Dreams, do they exist only when we sleep, or are they right here in our world. To Ethan, the world is slow, torturing, nightmare, and his only escape is when he is sleeping, enjoying the fool's paradise. What if dreaming starts to become your reality? And what if reality, just becomes a dream.


1. Awakening.

Chapter 1,




Dreams, the one and only true place to escape the world. A place where the most amazing possibilities can stem from; they can even harbor some of the most frightening nightmares in existence. It’s a world that caters to your imagination, and if you so choose, will always have something exciting happening. Whether they are good or bad, they know you better than anything else.

God, if only I could stay there forever. Now, I’m not saying I wish I was a deity, I still want to be me, but I wish the world offer more than this mundane existence. In my dreams- in my world, life is always an adventure, and unlike movies, books, and games, my story never ends. Well, almost never ends. Listen to that contradiction, that heartbreaking contradiction.

Sadly, every morning my adventure ends abruptly to the same annoying sound; the sound that pierces through my ears and into my brain. I’ve heard it so many times I’ve developed a complex, and I get a bad vibe whenever it strikes into my subconscious. “Ringgg, Ringgg!” Ugh, I wish I could somehow learn the force and throw it against my wall, finally bringing an end to the bane of my mornings.

Using all the energy my body could muster, I slide my hand out from under my covers, lifting it above my alarm clock. Holding my breath in the whole time, I finally exhale, dropping my arm down like the hand of god, and slamming it on the snooze. It hurt, but I already used everything my body had to move to even care. The silence, oh sweet heaven, the silence. This has to be what sex feels like, or at least a close second.

I tried burrowing my way back into my covers, but if there is no effect from the cause of my alarm, my dad feels inclined to do its work. I could already hear the harbinger of death shuffling down the hallway. I’m not sure if I have another complex, or if this one fits in the same one I already have.

Two knocks gently tap against the door, and without any response from me, the golden door knob turned slowly; I’ve never understood why he tries to be quiet coming in, seeing how he is about to wake me up. Never the less, he opens the door to a slit, making sure he isn’t disturbing me, and then he makes his entrance.

The door flings open, pushing all the unfamiliar air into my room. The smell of cigarettes spewed outwards from my dad’s clothing, and engulfed my room in its stench. “Hey son, it’s time to get up, you know the drill.” His voice was too light to sound stern, but you could tell he was trying. I just ignored him and continued my charade. “Come on, let’s not do this.” He said as he unraveled my cocoon. I knew this was futile at this point, but I had a few cards up my sleeve. I lazily opened my eyes, rubbing them as if I had just woken up. I took a moment to build up the suspense. “Dad, I think I’m sick; I’m not feeling too well.” This scene alone would grant me an Emmy.

“Ah, I see you have that bullshit-itis; man, you get that a lot, weird.” He responded anticlimactically, and looked at me with an unforgiving face.  Eh, actually, this would probably work if it wasn’t for the fact that I try this every morning, but you can’t blame my determination. “Hurry up, you only have an hour.” Closing the door behind him, my dad left the room.

I laid there for a while until I rolled my head to the left and saw my hour was dwindling away. God I hate this. Well goodbye my sweet dreams, and hello my reality of sorrow. And no, I’m not being melodramatic.

I would give anything to just roll back over and go to sleep. Why do I have to wake up? If I’m happier in my dreams than I am in “reality”, why do I have to succumb to this? And what makes either one real or fake? Both of them give real feelings, don’t they? I know you must think I’m crazy, but if you put some real thought into it, it doesn’t seem that farfetched. Both reality and dreams create real feelings, and in my dreams they create a whole slew of better ones. To be fair though, dreams do have nightmares, which always are not the best, but so does the real world. And from my own experiences, the world can create some pretty horrifying nightmares.

My school is a fine example of one. In this place, there are these nasty creatures that prey on the sad and innocent victims, and they grow stronger with each soul they have subdued. You have to go through your day praying that they don’t find you, but no matter how much you run, they always smell your fear. It really is a horror-story of its own, and now you’re telling me I have to go there? Sweet. I could go on and on about how stupid school and their inhabitants are, but I’m still too exhausted. But I’ll level with you, school isn’t so bad for me; it’s mostly what I have observed around me.

I’m not antagonized or bullied really, aside from the blue moon here and there, but all in all, it’s just my friends who make any social interactions with me; yeah, all four of them. I guess going unnoticed has its ups and downs, but personally, I don’t mind. I would rather have only a handful of friends instead of having to deal with so many people, and also, I hate people so this works out for me.

I opened my window to take in the brisk air, overlooking my whole cul-de-sac; the sound of my dad’s Volvo could be heard pulling out for work. I love doing this. Maybe it’s the adventurous feeling of being two stories high, while sticking my body out, or maybe it’s feeling the cold air at its finest, swaying through my shaggy hair. Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of it. The fall air was a clear indication I needed a sweater, so I pulled myself back into my room.

