More of what I’ve been up to lately.
Crimson’s become a pretty good friend. I felt a bit awkward around him after I found out he was gay, I guess, but I’m getting better at it. I finally decided to ask him about his story.
“So, I mean…what’s it like, exactly? You know, being, um…?”
“Being gay?” He laughed. “Well, it’s a lot like being straight, only I’m attracted to guys instead of girls.”
My face got really hot then and I looked away. He laughed harder.
“I’m sorry, Kenny, that was maybe a little rude. In reality, it’s…it’s pretty tough. For me at least. You grew up in a small town, right?”
I nodded. “Well, not that small, but not big.”
“Then you can kind of see where I’m coming from, since I grew up in a small town, too. Homosexuality just…really doesn’t touch those places a lot. Most everyone was religion and homophobic, but…it’s a weird situation. I mean, I really did love that town and most everyone there. I sometimes think “how could such loving people be so hateful?” And the thing is…I don’t think any of them even know what they believe about homosexuality. They hear ‘being gay is wrong. Being gay is a sin.’ And they just accept that. They don’t know anyone who’s gay. They don’t have any reason to challenge that belief. Being gay is just something that happens to other people. Other people they can look look at shamefully from afar.”
“So…how did they react when you came out?” I asked.
“You know…I never did. I really wish I had so that I knew. I took off as soon as I got to college. Didn’t look back. I talk to my parents every now and then, and come home for holidays when I can, but they still don’t know I’m gay. Every time I think of them, I wonder: should I tell them? Would they still love me, or would they disown me? Would my community have changed their perspective and accepted who I was? Or did I make the right choice by keeping it to myself?”
“So…is that why the Red Cap is after you?”
He gave a wry little smile. “What do you think? If you spend almost your entire life repressing part of who you are because you’re scared of what others would think? Sometimes it’s still hard to admit to myself. Sometimes I still think ‘what if I’m wrong? What if it’s just some phase?’ And I think I’m always going to feel some sort of shame over who I am, despite my best efforts.”
Cards with Phones
I was up late one night, unable to sleep, wandering around the building we’re staying in when I found Phones sitting at a table alone, playing a game of Solitaire. His face was hidden in the darkness of his oversized hood like it always was, but he apparently saw me, because he beckoned me over. I tried asking him what was up, but he just shook his head and tapped the side of his head, his finger clacking audibly against his headphones. I guess he couldn’t have heard me anyway. Then again, he probably didn’t want to. I guess the music is the only thing that keeps the Choir at bay for him. I remember when I was traveling with Wayward, she would only listen to white noise. I wonder why it’s different for Phones. Last says it’s because of dimensional bleeding. Different Choir. Different MO.
Anyway, he scooped up the cards and started dealing them out. He kept his head ducked so that I couldn’t see under his hood. I wonder why he’s so dedicated to staying anonymous like that. I started to pick them up, but he placed his gloved hand over my own and shook his head, stopping me. After he dealt the cards into two even stacks, he flipped a card over on each. Three of clubs for him, Ace of spades for me. He gave a sharp exhale and shoved the card at me, flipping two more. It wasn’t long before I realized he was trying to play War with me.
I think we ended up playing for two hours straight before I beat him. At that point, he stood, shoved a hand into his hoodie’s pocket, and gave me a thumbs-up with the other one. Then he walked off, offhandedly waving goodnight to me.
I think he really appreciated it. He can’t really read or play video games or watch movies or anything that requires reading text or listening to voices, so he doesn’t have many options. Simple games that everyone already knows. Sketching. I don’t know.
Maybe I’ll play a game with him again at some point.
The Fantasy Triad
Last’s making sure that the Cold Boy, Wooden Girl, and Grotesque don’t try killing me in my sleep again. He’s been the one keeping watch most frequently, with Mantis and Gabe filling in—those two because, frankly, they’re the only ones willing to do so who I feel comfortable enough letting them watch me sleep.
Like you might have gathered, I’m still having some issues sleeping. They still show up sometimes. Not as often, but one of those three guys has shaken me awake in the night more than once. Sometimes I remember seeing them in the dreams. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I remember dreaming, but only vaguely remember things that might be related to the Triad. Last says that it’s because they’re getting better at hiding their presence. They’re trying less overt strategies. Fortunately, since I’m prepared, my subconscious is also detecting these anomalies pretty quickly. He thinks that, were it just the Grotesque, I’d be in trouble. The Grotesque can disguise itself in dreams perfectly. It’s the Cold Boy and the Wooden Girl who are actually becoming their own undoing by taking on an aggressive role. Either way, Last says that I’m making an impressive amount of progress in terms of dream-based mental defenses and even thinks I might manage to shake myself awake in the future.
And then there’s what’s been going on with Maggie. We’ve finally had enough time to sit down and talk about things some.
“Look,” she said, “I’m going to be frank. I know you still love Lily. I know that, deep down, you’re always going to love Lily. And I don’t want to replace her. I just…you’re a really great guy, Kenny. I don’t want you to be stuck like this. Whether or not we, you know, have a chance together I don’t want to see you dwelling on the past like you are. It’s not healthy.”
“Yeah. I know.” It was weird talking to her about this stuff. She’s normally so upbeat and carefree about everything. But she was acting so…timid. Subdued. Scared, even. Scared of what I might say or do.
She was quiet for a while. “Kenny? Do you like me? And I don’t mean, you know…’do you want to start up some sort of relationship?’ I just mean…do you like me?”
“Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“I dunno. Because I’m annoying? Because I don’t shut up? Because I’m trying to force you to move on? Or, you know, because of that time I tried to kill you?”
“Well, you’re also easy to talk to. You’re always positive. You’ve got that memory thing going on, which is really cool. And you, uh…didn’t kill me. You weren’t seriously trying, were you?”
She grinned then, and she looked more like herself. “A little. If I’d been able to kill you, you wouldn’t really be worth liking, now would you?”
I grinned back and shoved her. “Hey, shut up!”
“It’s true. No bigger turnoff than a guy who lets you kill him on the first date.”
We joked and laughed like that a bit. “You know…I’m not mad at you for trying to get me to move on,” I told her, serious again. “It’s hard, but…I know I should. Drilling that through my head is more than anyone else is bothering to do for me.”
“Last’s training you to kill Fears.”
“Well, yeah, but…I honestly think this means more. Having Last force me into some scheme isn’t exactly making me a better person. But this? This helps. Gives me the chance to be a happier person. It’s just…the process is going to be hard.”
She put an arm around my shoulder. “Listen, bud. No matter what, I’m here for you, okay? I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it’s not like I’ve got a lot of friends here. And you and Crimson are the closest I’ve got to fellow girls.”
“Just calling them like I see ‘em, Kenny. But seriously. If you ever just need to talk, I’m here for you.”
“Yeah, but you have, you know, ulterior motives, don’t you?”
“Well yeah, no shit. Not gonna lie, you getting over Lily is a potentially good thing for me. But I’m not going to jeopardize one of my closest friendships for that.” She gave me a smile. “Seriously, Kenny.”
So that’s where things stand here from now on. Last says that he thinks that the Unnamed Child is a good course of action and thanks you guys for your suggestions. Also, if you’re wanting to help out at all, shoot me an e-mail (since Last’s hijacked mine for business purposes—not that I was using it for all that much anyway).
Stay safe, all.