I ran from the giant. He was ugly. He had green, plastic-like skin that covered tonnes of thick muscle. He had one big, watering eye right in the middle of his forehead. I remembered him from the Greek myths I used to read. He was called a Cyclops, I think. Those pictures have nothing on the real thing, I thought. I kept running as far as my legs could take me. The Cyclops seemed to be gaining on me. I broke out in sweat, running faster than I thought could be done. I tripped. Panicked, I scrambled to get up but it was too late. The Cyclops grabbed me. He held me high until I was level with his eye. Then he opened his mouth to talk.
“Arthur! It’s school time!”. I looked at the Cyclops confused.
“Arthur, get up!” it screeched.
It began to shake me. I was being tossed and turned. I closed my eyes in fear. It was going to hurt me. I was going to get killed. No! No! No…
I opened my eyes. There was my mother staring down at me, her face livid. I shook my head. Where was I? Just then I realised that I was in my bedroom. I was drenched in sweat.
“Arthur Pendragon! How many times do I have to call you before you wake up your own self? I have had it up to here with your laziness. You’re 16 years old for crying out loud! Have you not learnt a thing?” mother shrieked.
Knowing better than to test my mother’s patience, I got out of bed and headed straight for the shower. I heard my mother shouting something in the background but didn’t deem it necessary to listen to a single piece of her hysteric shriek. I stripped off my clothes and turned the shower on. The hot water of the shower calmed me down as I stood there. It unloosened all the muscles I didn’t know that had tensed because of that dream. That dream. It had all seemed too real to be just a dream. The Cyclops. That forest. It was real. Too real. But it was a dream. I had woken up and it was all gone. I shook my head clear of all the thoughts. I was going crazy. It was a dream. Just a dream.
I stepped out of the shower and got changed for school. I put on my uniform and made my way downstairs. I got to the kitchen and there sat my mother and father at the table having their breakfast. Father was reading a paper as mother droned on about something “scandalous” that took place yesterday. Women, I thought. Father was probably reading the same news as always. The world was constantly being struck with natural disasters. It had become more common recently. Some crazy people were insisting that Armageddon was approaching, all that Mayan jazz. And there were other psychos who said it had something to do with the imbalance in the natural order of things. Fools. I wondered why father even bothered reading that trash. My parents were so typical. They were like every other parent along this street. Rich and arrogant, ignorant in their own world. My father and mother both owned a large business, with their company spread all over the world. And there’s me, a 16 year old trying to live up to his parents dream. I sighed. Just a usual family on 16th Avenue.
I sat down at my place at the table. We went through the usual pleasantries. How are you doing? What time are you coming home today? I’m afraid we’ll be late due to a meeting we have with clients. You know, the usual crap you deal with every morning. I couldn’t stand their mindless chatter anymore. I quickly tossed my breakfast down my throat and speedily left the house for school. I quite liked school. It wasn’t all that bad. In fact, if I was being honest, school is the only place I have going for me right now. What’s not to like about it? I mean I was a popular kid – I was rich, right? So automatic popularity. I smiled cynically as I carried on outside and walked my way to school. It was just like every other part of my life. Predictable, ordinary, boring. I hummed a song as I made my way through the school gates. As soon as I reached the classroom, everyone had stopped what they were doing and my friends made their way across to me as the girls sat and watched me. My lips twitched. It was amusing how the girls would fall head over heels for me without knowing me. The real me was nowhere near as exciting or worthy of being swooned over. I was boring. I was just plain old Arthur. Nothing more.
“Studied for the calculus exam, Arty?” asked Lance, with a smile on his face. He knew the answer. I never studied for exams unless really necessary. My photographic memory made that possible. I smiled at him in response to his question. My friends just laughed and shook their heads. I was lucky; I had great genes and, boy, did I know it.
The teacher walked in and we made our way to our seats. After the first lesson came the second, and after the second came the third. School was the usual. I was bored of my life. There was nothing out of the ordinary that happened. My life had become predictable. There was something missing in my life. I didn’t know what. But I would know when it came.