After assembling my fashionable attire, complete with a black, zip-up hoodie that has some design on it that I could care less about, and one of my many dark blue pants; I made my way to the bathroom. I always try balancing my time the best I can, so my usual attempt is to pee and brush my teeth at the same time. When I tried to zip my pants up though, I heard a dunking sound in the toilet. A very sour feeling just filled me. I wonder if it ever gets old telling my dad I need a new toothbrush. Can’t be as old as all my other crap I try to pull over him.

            I made my way downstairs and picked up on a better aroma than the usually tobacco scent. On the kitchen table laid the source of the smell, as it seems my dad made me breakfast this morning; first time for everything I suppose. It wasn’t a gourmet meal; it had the basics, shriveled eggs, slightly burned toast, and greasy as hell bacon, but it was definitely a nice, random surprise. I guess since his hours for work start later this week, he has some time to do things like this.

            Despite how hard I can tell he is trying, I hope I don’t end up like him. I know that sounds like a horrible thing to say from a son, but it is always said that you want better for your kids. I don’t know, maybe that is too harsh of a thing to say, but man, does he not set himself up as the best role model. Take it twelve years back, though, and it would be whole different story. Times sure have changed. At least he is doing better than before.

            If you were wondering why I haven’t mentioned my mom- and I’m sure you have already speculated a few possibilities- then it is because she passed away twelve years ago. It’s not really a touchy subject for me, simply because I don’t really remember her; and on a darker note, I presume that means I don’t know who she is. It’s hard to feel sad for someone you don’t know, or any emotions at all for that matter.

            My dad always refused to talk about her, so I haven’t even asked him in years. All I really know about her is from the stories and pictures my grandma told me about. She was nice, pretty, and that entire heavenly, motherly attitude you assume she had. I feel you really know someone when you can complain about them a lot, and all I’ve heard about her is how great she was. Can’t blame a mother for praising her only daughter, considering the circumstances, but only hearing about her angelic deeds makes me feel like I’m learning about her in a sermon.

Apparently, my mom had depression problems- so I suppose there is something I know about her that wouldn’t entitle her a saint, and as she got older, it only got worse. My dad fully knew what was going on in her head, but he hoped giving her a great life would fill her with happiness. And to be fair, we did have a good life, or so I was told. My dad was actually an architect, and was working his way up the chain fast. He even had a deal to make plans for skyscraper, but things took a different path of course.

            No matter how good things were, my mom always felt some kind of sadness inside, so one day she couldn’t take it anymore. She left us and never returned, and no, I don’t mean she took off on a train and went off to “who cares”. Well, I guess if you think of it metaphorically, then yes, yes she did take off. However you put it, it was just as selfish.

 My dad might as well have died too that day. He went into his own mad, depression, shutting everyone out, including his job, his life, and even me. I ended living with my grandma for a while, and didn’t see him for four years. This time period in my life is pretty fuzzy, but what do you expect, I was only nine.

Then four years later the most bizarre thing happened, my dad just decided to turn his life around and start being a good father, with no explanation as to why he came back. Since then, we had our little man to man talks about him regretting leaving me, and so on. I forgave him, and up until now, we have been on pretty good terms. He got a low-paying factory job in this town, and has been working here for the past five years. He didn’t want to go back into architect business, something about not living in the pass, who knows; that’s also why we moved so far away from our family back east.

I don’t know if I should be mad at my mom for being so selfish, or sad, but honestly, I feel nothing and I don’t care. No reason to bring up feelings that don’t need to be brought up. My mom is gone, but my dad and I are here, trying to make the best out of our lives- well, at least we’ve been in good health.

I wish I could say that I’m at least a straight-A student, or even an athletic star, but I’m neither. I love to sleep, listen to music, and play games- listen to me, I sound like I’m writing my dating profile, a very sad and lonely profile. I just don’t care about a lot of things, and it only gets like that more and more each day. I’m no prodigy of any sort, so I guess bagging on reality being mundane is a little hypocritical, but just a little. Maybe if life was more exciting I would be more inclined to brace it all, but as it stands, the world we live in is nothing more but stale, repetitive, maddening inducing hell, that everyone seems so content with.

I see cars driving by me as I take my same old route to school, and I can’t help thinking, “How?” How can these people continue on, going through the same methodical and plain existence day by day? As I said, I take this same path to school every weekday morning, and I notice the same cars every time. Where do they find the endurance to continue all this, because I could really use some. I honestly don’t know how much more of this same sidewalk I can take.

Oh, would you look at that? Mrs. Lou is sweeping outside of her flower shop, as she does every morning. She waves to me and I wave back to her, as we always do. Everything is so hollow, so fake. I feel as though everyone is just acting on a stage playing their part, and I’m the only one who is fed up getting into costume every morning and playing the part of the fool.

I just- Oh my god! My heart jumped in mid beat, and adrenaline shot into brain, heightening my senses. My hair was still messed up from the wind flourishing by from the eleven ton steel that flew right pass my nose. My body was starting to get all the feeling back, and I looked down to see my savior’s hand. It was a small delicate hand, trembling as it held my chest back. I followed the arm to rest of the body and saw a familiar face, holding her other hand to her mouth. I think she was, and is, as frightened as I am.

