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Prologue

Wings of Icarus

The closing prayer was said.

“It is finished.” I waited for years to say those words.This was a victory.I stood on the concrete and my enemies had fled, but that wasn’t enough. I was escorted through the crowd of familiar faces by my mother, who took no notice of my excitement. She knew this night was significant to me, but the exact products this night yielded, she had no idea. We walked through a lounge, where some kids were etching their names in a table with a knife. When they saw us, they scuttled away from my mom's wrath. Vandalism was her pet Peeve, but it wasn't mine. Nothing bothered me. In a few hours, they’d all be gone. 

Sitting in a bench in the lobby was my cousin, Julia. She was a thin, young lady with short, messy blonde hair. She looked a bit embarrassed about something, and when she saw me, she simply said goodbye, thinking I’d see her again in a few days. I wanted to stay and talk to her, but I knew I had to go.

I took a seat in our blue minivan with my brothers. They were all talking about a movie we just saw, and how awesome it was. Had I not been trying with this project, I’d probably have enjoyed it as much as everyone else.

For years, I had fought against a monster, and tonight, I finally rode out triumphant. It was a shame night had already fallen; a sunset to walk off into was the only thing missing. It was on the sleepless summer nights like this that I sat under the cool breeze, planning this day with enthusiasm and anxiety. For the past two years, my question was: What am I going to do when this is over? Tonight, I had an answer.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCExYO-NNMA “Look Out!” My comrade cried, but it was too late]; I was hit. I fell back against the concrete terrace as a searing pain shot up my arm. I lifted my sleeve to inspect the wound. It was solid red, and dodgeball-textured.

“Aww, you stole my kill again!” someone from the opposing team yelled.

“You’re out, you!” My killer, Joshua, shouted as though I didn't know a thing about dodgeball.

“I know, I know.” I muttered, shuffling toward the chain link fence. Seizing the moment, he threw another ball at my chest. I wish I could say I had a Bible in my breast pocket to block the bullet, but I only had a sucker there; that didn't stop the pain in my chest, or the anger that followed. The first ball he threw at me was part of the game, but the second, he threw for the sole purpose of being a jerk. I shouldn't have expected any less from Joshua, he was slender and slightly taller than me, making him look more like a tenth grader than a seventh grader. On his face was a look of triumph; he was a general who had just enjoyed seeing his enemies killed. “Dodgeball is not won by dying for your team,” he’d always say. “It is won by making your enemies die for theirs!”

Needless to say, I was always one of those enemies. I leaned on the chain link fence with the others in the dodgeball graveyard as Joshua had a good laugh with his half-brothers about his latest kill. They listened like they didn't just watch it happen.

This death wasn’t any more important than every other time I stood with my fallen comrades. Joseph Fradin was always out first, and he wore a strange cologne. To him, it smelled like aqua velva, to everyone else, it smelled of defeat.

I was the only one not cheering on my teammates, something else occupied my thoughts. Have you ever had one of those dreams that you know can change the world, but your stupid brain decides to forget about it instead? I had one of those last night. I remember it being about fifth grade, but everything else was tangled in the knots of my mind while the little guy in my head pulled his hair, frantically clicking around on his computer, yelling at it to work right. He also told my gut to calm down, but I couldn't help it, the school’s toxic lunch got a head start at ravaging my stomach. I wondered: what was poisoned today? The meat or the salad? Who knows?

The bell rang, and all the students went back to their class. They moved at a very slow pace that quickened only when the music teacher came around. Charlotte Sullivan was an old, grey teacher. Her face was not pretty to look upon, or at least, the bottom half wasn't. It looked as though someone was carving the most beautiful woman from top down, but got lazy after the nose. Her lips were thin, and her chin was an outstanding protrusion.

“Hurry, children, hurry to class.” She said. She had an annoying voice when she said that, I didn’t want to hear that all the way to music class, so I found a way out

“I, uh… I have to return the ball to Sophia.” I told her.

"Sister Sophia." She corrected me.

"Uuh, yeah. Her." I said.

“Well, be back in five minutes!” she said. “Or I’ll send you to Sister Amber.” That was bad. Charlotte was a nice teacher, Amber wasn't. Charlotte, I'd say, was too nice. She couldn’t bear to do more to us than stand us in the corner. In the old days she'd do that to me, but at our Halloween party, we were playing monopoly, and I attempted to start a socialist revolution. Charlotte was very ticked off and she banished me to the classroom of Sister Amber, who was literally Sister Amber to me. She married my half-brother after emigrating from Massachusetts, bringing with her the iron nerve to do everything Charlotte couldn’t do. From then on, my punishment was to be sent to the girl’s seminary class so Sister Amber can bend me back into place. With this threat looming over me, Charlotte’s word was more powerful than a .44 magnum, and  I ran to do as she said.

I dashed down the hall to Sophia’s classroom . There was no door to knock on, just a rectangular hole in the plywood wall--the only hole in the wall that was made with good intentions. The teacher was in the middle of a history lesson about the last days of the Roman Empire. I stood outside and listened to the teacher call on someone to test their knowledge.

“Allie. Can you name the barbarian tribes?” She asked one of her students.

“The tribes that attacked Rome were, Vandals, Chaldeans...“ Allie trailed off.

What a retard, I thought. During the fourth and fifth century, Rome was attacked by the Vandals, Franks, Angles, and the Huns. Everyone Knows That!

