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"Demons, Heroes and Fortune Cookies "


Chapter 1
Shadows

By Cybertron1986

In the summer of 1987, U2's number one song, "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," fell to Madonna's "Who's That Girl," on the pop charts.

Together, these two songs portentously foretold one boy's confusing, but unique journey through life in a way he could never imagine. Fate had involuntarily directed him to a path less chosen.

Quite possibly, the Universe conspired to communicate with him through one specific event: a haunting, which only the unique mind of Eu El not only accepted, but also understood in a way in which "normal" people have difficulty to stomach.

Throughout centuries the mystery of life and death continue to leave many unanswered questions. Yet, unknowingly, the truth tends to subtly reveal itself in some form or another. Sometimes, "signs," as some would identify them to be, appear clearer when the average person, as the saying goes, "stops to smell the flowers."

And, Eu El loved the smell of flowers.

Many childhood memories, both forgettable and unforgettable, constantly ran through Eu El's thoughts. However, no memory would be as defining as one particular event that he would soon encounter. In fact, even then, if anyone understood what the Universe was trying to tell him, no living soul with a conscience would see this "opportunity" as a blessing, especially for a child.

If, however, there were to be a young adolescent capable of competing with the sciences involving the supernatural, then fate could not have chosen a more suitable contender than Eu El, a boy with a name his father unintentionally gave him, and himself could not correctly pronounce.

Coincidently, the second syllable is similar to a fictional super hero, whose "El" stood for hope in a faraway planet destroyed by a solar explosion.

Evoked by a simple question that had yet to be asked, this boy's life would soon evolve into an uncontrollable, frightful anomaly that would haunt him behind almost every dark corner for the remainder of his existence, lingering to where few ever visited. More so, fewer believers and non-believers would be willing to accept what they discovered in those dark corners that stand in clear sight, only to be hidden by their denial, even when whatever was discovered stared back with glowing eyes. Their presence would never be as convincing as this story; true to every aspect written from a mind conditioned by nature, rather than imagination.

In one such dark corner of reality, Eu El patiently stays out of his father's sight. Quietly, he waits for that moment he could get his dad's attention without interrupting his evening with HBO.

Too young to understand a laborer's life, a life his father has lived since the fifties working in a bakery somewhere in Manila, Philippines, Eu El naively imagines a time his father could soon play catch with him.

He had no idea the hours of his dad's overtime was funding the dreams of his immigrant relatives rather than his aspirations of one day becoming an athlete, or running a successful comic book business.

"Dad, can I play baseball? My friends all play," El recalls asking his father in the fifth grade.

His Dad's response usually ended something like this...

"No! You're going to fail! Don't waste my time!"

El's respect to his father was as relevant as his existence: both went unnoticed.

At the finale of each T.V. show, his dad committed to one of two things:

He either took a bathroom break, or he grabbed a drink before returning to his couch to dabble with the channel changer for the remainder of the evening, before falling asleep on the new Lazy Boy chair.

The good news was satellite t.v. had yet to be available to the public for another five years. Any sooner, the distraction of advancing technology may had convinced his dad he never had a middle child.

The thought of freshman year approaching made El's last summer as a kid feel as if it was doomed to end like some kind of disastrous movie without resolution, a struggling disappointment in his relationship with his father since he could remember. He prepared a list of questions for his dad that sounded more like a bucket list written in question form.

Can you take me fishing, Dad? (And, I don't mean to literally take me to the lake in the morning, and dump me alone there until you come back to pick me up the evening).

Mom said you played catcher in high school. Can you teach me how to throw?

Dad, the last movie we watched together was "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I was in the second grade. Will we ever watch a movie together again?

But, there seemed to be more pressing questions. These questions, harbored from worry, distracted him from all the other questions. If no effort was made to seek answers for himself, then these questions would linger like an unseen phantom invisibly weighing down his soul until his sanity snapped.

Like a candle that was moments away from burning the last length of its wick, the exhaustion of his quest of his father's acknowledgement simmered down to whatever radiance of innocence Eu El had remaining in his thirteen year old spirit.

"Dad, why'd you give mom's Christmas present she bought me in the first grade to my cousin?"

"Dad, why don't you ever celebrate my birthday?"

"Why did you break all of mom's plants the other week?"

His mom's voice coincidently interrupts. "It's late! Go to bed!"

"Okay, mom!"

