This is the whole story of Stephan and Marc, by request of a friend. This was a character development exercise to help me make the characters and story progression in my music video project more impactful.
About 25 years ago around this time of year I transferred to Clearwater Middle School. I was a new kid, sure, but it was nothing new. Michigan, California, Oregon, Nebraska… wherever my father found work is where we scurried off to next. I became a ghost after awhile: fade in, fade out. I’d appear sometime in the middle of a semester, stand up and tell everyone my name, some hobbies, my favorite color, the names of my pets, and that sort of junk. Later on, once I hit middle school, all of that stopped. It would just walk in, take the only available seat, and get mentioned in passing as the new kid. There was a whole lot less ceremony and a whole lot more reality: I learned introduction or not nobody really cared about me. Why should they? I didn’t grow up with them like every other person around, and I don’t think I’m the least bit interesting. Not like any of that was a problem though. I maintained a believable front of contentment.
Anyways, to the point. I’m here at Clearwater Middle. I’ve come in on a Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of a week, a unit, and the year. Nobody knows me. I sit through the teacher blabbing on about this and that, things I’ve already learned from the last school I was at. After about a page and a half of filling in squares on graphing paper, the bell rings for the lunch period, and I watch students file on out of the classroom. I’m determined to finish filling in the squares on this second page, especially considering I have a sack lunch so there’s no need for me to leave anyways. Once I finish with that I reach in to my brown paper bag for my peanut butter and jelly, then stop. There’s another kid in the classroom still, and he’s just sitting at his desk playing with legos. Legos. In the seventh grade. I dunno what was so striking about that now that I look back on it, but I suppose anyone would be jarred if they turned toward a place they long figured to be empty, only to discover they hadn’t been alone the entire time. Even when the classroom was full I felt alone, blissfully unaware that there was another nobody that felt the same. So I walk over to this kid sandwich in hand, freshly slid out of the flimsy plastic bag. I sat down in the desk adjacent to him and took a bite, admiring his unfaltering focus.
“Whatcha making, there?”
And that was that. We didn’t exchange names, hobbies, or favorite colors. I just sat there silently, eating my sandwich, and watched him build castles until the bell rang. When I returned to my seat and watched the first kids enter the room, I followed them with my gaze until I saw that kid in the corner again. He had already packed all his legos away and was staring out the window, as if he had something to hide.
It’s sometime late in March. I’ve got my arm around Stephan, and I’m walking him home. We’re taking it slow. I don’t really know what to say, so I don’t talk that much. He seems to be fine being quiet as well, but the silence hangs over the two of us like a cold damp cloth. I want the sun and the sky to be smothered in clouds. I want the road to be clear of cars. I want him to forgive me for not doing anything back there. I’m not even sure if he knows I was off in the sidelines, cowering in the shadows like some sort of frightened pup. If he doesn’t know then I don’t really have anything to worry about, but I still worry. I don’t think I’ll be able to forgive myself.
We continue along the road in staggered footsteps, and I do my best to support him if he accidentally puts too much weight on his bad leg. It’s step by dreaded step like this, and the sunshine and birds chirping and white picket fences make me sick. I continue to wonder if he saw me or not. Regardless, does this make up for it? I mean surely this counts for something, right?
“Hey, this is my house.”
Oh. I stop and direct us through a short white gate and up to a light green house with a clearly visible concrete foundation and cracked paint near the bottom. Clumsily juggling his impaired balance and the screen door, I pull us into the house and close the door behind me as carefully as possible. Stephan’s father is asleep in the living room, blanketed by the soft gray glow of the television. I drop Stephan’s backpack and my own, then turn to face him.
“Let’s get that blood off your face.”
He smirks weakly.
January. It’s— let’s see. It’s January 17th. My third day at school. Today I decide to talk to the lego kid again, mainly because I wandered outside for about a minute at lunch yesterday. Everyone else is sorely unapproachable. I learn that the kid’s name is Stephan, and I introduce myself as Marc. He doesn’t feel like doing anything besides legos I guess, because he doesn’t really look at me during our brief exchange of names. I even could have sworn I saw him tighten when I went to talk to him. Maybe he just doesn’t like people, but my curiosity was welling. The next day when everyone had cleared out I went over and sat next to him again, but this time he stopped building and abruptly repositioned himself to face me with his full body. Looking me dead in the eyes, he spoke like a dagger:
“What’s your problem?”
“What do you want from me? Why do you keep on coming over here?”
“Well I umm— I’m new here, right?” I vomited a nervous, squeaky laugh. “Just trying to make a friend, I suppose.” He loosened at that.
“Oh. Right. Sorry.” He slunk right back into playing with legos, the air thick with embarrassment.
“Not a problem,” I mindlessly muttered, still reeling in shock. After a pause that took a life of its own, I recovered and livened the encounter. “So what do you like to do besides playing with bricks?”
The bell rang right then and there. Both our heads snapped to the door, and I sighed. I shuffled back to my desk and turned around to once again find him absently staring out the window.
The Wise Beast - Part 5
I swallowed. What relief it was to swallow. To have moisture inside my body once again.
“I…” I began, my first instinct was to berate the man, my surroundngs and everything else. But I remembered I was not myself. I was powerless. I restarted, with a much more subdued tone. “I am well enough, kind Guard.”