“May I help you with anything?” Sophia asked me.

I stepped in the room. “I’m uhh… returning your ball.” Everyone in the class faced the doorway. Somewhere in the class someone whispered: “Freya, your brother’s dumb.”

“Well, come on in.” The teacher beckoned.

Walk in. Walk out. Walk in. Walk out, I thought as I passed through the classroom. This room was definitely nicer than most of the other classrooms I’d been in (with the exception of Amber’s classroom). On the wall was a row of several animal classification posters and on the end of the row was a massive map of the world. On a table below sat several beakers of water, where salt crystals grew on strands of pink yarn suspended by number two pencils.

I handed the teacher her ball and ran off to music class, barely making it in time to avoid punishment. 

The class was the same as always. I was a last-chair clarinet, but only because Time to Say Goodbye is not my type of song. Second chair was my half-sister, Helen. Unlike me, her clarinet playing didn’t make everyone’s hair stand on its end, but in my defense, she played the clarinet for five years, I had only started last year.

Our next class was Seminary, where my thoughts went back to my elusive dream. I knew it was something about the past, but what? Then I remembered: The Saxons also fought against the Roman Empire. I completely forgot about the Saxons. My ancestors, the Saxons, would hang their heads in shame. As for the dream, I still had nothing. There was so much to the dream but so little I could recall. I needed something else to think about while my brain tried to remember it. I tried listening to the lesson for a while. 

We were learning about the children of Noah, and the curse Noah put on Ham for stealing the cloak of Adam. The lesson didn't last that long, and I had no better luck remembering the dream after hearing the lesson than before. Luckily, something else came along to occupy my time: Kitchen Duty.

We were running out of learning material in seminary—because apparently, the most important books in the world shouldn’t be studied more than one hour per week--so it slowly became a custom that we'd be sent in to clean the kitchen and lunchroom during our seminary period. It wasn't something to look forward to. My main problem was with the people who worked there. The one in charge was Sandra. She was an old woman, about the same age as Charlotte, but there was a clear difference. Charlotte’s kindness radiated in her appearance. In Charlotte’s eyes was a sparkle like a warm fire. In Sandra’s eyes was a sparkle that looked like she was about to cheat us out of something. When she was around, we stayed in reclusion as much as we could.           

Right when I walked in , Sandra yelled at me to load the dishwasher, or at least, something that claimed to be a dishwasher. It was a gigantic silver box with two handles for raising the chrome cover and putting the dishes in. I would then close it for ninety seconds, while the hot water cleaned the dishes off. Next to the “dishwasher” was a hose which I would use to rinse the dishes.

As I washed the dishes, the teachers and the lunch ladies joined in the lunchroom in their daily conspiracy against the students. The newest member of this conspiracy was Shelly, the school secretary. She was in her late twenties, with light red hair that she made no attempt at brushing. Her face always carried a scowl that any sane person would avoid. Her high voice buzzed into the kitchen as I was loading another tray onto the even bigger tray for the “dishwasher”.

Shelley had something against some of the middle school kids and needed someone to complain to. She said something about using PE to teach the boys to dance, and plenty of other horrifying things, far too numerous to mention, or for me to even remember. She just kept going on about how annoying the middle school students were, taking occasional breaks to allow Sandra to yell at us. When Shelley finished talking, she beckoned Moroni Whigfield, one of the students helping in the kitchen, to come with her. She was his half-mother, and to her, kitchen work was like coal mine work. The lucky seventh grader followed her from the kitchen, presumably to the office.

“Um, I- I- um-“ I ran back to the “dishwasher”, this time, determined not to get yelled at anymore. There were stacks of dirty trays accumulated, so it was do or die. I pushed the trays and silverware through the “dishwasher”, glancing over my shoulder every so often only to find Cassandra writing something in a notebook. When I glanced at her, she looked up at me, her eyes gleamed with a dead, micaceous color. Her skin was glossed over, like the tiled floor at our schools, in the rare event that someone actually waxed it “Martin,” She said. “You’re going to eat this crap tomorrow, and you will like it.”

“What is that smell?” I asked, regretting it only after Sandra said: “Tomorrow’s lunch. You got a problem with it?”

“No, not really.” I replied, trying not to upset her, even if it was futile.

“But it’s somebody else cookin’ this time,” She told me. “Which is good for you, I can tell that you hate my cooking.”

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“I see you dumping your lunch in the garbage all the time.” her voice now sounded very much like jagged rocks. “I don’t care if you disrespect me, but we’re having someone else here now to make the food, and you will enjoy it.” I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, not at all.

“So that- that smell is coming- fro- from the other cook’s- work?” I asked as I hyperventilated for oxygen. I wanted to go back to seminary.

“Yes, it is.” Sandra said.

“What is it?” I was prepared for the worst.

“I don’t know, it smells like homemade cottage cheese, but I think it’s the gravy we’re smelling.” She replied.

That couldn’t be good. Sandra walked out of the room and paused to yell at the man walking in. He was tall and wore a black hoodie. He examined the gravy, assuming it can be called that, added some spices to it, sniffed it, and then slammed the lid on the pan in disgust.

