I awake with my feet lacking any sensation at all. My lungs struggle to raise my chest up and down like chains are binding them. Needles prick my feet, and cold like steel fills my legs. Time freezes. Am I going to Die? Alone in my room being crushed by an invisible force? My nerves lock in place as I begin yelling loudly, “MOOOMMM!”

The response I need to hear doesn’t come, so I yell again, “MOOOMMM!!!”

Slam! My mother crashes through the door. She approaches me as hot beads of water roll down my face. The heaving of my chest quickly grows ragged after I see the grimace on her face being partially covered by the darkness of the room. My mom knows what to do right? There’s no way I’m going to die right?

My mom sits down beside me. Her long brown hair and phantom like frame add fuel to the fire that is her ghastly appearance in the abyss. I reach out as if I can dispel the sinister visage her usually comforting form has taken. Like reaching through a dark haze my mom returns when I wrap my arms around her.

“Braxton! What hurts baby? Is it bad being in the new room?” her face resembles a wrinkled shirt being ironed out as no signs of danger present themselves.

“I don’t know Mom! I feel...Wahhhh!” I cry heavily when the waves of frustration hit me. Why do I feel so bad? Is it just me? Does my mom not see the needles pricking my feet? or the weight on my chest?

“Relax Braxton! I’m here. You know I’ll always be here...” she pauses while rocking me lightly in her arms. I feel instant comfort at the remarkably soothing gesture. A pool of anxiety inside of me feels like it is being drained with each leaning of the right or left.

After a few moments I say, “I’m sorry mom. I just couldn't breathe well for a bit. I felt sick.”

Her face lights up as she says, “I’ll take you to the doctor tomorrow okay? Now get some sleep. I know it’s scary being alone in your new room, but you can be strong for me, right Braxton?”

“I can be even stronger for me Mommy,” I say with false bravado. 

“Haha, well good. If you feel bad again you can sleep with me tonight okay?”

She leaves, and I feel the fear of the unknown trap me. I hold onto the warmth of my mom’s appearance, and fight away my feelings of dread with it. Over the course of a few minutes my alertness fades, and sleep quickly follows.

The first doctor says I am probably completely healthy, "You are at an age when a lot of different things seem scary son, but just try to recognize that a lot of times the best medicine is peace of mind. Just relax."

"Are you sure? I just have a little trouble lifting my toes and feet now is all, and I can't help but get paranoid!" I proclaim with fear obviously lacing my words. He shoos me away with a knowing nod, and gives me an ankle brace to try and help my feet whenever I sleep.

My symptoms continue, but after the reassurance from the doctor I assume these symptoms are all inside of my head. Anxiety is most likely directing my decision making process to an unhealthy degree. At least, that's what I assume. So I decide to ignore the current symptoms. I’m going to continue my life regardless. 

I’m at school googling everything I can find on gunpowder and how it came to be whenever one of my friends, Luke, notes the way I started always wearing two ankle braces.

"Did you hurt your feet?" Luke asks with nonchalant curiousness. 

"No, but I saw how you got some braces recently, and I wanted to match," I say with a teasing expression.

Luke panicks,  "Wait, do they look bad? Oh god what if they look bad!" I reassure him that they look as bad as anyone else's with a laugh. Luke looks both aghast and amused at the same time. His black hair and thin frame look gloomy at first, but his easy going aura can sometimes sharply contrast his appearance. 

The day passes by with cozy ease when suddenly a girl from 7th grade sits on our table next to me because of the way their class's table at lunch is over crowded. She is pretty in a simple way. She has blonde hair that is long and pulled into a ponytail. She is taller than me, but seems shy despite her stature. Her sports related attire looks very natural on her.  Her pale skin is flushing slightly as she is forced to sit next to me in the only free seat.

Being free of the social quagmire that usually prevents people from speaking at times like these, I start a conversation with her. 

I have the terrible habit of overthinking the first thing that I say to people, and since she looks like she isn’t too shy I say, "Heyyyy, me and my friend over here were making bets on which one of us you would hate more by the time lunch is over. Care to guess who I bet on?"

Her cheeks deepen their shade of red, and she quickly starts to shyly laugh while covering her mouth. I can see her glance at me for a second, but she still doesn’t say anything.

"Sorry!" I say with exaggerated hand gestures. " I didn't mean to embarrass you, my name's Braxton. What's yours?"

She shows a little more comfort as she somewhat stiffly replies with, "My name is Kinslee."

"Well then Kinslee to commemorate our meeting I dub thee Lee. Short for Kinslee the wise all knowing saint of Rockwhil high," my close circle of friends gives her a knowing nod of sympathy as if to say they are sorry for her having to talk to me. 

It completely contradicts their snickering as they want to see more of the show between us.

"Haha, well that escalated a little too quickly," Kinslee says with a new found interest in the conversation.

"What should I call you then Braxton?"

"Call me Ton, because I that's how much I talk," I immediately reply with a slightly smug look of satisfaction at the rather clever self derogatory comment.

"So tell me what you do Lee. Tell us about your grand adventures you have daily."

"I do track. I run the 400 meter dash, I also play basketball, and I looove my dog, sparkles. "

"The dog life is my life. I love my dog Artheus," she laughs at the somewhat unexpected name, but I can tell that she was slowly opening up because of my rather goofy behavior.

"I'm not even going to guess how you made that name. Why Artheus," she asks with a comfort that was quickly forming when talking to me.

" My parents told me they wanted to call him Al, but I told them normal names won't fit my war beast. He needs a name befitting his future position," I say with a goofy, exaggerated smile plastered to my face. 