His swell of anxiousness conjures up a mutter of a word drowned in neglect, indicating the incomplete distillation of doubt that remained within his voice.

"D-D-Dad?"

He waits again as he did before for a reply. However, much like every night, the re-runs dominated El's attempt to communicate with his dad.

Repositioning himself between his father and the television, El discovers his dad sleeping. The consistency of his father's habits lead him to hypothesize the possibility of television having a direct impact in the flat lining of brain activity.

"Dad?" El attempts again.

"Wha...What?" his father finally responds as if the sound of his son's voice resuscitated him from death.

"Eu El! Go to sleep!" his mother, again on cue, interrupts from her room.

"I'm just asking Dad something!"

Perhaps, it was the annoyance of being hurried by his mother. Or, maybe, it was the innate nature of a son's eagerness to connect with his father that was to blame for having El speak before thinking. Instead of asking any of his prepared questions, he decides on a different topic: the relatives.

El knew this topic would energize his father with the enthusiasm needed to talk until dawn; but he also knew the slightest mention of the relatives would be like opening Pandora's box.

To El, however, after all the trouble his father put him through, releasing unimaginable evil into the world seemed like a fair trade.

As innocent as his question began, El unknowingly opened the door to a familiar, but unspoken shadow of reality hiding in the midst of the world's denial with just six words:

"Dad, did I ever meet Grandpa?"

"Huh...?" his dad replies, half awake. "Grandpa? Your grandpa was a gambler; he was never home. Always playing *mahjong."

"Did I ever meet him?"

"Sorta...Why?"

"What do you mean 'sorta,' Dad?'"

"What?" his father responds, bewildered that a conversation between him and his second born was transpiring. "You were two years old. He sorta visited us when we lived in Novato."

Confused, but content with where the direction of their conversation was heading, El continues, slightly bolder and not overthinking.

"I don't get it, Dad. I thought you said Grandpa never visited America."

His deduction was enough for his father to take a confused glance at El's curious eyes before reconnecting back to the television. "You just weren't old enough to remember when he did visit."

"I don't get it."

Never looking down at his channel changer's buttons, his father turns the television off as effortlessly as a blind man reading a braille sheet. Straightening his posture on his recliner, he tells a story his son already lived, but is incapable to remember. Even with much effort, his father did not appear comfortable.

"Well," he repeats, straightening his back, "you were still in diapers, playing with your brother in the room when you met him. Your brother ran outside yelling somebody had walked into the room. You were too young to talk, but you were babbling to someone who wasn't there."

Eu El's gaze turns into the lost look of a child figuring out the nature of calculus for the first time.

A discomforting echo of "someone who wasn't there" was enough to burrow deeply into his mind, and seep back out from his pores through freshly formed goosebumps.

"Then, I saw you pushing your trucks in front of you as if you were playing with someone."

"Then what?" El asks, clearly spooked. "Was it grandpa?"

"I didn't know at the time. I mean I didn't know until after you rolled your toy trucks to the empty spot in front of you."

"Then, what?"

"I," his father clears his throat. "I saw how each time you rolled your trucks, the trucks kept rolling; they kept rolling back to you."

"On their own?"

"Yeah," his father unsettlingly validates. "They rolled back to you by themselves. One...by...one."

"You wouldn't remember any of this," his dad reminds him, noticing the hint of denial in Eu El's eyes. "But, I know what I saw."

El struggles to ask, "What happened afterwards?"

"The telephone rang. And, that's when I understood."

"Understood what?"

"Your relatives overseas called. And, they only call me for a couple of reasons. First, if they need money. Or, if someone died. It wasn't coincidence how, on the night they called, something strange happened in our house."

His father pauses, noticing the light of acceptance beginning to shine inside Eu El's eyes.

Whatever was inside Pandora's box seemed to had found El's soul with just a few words from his father. "Before our relatives said anything, I told them, 'Don't say it. I already know. My dad is dead, isn't he?'"

Author Notes * Mahjong is a tile based game that originated from China. It is played similarly to rummy.

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Chapter 2
The Gift

By Cybertron1986

The comfort of the bed was not enough. The story his father shared gave the feeling he was about to fall over a deep cliff, where its darkness could never reveal the depth, nor hint to whatever awaited below.

Everything that was now El's world, supplemented with the confusion of adolescence, had transformed his life into a unfathomable, perplexing equation.