I thought I should ask him what he was doing, so I looked out the door to make sure Sandra wasn't about to come in and squeeze the back of my neck like she usually did. Right now, Sandra was a distant nightmare, the only people nearby were myself, the new cook, a random sixth grader, and the other workers. For the next few minutes, I had the rare opportunity to slack off.

“How can you stand working for her?” I asked the man.

“What?” he yanked earphones emanating rock music from his ears.

“Never mind.” I replied. As he went back to the stove, I asked him: “Hey, um, what is that on the stove?”

He took off his earphones. “The gravy. I’m using different ingredients for it than what you’re used to. I'm also trying some preservatives so we can make enough for the next week. Don't worry, they're natural. Germany used it during World War 2.”

So that's how they killed all those Jews. I thought.

“It's the method of cooking that gives off that smell. The gravy is like a mixture of gravy and cottage cheese.”

I was not about to ask how that was possible.“So, um, is it going to taste like it smells?”

“Is it going to taste like it smells?” the voice of the random sixth grader aped.

“Get out!” I gave him a good shove out the door, leaving it open for the sake of proper ventilation. As I went back to talk to the cook, memories of the dream began to flood my mind. I remembered seeing a small room with a red carpet, a grand piano, and brick walls: the old music room.

“No,” The cook replied. “It’s not finished, and it won’t smell like that when it is. I’m actually going to try resinating it.”

“Huh? Oh, um, what’s that mean?” I asked.

“When you put resin in it, for flavor.” He told me. Note to self, I thought as he went back to his business; look up resin in the dictionary.

“Martin!” Sandra shouted as she walked in. “Why aren’t you working?”

“Um, I- I- um-“ I ran back to the “dishwasher”, this time, determined not to get yelled at anymore. There were stacks of dirty trays accumulated, so it was do or die. I pushed the trays and silverware through the “dishwasher”, glancing over my shoulder every so often only to find Sandra writing something in a notebook. When I glanced at her, she looked up at me, the look in her eyes transforming to a more micaceous texture that clearly said: “Martin, you’re going to eat this crap tomorrow, and you will like it.”

After my fear of Sandra wore off, I decided to look inside the dishwasher while it was going; I opened it as much as the safety valve would let me go while running it. This was a bad idea, as high pressure water shot out at my arm. My cry of pain echoed throughout the kitchen. I was fired before the pain wore off, and someone named Richard Guilford was my replacement. I was sent out to the cafeteria to help the other people fold up the lunch tables and wheel them to the walls. The cafeteria was a large room with a cracked concrete floor. The ceiling was two stories high, and there were six doors: Two leading into the other sections of the school, one leading outside, two going straight into the kitchen, and one leading to the kitchen via hallway. There was a silver walk-in box, a wheeled casket containing the P.E. Equipment, the walls were decorated with student drawings, and hanging between the two doors above the casket was a stitched tapestry of a tree that was half evergreen and half deciduous.

As I walked into the cafeteria, a painful yelp sounded from the kitchen like an old, worn out clarinet. I ran back in and saw the garbage can on fire. One of the pilot lights on the stove went out, and, while Sandra was accustomed to this happening and knew what to do, the unaccustomed new cook tried to relight it with a flaming roll of paper. By the time the pilot light was relit, the flame had crept up to where he was holding it, so he threw it behind him into the garbage can, where it ignited the grease on an empty Little Caesar’s pizza box. Richard immediately grabbed the hose from the dishwasher and sprayed the garbage can until a plume of smoke rose.

“That had better not set off the alarm.” Sandra said. When she noticed me there, she ordered me to take the garbage can back to the dumpster, since I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway. When I returned, they were done moving the tables, and I knew Sandra didn’t want to see me anymore, so I went back to class. There were now only ten minutes of Seminary left, so everyone did what they wanted. Moroni came back, and was now challenging people to staring contests, while other people played Yu-Gi-Oh. I wasn't interested in losing either of these games; I wanted to try something new, and that how I came across The Puzzle.

Two eighth grade boys, Bryan Webster and Windsor Kimball, were trying to piece together an odd cluster of wooden blocks; though trying isn’t the same as succeeding. After watching them fiddle with it, I asked them to let me take a whack at it.

Windsor handed it to me.

It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. Looking more closely at it, I found the bricks to be shaped in such a way that they were difficult to solve, and by difficult, I mean I'd have a better chance of getting out of eating next day's lunch, and all the subsequent recooked leftovers. Just when it seemed I almost had it, there was just one piece of wood sticking out, causing it to fall apart the moment I set it down

It was more painful than a Rubik’s cube. With a Rubik’s cube, you know what the end result is supposed to look like. With this, I didn’t know where I was going. I knew that I was supposed to piece them together so that they wouldn’t fall apart, but I was completely clueless on how to do that.

“You-” Windsor asked. "You done?"

“Give me a moment.” I replied, thinking that solving this might actually be possible.

“You think that’s hard? Check this out.” Said the Seminary teacher's son, Israel. He had ruffled blonde hair and a smirk on his face. “I made up my own game that will blow your brains out: Revenge of the O’s!” Israel’s game grabbed Windsor’s attention, but I was more interested in the puzzle.

Come on, put this block here. Put this notch in there. Aw Crap! After messing up, I tried it again and again, keeping to it until the bell rang.

“Hey, Windsor,” I said as everyone was leaving the classroom.

“Talking to me?” He replied.

"Yes, I am. Can I borrow this overnight?”