“A-are you stupid?” Her soft voiced trembled as she spat out her words, still trying to regain her stamina. Trying to sound tough did not suit her well. I couldn’t speak, maybe because I’m still in shock, so I only stared at her with broaden eyes. “Well, E-Ethan?” I think she’s more terrified than I was.

I took out my earphones, and spoke calmly, “Sorry, I must have zoned out there pretty bad.” If that wasn’t the understatement of the year; I am always lost in thought except when someone is speaking to me, and even then there is a pretty big chance I’m off in my own world.

“I was screaming your name, but you didn’t respond, so I ran as fast I could…I really thought you were about to get hit…” The stern anger in her voice seems to have dropped, and it sounded more like she was about to cry. “Please pay more attention next time, at least while walking down the street. If you would have been hit…I-”

“I’m sorry to have worried you like that, and thank you for saving my life, trust me, I wouldn’t have been too ecstatic to have been hit either.” I tried lightening the mood, but she seemed unaffected by it.

Her whole body was still trembling far worse than mine; actually, I’m pretty much over it, but that’s Natalie for you. She is one of the few people who will truly feel and care about your problems as you do, probably even more. I didn’t know how I should segue this conversation next, so I decided to give a lighthearted pat on her shoulder, “Hey, we need to be getting to school.”  

“Are you okay though?” She isn’t going to let this go that easily is she? I don’t see what the big problem is; we dodge death every day, and I bet we don’t even notice it most of the time. But if I don’t answer her ambiguous question, we could be stuck her all day. Her big, brown eyes looked at me, it was almost too much for my heart, but those eyes also brings up distasteful feelings, “Yes, yes. I am fine; a little shaken, but good to go.” That was a lie. I am perfectly fine, but maybe adding some vulnerableness to it will make it sound more genuine.

“O-okay…then let’s get going.” I nodded to her response, and Natalie sulked her head down and followed by my side. So this means we are walking together, fantastic. By the way, I like dry sarcasm if you couldn’t tell. Two years ago this whole situation would have brought on different feelings, but now, whenever I am around her or talk to her, I just get angry and tensed.

I use to have the biggest crush on her, or maybe I was actually in love with her, whatever that emotion entails. I don’t even know if someone my age could truly be in love with someone else, or how it’s really supposed to feel- being in love, but however you put it, I wanted to be with her. Things change though; things always change.

Natalie, along with my friend named Zack, were two of my very first friends when I moved to this town in my freshman year. They both looked out for me and showed me a great deal. I owe them a lot, a whole lot. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t have them helping me get settled into this strange new place.

 Zack always felt like a big brother to me, something I use to long for. He also felt like the polar opposite of me; be it sports, grades, or girls, he was always better than me. Nothing I did could compare to him, but he never rubbed it in my face; instead, he would always push me to beat him. I loved the relationship type we had, but after months of it, it started to eat away at me. It made me become bitter, more…distant. I felt it too, like a hole inside me growing larger every day I hung out with him.

I could handle it though, as long as Natalie was there by my side, like she is now. Except now it does more harm than good. I would always try to be with Natalie as much as I could, and being just the two of us made it all there sweeter. Even though Zack had it all, I was content with it, even happy knowing there was one thing he didn’t have- Natalie. 

It took me while, but I finally decided to ask her out. It was a day before my birthday, and I asked her to our normal hang out. Whenever it was just us, we would go to this old abandon bridge that overlooked a lake, and during sundown I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. It honestly looked like an opening to true harmony and tranquility- now I sound like a yoga instructor.

There is few days that remain picture perfect in my head, and this was one of them. The way Natalie’s long hair would weave with the wind as it came by, but then frizzled it as it died down, looking like she just got out of bed. I would always laugh at her when she would frantically comb it back down; it wasn’t her hair that was funny, but seeing her so flustered made me smile.

Her pure-white, summer dress also was a great contrast to all the orange from the sun, making her light up even more than she naturally did. Summer became my favorite season for the sole reason of getting to see Natalie in all her different dresses, and believe me, there was a lot. There is times, even now, that I wish I could see her like that again, on that day.

I still ask that evil question of regret, What if? What if I had managed to get the courage to ask her out sooner, like weeks, days, or hell, even seconds before she spoke on that day? I’ll never know, and there is no changing that. Just as I lifted my mouth to speak, she got to it first, “Hey, Ethan?” She opened with, looking at me with her confidence in me. My heart stopped at that moment. I thought, just maybe, she was about to ask me out first, so I answered back stoically to keep her from reading me, “What’s up?”

