The Boys of Nowhere
I flung back the covers and slid out of bed, my feet going automatically into the slippers I'd gotten as a birthday gift the evening before. My book, a new fantasy found at the bookstore I'd skipped last period to visit, fell off the bed to land spine up. The stars on the cover flickered.
I yawned as I shuffled toward the front door, scrubbing at my face with the palm of one hand. Stumbling over a wrinkle in the rug, I banged into the wall. I grunted and pushed away, moving toward the front door.
I had to go.
"Where are you going?" A hand clamped down on one of my shoulders. I shuddered and then turned. My dad stood in the door to his room, his hand holding me in place.
"I ... don't know." The compulsion faded so quickly I couldn't remember why I was out of bed.
He stared at me, a frown wrinkling his forehead. "Well go back to bed; it's the middle of the night."
I went back to bed, rubbing my shoulder. The dark was nearly complete and bothered me for the first time in years. I left my door open, light coming in from the streetlight on the sidewalk that shone through the hall window. Collapsing face down, I tugged my pillow under my head and pulled the blanket over me and bunching it under my shoulder.
Warmth surrounded me as the chill in my flesh faded. Yawning, I let my eyes drift closed.
Morning came too soon.
My alarm woke me up well before I was ready to get up. School was the last thing I wanted to sit through when I was this freaking tired, but graduation was just a week away. Finals had finished, grades tabulated, caps and gowns delivered, college admissions letters accepted … but I still had to go sit in class. It was stupid.
I'm supposed to go to off to begin my life as an adult. Be responsible, make life decisions, take those first steps down the path I had no choice but to follow … and all that crap society said I had to do. I didn't want to though. I didn't fit in at high school, I always felt like I was out of step with everyone around me; nothing felt quite real. Going off to college felt wrong, as if that wasn’t where I was supposed to go.
Maybe I just wasn't ready for all the expectations my dad was heaping on me, like the marketing books he always pushed me to read. He wanted me to be a great businessman like him. I was going to be Mr. Lucas Orckiv Junior, prominent member of society with his feet planted firmly on the ground, come hell or high water.
All I really wanted to do was to lose myself in a strange, new world where my reality was a soldier fighting alien incursions or cats were walking on two legs could use telepathy. In other words, a place where my future didn't mean dorm assignments and term papers about business ethics or marketing.
I pushed open the front door and called out, "Dad? I'm home!" The house was silent. The note on the table said he would be working late and not to wait on him for dinner.
Of course he would be. I snorted. Yet my dad wondered why I didn’t want to be carbon copy of him?
There was food in the fridge but I didn't feel like making anything. I grabbed a soda and a bag of chips out of the cupboard and plopped down in front of the TV.
The only thing on was an old movie, something from the 90s about some old guys in the space program. Cracking open my can, I took a long drink of soda, letting the bubbles tickle my throat as I guzzled it down. The chip bag crinkled when I grabbed a handful. I pop one chip after another in my mouth. I liked the thin crispy ones better than the thick.
Bored with the lame movie, I set the bag down on the coffee table, and wiped my hands on my jeans. I yawned. Grabbing a pillow, I stretched out on the couch. I should have been doing something, packing up my room or off acting like an idiot kid one last time, but I didn't feel like it. My friends were all excited; why couldn't I be? Hell, my dad was more excited than I was but I was pretty sure it was just so that he could be free from parenting once I was gone.
I started to doze as NASA geeks got more and more frantic on the TV, my blinks getting longer and longer. Turning, I snuggled my face into the back of the couch and sighed as my whole body relaxed.
I had to go.
I rolled over and sat up, swinging my feet to the floor.
I walked out the door, no jacket, no shoes. Behind the house was the lake. The silver surface was smooth, glass-like, until the first ripples from my toes broke the unnatural stillness.
They need me.
I had to go.
Light envelopes me where water once surrounded and supported my body. It blinds me. My eyes sting and tear up as I bring one hand up to shade them, suddenly awake and aware. What the hell?
"Hello?" My words echo like I'm in a huge, empty room.
My name slithers like a whisper across my senses.
"Who's there? Who's calling me?"
"We need you, Lucas." The sound of my name startles me.
"Who are you? Where am I? Why can't I see anything?"
"You are … here."
