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- Ben & Sebastian
Sometimes you barely know your mother. At other times, you know your mother to well. I didn't know my mother at all.
Sure I kind of knew my father, but knowing him and spending quality time were totally different things. My bedroom is marginally clean, you would be surprised how hard it is to clean a basement. I barely had any possessions; the bed was an extremely stiff mattress on a pop up spring. The computer was the only form of entertainment, and when your father barely takes you anywhere to buy things can you blame me if I primarily spent my time one might argue I should be doing my classwork, downloading game engines to play free games. When your parent is hardly ever home, sometimes you resort to extreme measure to entertain yourself. Sure there was school work, as much as you could call being in home school actual education.
In general most of my time was spent being alone.
I had just gone into the kitchen to get a class of water. I wasn't always primarily a water drinker, but ever sense my dad got a lower level position at his newspaper writing job, he would complain about how expensive soft drinks are. I think the only thing he ever purchased me was a pair of potato shoes. I spend most of my day wearing blue jean short shorts and a baby blue tee shirt. I am short, and dad would often especially emphasize how short I am, how baby faced I am, among other things. I spent most of my time with my door locked. You never know when he might take out his wooden paddle and spank me again. It's not like there were specific reasons he spanked me, rather he had an extremely unpredictable temper. I simply can't risk spending my time around that. I have very few books in my room, mostly old dime magazines dad inherited from a friend. Back when my mother was still around, preferred the money being spent on other things that had more practical applications in our lives. But despite whatever boring exterior my dad had, he had an adventurers mindset.
I always said maybe he could become a writer someday, but he would always pass it off as having no attention for it.
I came from a family of old money, but looking at us now you would never expect this. But we still have the car inherited from those millionaires in the upper roads of the Potato District. To think that we had so much, and now we live much like starving youth in other parts of the city. While it might just be a rumor, I've heard some have resorted to largely eating roaches and rats. I've heard things about rat meat, mainly that it is primarily a sweet meat. But just looking at those scaly tails, why would anyone even want to find out. I suddenly wouldn't ever. I suppose if it got desperate enough I might, but hoped I wouldn't have to run away from home.
If you ever met my boyfriend Slephner, one of the few people in this city I came to trust, you might wonder why someone who had at one point lived in the upper echelons of society would associate with an arcade gamer. Well I tell you, I wouldn't have believed it myself if he had not proven himself to be such a swell guy. Although maybe it is just be being oblivious to his faults. He had longish black hair, combed into a middle part. At first I couldn't really make out his ethnicity. But his name had a kind of Nordic feel. He was also extremely tall. Some of his friends called him Abe Lincoln, but that would be like making Abe a Boushonen in a cold desert castle. His icy cool breath made my nipples hard, and his embraces made me squeal with delight. And yet, there was always a certain mix of romantic tension and fear in the relationship. We would spend nights together at the arcade. They were mainly rogue-like text adventures modified to require a bullet in the slot every time the game required more money.
From time to time I would meet his family, although the desert wind current would sometimes sweep the houses in the district. Sand Dragons would come and snatch people away. That was the life we led. Luckily I never knew anyone that had their heads bitten off by them so far.
Slephner would drop me home right around curfew back when I still lived with my father. But after I had chosen to run away he did not try to stop me. All he mentioned was to be careful out there while he got myself some fake identification to purchase a hand gun. I suppose even if they knew my real age, nobody was going to say anything to someone who had lived with old money. Anything that could earn them extra bullet cartridges. Anything to put meat glue nuggets on the table. Although by this point I inarguable passed as female, I felt that through these nasty street someone would see me for the great wild stallion I was. I loved horses, but I want to be a pony. Ponies are basically the wiener dogs of horses. How could you not love them? Slephner followed me around, and we would walk together hiding from dream-scanners.
There were various stores about dream-scanners. Nobody really knows who they really are. They just show up in your nightmares, and come to black bag you in the night. People my age would recount stories of dark chambers covered in purple fog. Their legs would be sore the next day as they slipped on their wooden clogs. Me and Slephner hoped as we went far away into the night, that none of them will see us. We can be shadows in the night.
There were various shops in the city, although we could only stop at one.
The thing about gaming was he could put you into someone else's head, and you can temporarily follow mono-myths of idealistic heroes. But this was our story, among others. The story of our lives.
Slephner had gotten a job, but initially I wasn't so fortunate. You could apply to multiple places over the next few months, and still not here a word from anybody. The only reason we still live where we do, is the manager know who my daddy is. Although he for whatever reason never reported me on my daddy. On some level he became almost like a father to us. He would come and greet us with a hug and an embrace, after we got off of the bus. But one day I realized when you live as an adult for the first time in this city, and everyone has to at some point, you have to get a job at some point. But who would hire a thirteen year old girl. It was hard enough to get a job when you are sixteen, and here we are trying to make ends meet while we were practically kids. That's how it is in these parts. It was a new start, a new story.
A new story in this strange new world.