“Do you think Zack likes me?” Everything shattered for me at the moment. I was nothing- I had nothing. Zack, once again, was better. The one thing, the one person that made the empty hole in me slightly filled, vanished. All words and thoughts left me leaving me with a sensation to puke, but I had to answer her. I had to bite my lip and ignore all emotions, stuffing them away, so I looked at her, dull eyed for the first time, “I’m sure he would. Anyone would want to be with you, you’re flawless.” I wanted to scream, I wanted to break something, but I couldn’t. There was no way I could let her in on how I was feeling.

She did her adorable giggle, and gave me hug. I was embracing her, but I’m sure Natalie did it as a formality. Hugging me after what she just said was probably the worst thing she could have ever done, but she wasn’t done, oh no. She spoke while we were still holding each other, “Thank you, Ethan that meant a lot to me. You’re like the brother I never had.” That was the killing blow, the one that KO’d me. I wanted to push her off of me and run away, but I knew once I let go that would be it. Zack and Natalie would be girlfriend and boyfriend and I would be left behind, stuck being Zack’s shadow. This was how far Natalie and I would go, and I accepted it right there and then. I accepted it all.

And to this day, all feelings for her have dissipated. My once idolization of Zack turned to hatred, and I, myself, have disconnected from this world, realizing life will always be like this. Now all I long for is my dreams to become my reality. Zack learned how to make this world his, and people like me are just leftovers of what could have been, waiting for our time to die out. There is nothing for me here and yeah, I could find a new girl, hell, I could turn my whole life around, but why? Why should I accept the way things are? I won’t.

Maybe my mom figured this all out, and we’re much more alike than I first thought. Maybe she hated how the world worked, and despised how mundane it could be. My dad wanted to give her the best with money, love, and a family, but what if that wasn’t enough? Perhaps it made it worse, realizing she was doing what everyone was supposed to do. Maybe she thought that only way out was the selfish way out, hoping something more exciting was on the other side. Eh, this is all too morbid and depressing for my taste, and like I said before, I don’t know who my mother was, so what right do I have to speculate.

I felt a tapping on my shoulder; it was Natalie breaking me from my trance again, “It was fun having another walk again, I’ll see you in fourth period, okay?” She looked at me with a smile and waved, signaling her departure. I continued acting like I was her friend, like I have been for the past year and half, “Yeah, see you later.” I waved back like I am supposed to, taking my own route to my class. From there I was to myself, exactly how I want it. I have three periods until I have to fake my way through another conversation, so I better enjoy it.

Class to me means more time I get to sleep, and my grades slipping even further, how fun! I was already succumbing to ritual. The teacher's words sounded, so far...I felt like I was falling back, further down to the endless abyss. My vision blurred to the point that everything looked like water paintings. My body felt numb, but it was a very peaceful numbing. Nothing was more relaxing than this. My mind started to conjure up illusions, and I started to believe in those illusions.

SMACK, the sound of books slamming down centimeters from head awoke me from my slumber. My heart jumped, and my eyes widen to their furthest point. I looked up to find my English teacher, smiling crookedly. Well that was two near-death experiences today; I don’t how much more I can take.

"We're on chapter four, if you care to follow along, Ethan." The other kids snickered, and giggled. I wish they mind their own business. Bleh, I could feel my cheeks were reddening with embarrassment

"Sorry." As if I was actually sorry.

"No need to apologize, you can just make this up in detention." That crooked smile appeared again, like he enjoyed tearing me apart in front of my classmates. Only three weeks into the school year, and I have already broken my English teacher's biggest rule: Don't fall asleep in my class. But by no means has that stopped me. I’m on a sleeping spree right now, trying to beat the high score as you can see.

By the time lunch rolled around, I was already mentally exhausted. If I don’t get my mid class naps, I get very cranky; I am a growing boy after all. I tried finding a desolate area away from my friends, but somehow they always find me. Even when I find a secluded wall behind an empty classroom, Vince manages to sniff me out. Vince is Zack’s cousin and obviously joined our group through him. We were never close and we only hung out together when everyone else was around, except when he manages to find me like this. I swear this kid needs to grow up to be a bounty hunter.

Besides very basic stuff, like food and a TV show here and there, we have nothing in common. He’s tall and good looking like Zack, but it seems like all the obnoxious and rowdy genes went to Vince. Not that Zack isn’t passively obnoxious, but it’s as if Vince tries to be as annoying as possible. I think he likes to test my nerves since he knows I barley show any emotion anymore.

As soon as he saw me he waves his hand around like a maniac, “Ethan! Hey man! What’s up?!” Is he trying to have a conversation with me forty feet apart, who the hell is this guy? I don’t answer him back, one being, I’m not about to yell across the campus and attract attention, and two, I plainly don’t want to. Even still, he runs towards me still trying to talk. I keep my head down hoping no one notices him. He eventually makes way right next to me, panting heavily into my direction. I could smell the hotdog he ate for lunch.

“Dude, what’s up? I was trying to get your attention.” Vince had his hands on his hips, while the rest of his body was tipped over trying to meet our eyes. I looked up at him from my half eaten turkey sandwich, and noticed he changed his hair again. He used to be blonde like Zack, but I’ve only seen it in old photos. Since those old photos, his hair has changed from red highlights, full on blue, and even to spiked-up pink- that one didn’t last too long. Right now, its pitch black with some sort of stylish fohawk going on.

