“Get up” was the only thing his father said before unsheathing a hammer from behind his back. Michael closed his eyes while his muscles tightened throughout his body. Corban then closed the door as he positioned himself in front of Michael. “You see that?” Corban said, pointing towards Michael’s computer as he knew precisely what his father was planning to do considering this was how they typically bonded at home. “Boy I tell ya, I just don’t know what else to do.” Corban sneered before quickly turning to smash Michael’s computer screen.
“Shut your mouth!!” Corban shouted.
Michael started to cry but quickly held his tears back as Corban ripped cords from their rightful place. Wham! The hammer’s head sounded as it fell against the electronics which obviously couldn’t defend themselves. Michael tensed even more so as pain ricocheted throughout his body. Whack! By now he was starting to accept the punishment for what it was – a routine and nothing more since Corban typically resorted to destroying that which Michael loved most whenever he failed to meet or exceed his father’s expectations. Although, Michael couldn’t understand how or why his father showed him such malevolence. All he wanted was to please him, though it seemed he never could.
Corban furiously tore apart the tower that held the necessary parts for his son to connect with the only thing that brought him comfort and pride, regardless of whether or not the virtual worlds he explored were real or fictitious. Michael then stood at the edge of the bed with his back still turned against his executioner, wondering if he would be left to sleep off the pain. However, Corban ironically went on to lecture his son about the merits of being honest and caring for the safety of those around him.
“If you’re gonna be a man, start acting like one.” Corban went on to say.
“Yes…sir.” Michael managed to say between the panting, despite the throbbing pain he felt.
“I know you enjoy playing those stupid games with your friend, but taking them away should give you the encouragement you need to grow up.”
“I don’t know what you want from me.” Michael said as he sulked, wiping the tears from his face.
“Well maybe a shift in routine will help you figure that out. Goodnight, Michael.” Corban finished saying as he slammed the door behind him, leaving an emotionally and psychologically bruised son on the bed to sleep for the night as it drew on.
Michael sat alone in the darkness as he wondered whether or not his father would ever give him praise. I can’t believe she threw me under the bus he thought to himself. I mean, I literally had nothing to do with her choosing to visit that stupid kid. Yet I get reamed for happening to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – figures. He went on to think prior to numbing out the pain that overtook him just moments earlier.
“I just want it to stop.” Michael sobbed even though he wasn’t quite sure what needed stopped.
So he stayed awake for an hour longer as he listened for his parent’s movements throughout the house. After all, one of them had literally trashed his beloved computer before he was expected to rest for the night. But thankfully they retired to their bedroom shortly following their spell of terror, so Michael laid in his bed as he scanned the glow-in-the-dark stars that dotted his ceiling. He often looked towards them with the hope that a savior would come down from above to rescue him, much like his game character who saved countless lives in The World of Magic.
He envisioned himself being swept away by currents of starlight as the darkness that surrounded him was banished without a second thought. A momentary stillness befell him as he smiled with the feeling that everything was going to work out. For some reason, he felt a spark of hope kindle within his chest shortly before closing his eyes. Although it wasn’t long until Michael slipped into his dreamscape, which in turn caused his sense of hope to flee as quickly as it came.
“Caw, caw!” Called the crow as it watched from above, peering down at the poor soul who found his way to the innards of the dense wood. Michael awoke to find himself surrounded by thick brush and twisted vines coated in the sharpest thorns. It was as though someone had dumped a body in a field of barbed wire out in the middle of nowhere. Little could be seen however, as both the density of the forest and the shadow of night made it difficult for any man to navigate.
He then managed to sit upright after struggling to be released by the foliage that ensnared him upon waking.
“Where the hell am I?” He questioned as he brushed his clothes off, being careful so as to not get stabbed by the prickly teeth nesting around him. At that moment, the clouds broke as moonlight descended upon a patch of land near Michael. He then noticed a woman clad in blue luminescent garb appear suddenly in the same clearing that seemingly kept the thorns at bay.
She motioned for him to come towards her, and he felt as though it was his only option considering the rest of the forest offered little comfort. Snap! Broke dried branches that rested below Michael’s feet. He tried his best to leave the plants undisturbed since he felt as though he’d attract unwanted attention if he did otherwise, not to mention the fact he’d feel less pain if he actively avoided the curled hooks lining the twisted vines.
The woman sat patiently at the center of the clearing while Michael toiled during his approach, although she disappeared as soon as he managed to free himself from the binds that held him down from the start. Michael couldn’t help but feel a sense of confusion mired in disbelief as he stumbled upon an old stone obelisk covered in moss and vines. He stepped towards it as the moon’s light wrapped itself around its roughened edges before hearing his name whispered.
He turned to find no one, although he felt something other than fear. Something within him pressed him to move closer towards the object that filled his gaze.
“Michael.” He heard his name whispered again, only this time it was louder.
“Who’s there?!” He called back.
“Michael.” The voice grew louder and more distinct.
“What?!” By now he was growing both impatient and concerned that he wasn’t safe, although his focus quickly shifted as the ground beneath him started trembling. At that moment he looked around to see if he could grab onto something, but there was nothing besides the old statue that stood before him. Without a second thought he rushed over to wrap his body around the lone spire that extended from the Earth, and this only caused the tremors to amplify.
Suddenly a blinding light erupted from the ground beneath the spire as a pool of reflective water appeared to surround the base of the statue Michael found himself clenching to as a gecko clings to most surfaces. He wasn’t going to let go without a struggle, and his eyes squeezed shut as he tightened his grip around the obelisk. But something prompted him to look down at the pool below.
He then saw a field of golden corn, swaying in the breeze as the Sun dipped its warm rays upon the landscape. White clouds danced in the sky above as each took on various shapes or forms. For a moment, Michael felt at ease more than he’d ever experienced in life. Feelings of acceptance, warmth, and comfort overwhelmed him as gentle hands wrapped themselves around his ankles. Michael then looked to see the woman he saw just moments ago reaching out as she pulled him towards the land which sharply contrasted the dreamscape he found himself originally.
It wasn’t long until he found himself peering through the same hole, but through the opposite end. He looked around as he took a deep breath – a sigh of relief that he had found comfort in the nick of time considering the shockwaves coming from the unwelcoming forest hadn’t crossed over with him.
“Are you alright?” The woman asked kindly.
To be continued…
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