Fuck these cryptic voices. "Why can’t I see you? Where are you? Where is here? As far as I can tell, here is nowhere!"
“Nowhere.” The word echoes through the room. None of this made sense. I pinch my arm, wincing at the sharp pain. I’m not dreaming.
“Help who? What are you talking about?” My head aches. I wipe at my streaming eyes, the light makes them flutter painfully as tears stream down my face.
"You cannot help us if you cannot see."
"Of course I can't see! The light blinds me."
"You can will it not to; you can bring us home. Fill the void that's consumed us before it's too late."
Fill the ... What in the hell did that mean? My hands clench into fists and I snarl. "Stop talking in riddles. Come where I can see you! Turn off this fucking light!"
Inky darkness replaced the light so quickly I stumble, hoping not to fall on anything hard. When I hit my knees the surface was strangely soft. My face rubs against something velvety. It is too dark to see what it is though, and not even my hand in front of my eyes is visible.
"I didn't mean turn it off, just turn it down. I need some light to see."
Faint light breaks the darkness and I can finally see. I'm on a silky patch of green grass. "Where am I? This isn’t my house. I was sleeping on the couch." I am getting tired of talking to faceless voices that offer no answers.
I slap a hand on the ground. "This is somewhere. Don't lie to me."
"You named this place. You called it Nowhere. It is up to you to decide what else it can become." The many voices echo, repeating, building on each other.
"Bring us back."
"Where are you?" I look around, but all I can see is my small patch of grass and soft shadows. Are there people hiding in the darkness? I shiver; the thought of unknown eyes staring me while when I can’t see them creeps me out. "Let me see you."
Faces appear in a ring around me. They’re all male, and young. All the guys are grinning. "Thank you, Lucas!" they chorus, their voices suddenly loud.
"Who are you?" I stand up. The faces stay low, looking up at me. Only one stands up.
It’s a guy. He comes forward, standing fully into the light. He was slim, pale, and completely naked. He has a huge smile on his face. "We are the people of Nowhere. Thank you for bringing us back."
I shake my head. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Am I dreaming?"
"We called you from your dreams. We sensed that you were the one that could finally save us, but you are not dreaming now. Everything here is as real as you make it."
"I make it?"
He nods. "You made the light and the darkness. The grass too. You even gave us form again." His hand waves down at his body.
"Uh, yeah, about that, man … you might want to put some clothes on."
"What clothes would you have me put on?"
"Like I'm wearing." I look down and suddenly realize that I’m naked too. I yelp. "What the fuck? What did you do with my clothes?"
I cup my hands over my dick and balls. My face heats and I cringe at all the eyes on me that have to be staring at my ass. I spin in a circle, glaring at all the guys around me. “If this is a joke, it’s not fucking funny. Give me back my clothes!” It was like that hazing dream every freshman has before they go to high school gym for the first time.
"We told you. You must will it. Like you willed everything else. You can have your clothes."
A glimmer of understanding finally strikes me. He keeps saying the word will. Is it that simple? I picture the outfit I'd worn to school, dark jeans and a black t-shirt with a green hooded sweatshirt, desperately wanting them to be on my body.
I open my eyes and look down, moving my hands. I sigh in relief. Then it hits me; it worked. Just thinking about having clothes was enough to make them materialize. It only takes a second to imagine a matching outfit on the guy talking to me.
He lifts his arms up from his sides, his mouth wide open. He runs his hand down the front of the sweatshirt, feeling the metal zipper as he pulls the tab up and down. He bends one leg up and feels the jean material stretched over his knee. "These are your clothes?"
"Well, not mine. I'm wearing mine," I pause, "I think. But it's better than you being naked. Umm, everyone else can have some too." It’s easier if I close my eyes so I do, imaging everyone around me with clothes on.
I sit down in the grass. "Sit down. I know—I mean, I think I know—what I just did. You guys keep saying I have to will things. So, whatever I want actually manifests here, right?"
The guy folds his legs up and put his arms around them. He rests his chin on top. "Yeah."
"And I'm not dreaming?"
He shakes his head solemnly.
"The magic found you. Once we had an entire world full of wondrous things. Magic was everywhere and everyone was able to do whatever they wanted.
Magic provided everything for us and then one man did something—” He shudders.
“Something bad.” A voice says softly from behind me.