Thankfully, school eventually came to an end. I made my way back to home, walking. I walked the longer way, around the park. I needed to refresh my mind. I needed to think. I walked through the park. The afternoon breeze had picked up. It was cold. It was always cold. The clouds hung over, like a looming shadow. What was wrong with me? I always got everything I wanted. I had the perfect life from the outside. Good parents, good grades, money, girls, friends. What was my problem then? I sighed. I knew what my problem was. Sure I had everything, but it was all given to me by my parents. I don’t have real friends that I could trust, there were just in for the ride with rich Arthur Pendragon, the son of the elite Uther and Igraine Pendragon. I wanted more to life than this. I wanted real friends, caring parents, and a girl who liked me for who I am, not what I have. But I knew there were all out of my reach. I was Arthur Pendragon. All this came as a given with my name. I would just have to suck it all up and live with it. That was what was expected of me. I huffed in frustration. That was all I ever did. Rise to my expectations. I never got a chance to express what I wanted, what I expected from others. I just gave and never got anything in return. I grunted in annoyance. Great. Now I was moaning like a little girl. Suck it up Pendragon. Just live with it. Go with the flow, it’s better than the alternative. I gulped. I most definitely didn’t want the wrath of my parents. They probably wouldn’t disown me as I’m the only son they have but they weren’t going to be the slightest bit happy about me complaining.
I heard some shuffling in the bushes. I froze. What was that? I stared at it for a moment. There was no movement. I blew a sigh of relief. I straightened out from the instinctual crouch I had gotten into. I was about to walk away when the bushes shuffled again. My muscles tensed. It continued shuffling. It’s the wind. It’s the wind, I chanted. The ruffling continued. I got scared. Adrenaline pumped through me. I was ready to fight whatever came out from there, I told myself. I crouched back down into my fighting stance. The bushes ruffled a little more as the beast in the bushes got ready to step out. The bushes ruffled before something blurred as it jumped out from the bushes. I screamed a little as I realised it was jumping towards me and stepped back. It was a squirrel. A squirrel. I was scared of a squirrel! Good Lord, there really was something wrong with me, wasn’t there? I breathed in relief. I couldn’t believe I had gotten that scared. I was definitely on edge today. I wondered why. I shook my head, clearing it. First the girly moaning, and now this! What is wrong with you Arthur?
I kicked a nearby stone in annoyance and checked my watch. It was getting late. I needed to get home. I walked out of the park and began to make my way back home. I walked down the streets and looked around. Same old houses, same old drunks walking around, same old cars driving past to make it home in time, same old guy hiding in the alley, same old… Wait what! What was that guy doing in the corner? He looked around my age, maybe slightly older. He was slightly more built than me. I took a closer look. What was he wearing? It looked like the olden time tunics and baggy pants. He must be some cook, I thought. I went closer to get a better look. The weird guy was looking the other way. He looked afraid and confused. I walked a little closer. I took a step forward. And then another. My foot had crunched the packet of chips below on the floor. Fucking litter bugs, I thought. Just then the boy’s eyes darted up, towards me. He was afraid and on edge. He crouched down. Poised, ready to fight. I held my hands up in surrender.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” I explained calmly. “I want to help you.” At this point the guy’s eye showed a hint of relief but then they were guarded again. He looked doubtful.
“I saw you standing there and thought that maybe you need some help. Are you lost or something?” I asked. The guy looked at me up and down carefully before standing up straight to look at me. He didn’t say a thing as he stared at me. He looked at me carefully as if he was sizing me up. I extended my hand forward. “I’m Arthur,” I told him. He looked down at my hand and stared. Okay, he wasn’t ready to touch me yet. That’s perfectly fine in my opinion. I retracted my hand and looked at him. He stared back. I realised he wasn’t going to talk so easily. So I decided to ask him questions.
“What’s your name?” I asked. He seemed uneasy at first then looked down at the floor in defeat as he answered.
“I’m Gwaine. Gwaine Macken,” he rasped. He had a slight accent to his voice. It sounded almost Irish. I took as the go ahead sign and continued to ask him another question.
“So Gwaine, where are you from?” I asked.
