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Cristopher Barlowe sat at his dusty antique desk, his dark blue eyes transfixed on an old crusty fantasy book. He flipped the pages quickly, reading at an almost impossible speed.
As he was about to flip to the climax of the story, where the hero prevails, his door was flung open roughly; his book falling to the ground with the force of wood on wood as it slammed against the wall.
Then Mrs. Barlowe marched into the room like an admiral, knocking down a stack of sketches, black charcoal standing out against the pure white copy paper, with grey smudges and fingerprints adorning the edges.
“Stand up, and pick up those papers!” She said, giving the pile a little kick in his direction. He bent down and shuffled them into a little stack. He then stood up, with the sheaf of papers in hand.
“Put them away!” Said Mrs. Barlowe and Cris complied, placing them in the dark cavern of a drawer. “Now come down! Your dinner is getting cold!”
Cris stepped quickly down the creaky wooden stairs, making sure not to lean too hard on the wobbly handrail.
He made his way to the “family room” as it was called, but it was bare, containing only a small TV on an unpolished wooden table with one leg slightly lower than the other, and a cheap fake leather recliner with a broken footrest. On top of the TV was a small plastic tray, which Cris picked up off the TV and pulled the plastic layer off of. It was one of his less favorite microwave dinners, containing cooked carrots, a potato, and a small square of beef. It was supposed to be a healthy choice meal, which was how his mother justified giving him such a small serving.
Cris sat in a forest clearing, a warm fire at his back, looking into the deep spaces between the lofty trees on the west side of the river Callz.
He breathed in the cool, crisp air of the elven glen, and ate warm stew out of a bent tin mess pot. He bit into the soft carrots, made tender by the cleverly crafted elvish broth, carefully chewed the soft steaming potatoes, which had once thrived amid the plants in dithirion, the garden valley of the elves.
The second he finished his beef, he heard a snort in the woods. He turned slowly in the direction it originated in, and saw the pale glint of metal high above his head; the glint of a spearhead.
Cris drew his sword and stood, his mess pot falling to the ground. Then all hell broke loose.
Three massive orcs burst out of the glade bearing crudely fashioned weapons and long yellow teeth like hunting knives.
He expertly spun around, giving the first orc no time to strike at his back, using the momentum of his spin to lop off its spear arm.
Defenseless and in pain, the beast started to lope off, but Cris expertly threw his sword, slaying him where he stood.
The second orc turned from pillaging the camp, realizing that his comrade had fallen, and rushed at Cris with a snarl, his great axe held behind his head.
Cris pulled his sword out of the orc drenched in blood, and pushed it straight through the gut of the other like a knife through butter.
As he turned to the third orc, it did not raise its weapon, but this one was the most fearsome of all. It spoke, saying, “Cris! What are you doing? You’ve ruined the carpet! Are you trying to prove something? Up to your room! Now! I’ll decide what to do with you later!”
Cris was suddenly no longer in the glade, but in the family room, a greasy stain on the carpet where the dinner had fallen. The recliner was knocked on its side, and Cris lay on the floor, sweating, with a butter knife in his hand, his mother looming over him where the third orc had stood.
Cris let out a slow groan as he climbed up the stairs.
He heard the drone of the vacuum downstairs, and then the rasping sound of wood scraping roughly against old carpet as his mom pulled the recliner back into position.
He sat on his bed and fell asleep to elves singing their melancholy tales.
When he woke, he was so groggy that he did everything almost subconsciously up until he was truly awakened by the bell, releasing him for lunch and everybody jostling him on the way out of the door. Not even noticing the quiet kid that sat in the front of the room; friendless.
He quickly pulled his fantasy novel out of his backpack and started to read as he walked out of the door.
All of a sudden, a great hairy hand knocked the book out of his hands, leaving him standing with his hands out in front of him and his head bowed.
“Are you bowing to me?” A deep throaty voice asked.
“Come on! I want you on you knees!”
The other upper classmen stood behind him, laughing. Cris stood where he was, with his hands at his sides, and he looked up slowly at the sneering star quarterback.
“Ok, you’re taking too long!” he said. “Boys!” And two more football players stepped forward and pushed him to the ground.
As he fell, Cris snatched up his book to his chest, and went down, the wind knocked out of his lungs. One of the football players sat on his back, and Cris began to feel a burning sensation in his lungs.
As he started to pass out, he looked up, tears streaming down his cheeks and he saw a teacher heading quickly down the hallway towards him, a look of absolute disgust on her face.
“What in HEAVEN’S name do you think you’re doing?” She yelled, “Get off of him AT ONCE!”
The boy on top of Cris slowly complied, and the crowd dispersed.
“Are you all right?” The teacher asked, still staring at the dwindling crowd of perpetrators.
Yes, I’m fine.” Cris said. She just walked away as soon as Cris stood up, and went back into her classroom with a scowl.
Cris then headed down to lunch, and sat down at his usual table.
There were three or four other students who sat there every day, absorbed in their books, seldom uttering any noise other than to clear their throats, or talk about what they were reading.
This was they way Cris liked it: quiet and peaceful.
As he opened his book, three of the popular girls in school came over and stood next to him.
“So, what are you reading?” The first girl said.
He turned the book so that she could read the cover, his eyes still poring over the words, intent on ignoring them.
“Oh, that’s a good one!” she said, and the other girls giggled. “What’s it about?” Another asked, with a subtle smirk on her face.
“Um, it’s about how the elves drove The Northern Orcs from the Great Forest in the year 1432 under Gilirion the Wise.” He said.
The Girls all laughed hysterically at this. “Here, can I see it?” Said one of the girls.
Cris handed it to her reluctantly, and she pretended to open it and read, but after a few seconds, she dropped it in the large rolling trash can, burying it under layers of Styrofoam plates and discarded food.
“Oops!” she said with a smirk. Cris gasped and reached for the trash can, but the girls were too quick for him, and one gave the can a little kick, sending in rolling smoothly across the polished tile, coming to a stop in the middle of the cafeteria.
Cris stumbled out of his chair, and walked briskly towards it, his face turning red as he noticed one of his tormentors capturing the whole thing on her camera, the video shaking from her violent giggles.
Cris shuffled through the trash, looking for his book, all eyes in the cafeteria trained on him. Everywhere people laughing, pointing, and taking pictures.
He finally dug it out, and wiped the ketchup on it on the base of his shirt, snuffling and crying. He sat back down at his chair and put his down on the table; too upset to read.
Anna sat at her chair at the end of the table; angry at what had just happened.
“Why can’t they just stay away from him if they hate him so much?”
Suddenly, her phone vibrated in her pocket and she slid it open. Morgan had sent her a video.
Anna couldn’t help feeling cautious as she turned on the video. Morgan had always made fun of her for being a good girl, or daddy’s girl, or a baby. In short Morgan was a jerk, or a “mean girl” as Anna’s friends called her type.
Of course, it was a video of that poor nerd digging his book out of the trash.
Anna’s kind nature made her want to go and comfort him, but she decided that it would just mean more trouble for both of them.
But she promised herself that if that boy got made fun of again, she wouldn’t just sit there and watch.