“Well- er- It’s my sister’s, but she’d probably, might, let you- um- borrow it."

“Good luck figuring it out in one night, though." Bryan said. "It’ll kill you first.”

“We’ll see about that.” I muttered.

We were riding the bus home. The cold wind blew in through windows near the front that couldn’t close, and the floor of the bus was irrigated with black water.

“So Ambrose has this cat that he taught to do all kinds of cool stuff.” My eight year old sister said. “How come we don't have a cat like that?”

“We did, Alice, but it's gone now.” said Freya.

“That's not fair! You guys remember it, but I'm too little. We should get another one.” Alice said.

“I don’t think we should.” She still remembered her sister reading aloud from the Bible while her brother drew symbols on a rock to mark the cat’s grave. “Do you remember Shooting Star, Martin?” Alice asked me.

I gave no reply. I was sitting in the seat behind her trying to put the puzzle together.

“Hello? Martin?” Alice asked.

“I'll handle this.” Freya said. “Martin!”

“Yeah?” I groaned as the puzzle came apart again.

“What empire split off from the Roman Empire?” she asked while rubbing her head on her palm.

“Don’t know.” I replied.

“Something is wrong.” Freya said. “You don’t know, or do you even care?”

I set the puzzle down. “Let me think for a second.” I tried to think about the answer, and then realized how loud the people on the seat behind us were talking.

“Behold! The mighty Garma Sword!” said a voice that sounded like sandpaper rubbing against notebook paper. I knew that voice to belong to Christopher Reagan. “What will you do now, you've pretty much lost right here!”

“Well you've activated my TRAP CARD! Now your soil is eroded away and your monster loses five hundred attack points per turn.” the other person said.

“Big deal, I still have more than enough to beat you.” Christopher said.

“Hey, could you quiet down over there?” I asked him.

“Make me, Martin!” he replied. I looked over the seat and found him crouching on the floor, using his seat as a table to play Yu-Gi-Oh with his friend.

“All right then, how about you shut the heck up before I knock those cards from your seat?” To prove my point, I sat up and balanced myself on the back of the seat with both my feet directly above his children's card game. They dripped with black water from the bus floor. “I'll slam my feet down on your rarest cards.”

With a little help from Christopher’s foot, it was me who was slammed with the black water. The back of my head impacted the floor of the bus. I looked up and saw Freya sitting on the seat above me. From behind the seat Christopher poked his head out and said: “Serves you right.” I threw myself on him and grabbed hold of his neck. His friend did the same to me and tried to pull me away. Freya joined in and pried me off of him.

“Ha-ha, beaten by some fifth graders!” Christopher taunted with his newly acquired breath. People around laughed at my misfortune and talked about it while Christopher went to tell the bus driver what I did.

“Yeah, and his little sister had to help. Why do you even start these fights you know you can't win?” Christopher's friend asked.

“He was the one who started it.” I replied.

Christopher came back and told me: “You have to make cookies for us tomorrow. Corinne says you have to.” Even though Christopher was just as guilty as I was, I was the one being punished. Normally, I would've silently pledged to beat this kid up, but now I didn't care. I looked out the windows of the bus. My head touched its cold surface. My eyes panned and scanned all the sights we passed by.

“It doesn’t matter, for tomorrow, I leave.” I muttered.

“What?” Christopher asked.

“I'm leaving you all behind and go to a place where I can live my dream, away from you and your fads.” I filled up with enthusiasm. “Don’t count on me being around anymore, for I am leaving this pitiful place!”

“What are you talking about?” Freya asked in a lowered voice.

“Do you remember Andrew Hayes?”

Freya looked surprised, I didn’t usually bring him up to other people. “Yes, what about him?”

“I might be seeing him again sometime soon.”

Our bus stop was three to four blocks from home if you measured distance on the roads, but we didn’t. Though we never romped through anybody’s yards, we would cut through fields. It was all public property, which was why there were campaign posters on the fences long after Election Day. We all knew that these fields were haunted, so the younger kids were afraid to come here alone. I was what you might call the CEO of the field trekking party. The kids followed me, expecting me to lead them to safety. The puzzle had to wait, as I couldn’t do it while walking, I couldn’t hold all the blocks, but it was on my mind throughout the journey; the cold wind against my face did little to deter my attention, but a familiar odor did. As a kid, I always imagined it to be the smell of the mummies in the pyramids, but I knew now what it really was.

The little black-and-white devil was standing fifteen feet away on its front legs, ready to inflict upon me the most feared fate in our neighborhood. I gently placed my foot down, moving my path around it.

“What is that?” My brother, Lehi, asked as he watched the skunk slip through the frosted yellow grass.

“Stay back,” I told Lehi and the others. “It's a skunk. Go on! Get!” I shouted at the beast, but my threats were empty and it knew it. Its sulfuric liquid would do more damage to me than I’d do to it by yelling. It balanced itself on its hind legs and I bolted, along with Lehi. When we were a safe distance from it, Nephi turned around and said: “Aww crud where’d it go?” I looked around for it, too, but the skunk had slipped away. “I hate it when they pretend like that.” Lehi muttered. I moved towards the fence on our right to stay as far away from the skunk as possible, stepping over an old CD case in the process.

“Is it gone?” asked Alice.