The boy in front of me nodded. “Soon our world began to disappear. We were desperate. We gave up everything to find the one person who could rescue us from our encroaching fate."
I thump one hand on my thigh. "What fate? What power? I don't understand! Why can't you just say what the hell you mean?"
"I don't know it all either. I only know that something was sucking the essence of our land away. Everything was dying, and then the people started to follow. First the old, then the young. Soon there were only a few of us left.
“An old prophecy spoke of the slow death of the magic of our world; a consequence that came from the hubris of one man and the complacency of the rest. Nothing can last forever, but we didn’t want to die. Our leader said that said to gain our redemption we had to risk it first. The powers required the sacrifice of everything we possessed, even our bodies. Then we’d have a chance to come back. We’ve been waiting for so long. But," he looks around the circle, "not everyone is here now. Some are missing."
"Too many,” he says sadly.
“What took the magic? Will it come back?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t think so, but I don’t know much about it. I never did. We were all at school, learning to use our magic. There’s a lot that I feel like I should know, but I’ve forgotten. We all have. When we were waiting, we lost a lot of what we knew."
“It took a long time for the magic to find you. Only one person, in all the worlds, in all creation, had the power to save us.”
I run my fingers through my hair and then flop backwards. "I'm totally confused. Why me? Why am I so important?"
My stomach had to pick that moment to rumble.
One of the guy's eyebrows goes up.
"I'm hungry. It's dinner time," I glance at my watch but it is frozen, the arms stuck at four fifty-three, "I think."
"Food?" The look on the guy's face is strange. He hunches over, his hands on his stomach.
Licking my lips, I consider my options. "I just have to think it up, right? And it appears?"
I close my eyes. My nostrils flare. Beef, salt, ketchup and pickles. My eyes pop open. A giant pile of double cheeseburgers sits in wrappers on the ground and there’s a pile of French fries sitting on the grass. I snort; clearly I need to practice this willing thing. "Well, I wouldn't eat the fries on the bottom, but the rest should be good." I reach out and snag a few fries, popping them into my mouth.
Hot and crispy with just a hint of salt, not coated with it, unlike the last large order I'd gotten. These were perfect. Maybe I’m not that bad at it.
"Mm, good," I say with my mouth full. "Go on, try some."
The other guy reaches out, grabbing one fry. He takes a small bite, smiles widely, and then shoves the rest of the fry in his mouth. "This is good!"
He looks back and forth over his shoulder, a delighted grin on his face. "It's good. They can come eat, right?"
"Yeah, sure. Everyone's welcome. There's more than enough grub."
When the other guys start coming out of the shadows I was a little surprised at how different they all looked. They were all sizes and different colored hair. Really different, like red, blue, yellow, black, green ... all the spectrum of the rainbow. They were all dressed in the same outfit though, just like my jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt.
It gets crowded when everyone tries to find a place to sit.
"Do you think you could make more room?" asks the guy who’d been answering my questions.
"Make more room? Just like that?"
He shrugs one shoulder.
"Okay, I'll try." How hard can it be? I need to try, right? I close my eyes. It’s harder than the hamburgers and fries; I don’t want to make any mistakes this time. Then the fantasy story I'd been reading came to my mind. I grin. Perfect.
I open my eyes to find that we are now sitting in a beautiful field, with tall plants in shades of yellow all around us. They remind me of mushrooms with soft frills falling to the ground. The grass has changed; it’s still green, but now there are feathery blue clumps scattered here and there. It’s super soft too, like strands of silk.
A small stream with warm water sending steam into the air flows off to our right, filling the air with warmth. I hadn't been cold earlier, not really, but now I unzip my sweatshirt and peel it off.
"Wow. Amazing, Lucas." He cocks his head sideways. “Is all the food you know this good?”
"My favorite stuff is.” I wonder if warm chocolate chip cookies I imagined would be as good as the ones my mom made when I was a little kid. The guys were eating so enthusiastically for the burgers and fries I can just imagine their reaction to chocolate. “You know, you guys all seem to know my name, but I don't know yours." There has to be at least thirty guys there. "Or is that something else you lost?"
"No. I know my name. It's Bracas."
I look around at guys eating burgers and munching on fries. “And you guys?”