I honestly don’t see how he gets so many girlfriends, or should I say one night stand- things, I don’t know. Can teenagers even have those type of things, I mean, we have to see them the next day anyway, so it’s not much of a one night thing, but a weird, awkward meet and greet thing- you know what, I’m done. “Sorry I didn’t hear you; I was lost in my thoughts.” I jumped right back into the conversation.

He gave his jackass of a smile, “You mean like how you always are? I think you spend more time in your head than you do in the real world.” More than you even know, Vince.

“Really? I haven’t noticed, but that’s maybe because I’m in my head so much, haha.” I give a fake laugh, and he picks up on my humor, out doing me with a real laugh. God I want this moment to end.

“Oh hey, I see Nat. Hey Natalie! Over here!” I dear god, make this end. Vince waved like a moron again, allowing Natalie to find us. I could feel she was embarrassed just as much as I was, but unlike me she waved back and gave a genuine smile. How does she do it?

“Hey guys.” Natalie approached us graciously, waving to us individually. When I didn’t return the wave back, she awkwardly sat down right next to me, setting her bag on her left side. Her perfume is giving me a headache; I wish she placed the bag between us to create some distance. Vince remained stood up, pacing around like a kid with a sugar rush.

Natalie took out the school’s salad from her bag, and began eating. Vince walked closer over to Natalie, “So Nat, what do you think we should do after school today?” Natalie looked at him inquisitively, with her spoon still in her mouth. She nibbles on the end of the spoon while she thinks of an event our group could do, and the one I have to dodge somehow. They try this every Friday, but I haven’t been to one of these self-proclaimed, “events”, in a while.

Natalie takes the spoon out of her mouth, “I know, we should go to the movies today, we haven’t been to one for a while.” Vince does the most peculiar reactions I have ever seen; he claps his hands together, goes on one knee, and gives a thumbs-up right in front of Natalie’s face, “That sounds like an amazing idea! Nothing less from both the beauty and brains of the group!” He gives a wink at the end of his embarrassing act, and then sits crossed legged in front of her. Natalie was a bit shocked from the whole show, but holds up her considerate smile all the way through. “Why thank you, Vince.” How does she do it, I really must find the secret.

“What do you think Ethan?” Natalie looks to her right, as I look to my left, but I didn’t realize how close we were. Our faces were only inches away, and we both quickly turned straightforward, trying to hold back our flustered faces. She must have moved closer to me when Vince made an idiot of himself. “I-I, um…” Get it together Ethan, she doesn’t mean anything like that to you, “Uhm, I don’t think I can do anything today.”  

After creating more space between Natalie and me, they both starred at me speculatively. Vince spoke out first, not sounding as riled up as usual, “You’ve said that two weeks in a row, Ethan. What the hell do you have to do today that is so goddamn important?” Even though Vince is pretty stupid, his simple logic skills seem to be in function.

Natalie looked disheartened, a feeling I am all too familiar with, “Yeah, why can’t you do anything today? You have to have some weekends to yourself.” Actually, every weekend is too myself, why do you think I try to avoid you guys, “It’s, uh, my dad. He just got better hours, so he wanted to hang out with me to celebrate…” Sniff, I’m too good.

“Oh…I guess you should be with your dad.” Natalie looked sad about all this, but I don’t see why. Vince still looked unsatisfied by my answer, but he didn’t dig any deeper. If anything, I’ll be seeing my dad less, seeing how he works later in the mornings but still has the same amount of hours.

No, why him. From my peripheral vision I could spot short, dirty-blonde hair coming this way, which, from any corner, would looked picture perfect. I could tell from his height that it was definitely Zack. While he made his way here, a bunch of random kids stopped him to say, “Hey”, and, “Hello” all the way here. If this was a movie, he would no doubt be the main character. Out of all the people here, why did he make me his best friend? Ignoring my resentment for him, I sincerely want to know why he chose me.

The pure embodiment of charisma waved to us all, and we all waved back. Shit, he even got me to wave back. It’s no wonder why Natalie chose him over me, but it doesn’t make it feel any better. Honestly though, I have no idea what came about Natalie’s feelings for him. Any time after that fatal bridge scene, if Natalie would try to bring up Zack and her feelings I would flat out ignore her. I wanted nothing to do of it. Maybe they did date for a bit, or maybe she never asked because I never helped her, who knows? More importantly, who cares?

“So how are you, Sloth?” Ah, yes. Zack’s cute little nickname for me, but I have to admit, it does fit a little too well. I looked up at the towering man above me; why do I have to be so short? “Same as always.” I tried to keep as monotone as possible. I don’t like giving him anything to work off of to continue the conversation. Zack just stared at me disappointedly, “Always the chatter box you are.” Ha. “So have you guys decided what big event we’re doing today?” Zack placed his hands to together and rubbed them, looking ready to go. Vince spoke out, I’m surprised he held his tongue this long, “We wanted to go to the movies! Well, all but Ethan over here, who is being an ass might I add!”