His present circumstance was not of choice. It was more like arriving at that stage of life in which the powers of the universe decided he was ready to face his destiny on his own. This challenge arrived like the beginning of a long, perilous journey made for the movies. However, ready or not, he had no choice but to accept the challenge, and the shadows welcomed him as the sun began disappearing behind the horizon.

Some would call his gift an opportunity. Others, ironically, would see it as a tragedy waiting to happen. There was no telling which of the two he had. It didn't matter. Nobody, not even Eu El, knew he possessed something special. His own parents could never accept the fact that his older brother once bit off a piece of his right shoulder off during an argument over dinner when he was six years old. Eventually, when the time arrived his gift, a glow and the powers that came with it, would assist Eu El's light of acceptance in a world meant for the darkness to thrive.

But, it would not be this night.

Somehow, moments ago, this gift transported him into a different reality, blurry with no tangible references existing beyond the outline of his hallway, where the darkness swallows every crevice, every angle of perception and truth behind the familiar; a place where only few are able to visit. One could relate this scene to be a poorly transmitted fuzziness of a late night television signal barely materializing into a perceivable picture.

Invited, or not, he arrived to the other side of the shadows, a world ruled by depression, hunger, and darkness,

"H-How'd I get here?" he wonders, realizing moments ago under the warmth of his bedsheets he was staring at the ceiling.

"I fell asleep! I'm dreaming...

Awwwsum."

The texture of the soft, thick carpet hugging his bare feet is the only evidence of what familiarity existed in the emptiness of what is becoming the prelude to a nightmare, the kind that no one, not even his family, would believe is real unless they saw it for themselves.

He was all alone.

Logic, his only companion in a place where his own shadows abandoned him, reminds him how dreams normally do not involve tangible sensations. Yet, the eerie cold touch of the steel doorknob to his parent's room, where his newborn sister slept, was the entrance to a pitfall of evil which he never imagined he would encounter.

Walking to the door, El hears the pounding of his rapid heartbeat suggesting caution to the realization that his mother's lamp, which usually illuminated from inside, was now absent.

Deep within the convincing illusion of his parent's room, an unfamiliar figure echoes across the hollowness that steers his thoughts toward a direction of confusion. He pauses before bringing himself to look between the door's gap, hoping that whatever he could understand would somehow be excused as a creation of his imagination.

He begins reasoning with his fear, wishing that soon he would wake to the familiarity of eating the pancakes his mother prepared every school morning; or watching the Saturday morning cartoons while enjoying the sugary pleasantness of a bowl of Honey Smacks, and later setting time aside for reading his Spider-Man comics during the rainy nights with his 'Green Lantern' lantern under his bed.

Squinting into the dark, his eyes makes out a vague shadowy outline of a broken woman floating in the middle of a vast emptiness like an astronaut drifting within the mercy of space. He blinks before concluding, with wide and convinced eyes, the woman is not an illusion.

Standing besides a hot, bubbling cauldron with no fire, the shadow, heavily breathing, glances over to her side where, inside a crib, cries his infant sister.

The logic inside Eu El screams a warning to run away, but the lessons he took to heart from superhero stories conditioned a rare principle that convince him from retreating to the light at the end of the hallway.

Unexpectedly, a frightening, hungry cackle welcomes Eu El.

"I can hear the fear in your heart, boy."

There is silence between him and the shadowy figure that seemingly is afloat in his parent's room. Again, the mysterious shadow glances over to the crib where she places a pale, crooked hand to the forehead of his sister, who is crying at the discomforting touch of the woman's ice-cold fingers.

The shadow hisses.

"What a delicious sound."

Author Notes Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 3
Voices Pt.1

By Cybertron1986

Eu El waits cautiously behind the door, unsure of how to separate the perception of realism between the deception of what he feels is a dream.

The moment confronts him like the illusion of a convincing Freddy Krueger movie.

What feels less and less the house he grew up in, deepens like another complicated equation he cannot solve.

He presses his back against the wall and wishes the shadow, its cold and crooked hand caressing his baby sister's forehead, would vanish as all nightmares should when it becomes unbearably frightening. Yet, for some reason, even with much effort, he cannot wake from this nightmare.

The dark shadow's piercing cackle acknowledges the chilling reality for the boy, who chooses to bury its deep, chilling laughter in the hum of a Belinda Carlisle song, "Heaven is a Place on Earth," unaware of how the mysterious shadow's potential for destruction is equally as fatal as Eu El's denial of her existence.