“Just follow me.” I told her. I wasn’t willing to rule out the possibility that it might come back, or that there were more around. It was, after all, getting close to mating season. Alice followed my exact path, down to stepping over the same CD case. We spent the rest of the trip talking about what had just happened and how awful it would have been to be sprayed. The idea of having to bathe in tomato juice was revolting.

We had the house to ourselves when we got home. I continued my attempts with the puzzle, which was impossible, so why did I keep trying? There would be no reward for it; nobody would give you a million dollars, but I persisted because I was frustrated and wanted to win. I wanted to beat this rigged puzzle and show it who was boss, and I couldn’t do homework or play with anyone until I finished it. 

My mom wasn't pleased with this attitude. When she got home, she told me to put it away and do my homework. The devious puzzle had to wait. After I finished my homework and ate a supper of red beans, I started on the puzzle in the living room while my older brothers, Patrick and Elijah watched Firefly. Freya soon came and pulled me away telling me that my sister, Rachel, came home. I was trying to go to her for a while and get a book for a book report.

“So are you going to get a book or just do that puzzle?” Freya asked with nerve.

“I’ll go.” I replied. We walked downstairs to Rachel’s room. I put my hand on the doorknob and began to twist it.

“Knock first, Martin.” Freya snapped. She gave the door three knocks.

“Who is it?” Rachel’s voice called.

“Freya.” My sister responded. Rachel wasted no time opening the door, and we wasted none in going inside.

It was a colorful room, with red and violet being the main contenders. On the wall, there was a picture Rachel drew herself of a knight with a lance. Below that was a desk, where a handwritten paper on the theories of Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, and a chessboard with only the black pieces. The back row was arranged normally, but the pawns were set across the rest of the board with three spaces in between each.

Rachel sat on the chair by that desk, eating her red beans. “Do you need something?” she asked.

I stood by the door, with parts of the puzzle in my hands. “We need some books from you.” I told her.

“Later, I have homework. I have a paper due tomorrow.” She said as she finished eating. Dang that homework, it’s a great way to spoil a perfectly good evening--or a life for that matter. “And I’ve had a rough day, we had a RAT in physics, and I missed almost every question, and then in my diversity class, we had to listen to people tell their experiences of coming out-”

“Hey, um, could you not force your day upon us?” I asked.

“Yes, I will.” said Rachel.

“Well, you're not the only one who had a bad day, we had to work in the kitchen and there was a really bad smell, and, um- hey Rachel.” I said.

“What?”

“What’s resin?” I asked.

“Resin? I don’t know, but I do have a dictionary.” She said. “It’s on the shelf over there, its red.”

I went to her shelf. It was easy to find the dictionary because Rachel had organized her books by the color of the covers and had them neatly arranged in groups of three. The dictionary stood right in between Soul of the Wanderer, and Life of Pi.

“Here, gimme it!” Rachel snapped as I was opening the dictionary. She forcibly grabbed the dictionary from my hand, momentarily insulting my manhood, and flipped through it.

“Oh, you know on pine cones, how that sticky stuff comes out?” She asked. “That’s resin. It’s waste the pine cones don’t need.” So, in other words, it’s pine cone vomit, or worse. “Why did you need to know?” she inquired.

I pulled the dictionary from her hands. She let it easily slide away. “We’re eating it for lunch tomorrow, in the gravy.”

“Siick.” She droned.

“It says it’s used for flavoring, so it might not be too bad.” I told her as I thought of ways to not go to school tomorrow. The more I thought of ways, the more my speech on the bus came back to me. I wasn't sure what I was thinking there. It seemed like a childish fantasy, but I wanted to believe it.

“Well, anyway, I do need a classical book for my report.”

“Hmm, how about this one.” Rachel pulled out an old, yellow book and showed it to me. A Prefect’s Uncle by P. G. Wodehouse. “It’s a British classic, and it’s short.”

“What about me?” Freya asked.

“Do you have a book report due too?” Rachel asked.

“Someday I might.” Freya said.

“Then I’ll get one for you later, as for now, get out. I need to do my homework.”

The horrible taste of tomorrow’s lunch was only the tip of the iceberg. Every day was the same. I got homework that I couldn’t get done, all for grades and awards I could never get. I do book reports that are bad. I can’t play clarinet. I eat food that tastes bad, and then go outside to be oppressed by the eighth graders. And the pain didn't end with the school week. This weekend, there was a dance that I knew I’d be forced to go to, only to meet the same ill-mannered kids from school.

As I thought of this, I began to remember my dream, or at least, the feeling to it, and why it tormented me so. I was a ruler once, in a memory that was now a long forgotten dream. During fifth grade, Andrew, Ross Whigfield, and I were the greatest kids in school. Everyone loved us, and not by how we talked or dressed. We could’ve showed up in painting clothes and still been the coolest. We could’ve sloughed class and still had the teacher’s respect. We were good at dodge ball, we were good at music, and we got good grades. We had respect, the kind that makes people remove their hats when we walked by. We were the shining examples of how to live life, I even got an award at the end of the year, and everyone cheered. Then, over the summer, Andrew died.

I came to sixth grade and watched Ross get beat up by Joshua’s gang. He spoke words against me that led to ostracizing by everyone else. Even Ross wasn’t as close to me as before. My grades slowly slipped, my brothers were meaner, and slowly, I got lower and lower on the ladder. In sixth grade, I was just another face. In seventh grade, I was an example of how not to live your life. Today, I was a loser, but for just one night’s sleep, I was the king again, and now there was hope. I thought of a way to get back what I once had. Who knows, I might actually be able to bring Andrew back.