Now I have everyone’s eyes on me. I hate this so much. “Why’s that Sloth?” Zack looked at me like he really cares. I bet he has to care, he wouldn’t want his godlike aura to become any less bright. “I have to hang out with my dad today.” I tried to not make eye contact with him by keeping my head down as long as possible, but with no sound coming from them, I had to check to see what was happening. As soon as I did, Zack locked eyes with me, and he grew an enormous grin of satisfactory. Damn, it was a trap. “You are lying! I can see it in your eyes.” He started laughing and the rest followed. Ugh. Vince yelled out, “I knew he was lying, I just wasn’t sure!”

“I can always tell when you’re lying, haha, there’s no point in hiding it. I expect to see you at the movies today, go that?” I gave a dull expression for a reply. “I’m holding you to it.” Holding me to what-“Hey Natalie, have you seen Dylan around here?” Zack’s tone sounded urgent now.

Dylan is the newest member of the group, not that he joined recently, but comparatively, he is the newest. I met him in my sixth period class during freshman year when we both use to sit in the back of the class. We were both loners so we clicked pretty fast. He was the friend that would stay up all night with me playing video games until dawn creped. Once we got close, he would follow me back to my group of friends, and surely enough, he integrated in just fine; so much so that he replaced me as Zack’s best friend, but that’s my own doing.

Natalie cricked her head to the side looking up at the sky, lost in thought. Quickly, her head popped back straight, “Oh yeah, he said he would be working in third period throughout lunch; something about over do work.”

“Ahh, thank you, Nat. Well, I’ll see you guys later, I need to do a few things before school ends. Can’t wait for the movie!” Zack ran towards the south campus, looking back once and yelling to me, “I better see you there, Ethan!” Don’t count on it.

Ugh, at least that’s over. Now just these two. Hopefully, lunch will run out before we have any more time talk. “So are you coming, Ethan? It would mean a lot if you came.” Natalie looked back over to her right towards me. I stared at her for a second, then a second longer, “No, I wouldn’t have made up a reason not to come, if I didn’t want to go, and the movies sound like a stupid idea anyways.” Did that sound as cold as it tasted? “O-oh, okay…” Natalie acted like she asked me out, and I turned her down without hesitation.

“Asshole!” The profanity echoed all around. I looked to make sure if anyone else heard it, and then I turned my glance over to Vince. He stared at me with his is brow angled down, and his mouth wide open. “You are such an asshole!”

He is starting to piss me off, “Vince, stop yelling-”

“No! You are an asshole! Natalie didn’t deserve that, she was hoping one of her best friends would give her the time of day, but you basically told her to fuck off!” Don’t push me Vince. I continued my stare down with him.

“Vince it’s okay…” Natalie tried to intervene, but I bet a part of her wants me to be yelled at.

“No it’s not; I don’t know why you put up with this douchebag! I’m out of here, and I swear Ethan, you better apologize!” Or what? God I hate him just as much as his cousin. He’s only acting that way to make Natalie fall for him. We all know, including her, Vince has the biggest crush on her. Like she would ever be with an idiot like that. But still, that idiot has a point, why does Natalie put up with me?

I looked over to her to see Natalie looking blankly forward with no expression. I know what that face means. She too goes off into her mind, blocking everyone else out, but it’s only when she is in deep thought. I use to stare at her until she came back to our world, but now I don’t have time for that, “Natalie.” I nudge her a bit, trying to break the trance. “W-what…? Sorry I was thinking…” The despair in her voice was heavy and the sorrow filled her eyes, blocking out the normal sparkle I’m use to seeing.

I know you are; I know a lot about you, more than you would think. A disgusting feeling overcame me, and I got nauseas; Vince is right, I’m an asshole. What Natalie did was wrong, even though she didn’t know she was doing wrong at the time, but I guess being spiteful towards won’t help anything. “Uh, Vince was right.”

“What?! No, no, no. I shouldn’t have been so pushy about you coming to the movies, besides, it’s just the movies it isn’t a big deal…” Pushy? You asked a simply question and I was an asshole, and look at you, trying to make this your fault. “No, you’re my friend, and you mean a lot to me.”

“Really?” A new excited expression befell Natalie that I haven’t seen before, but she wasn’t smiling, it was all in her eyes. That didn’t take much to bring her back.

I stood up and held out my hand to hers, “Yes, really.” She took my hand and tried standing up, using me as a crutch. When we got to eye level, I looked down because I felt ashamed, “I’ll see you at the movies later, okay?” Am I really doing this? I never do these kinds of monotonous activities anymore, but I guess it couldn’t kill me to see one movie with my friends.

Her face lit up brighter than my eyes could handle, “You will! Oh my gosh! Today is going to be the best, I promise!” Ugh, what am I doing? Just turn her down Ethan; I can’t now, can I?

