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Fantasy Friendship Happy

How many times must we fall for this trap before we learn our persistent lesson?

We are born into prophecies and destinies, swaddled in the arms of the future before we can even lift our newborn heads. Some of us are lucky; some of us are told we will be heroes, the names inscribed on the bases of marble sculptures, our faces forever etched into stone for all to worship and thank.

But the lucky ones are fair and few in numbers, and the rest of us are left behind.

Those of us infected by misfortune have our destinies thrust at us with upturned noses and trembling lower lips, as though we are poor beggars on the outskirts of town, and this sickly future is our one loaf of stale bread offered by the rich. We are warned to stay away from the heroes, and we are kept in silence out of fear that one wrong word will cause us to snap, and bring about the end of the earth.

In this day and age, an introduction consists of five basic facts about yourself. One, your name; two, your age; three, your occupation; four, the person you wish to become; and five, the person you must become.

I am Xander Avage.

I am seventeen years old.

I am a student at a small high school situated on the southern border of Gavasinch.

I would like to be an author.

They have told me to be a killer.

Some people say I can be both of those things, author and killer; should I ever want to write murder mysteries, I won’t have such a hard time coming up with scenes, or criminal antagonists. That isn’t the problem, though. See, in Gavasinch, your destinies may be punishable by death or a lifetime sentence of solitude, regardless of their prophesied nature, depending on what you should be. The heroes, the ones that smile at babies and wave with their fists held high above their heads, never have to worry about this. It’s people like me, destined to destroy lives and tear people apart and steal the breath of the innocent, that have to come to terms with what will come of us.

My destiny, spoken by the great Oracle at my birth, is to reward a boy named Oliver Peterson with a slow and agonising death by any means. A blunt axe was suggested when I was six; slow-working poison was turned over on the table when I turned thirteen; last year, the option of suffocation was presented to me. I had not known there were so many means to a horrific end, but apparently, I have not been paying much attention.

I have always avoided Oliver Peterson, though he attends my school and lives in my neighbourhood, because my destiny can wait its sorry turn, and because I don’t want to frighten him with our future. Quite honestly, I think that if I manage to avoid Oliver as long as possible, I can bury my fate deep underground and never have to look at it; I can duck out, pick a better life than one that ends with an axe at my neck and Oliver’s corpse in a coffin. I know what everybody has to say about this way of thinking: it’s cruel, it’s unjust, it’s rebellious, it’s stupid, it’s a fantasy. But there has to be more to life than just falling for whatever some stupid old woman told my parents when I was born, killing a poor boy and being punished for it, as thought it was not expected of me and had not been from the beginning.

--

I meet Oliver Peterson for the first time, properly, on a crisp November day as I’m walking home from school. He does not see me, and I do not see him, so we crash into each other like we are the ocean’s waves in the middle of a hurricane, and I can feel the universe shift.

“Shit, I’m sorry!” Oliver says, scrambling to his feet and brushing himself off before he extends a hand to me, a hand I can’t bring myself to take. “Ah, that was my fault. I should have been watching where I was going. I’m Oliver Peterson. I think we might go to school together!”

The way Oliver introduces himself jars me; he does not stick to the script we are taught to follow word for word when we are children.

“Yes,” I say slowly as I bring myself back to my feet. I toy with the new introduction on my tongue. “I’m Xander Avage.”

“Yeah, you’re that kid that got in trouble for refusing to do the reading last year. You’re like, my hero! I never wanted to do it, either.”

I am supposed to kill this boy, but he’s acting like I’m his saviour. Surely he knows his fate, what is meant to come of him at my hand. He must.

“That would be me.”

“I have always wanted to meet you,” Oliver says, laughing, and he points down the road. “Do you want to go for a walk?”

Do I want to go for a walk. A walk with the boy I’ve been told to kill, a boy who doesn’t seem to understand what that means.

“That sounds nice,” I answer, and I’m surprised by how much I mean it.

Oliver is good company for somebody like myself, who spends an inadequate amount of time speaking and a far too large amount of time eavesdropping. He tells me all about his family, consisting of just his mother and the cat they picked up on the side of the road when he was seven years old, before he moves on to a story about the time he fell off a bridge and snapped his ankle.

“It still clicks,” he says, showing me, and I notice for the first time that he has a slight limp.

“That’s fascinating.” Oliver laughs, presuming that I’m joking, but I’m not. I’ve never been so intrigued by the way someone speaks, so excited about everything.

I don’t think I’ll ever kill Oliver Peterson. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to.

We become good friends, Oliver and I.

--

There is a day, and I don’t remember when, that Oliver says something very strange. I ask him a rare question while we walk home from school, and he answers with his usual tone, but his words make me cold.

“I don’t want to be the kind of person who dies and regrets not seeing the beauty in everything,” he tells me, tossing a coin up and down, then watching it roll down a nearby drain. “I’m supposed to die very young. So I live it up while I can.”

I don’t say anything else to him.

Nothing else needs to be said.

--

A year after our first meeting, Oliver and I travel as far as we dare with water bottles full of a sweet blue liquid a nearby shopkeeper sold us. He hops on stones in a shallow creek and laughs when he almost slips, before I catch him by the arm.

“I’m supposed to be the one that kills you,” I tell him, some kind of anniversary gift of honesty, and he smiles sadly.

“I know. But will you?”

I shake my head, and I don’t say anything else to him.

Nothing else needs to be said.

--

Oliver and I make plans to leave. Run away.

I’m not sure when we start to discuss it, but I know that it’s July when we pack our large canvas bags full of non-perishable food, bottles of water, and a few maps. We always lived on the southern border of Gasavich, so it doesn’t take us long to reach the edge of the only land we’ve ever known. Our bags feel light on our shoulders as we take one last greedy glance at the place we called home, one ruined by the rules its inhabitants are told to follow, and take a collective deep breath.

“When we find others,” Oliver says, adjusting his bag, “I want to tell them we were destined to meet each other, but I don’t want to tell them the rest.”

“Of course,” I reply. We take our first step into new territory, and the universe shifts yet again. Step after step after step takes us further south, leaving Gasavich in our wake. The summer sun beats down on the back of our necks, but we don’t stop walking, silent in the most comfortable of ways. We pass a deeper creek than the one we used to know, full of shimmering fish and glittering in the daylight, which seeps in through the cracks of the foliage above. The air feels somewhat sticker out here, more free. Oliver and I get our shoes wet when he cross over a wooden bridge sinking slowly into the creek, but neither he nor I mind one bit.

Another hour or two passes by before I speak to Oliver again. “We should never tell anybody I was supposed to kill you. Just that we were supposed to know each other better than we know ourselves. Nothing else needs to be said.”

Oliver grins, and grabs for my hand, swinging it between us as we venture further. In the distance, I can see the peak of a tower.

“No, Xander. Nothing else needs to be said.”

October 06, 2020 11:08

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2 comments

Len Mooring
21:27 Oct 14, 2020

Very well told story. A fine use of language.

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Luna G
22:55 Oct 11, 2020

I was on edge the whole time that I literally let out a breath of air at the end. I really loved this from beginning to end. Your writing style was captivating and beautiful and it made this story such a ride. Wonderful job.

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