"Your heartbeat, boy. It teases me," the shadow hisses.

El muffles his hum with shaking palms, unwilling to gasp for the air that could disclose his location.

"This isn't...real," he tells himself, afraid to inhale.

"Your fear has been worth the wait, boy."

The shadow's voice, more frightful than the wheezing of a rabid animal, extinguishes any light of hope El needs to find his way home.

He expects a miracle.

Instead, he sees the sun retreating behind the wake of an inevitable storm fast approaching from across the horizon.

He continues humming the song, but this time in his mind. The lyrics rekindles a pleasant memory of the time he first heard the song from his father's broken portable radio cassette player that he fixed.

("In this world we're just beginning...

To understand the miracle of living.")

Along with the words are the emotions that remind him of what he aspires to be: Clark Kent.

Fatherhood weighed heavily on Eu El's boyish, skinny shoulders. At the same time he struggled to complete a single pull-up in his middle school gym class, he was already carrying the weight of soiled diapers, long grocery lists, and a narcissistic brother.

Yet, he accepted the responsibility with the equal grace of his childhood superheroes would in the name of justice, love, and honor.

Whether this boy, who was no stranger to the uncertainty inside him, was prepared or not he would make the choice that would decide the fate of both his future, and the future of the world armed with only the lessons learned from his collection of Spider-Man, and Transformers comic books.

"Are you scared...boy?" The shadow continues hissing.

Its voice changes to the familiar sound of his angry brother. "You are NOTHING, loser! You can't save her! You fail at EVERYTHING!"

The echo alters into the other familiar, narcissistic voice in his life. "Give up, son. Listen to your older brother. You're just going to embarrass me. Shame on you for trying!"

Trembling, Eu El continues humming the song.

("Maybe I was afraid before...

I'm not afraid anymore!")

Another voice, recognizable only from the boy's mental library of after school cartoons, interrupts the shiver of his humming with a question.

It is the kind of question which challenges all character:

"What would Superman do?"

It is the question he has been waiting for all his life.

Author Notes Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 4
Voices Pt.2

By Cybertron1986

"I'm not Superman."

"Correction, El. You aren't 'Superman.' But everyone, including you, has a power."

The voice is familiar now. He closes his eyes, but a throbbing headache distracts El's focus of escaping the nightmare that engulfs him. The discomforting pulsation is momentarily diverted by a childhood memory of his first Transformers action figure: Windcharger, the heroic robot warrior he received on his eleventh birthday. It is now the voice that guides him.

"Freedom, Eu El, is the right of all sentient beings."

"That's what Optimus Prime would say," El answers with inspiration.

"El, your sister is in trouble."

The boy sulks back into a quiet depression, defeated by the reminder of what is awaiting on the other side of the door.

"Hey, keep your chin up," the familiar voice continues. "I'm your alter-ego, remember? Like me, you're fast. It says so on the back of my tech spec. 'Fastest Autobot over short distances.' Remember?"

A spark of enlightment fuels El's young spirit. "W-w-we're... alike!"

"We're not just fast, Eu El. We can do what only a few are capable of."

"What's that?"

"Eu El," Windcharger whispers, "in times of darkness, look toward the light of YOUR matrix; there, you will find your answer."

Eu El peers back into the dark emptiness of the room, his baby sister's giggling turns into cries of fear. The shadow, a frightening sight from afar, lifts its frozen touch from his sister's forehead. He sees the shadow reach into a cupboard that seems to materialize behind her.

Though his fear grows, he is able to whisper a familiar battle cry that he softly breathes to himself.

"Transform and roll out."

With childlike uncertainty, naive to whatever consequences awaits him from behind the door, he takes a step into the infinite darkness. He walks toward the shadow as it continues searching through the cupboard.

He moves, but the room and everything inside stretches away in a convincing illusion that almost teases his sister's crib in front of him like a light at the end of a tunnel that never gets closer.

Quickening into a full sprint, El again hears Windcharger's encouragement, "Remember my motto, Eu El!"

"'Quick action equals quick victory!" El reminds himself.

Eu El, his nature innately calculating the degree of acceleration, realizes that running at superhuman speed is the only way to reach his sister.

Like a calculator, he factors into the equation the variable of the moving crib that is distancing itself at an faster, increasing rate.

He knows what must be done, but he does not know how to achieve the physical impossibility of superhuman speed.

