awkwardness in the later years of my life.

The Ol’ ID Trickerooni

“Will it just be the six pack and the dark chocolate?” The store owner asks, moving the scanner toward the two items.

“Mmhm, movie night for one.” She replies.

“Beats workin’ ‘till 3am.” He refrains the scanner from the six pack, then looks at the woman. She stares back. “ID?”

She laughs, “You trying to get cheeky with me, young man?” Whilst asking, her hands move to sit on her hips.

“You don’t look a day past eighteen.” He responds, yet still refuses to scan her alcohol. Silence falls between them, the woman taps her long nails on the desk.

“You’re joking right?” Her laughing stops. “You can’t see the wrinkles?”

“Wrinkles? What wrinkles?” He says, setting his scanner back down on its holster.

“Heh, alright… Joke’s over. I’ve got lasagna in the oven at home waiting for me.” She waves her hand, dismissive to the façade.

“I can’t sell you this alcohol without an ID, store rules.”

“I understand that you’re trying to flatter me, but for goodness sakes, I was born in the seventies!” With her raised voice, the store owner backs away by a step and reaches for the phone on the wall. “Are you serious!? I’m graying and I’ve got whiskers in places a young lady shouldn’t have whiskers!”

“It is my right to refuse service; your yelling is threatening to me, I am beginning to feel unsafe.” He slowly removes the phone from the wall. “This can all be solved if you show me your ID.”

“I left it at home, can’t you see I’m wearing my comfies? This is absolutely bizarre, I haven’t had to show my ID since I was in my early thirties!” The woman throws the chocolate bar onto the table and turns to exit.

“Well, that didn’t go accordingly to plan.” Murmurs the shop owner.

“You’re not supposed to wait until she gives you the ID, idiot. You have to make her feel young, and then give her the alcohol anyway.” Comes the voice of a janitor in a nearby aisle.

“Oh.”

Where’s Amber?

Of all the words that could have started my day out, today it was the word ‘shit’. In my groggy state, I couldn’t comprehend much, but that all came to an end when my body thrusts forward, only to be restrained by a damp seat-belt. The whiplash lasted but few moments; once I was out of my daze, I gradually took in my surroundings and pieced my thoughts together.

“Am-ber?” I call out, though apparently at a low decibel. My ears felt warm, tingly, and itchy all at the same time. With a clammy hand, I go to scratch my right lobe, only to find a cotton wad sticking out of my hearing canal. Once both were removed, I focused less on myself and more on what the heck was going on.

I sat in the passenger seat of a disheveled little car, a car which I don’t remember ever getting into. A shirt three times too large for me adorns my small, feminine torso. Some kind of baseball team uniform. I must have ruined my own clothes at the party; I could only hope I was being driven home by some kind gent.

“Ain’t worth it, go!” Whispers a frantic voice in the backseat. Before I even had the chance to look around to see who was driving, two car doors swing open and a black leather toiletry bag is thrown down in my lap. They didn’t even bother to close the doors behind them, as they were already away and into the twisted mess of bushes that lines the dense woodlands.

My world flashes blue and read, gradually becoming more and more refined in hue as the source approaches. The familiar cry of a police siren caused a sense of safety to cradle my anxious and confused heart. Despite the odd circumstances, I refused to move even an inch until the police came to my window. I didn’t know what was in this bag on my lap, and I didn’t want to find out, either.

A tall, dark skinned copper strolled up to my window: one hand holding up a flashlight, whilst the other lingered about his firearm’s holster. When our eyes met, he flashed the torch in my eyes, forcing me to shut them tight.

“We got ‘er!” He calls back to his car, “Missy, you don’t even know how much trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.” The cop growls, menacingly.

I could only defyingly stare into the light he shone in my eyes, expressing a doe-like fear.

What had I done?

Boring Mister Bert

Tick… tick… tick… Oh, will that clock ever shut up? No matter how loudly people chewed their company spearmint gum, it only ever added more ticks to the tick. It seemed to bother one person in the office more than others, though. Ted Burt, a boring name for a seemingly boring man. He’s always nursing a headache, no doubt from boring himself half-to-death. Ted didn’t care about anything or anyone, and anyone didn’t care about anything to do with Ted. Once he left those rotating, spinny-doors, who gave a rat’s ass where the rest of his story went?

One time, Martha from the secretary desk saw him buying a meatball sub from Subway. “Shut up Martha, who cares.” Promptly came the response of Rebecca, the other secretary. He was just another clock-in; just another name and number on the roster.

Tappa-tappa-tappa… goes the racing fingers of all within the office. If you weren’t tapping, you weren’t working. Sometimes Ted clicked his fingers on the top of his keyboard, but doesn’t write anything down. Sometimes his headache made it too hard for him to focus. While everyone else turned in their reports on time, Ted pulled out his never-ending excuse book to try buy a later deadline.

One time, Andy from the security office saw him coming out of a Party City store. “What did he buy?” Martha asked. Andy claims to have seen a packet of glow sticks fall out of one of Ted’s bags.

“Shut up Andy.” Rebecca chimes in. Nobody would believe such a stupid story, certainly not about boring Mister Burt.

Tsst… tsst… tsst… comes the sweeping noise of the janitor. Everyone had gone home, all except for Ted. There was far too much work to be done. A stack had accumulated in front of him which consisted of late work from the past two weeks or so. With the headache pounding away in his noggin like bottled thunder, the light at the end of the tunnel was but a fleck of dust upon a blackboard. “That’s one full bin.” Murmurs the janitor, as he empties Ted’s trash-can into his much larger one. An avalanche of empty plastic water bottles and tiny triangular paper cups spill out. The man was more hydrated than the ocean floor itself.

One time, Bill, Rebecca’s husband from accounting, saw him sleeping at a bus stop early one morning. “Shut up Bill.” His wife groans, tired of hearing the blasphemous rumours of Mister Boring. It couldn’t have possibly been Ted: not in a million years.

Click… Click… Click… Heels upon marble.
Approaching surely.
“Thought I’d find you here, wild boy.”
A sultry voice.
Ted looks up and casts a grin.