I tried calling my sister Yoellen, but there was nobody on the other line. I knew she had run off herself after a dispute my father was carefully vague to mention. So he mostly spent time feeling sorry for himself drowning in liqueur. And that was when he would go back inside to spank me. His car was from the nineteen eighties, why couldn't he have just sold that. I wouldn't have to largely eat fried noodles every night. But I suppose everyone has reasons for how they are. So anyway, I tried calling Ellen but there had not been any phone calls between us for a very long time. I always pictured he smoking a joint barefoot on the bed watching old Westerns. I knew she was a lesbian, but those old television programs were practically ingrained into our consciousness, and some of those did not actually have liberal values. Yes, as strange as it is to say, my dad was a hardcore liberal. But if you put him side by side with the last string of American presidents over the last few decades you wouldn't be able to tell him apart.
In a way, that was why I wanted to run away. Run away from everything in my life up to that point. Have a new start with my sister Yoellen, where every she was. And then we could hang out like always under the glow of the dying fireflies in the sky. Where all dreams came to an end.
"Hello, who is this?" the first answer in a long time.
"It's me Ellen, how have you been?" I said.
"Who said you could call me. Why aren't you home?"
"I don't want to go back home big sis."
"I understand, I'll visit later."
But my sister never came to visit us. On the news I heard of a blond girl hanging herself outside of the window. I wondered if that was my sister. I was honestly to afraid to find out. Slephner had just gotten home from work, and he looked at the television with me. The good thing about Slephner, despite his cold exterior he always gave a shoulder to cry on, even for just a little while. I knew I wasn't prepared for this. I honestly was prepared for anything in this world. But sometimes you make the best of what you got. I had my life cut out for me, everything was cut out for me. In this strange landscape, where children eat roaches and rats. And cats have mutated into far distant cousins of their domestic counterparts.
Something had remained dead inside me.
I was merely a husk of my former self from then on.
Month after month I drown myself in arcade games. I would fantasize about playing along side my sister, some fantasies blending with memories of our youth. When we would kick soccer balls and take each others heads off in fighting game rings. But that pain that will always be there in my heart, it will always sting. My voice is faint, and mumbling. I can never dream to sing again. We would sometimes be visited by her age girlfriend, but she didn't care about us. If there was any care left in the world after they separated, it was only for her and nobody else. Me and Slephner left the arcade, and started making a new life for ourselves under the glow of the night sky. We would walk the sidewalks, and I would be traumatized over and over again of children younger than me. Who had nobody they could call their family. I felt myself calling for mom in that darkest night.
"Mommy, is this how the world really is?" I said.
"Ellen, Ellen. Nobody has parents here. It is only us, me and you. You and me in this hell hole we call Purgatory Road." Slephner said, and yet on some level despite the reality and world weariness of his tone it was a kind of faint comfort. We were the lost children under a solid sky. Come to the night, where children hope to die. Come to a world where rat s and roaches form primary sustenance. Where STDs coat the landscape like a sky full of locusts. The world gave a vague promise, the "Meadow Of Gold". Despite whatever lack of hope may be here, there was at least that. The promise of some vague notion of renewed riches. Even if we couldn't admit to ourselves the truth of its actuality. That were were souls forgotten. The "Unwanted", the street rats, the alley cats. The scum of the streets. But there was a kind of Atheist heaven.
A promise for a new life.
If anyone needed a new life, it was me. I simply was not adjusted to starving. My family I knew mostly filled me up with caviar and rolls, and we could watch the theater. While I was never one for the Opera, my family was. They would put on shows of various immigrant stereotypes, who mostly spent their time having discussions with various funny animal sidekicks. I thought this was the truth, as I sat in my booth. Listening to crappy children's songs while my mother and father split a bottle of wine. The world I thought at the time, would be mine.
Yet here I am, longing for this new life. Where I could pretend that this was all merely a dream. That I had simply had a bout of lack of breathing, and things would become back to normal in my bedroom. I could discuss my school life with my parents, I could have their family recipe of spaghetti and lasagna. But some hopes are not meant to be. Sometimes dreams are left dead. Here we dine of roaches, like it's some inventive new fresh pasta in a crappy pot of soup. Drugs are the only commonality in this land, where there is no sun as we climb the catacombs of the Potato District.
One night I met a dream-scanner, I could barely make out their appearance. There was a looming feeling of menace. I was unsure if they were real. What I knew is they claimed they watched over this city. I would dream I would be locked in strange man made prisons, being forced to endure someone else's feelings of the flesh. But this was all merely a mind game they played on the people of this city. That we were the bad guys, keeping us up all night.
I would wake up on my motel bed. Slephner still sleeps like normal. There were words fed into my mind. "Everything in your life you thought you knew was wrong, everything is merely a game." For me, I wasn't sure what they meant. But I had a very nautilus feeling in my gut. That we were merely pawns in the game of cosmic gods, tiny chess pieces used for political maneuvering. That our entire life we knew was a lie. But I had no idea about the true extent of this lie.
Sometimes you grow up barely knowing your family. Sometimes you grow up finding a new family in your life. The family I have is the one I call my own, and I think I can live with him. At least for the time being. He had this wheezy snore I love that is very faint, and not very loud. Then it dies down to a whisper. I get up to get a class of water, splash it over myself hoping that the night will end soon.
We are pawns, I am a pawn. Everyone is a pawn.
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