He searches for a strength that could transform his doubts into the miracle his sister needs; something beyond the average that no dark supernatural power could compete with, nor defeat. Whether or not he was capable to run that extra step, or two, between each rest of his frightened heartbeat, Eu El knows for his sister's sake he must try.

In his hesitation, a second of peace passes as he discovers the answer which hid dormant in his young, distracted mind all this time. A solution he could believe in:

Making a choice.

He forces an effort of speed fueled by belief, where belief was almost unspoken of in his reality. And, in his acceptance, he becomes that something he never imagined he could become.

Within the darkness, he lights the way with a glowing streak of a blurred blue bolt of lightning trailing behind himself.

Author Notes Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 5
The Curse

By Cybertron1986

The song continues inside his head, its lyrics rerouting his thoughts away from the distractions that could slow his sprint to less than what is needed to defeat the darkness. His mathematical nature calculates how anything slower than what he is already achieving could be fatal.

As the guitar solo fades into an angelic verse with that upbeat '80s flair where, through a simple lyrical message, he finds inspiration in a world he was not ready to face:

("Ooo, baby, do you know what that's worth?!

Ooo, Heaven is a place on earth!")

As every visible property engulfed within the darkness slows around him like a speeding car exiting a freeway off-ramp, he reaches his sister's crib; desperate for a breath of air that he dares not take.

The eerie shadow gently closes the cupboard door. She is ready to introduce El's sister to the violent, bubbling cauldron.

He peers cautiously over the crib's side, relieved to see his sister's developing smile. She extends a delicate acknowledgment with an uncoordinated motion of her infant hand.

Placing his finger over his lips, Eu El motions to her to remain silent. Gently, he touches her fingertip with his own to assure her that she is safe. His heart, expecting a rare victory, beats rapidly with the anticipation of failure, a familiar feeling he has carried since the day his brother stabbed him with the sharp end of a geometric compass for being just that...

a failure.

The shadow growls. "Your heartbeat, boy. Your doubt. Your fear... it tempts me."

The shadow looks into the emptiness waiting for the perfect moment to deliver select words that would ensnare the boy with a message capable of paralyzing fear into a thousand souls with each sound.

"So much talent. Yet, that doubt pulsating inside you, boy...it beats a painful rhythm that convinces me it is my own suffering...if I could choose one heart, then I want yours!"

Within its desire, the shadow becomes distracted.

"I want it!"

Windcharger screams, "Grab your sister! Run!"

The shadow sees a swiftly moving object in the form of an electric blue bolt moving with vicious grace toward a light, her meal tightly hugged within the blur of its skinny arms. Below, she gasps at the empty crib.

A deafening wail of madness fills the darkness as the shadows begin to move.

*Approaching the light behind the door, Eu El hears another voice he has not heard since he was nine; it is the taunting voice of his fourth grade teacher:

"Get YULIE BURGER! He's hot like a patty on a grill! Yuuuuuulie Buuuuurger!"

As if a stop button had depressed, Eu El's sprint turns heavy with the weight of sadness; the light of salvation rapidly stretches farther and farther away.

Inside Eu El's conscience, Windcharger re-gathers his friend's focus with a simple, but relevant memory.

"Your cassette tape...side B. You recorded that new song. Play it!"

"La Bamba?!"

"No! The one after 'Wake Me Up Before You Go! Go!"

A stream of notes from a synthesized piano plays in his mind. It is followed by a new set of lyrics that recalibrate his concentration and transforms him into a sight faster than the sound of his own blurred steps.

("Out of the Blue!

Out of the Blue!

Like a dream come true!

Like a dream come true!")

"Of all the races you are to run," Windcharger advises the El, "this is the one you cannot lose. However, if you win, you won't have anything left to succeed in your world. Is your sister worth it?"

Maintaining his glowing streak, Eu El looks at his sister's innocent smile. He has no thoughts of yesterday, or any consideration for tomorrow. Within that simple moment of an embrace he smiles back at his sister as the gap of the door slowly begins to close, the width nearing half the width of his body.

The song continues:

("Suddenly, I see you there...

And everything's ok.")

Eu El, accelerating faster than the pauses between his heartbeat, squeezes past the gap before the door closes with a slam.

Stumbling outside, he checks, with genuine care, his sister, who is cradled safely in his tired arms.

He observes the blackness around him dissipating like a fog before the embrace of the sun in a warm afternoon. The dark hall turns into a comforting white glow that assures him they are safe. His sister gazes back at him with wide eyes.

