I punched the code into the door and turned the key. Placed my things in a large bowl near the entrance and began to strip. At first I had difficulty lifting my shift off, then I remembered the river stone and put it down. I took a long shower and prepared to get to work.
An hour later I was steamed and rinsed. I pulled on a clean shirt, underwear, and shorts. Then sat at my desk and began pouring over the pages. I was three days behind thanks to that bully. He had tormented me for hours each day and I had slipped under because of it. But now my mind was unweighted. I was swimming freely now. Unhindered.
Except for one thought. Tomorrow everyone would know what had happened. They would know about the bully and the stone. They would know about me.
But for now I was free to do what I wished. And I direly wanted to write. I had a creative English paper due. It was something others might worry about, but I was not them. I excelled in English, especially in writing. I loved to conjure stories of triumph over turmoil and success over strife. I thrived while bathed in words. So I decided if my last free night was tonight, I was going to write.
By ten o’clock I had written 15,000 words. Well beyond a short story, but decades too soon to be called a full length novel. Still, I was proud. It blended elements of suspense, tension, and crime all into a well balanced story. In the world of academia, I would get an A. In the other world, I would go to jail.
I crawled into bed and reached out to the light switch. Stopped as I saw my Ultraman figurine pointing towards the river stone that now lay next to my pillow. Before I turned off the light I thought, “what would Ultraman do?” The answer, face what was coming head on. And with that, I feel asleep.
My alarm clock chirped. It was 5:00am. Time to get up. “How would I face it head on?” Didn’t know. I also couldn’t grow fifty stories tall and crush my enemies. I looked at the river stone and got dressed.
I gathered my papers, keys, shoes, and some coins. Good to go. Didn’t bother with a shower. Figured I would get one in jail. I turned the lock and realized that it didn’t really matter if I locked the door, I was never coming back. Guess habit rules more than we think. On that thought I set on my way.
There was the usual parade of the masses walking. Sports jocks with athletic shoes strung over their shoulders. Cover girls with bedazzled phones that only spoke to themselves. Button up Otakus all debating some obscure movie. They were all above me. Either way I didn’t want to think about them today. Not before I was hauled away for man slaughter. A simple twenty minute walk was all the freedom I had left, so I was hell bent on enjoying it. I thought about my story and the characters I’d created. The world I’d created. A story where the just reacted realistically. Where the bullies of the world didn’t dare to step out of line. A world harsher than Batman, and more down to earth and obtainable than Punisher. I wished for it. I wanted to enact it.
The front gates of the school shown red in the morning glow. Appropriate. I made my way through the crowds of cliques that inhabited the courtyard. No one watched me. It was a fact I was proud of. Near perfect anonymity.
I found no incident on the way to my locker. Relief. Usually the harassment began with three bullies while I put away my things. I was happy to see that wouldn’t be an issue today. I put my entire backpack away. I had no reason to keep it with me until English class.
I closed my locker. All three of them surrounded me
“How about it Shinji? Have you thought about our offer?” The leader of the group was always the one to speak. The other two were just dumb muscle. “It would be easier if you accepted. We wouldn’t have to keep doing this.”
It was ironic. Normally I would be scared. Normally my heart would be pounding out of my chest. But not today. Not on my last day of freedom. I exhaled and spun the dial. “Let’s not do this today.” But of course it didn’t matter what I said. They were going to hit me in the gut once, then the other two would spit on me. It was predictable.
First came the punch. Then the spit.
“After today we won’t be asking again. Come to me when you’re ready to accept.”
It didn’t hurt anymore. I had gotten used to it. Didn’t care where they went or what they did after that. Made it to homeroom. There was a commotion as I entered. The teacher was yelling at everyone to sit down and that she had an announcement.
The television was tuned to the local news. The screen displayed a bridge.