During my fifth grade days, we had to stay after school up until the hour in which all the classrooms were empty except for one: the one with Colleen’s after school math classes. I didn't need them, but we carpooled with our half-mother, Leia, and she wanted her kids to go through it. Leia’s car was always messy with newspaper ads, and she wouldn’t really let us talk; luckily, the ride wasn’t that long, and even so, we quickly lost the urge to complain about it.

Most of the time during the endless classes, I’d play Super Smash Bros. with Elijah, but after a while, they had Elijah and I go to the classes, where we endured a fate worse than death. To augment to our torment, the class was cancelled one day, and Leia didn’t know this. As a result, we were stranded at school for over an hour with no idea what was going on. On top of that, they promised us candy in the previous class and I didn’t get any. I learned the next day that we were also missing a skating party that many of the kids and teachers went to. This damaged my soul. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t go to those anymore.

The next night was the Wednesday night just before Halloween. My mother had an appointment with a DCFS officer (It makes sense in context), so we were at my half-mother’s house late. The only thing I really remember was that we sat out in the backyard telling jokes about toilets and anatomical acts regarding toilets. I remember Elijah saying he wanted to invent a toilet that also lets you listen to music while you sit on it, and we got lost from there. When we were done, we all looked at the stars that spring night. One of Leia’s kids pointed out an unusually bright star and called it the wishing star.

“No such thing.” said his older sister, Helen. I remembered Andrew saying something about experimenting with wishes, so I said: “How do you know that?”

“Because it’s stupid.” she replied.

“You’ll never know until you try, in fact, let’s try it.” I said.

“Yeah then we can know for sure!” Freya said.

“That would be cool if it was.” Said Lehi.

“Let’s find out, everyone make a wish, and hope it comes true. If we succeed, it’s real.” I said. We all closed our eyes like kids in a fairy tale and wished for what we wanted.

I wish the after school math classes would get cancelled for good.

My wish came true, and from that day forward, I always wondered. It could’ve been a coincidence; if it wasn't though, I could easily do that again.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biCNZfQefoI I looked at Elijah’s alarm clock]: 8:48 PM. I had spent hours pondering this question, and suddenly, homework, my responsibilities around the house, and what I did tomorrow were unimportant. I just wanted answers, and I couldn't get any sleep until I knew. 

My dream the night before had called me on a voyage. I leapt out of bed and slipped off my watch. The moon shone through the window onto the white dresser I shared with Elijah. Out in the night, our neighbor was rolling his dumpster to the road for the morning garbage truck. That was the same guy whose kids stole our dog, not just any dog, but a purebred Danish mastiff, registered by the AKC. He did try to expiate for it, he came to our front door and apologized to my mom. I wondered how he dare do that; our dog was one of Onaqui’s finest sheepdogs. I really wished I could’ve stopped him, If only I knew all I did back then that I did now.

Elijah burst through the door and turned on the light, making me jump with surprise.

“What were you doing?” Elijah asked. I picked up the block puzzle and said: “I’m thinking of what to do about this!”

“You could always get rid of it.”

“You’re right. I should.”

“Get out!” Rachel said as I burst into her room.

“Freya, can you give this to Windsor?” I asked as I held out the puzzle.

“Why can’t you?” she asked.

“I-er” I didn’t want to say it with Rachel there. I could do it tomorrow, but for me, there would be no tomorrow.

“Are you done?” Rachel asked.

“Yes,” I muttered. It didn’t feel right to leave Freya in the dark, but I couldn’t wait for her. Someday, Freya, you might understand.

When this world was created, I, along with everyone else on this planet, begged my father in heaven to let me be born. In hindsight, this was a very bad decision, but maybe I could have a life of value, a life of meaning. I now knew how I could do that.

I ran outside and I gazed at the North Star, or at least, that was what we called it. My brother told me what it really was: Kolob, the planet of the gods. It was hard to get a good view of it in the backyard; there were to many trees in both our yard, and the neighbor's. I climbed onto our old clothesline, which was propped up by two slanted boards that were dug into the ground. During the summer, my mom would use them to sun-dry food. Now, it was my place to stand to see over the trees, that is, if it wasn't so unstable. There was no place to stand in the backyard, but the front yard had a perfect view of this sacred star. No words could match the beauty of the star and how it made me feel. I knew that on this day, February 18, 2003, an experiment would be conducted. There was only one way to find out whether the cancellation of the math classes was a coincidence or not, and that was to duplicate the results. What did I have to lose?

“Star Light, Star Bright-“ I began . You know what? To heck with the cheesy rhymes. I didn’t do it last time anyway. I’m just going to make my wish.

Several Years Later

Room ten looked like judgment day had occurred. Only the brick walls remained unburned. Disfigured chair frames were scattered throughout the room. To my right, pictures were scattered around a mangled, overturned table. They were cherished memories, now cracked and discolored by the flames. I was able to recognize the figure of Brother Alex on one of them, but nothing else. It was better that I couldn’t see the images. I didn’t have time to stop and look. I hurried to the closet on the other end of room ten.