One by one, they say their names in between taking huge bites of burgers. They all look young, about my age. That is where the similarities to me ended though. I was boring, brown hair, brown eyes, thin and short. The guy no one looks at twice.
Somehow, these guys all look the same, but different from everyone I’d ever known. Their eyes are huge and shiny and they have all that wild hair. Their t-shirts and jeans are filled out much better than mine would ever be. I wonder if I imagined their bodies this way, or if they looked like they did ... before.
"I'll never remember all those, sorry. My brain is still fried from finals," I say when they finish with the introductions.
"That's okay," Bracas says. "You have time."
"I do?" I wipe my mouth. I look at my watch; its arms are still frozen. "What do you mean?"
"You have a whole word to create. Even with all the power you hold; you can’t do it at once. We need you; you're the only one that can do it."
I unwrap another burger. Do I want to do that? Should I? What about my graduation and going to college?
I take a bite of burger and chew slowly. Thirsty, I imagine sodas in front of everyone, like the grape one I'd been drinking when I first fell asleep on the couch. Ice clicks against my teeth as I take a drink. It’s my favorite and tastes just like it always has. I lower my cup, looking at the purple fluid, tipping my cup back and forth to watch it slosh around in the cup. Everyone else seems to like it too.
I close my eyes and then look down in my cup. My soda’s now red and bubbling. Warm spices waft up and I take a deep breath. I wonder if it tastes like the dragon’s blood wine from my favorite story; I’d always wanted to try it.
Rich warmth fills my mouth as I take a sip, letting the smooth liquor trickle down my throat slowly. Oh, it was good! I take another drink as I think about Bracas and all the other guys of Nowhere. Anything I want could be mine.
Here, the sky is the limit and all those fantasies I’d had about my favorite stories could come true. I can have whatever I want from back home, like these burgers, without any of the responsibilities I have been dreading too. I wouldn't have to worry about calculus, sociology, or roommate assignments.
Things could be different. This could be my adventure.
Everything I'd ever read about but never thought could happen suddenly can happen. The pressure I’d felt sending me into a downward spiral as graduation loomed suddenly lightens. I could do anything, be anyone. Besides, I can't leave these guys alone in Nowhere. Like they said, they need me.
"Okay. I'll stay!"
Bracas grins at me and I smile back. "That's wonderful," he says.
"Yeah. I think it could be awesome." I sink back to lay on the grass, my stomach full, my arms behind my head. The light begins to darken but twinkling stars fill the sky. A double moon begins to rise over the horizon. I yawn. "I'll make some more stuff tomorrow."
The hum of the ventilator and the beeping of the machine tracking Lucas' heart was the only sound in the room. Lucas Orckiv, Sr. sat in a chair beside the bed, dark circles under his eyes and his cheeks rough with stubble.
A doctor walked into the room. "Mr. Orckiv, I’m glad you’re still here. We have the results back from the latest EEC test."
"And?" He didn't even look up as he continued to brush his son’s hair back from his face
"He's not brain dead. He should be, considering how long he had to have been in the water, but he's not. We're seeing a lot of activity on his scans. He's functioning, and we believe we could even take him off the ventilator safely. It would be much better for him long-term if he was breathing on his own."
Lucas Sr. looked up. "But he's not waking up."
The doctor shook his head slowly, turning the chart in his hands. "No. He's not waking up."
"And you don't know why?"
"We don't." The doctor sighed. “I wish we could help him, but we can’t find any medical reason for his coma. The best we can do is keep his body working until he decides to come out of it on his own.”
"I don't understand why he was in the lake. I don't know why this happened.
What am I supposed to do?" Lucas’ voice cracked. “He had some many things left to do.”
The doctor put the chart down and laid one hand on Mr. Orckiv's shoulder.
"For now, all you can do is wait. He's in there, trapped inside his own head, but he’s there somewhere. Sometimes coma victims come back. I don't want to give you false hope, since we don’t why he won’t wake up, but there's always the possibility he might wake up someday. You should talk to him; some believe that coma victims can hear what’s going on around them. It might help him come back to you.”
The doctor left the grieving father alone with his son. Lucas, Sr. pushed the soft brown hair behind his son’s ear again and whispered, “I’ll be here, Lucas. Wherever you’re hiding, when you’re done, I’ll be here waiting for you.”