“I-I’ll hold you to that; I expect nothing less than the best day ever.” I tapped her on the shoulder, and walked away. She called out before I was out of range, “I’ll text you the details!” I waved behind me, not bothering to look back. She knows I heard her, that’s all that matters. I nearly get an ulcer everyday by hanging out with them, and now I’m volunteering to hangout- I must be a masochist. It’s just one movie Ethan; it’ll be over before you know it. 

The rest of the school day flew by and it was all just a blur. It happened so fast I didn’t realize I was already walking back home. Today has been weird, or at least weirder than usual. But I keep thinking about it, this whole movie thing doesn’t sound too bad, maybe even a little fun. Would you look at me? Perhaps I might actually be sick for once.

I looked at the clock in my room and it’s only three right now, and the text Natalie sent me said the movie was at five, so I have some time to burn. I suppose I’ll take a quick nap before I head over there. I put my headphones on, blasted my music as loud as my ears could take it, and drifted off to sleep on my bed.

Mmm, this feels so good to just lie here and not care about anything. Everything is perfect, all except that annoying buzzing sound. What is that? I don’t want to open my eyes; maybe it’ll just go away…

…Nope. Still there. Wait. WAIT! SHIT! I flung out of my slumber to find my phone vibrating on my desk. Oh no, oh no! What time is it! I looked over to see five-fifteen. No! My phone has ten missed calls, and fourteen texts. They must think I bailed on them; I’ll call them! But as I went to hit the dial button, the phone died. Sweet, really? Really? Why God? Why? All the calls must have killed my phone, and I don’t have to time to think about little things.

I ran out my door as fast as possible, slamming the front door behind me, and running all the way down my street. It has only been a block and my legs already hurt; man, I really should have done a little more running than sleeping. I continued to push myself to my limits, which isn’t much, but I still did it, dammit! The sun started to make its way to sunset, turning everything orange and nostalgic. I missed my heart pumping; looking forward to what is coming next, even getting to see Natalie. This isn’t such a bad feeling after all. I guess somewhere deep down, I missed caring about something. Yeah, even something as mundane as going to the movies.

At least I am within running distance of the movies. My legs started to feel numb and not the good kind like right before I go to sleep. This one hurts badly, and I feel like puking. I think I’m seeing spots and my throat is getting really dry. I am really out of shape. Maybe I should stop, but I need to push a little bit more and then I’m there. I can already see the theatre in the distant. Just…a…little…bit…more!  

My footsteps echoed in the parking lot each time I stomped down. Is that? I can see Natalie waiting out front, and she keeps looking down at her phone periodically. It looks like she’s calling someone, is it me? I slowed myself down right before I made it to her, so I could make it seem like I wasn’t out of breath, but this seems to be a lot harder than I thought. I haven’t made a run that hard in ever.

I leaned near a column next to Natalie, but tried to keep out of her sight. I finally managed to control my breathing, but as soon as I leaned off of the column, my legs felt like noodles. I wobbled my way behind Natalie, still not wanting to reveal myself. She had her phone to her ear, waiting to speak, “Hey, Ethan? Are you okay? I’m starting to get really worried…if you don’t want to show that’s fine…” She took a moment to speak after that, exhaling louder than I was, “…Just please get back to me…” She clicked the end button, looking like the end button meant a whole lot more to her.

It seems Natalie has given up on me as she turned to around to go in, only to see me standing there. I gave a genuine smile, a smile I haven’t given in a long time. Natalie jolted a bit then her face slowly illuminated brighter and brighter. I missed that face too. “Sorry I was late, I, um, fell asleep, haha.” I rubbed the back of my head, looking ashamed.

“I-i-it’s fine! I’m just glad you are here!” How can she actually looked relieved to see a douchebag like me. Through this past year, whenever I pushed her away she always tried to get closer. Even now, she waited this whole time for me, and right this instant she looks happier than I have ever seen her in a long time, and only because I came to the movies. Does she like me? I saw little signs before, but I thought it was just to get me to open up again after I disconnected myself. Maybe she really does like me…

What if she changed her feelings about Zack, and never asked him. She could have realized her feelings for me after I left her side; kind of like that old saying, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” This whole time I’ve been wasting time, and she’s been waiting for me, right here. They’re all lies, aren’t they? All of them. Not wanting to be around my friends, hating Zack, even saying I don’t have feelings for Natalie. I may never get to see my dreams into fruition, but I guess things like this will suffice.

“Hey, Natalie?”

“Yeah, Ethan?”

“I love you.” Um, what the hell are you doing Ethan? Are you okay? You just told the girl that killed you inside that you love her. Are you insane? I think so; I am talking to myself. Fair enough.

Natalie just stared at me looking like I proposed to her. I wonder how that scene would pan out. It looks like she is about to speak, but then stumbles over herself. After a few more failed starts, and me looking like an asshole again awkwardly waiting for a response, she was able to start a sentence, “D-do…do you mean that?”