The closet was small: six feet by four feet to be exact, but each foot was stretched out to an immeasurable distance. One could run down this hallway for hours and not even move an inch. With my first step inside, I felt claustrophobic, even as the closet transformed into an amazing hallway. The white tiles glittered with the reflection of the chandeliers and balconies above. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. When I opened them again, I saw past the illusion to the real hallway.

It was a very hard thing to see. The chandeliers had collapsed with the ceiling, revealing the smoky sky. Remnants of balconies smoldered on the sides, creaking as though they may fall at any moment. At the end of the hall stood a beast with three thin reptilian heads, each of the heads had bulging white eyes on the sides and a hole beneath each eye. On its back was a shell with spear-like spikes jutting out. Its back legs looked like a dinosaur’s, and its forelegs looked like clawed, reptilian hands. Just looking at him struck such a fear in me that every part of my body felt like iron.

“You've arrived.” it said. As it spoke, heat waves emitted from its breath.

“I have,” I replied, trying not to show any fear. “Antaeus, is it?”

“Correct.” The three heads replied in unison. They growled in an almost theatrical voice, like a man playing a monster in a theater.

“You’re a bit more repulsive than I remember.” I told it.

“I have been reborn many times since my conception.” The center head replied. “My brother awaits you. He is at the great tree.”

“Good, tell him I'll be there.”

“We’re going with you.” The left head said. I wanted to leave it behind, but it’d follow me whether I wanted him to or not.

“Fine,” I told him. “But you won’t keep up.”

“We can surprise you.” The right head said.

We departed from the hallway and found the forest on the other side. It was a dim night, illuminated only by its two moons; one on each horizon. They were both quarters opposite from each other. In the sky, there was an ocean that reflected the moonlight to the ground.

The forest itself was burned worse than the hall. Black remains of the branches spread across the ground like begging hands with bony fingers. In the distance, I could hear an off tone lullaby being sung by the spirits of the forest. The only things that weren't burned were the morels, which polluted the ground with their disgusting presence on every spot of unburned ground they could find. “Typhos has changed things since you burned this place down.” Antaeus said. His teeth clicked, igniting the air and spewing an explosive fireball from his mouth.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Oh, there are still flammable gases in the air. A remnant of Typhos’s… changes.” Said the center head.

“Oh, this is nothing, really, compared to the changes he made last June.” The left head added.

Yeah, I remember that. I’ll get him this time, I thought as I walked through the remains of the forest. I was careful not to touch the trees, even when I had to jump over or duck under the fallen ones. Looking at them was hard enough, and I couldn’t give in to emotion if I wanted to make it through here.

“You know where he is, right?” Antaeus asked me.

“Of course I do. Though I have to get something before I meet your brother, so go tell him I'll be a bit late tonight.”

“That, I'll do.” Antaeus said. He rambled through the forest. When I could no longer hear his footsteps, I felt courageous again.

I soon came across what I was looking for in an undisturbed clearing. A lance protruded from a white stone. I easily slid it out and practiced swinging it around. Off in the distance, dogs were barking. I knew I didn’t want to meet them; they were Typhos’s creations, the most unnatural creatures I had ever laid eyes on. It was time to show Typhos who really ruled this land.

I followed a path leading through a thicket of willows that were untouched by the fire. They were blooming with summer. A few horses grazed in the thick grass along the side of the road. The path I was following led to a river and green hills off in the distance. Regrettably, I had to divert from it to reach my destination: Solacil, the source of energy for this realm. If Antaeus’ word was anything to go by, I would find my adversary there.

The pale moonlight illuminated the clearing where Solacil, an enourmous sumac tree loomed over the forest. The tree had most of his branches cut off, and the ones that remained had few leaves. In between where the branches once were, the tree was shaped into the form of a goddess gazing over the forest. At the base of the tree, I noticed a heap of something lying in the moonlight.

“Typhos!” I shouted. “Come out! Now!” the heap stirred and rose to take the form of a man. He was very thin, the few hairs on his head were white, and he wore leather pants and a torn, white t-shirt. Around his right, middle finger was a jade ring with an Arabic Zayin symbol His eyes were a pale yellow color that made my heart want to stop. He reached into his shirt and pulled out a cigarette.

“Where’s Antaeus?” He asked me.

“What does it matter?” I replied.

“If he isn’t around, I have to light this the human way. You should stop to consider for a change, Martin Carter.”

“Why are you still here?” I asked him. He lit the cigarette, casting an eerie glow on his wrinkled face. Over his eyes was a shadow cast from his unnaturally large nose. “I live here.” He said. His cigarette was now burning unnaturally bright.

“Not anymore, Typhos. You’re fired! Go!”

Typhos gave a slow laugh. “Fired? Your wrath amuses me. You think you can just throw me away like that, don’t you. Did you see that masterpiece of a hallway? Did you? I MADE THAT! IT WAS YOU WHO DESTROYED IT!!!!” I did my best to ignore that his eyes were now completely black. He lit another match and threw it behind me, igniting the gas into a large blast of flame. Behind me, any part of the forest that hadn’t burned already was now in flames. I dropped the spear and crouched down to avoid the heat wave and then looked up at his black eyes. I felt fear, despair, and hopelessness.

I remembered the bitterness of the first time I had been fired. I hated the way my boss had treated me, how he coldly threw me out with no second chances, but maybe he had to do it. I wasn’t doing my part; I was a thorn in the company’s side, so my boss got rid of me. Typhos now deserved the same thing.