“Cullenada,” he whispered. I swear I almost didn’t hear him. I hadn’t heard of Cullenada before. I looked back up. He had fear etched all over his face. He was looking around confused. “Where am I?” he asked.
I looked at him weirdly. What was wrong with him? Had he lost his memory? “Washington D.C. of course,” I exclaimed. He looked at me weirdly.
“Where is this exactly? I’ve never heard of this place before,” he sounded worried.
“I haven’t heard of Cullenada either,” I replied. He looked genuinely scared as he stared at the floor. He was confused already and I’m just confusing him more. Well done Arthur, I thought. “Where do you live?” I asked. “Maybe I can drop you off home,” I offered. He looked back up at me.
“I don’t live here. I’m from Cullenada. I’ve already told you that,” he replied harshly. He had no place here and he was thoroughly confused. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t take him home as I had no idea where his home was, but I couldn’t leave him here either. I quickly made a decision.
“Gwaine, I’m taking you home with me. Alright?” I asked. He mutely nodded his head. I thought about extending my hand for him to take as we walked home but decided against that. The poor guy was already scared, he would freak if I held his hand. He would think I’m some sort of pervy gay guy. I walked down the street in the direction of my home. I was happy to hear his footsteps as he followed me down the street. As we walked down the street I couldn’t help much notice a shadow in the alley we had just left. I turned back to see it closely. There was nothing there. My imagination was seriously playing up here. I kept noticing shadows everywhere. I shook my head clear of the thoughts and I carried on walking down until I reached the gates of my house. I looked at the garage and realised my parents’ car was there. No, no, no. this couldn’t be happening now. I turned to look at Gwaine as I thought of a way to get Gwaine into my bedroom without my parents realising. I thought hard about how to get Gwaine in until finally I came up with a plan.
I motioned for Gwaine to stay silently as I went forward. I asked him to stay by the door until I signalled for him to come up and head straight for the stairs. I opened the door and walked inside. My parents were in the lounge sitting down. As I walked in the both looked up. Mother looked at the clock and then back at me.
“Why are you late Arthur?” asked mother.
“I took a walk around the park. I was busy thinking of ideas for my new school project,” I lied. My parents seemed to buy it though as they both looked at me and smiled. They motioned for me that it was okay and that I could leave. “Mother. Father. I was wondering if you could come to the kitchen with me. It’s just I haven’t had cookies and milk with you two in a long time and was wondering if you two would care to join me. Please?” I begged.
Both my parents looked at me with sympathy. They both knew that they almost never spent time with me recently but they usually seemed to ignore it as I never complained. This was the first time I had acknowledged that. They both looked guilty. Begrudgingly, they both agreed and got up to make their way to the kitchen. I motioned for them to walk ahead of me. I held back as they made their way to the kitchen. I quietly tiptoed back to tell Gwaine to go up the stairs then rushed back to my parents.
We stayed in the kitchen as we talked about school and their work. For the most part, the conversation was awkward to say the least. They never knew how to talk to me casually. They never needed to as they never bothered talking to me unless it was to tell me off for not having reached my potential. After ten or so minutes, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer so excused myself with the excuse of homework. I took a glass of milk and a plate of cookies in my hand.
“Where are you taking that?” asked mother.
Think fast, Arthur. “Um, I’m taking it upstairs. It’s going to be a while finishing my homework as I’ve got quite a lot to do today. So the food will keep me going through the night,” I replied. I silently prayed my parents would buy that lie. They did. They smiled and motioned for me to continue. I sighed in relief. Nice one Arthur, I praised myself.
I made my way upstairs to find Gwaine at the top of the stairs waiting. I motioned for him to follow me as I went across the landing and up another case of stairs. I had the whole floor upstairs to myself. My parents never went there. We went in and I locked the door just in case. I placed the cookies and milk on the table as I motioned for Gwaine to sit on the chair. He anxiously sat down on the chair. He seemed awkward for a while but then seemed to relax visibly and picked up a cookie to eat. I sighed happily. He was getting used to me. Finally, I thought. I waited until he had finished his cookies and gulped down his milk, before clearing my throat.
“So, Gwaine, how did you get here?”