Do I? It was random and out of the blue, but honestly it feels good to say. Maybe my bitterness blinded me from everything, and actually caring again felt great. I think I do, nor did I ever stop loving her. I think the more I loved Natalie the harder it was to be around her, making me angrier each day. This whole sudden of emotions spewing out also seems to be coming out of nowhere. Perhaps through a combination of actually caring again, and running all the way across town, is making me feel vulnerable.

“I do, really do, and I have for a long time.”

“I-I-I-I” She stopped herself before she sounded even dumber. I giggled at her stuttering, and she gave me a cold stare, but that only made me laugh more. Natalie shook her head and kept her head down, before looking up with that beautiful smile of hers, “I love you too, Ethan…” I don’t think my heart can take it; I feel like I should do something, but what. Maybe I should- before I had any more time to think in my head, I felt a tiny pair a lips pushing up on mine. My whole body froze, but I forced my joints to move to the right angle, and I embraced Natalie.

So I guess coming to the movies wasn’t so bad…I could hear the door to the theatres open up, but I didn’t want this moment to end. Of course someone had to end it, be it my morning alarm or Zack’s obnoxious voice, it has to be something. “Well, well, well. I knew you kids would end up together! This has been a long time coming, but you guys finally tied the knot!” So he knew, but I should have expected it from him.

“You knew we liked each other?” I’m honestly shocked he cared enough to think about it.

“Of course I did. It wasn’t hard to figure out.” Zack looked down and gave a very real look of concern, “I was worried, Sloth. I was really worried we were losing you. Especially when Natalie told me she loved you.”

“W-what?” This whole time I’ve been pushing them away for no reason… “But why didn’t you guys just tell me?”

“We tried man, we really did, but every time you made up reasons to not hang out…but I guess that’s our fault…”

Dammit, dammit! I’m such an asshole…what have I done…, “No! This is all my fault…There has just been a lot going on in my head…” I looked over to Natalie, but she blushingly turned away. She looked so cute just now…I don’t like it when I gush.

Zack put his hands on his hips, and started laughing, “Man, I thought after Natalie confessed to me things would get bad between us, and I was kind of right, but-”

What…so she did confess to him? I looked over to Natalie and she turned away again, but this time she didn’t look embarrassed, she looked guilty and ashamed.

“-I knew Natalie and I weren’t right for each other, and I told her you would be a better choice.”

I didn’t want to think about it, but she did choose Zack over me…

“It was funny how she said she couldn’t think of you like that, and you were more like a brother, but after I turned her down, she slowly turned around.”

So if he would have said yes, they would have been together, but since Zack deemed it so, she ended up with me. I’m just the next best thing…I’ve been manipulated and laughed at, and now this girl I thought I loved only said it back because she had no choice…No. No!

“Ethan?” Shut up Zack, shut up. “Ethan say something?” Shut up! “Come on, say something.” He placed his hand on my shoulder, and I lost it. I swung my arm as hard as I could, hearing the sweet sound of Zack’s face being socked. “Ah, fuck man!” Zack rubbed his face, while he tried to regain his balance.

“Fuck you all! I’m done!”

“E-Ethan! Please don’t go!” Natalie tried to grab my arm, but I pulled away as fast as I could. “Ethan…”

“Leave me alone! I don’t want anything to do with you! I won’t be your second best choice! I won’t be anything towards you!”

“N-no, you’re not my second choice! I love you, Ethan!”

“Stop saying my name! Just stop talking to me!” I continued to walk furiously away from her, but she continued to keep talking to me, “Please! Don’t go! That was a long time ago! I felt differently! Please! Ethan!” Her voice was becoming more and more muffled the farther away I walked. Sweet lord, the silence. I am done caring about anything; I should have never of come here. Wait, one good thing came out of this, I don’t have to deal with those shits again. No more. AHHH! I should have listened to myself! RAHHHH!

This is Zack’s world and there is no place for me here. However he wants events to go, they go that way. Whenever I want something, whenever I just want to be the least bit selfish, I lose it all, because I am nothing. I’m just done.

“ETHAN, NO!” Natalie’s voice erratically became louder, reaching out over the whole parking lot. It was so loud and desperate it even made me turn around, just as my last foot step walked over the curb. When I turned around I continued my walk backwards. She yelled out again, “NO!” This is the loudest I have ever heard her scream. Then it came to me.

I saw the overwhelming headlights catching me in them like a deer, I heard the hard screeching sound of rubber peeling out on the road, and I felt the unbelievable pain of eleven tons of steel smacking my right side. Everything was in slow motion, even Natalie reaching her hand out towards me. I have no idea how close it is, but it feels so far away, everything, feels so far away right now. I’m dead aren’t I? Whatever, I hate this life anyways.

            Within a second of excruciating pain, it went away and everything turned cold and numbing. This was the good numbing again, the kind that was right before falling into a deep sleep, and that’s what this is: going into a deep sleep. I can finally dream without being interrupted again, just as I always wanted. Sweet dreams Ethan. 

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