I stood up and faced him at eye level, the back of my neck sweating from the intense radiance of the fire. “How can you say that? Look behind me! You’re destroying what’s left of this place!” I picked up the spear, and it extended and meandered, swinging itself and slashing across Typhos’s nose.

He showed no sign of pain, as blood poured from the wound on his nose. Typhos laughed. “I’m only finishing what you started!” His laughter gave way to a fit of coughing.

He’s weaker than before. That prayer was stronger than I thought. 

Typhos slammed his fist into the bark of the tree, coughing blood onto its roots. The roots drank the blood, and the tree laughed. Typhos laughed along with it. The first time he touched Solacil, she screamed in pain, but now Typhos had won. He picked up a large branch that resembled a club and swung it at me. I raised my hand in defense, and a low hum emitted from my hand. The club fell backwards as the hum ascended in frequency, and then it shattered as Typhos fell backwards.  I thrust the lance into his side. Typhos gave me a cold, painless glance and pulled the spear out. His blood spilled onto the ground, and the grass regrew where it fell. His ring briefly glinted in the fire light. Blood drizzled from his mouth.

“I- I Have found my purpose. Have you fou- found yours?” he coughed. “I want to know, wh-what you will do now.”

“I shall cast thee out.” I told him, using biblical English to instill fear.

“Me? OUT?” He asked as he bent his fingers back to touch his wrists. “You re- you rely on Me.” He stammered. “I made-” He fell to his knees with a combination of coughing and laughter, and looked into the sky. “Hush now, the rebound.” He told me. Immediately he levitated into the air as a mist rose and encircled him. The fire went out, the sea above us raged, and all across the forest, the trees grew again to heights they had never reached before. I felt like I was being thrown from my feet. I sat down to reclaim senses and saw Typhos hovering above me holding out his arms as though an ethereal audience gave him an ovation.

“Can’t you see?” he asked me. “We could rebuild things like they were before!”

“No. We can’t.” I told him with deep regret. “Not like they were before.”

“Who are you to tell me that? Why don’t I take your body and feed it to my dogs! HOW WOULD YOU LIKE THAT??!!!!” He stretched forth his hand and transferred his feelings to my own heart. All of the hatred and bitterness he stored up blared in my ears. His cancer burned in my lungs, my heart, and my bones. I fell on my back and closed my eyes like a man getting surgery without any painkillers. He descended to the ground and picked up my spear.

“Joseph!” I muttered. “Please- help.”

“Joseph?” He asked, the mere mention of his name enraging him. “That Man?”

“I rebuke thee.” I said quietly. Nothing happened. Father, help me.

Typhos smiled, his eyes were now a glowing yellow color “He won’t come. He won’t COME!”

My spear stretched from his hand and slashed at my side the same way I did to him.

“No,” I said. “He’s kept you at bay for years, and he’ll pull me through.” With those words came confidence. My father’s strength surged through me. I was hoping the strength of The Lord would come to my aid, but it’s not so easy to summon His spirit in the face of such adversity. Joseph’s was good enough anyway. The spear slid from his control to mine

“N- No! Don’t Do That.” Typhus sounded less intimidating than before. The spear twisted around and impaled him through the solar plexus “I think.” He muttered. “I adopted him.” The blackness left his eyes, and his eyes lost their focus. His evil energy loosened its grip. He was now losing any coherence in his thoughts.

“I rebuke thee!” I shouted. The Lord’s spirit now immigrated into my body and throughout the forest. “I rebuke thee, demon! Go back to the bottomless pit from whence you came!” Typhos screamed and shook violently, flailing his arms like a drunken man in a fist fight. He fell over and crawled to the tree.

“Solacil, Give Me Thy-“He coughed out a downpour of blood and crumpled to the ground. His body slowly disintegrated at the tree’s roots.

“It’s over.” I said aloud. I could feel the tree’s energy flowing outward, now free from Typhus’ iron grip, but it would never grow back.

“Solacil. In the name of Jesus Christ, offer me this gift.” I felt unified with the tree. It held all of my dearest memories, preserved from the fire, yet poisoned by Typhus’ fury. I saw myself going to school at Deseret Academy. I felt the joy of those days before the advent of Typhos. The reign of Andrew. Those days were the best of my life. I was young and innocent, and now a fallen hero.

“Father, forgive me, I have atoned my sins.” I muttered, and I felt the forgiveness from the Lord. I felt like I had carried a bag of lead balls over my shoulder the past few years, and was now letting it go. With that done, it was time to finish what I started. “I pray now for one last thing.”

Several Years Earlier

“That is my wish.” I told the star. I was glad there was nobody around. It felt weird talking to something that wouldn’t hear my voice, let alone even see me for centuries. Yet still I felt the star’s response, an unknown power surging through me. I dropped to my knees and submitted myself before it. I felt like I could do almost anything, and as the feeling overtook me, I fell backward, hitting my head on the concrete driveway. A cleansing warmth overcame me as I slipped into a deep sleep.

Present Day

“That is my prayer.” I finished. A bright light shined over Solacil, and a door appeared in it. I entered. Now everything that I waited for since I was a boy had come. It was over. The villain had met his demise. The curtain called. All loose ends had been tied. I had conquered all my trials. Exit stage left. This story is over.

The End

And a new one begins...

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