I bowed my head. Bowing really does not suit me. I needed to introduce myself. It would be expected, the first thing a guard asks to a stranger at the gate. Name. And then reason for coming. But I couldn’t very well state I was of the House of Auric. In my weakness, it would be a death sentence, even out here, wherever here actually was. Our enemies stretch far and wide.
“I am called Darlington.” My mind worked furiously. I had taken a lantern before I came to this place, and was required to …find it’s story. That is what the Voice had said. But NOW I needed a Reason. An Excuse for my presence at the gate. And with the Hellscape at the front gate, only someone insane or possessed would… A spark of hope. An Idea. A Chance. Maybe, just maybe… “I followed a vision.” I lied. “A vision of a Lightless Lantern. Do you know of it?” My Art had left, but perhaps my wit and silver tongue had not.
“Darlington,” The guard echoed, temporarily lost in thought. “What an odd title. From where do you hail?”
While waiting for a reply, the guard shuffled about the room and organized some of the stray things that had been left about the room while the Noble was unconscious. He returned some bottles to their proper cupboards, and was considering returning the pitcher of water they had used to the kitchen when the nurse returned. He was carrying a tray with a plate of oddly colored bulbous flesh. It looked revolting, but the guard clearly thought otherwise. He swiped a finger across the surface of whatever that was and licked it, humming with delight.
“Oh Maker, Nurse Racken went and got you a plate of barg’s head, you lucky fiend! It’s my favorite, it is.”
Olivius Racken plopped the tray right down into the noble’s lap, gave the guard a playful punch for tasting the patient’s food, and left the room habitually. The guard, having lost his train of thought, looked down at the Noble.
“Well go on, eat! You must be starving!”
The pile of revolting organic mush quivered from the guard’s enthusiasm.
The Special Day
The Wise Beast
There once was a man named Thadeus who could choose to live forever. In every moment that he existed he got to decide if he wanted to keep on living, or if he wanted to die. The reaper itself had no power over him. In the beginning, Thadeus tried to live a normal life. He married and had children and visited his parents and friends often, honestly believing that he could keep that up and be happy. It was on his daughter’s third birthday, in the middle of cutting up a shark themed cake (her favorite), that his phone began to ring. He handed the knife to Angeline, his love, and stepped aside to take the call. It was from his mother.
The line was dead silent for several seconds. Thadeus had to hold his breath in order to pick up on the faint sounds of sobbing.
“What’s wrong?” He choked on the worry that had welled up in his throat.
“Your father— he’s been diagnosed with cancer. They said if they were able to catch it earlier then there was a chance it could have been stopped, but…”
There was an overcast April day on a gravelly beach about an hour from home. His father was wearing his big black leather jacket and he was wearing the bright red sweater he got for his birthday. He remembers the picnic they had. The ankle high walk in the freezing ocean water. White feet and damp sandy socks. He remembers the twenty three nights he went to his parents’ room at midnight, unable to sleep. The soft glow of the television set. How warm it was between mom and dad. He remembers his fifth birthday, when his dad was in charge, and the mountain of cake he bought for him. All the board games they played together, and how his father never could beat him. He joined his wife in singing happy birthday to their daughter.
After his father’s funeral, Thadeus began to have second thoughts about everything. He became a passive observer, and he watched the world pass him by. He went from ‘daddy’ to ‘dad’. She went off to college, majoring in biochemistry. She met her boyfriend, and some years later they married. Thadeus’ best friend, Lucas, died in a car crash while riding his motorcycle on the freeway. His wife begins to question why he’s grown so distant. He is now called ‘grandpa’. He watches his mother grow lonely, depressed, and then sick. She passes away. Thadeus and Angeline get into a livid discussion about how he wasn’t aged a day. Before anyone gets the chance to call him ‘great grandpa’ he leaves.
On two other occasions, perhaps a century apart or so, Thadeus tried to establish a sense of normalcy. Every death that he witnessed further distanced himself from humanity as a whole. Eventually he became a passive observer, sitting on the sidelines of life and watching decades, centuries, and millenniums pass. He began to notice patterns of life in the people he watched, and as time crept ever forwards he formed theories, made assumptions. He generalized life. He defined archetypes. He told himself he had seen it all. It was at that moment he was greeted by Death. They talked briefly.
“Whatever is wrong? You seem so dissatisfied with immortality.”
“That’s because I am. I’ve come to the point where I’ve seen everything. I know everything. It’s dreadfully boring.” He sighed emptily.
“I know something you’ve yet to experience, Thadeus.”
“Oh? What is it?”
There once was a man named Thadeus who could choose to live forever. He chose to die.
Scarf the Bee, dangerous only when transformed into its monsterous and sassy bee demon form, decides to bother Hansel the human. Hansel is completely unaware of Scarf’s hidden deadliness. Perhaps they become friends at some point!
Still catching up on follower art, this one goes out to notidaho.
Notidaho is the most deliciously insane brain-smoothie drinking beauty capturing human machine on this side of the milky way galaxy. If he didn’t post ten trillion soulful artworks a day I’d still be following him. I still drop by from time to time, however. :D
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