She quickly smacks her face and becomes as skeptical of my actions and words as my close friends.

Before she left I ask, "Why don't you sit next us tomorrow lee?" 

She replies, "Nice try short stuff, but that isn't very likely."

The next day I realize her words were true, and she decides to sit with her usual circle of friends.  I talk to my friends about a game plan to attack this issue, and they tell me to go sit with her. I usually don't feel a single bit of pressure from people, but even I was wrestling with the thought of actually going and sitting with the 7th graders. Especially because it was just a lot of athletic chicks who are all somewhat attractive. I back down from my friends suggestions and decide that maybe our friendship isn’t meant to be.

I’m walking into the lunchroom the next day when I see Lee sitting with her friends and they all seem to be bored. I turn towards my regular sitting position when a sudden flash of the gigantic creature I still see in my dreams causes me to stumble slightly.The sudden image clouds my mind as I feel a force pull me towards Kinslee's table. I approach her table with reckless abandon. I sit down next to Kinslee and everybody in her circle stares at me. One of them opens the conversation with, "Are you confused little man?"

Oh man. I’m not one to take passive aggressive remarks laying down, and I can almost always swamp people in conversation with clever references and an overbearing language style that always catches people off guard. 

So I reply with, "Why Lee over here is why I'm here, but I can see why seeing my majestic form gracing your presence could seem confusing. I'll let you have my company for a day though, okay, doll?" I say with the same silly smile I put on whenever I’m in character. 

The result is this incredibly high pitched round of laughter directed more so at me than with me from the table. They all look at me as though a very interesting toy had landed in front of them. One that they want to use for entertainment.

Lee grows to a bright red, but seems very happy to have somebody to spice up the monotony of lunch for the day. The only problem is my appearance. I’m a shorter fellow with black hair who’s fairly thin. It greatly contrasts with my over confidence in conversation while simultaneously making people take more interest in me.

At the end of the day I tell her to sit with us from now on. Her friends make incredibly obnoxious jeers at this as though I’m asking her out publicly with no intent of actually receiving a yes. I turn incredibly red but maintain my usual smile.

Later that same day I’m walking my dog Artheus through a park somewhat close to our school. I love walking Artheus through this particular park because of the evergreen trees it has. I feel a deep satisfaction from being surrounded with nature. Each seemingly random feature in the surrounding plants add to an overall mysticism that escapes my everyday life.  During this time, I see a familiar face with an adorable dog that can only be named Sparkles.

"Leeeeeeee, I can see you were completely serious about sparkles."

"Well Artheus is all you said he would be and more," she replies with a breathy laugh particular to younger girls.
We continue our conversation for a while and eventually find ourselves next to a small orchard of fig trees located next to a lake.

"I never understood lakes or the ocean. Why do lakes form in some holes and valleys but not others? Especially the ocean. Why doesn't the salt water just seep into the dirt underneath?" I roughly ask not expecting a reply.

Kinslee at this point is confused and asks, "That just isn't something I would think about. What could possibly make you think that?"

"Well we are sitting here next to this lake. Wondering why the lake is here is a pretty natural thought. Why? Is that a weird thought? Would it confuse and confound the masses?" I reply with thick sarcasm towards the later part of the sentence.

"I just liked it. It was something new...What do you want to be someday," she asks with rapt attention only attainable through interesting conversation.

"I want to rule a large group of people with an iron foot," I jests while pointing towards my foot braces. "Just think about me as a counterpart to Stalin."I pause and snicker. "Or a grand warrior who crushes enemies under his feet. You know I think high jump could be for me." 

I try to make it obvious that I’m completely okay with my feet being made fun of, but deep down it is an insecurity of mine. 

"How could you say that!" Kinslee stares straight into my eyes while my smile slowly fades under her glare. "Why would you say that about yourself? Your feet are fine, and I think it's not at all that big a deal."

I’m blown away. I don't know how, but she knows it hurts for me to talk about my feet. She even seems mad at me for...hurting myself. It makes my mind scramble in every direction to try and accept all of this unexpected situation and still keep up my usual banter. In the end I just sit there with my mouth slightly open. I’m deeply tense about the current situation, but I also feel a bittersweet pinch. She sees through me and can tell how I really feel. It makes me realize I have felt so lonely up until this point. Like Kinslee is the first person to actually see through my shell. 

"I guess... I want to be somebody who makes things. Like a writer, programmer, or a construction engineer. I want to make things and bring them into the world. Things that wouldn't exist without me, " I reply with a subdued expression not at all typical for me. 

She looks at me with a more approving gaze and says, "I want to be an architect. I really like houses, especially older houses."

The conversation continues for at least another hour before we part ways. This became a pattern as we meet next to the fig trees and the lake every day after school. She tells me about how she struggles with her grades, but she still wants to be an architect. How she loves animals and is an amazing athlete.

Eventually it becomes abundantly clear that she is competing at a national level, but she remains very humble about her circumstances. I slowly  realize that she is very empathetic. She doesn’t always understand everything I say, but she always manages to understand how I feel.

The only problem is my legs. After about 3 months I can't move my toes or feet. I go to the doctor in hopes that there is some kind of help for my condition when I receive the news. I have Lou Gehrig's Disease. I am slowly going to wither away and die. A million different futures are immediately destroyed before they can begin…

I had to rewrite this chapter so puhlEASE tell me if something is wrong. I want to catch it as soon as possible.

About the author


  • The Big Daddy


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