"Well done, hero. From here on, the fight will be your own," echoes Windcharger. "Thirty years from now, when you hear this again, you will know this wasn't a dream."

Puzzled, but victorious, Eu El makes a comfortable sigh as the delicate giggles of his sister begin to calm his shaking hands. The moment diverts his attention, but not ours, to the door soundlessly opening behind him.

Unnoticed, a blackness from the door oozes below his feet like blood pooling from a fresh slaughter. With the quickness of a bear trap, a dark crooked arm clenches his ankle.

Echoing deep within the depth of darkness, the shadow again curses.

"Heroic and selfless you are, boy! You will accomplish great things with your gift. Yet, no one will ever notice. The innocence you cherish in your sister will be your demise! The day your newborn sister loses her innocence, I will feast on YOUR heart!"

A light flashes from inside the boy's mind. He wakes sitting upright in his bed.

Sweating, he breathes heavily; rethinking his understanding of what reality he may have lost and what fantasy he may have survived.

A digital clock clicks 3 a.m.

Beneath the moonlight, he looks downward at his collection of G.I. Joe and Transformers action figures sprawled across the carpet of his room like the aftermath of a futuristic battle between man and technology. Each figure lays either face down, or on their backs...

defeated.

Like a silent survivor, a lone Transformers figure, Windcharger, stands perfectly upright staring toward him.

Looking beyond the crescent moon through his window, the boy gazes up to the heavens promising, "I'll never watch another Freddy Krueger movie again without permission. Cross my heart."

Slowly, he falls asleep unaware the doors of darkness have just opened, and his journey back into the light was just beginning.


Author Notes *Please read "A Bolt of Blue" (located in my portfolio) to understand the story behind "YUUUUUULIE BUUUUURGER!"

Songs used were:

Heaven is a Place on Earth, by Belinda Carlisle, 1987.

Out of the Blue, by Debbie Gibson, 1988.

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Chapter 6
Welcome Day

By Cybertron1986

--1996, San Francisco State University, Mary Park Dormitory--

A light breeze jostles Fall leaves from a tree just enough to scatter them onto a concrete path that leads to a long, rectangular, hand painted sign that reads, "Welcome Fall '96 Students!"

The bland color of the dormitories give an old, but not yet ancient impression of simple architecture that hints a style of decades past. From the Pacific Ocean's shore, a walking distance to the west under the fading sunlight, a thick overcast sweeps across a crowd of eager students, anticipating the start of the new semester.

Three floors above Mary Park's lobby, a Tupac song, "Changes," blares from a window in attempt to liven the campus' mood marred only by the comments of disapproving parents claiming, "That's not music."

Gamers, without delay, unhesitatingly equip their dorm room with the latest in video game entertainment: a Super Nintendo console. Inside the lobby, a small crowd gathers by a bulletin board with a list of room assignments.

Two young girls struggling with a bed-sized home gym go almost unnoticed by the many incoming residents. Yet, another pair seem to attract more attention with their 48 inch television.

There is a streching line of homesick students waiting to use one of four phone booths aligned side-by-side against Mary Park's lobby wall.

It is there that we turn our attention to the second booth from the left, where a young girl is casually seated. She is dressed in a black business outfit. Her straight black hair, just touching her shoulders, is softly pressed against the phone's speaker, where her ear is slightly covered. Her exotic eyes conceal many untold stories of a faraway place where many claim they know vividly well through television, but few have visited She exhibits motions that are more mature and sophisticated as compared to the other girls her age; every moment of her laughter is conservatively covered by her hand. From behind the clear booth door, her conversation is inaudible.

For now, her presence is insignificant. However, without anyone's awareness, her being has sparked an emotion of interest from across the lobby.

The body language of her soft giggle, supplemented with the calm joy in her almond shaped eyes, naturally ignite the dormant senses of an individual exhibiting a familiar, unchanged boyish character who is now physically mature.

If we carefully tune into his head with a cautious adjustment of a television's antennae, then we would be entertained to notice how the world around him has gradually slowed down. Every sound is mute except the beating of his heart that pulsates like a wild bird.

In his mind, at the moment his eyes gaze upon her, the blaring rap music above transforms into a forgotten recording of, "There She Goes," by the La's.

Suddenly, an abrupt echo of his father's voice disrupts the moment like an old record player scratching across the middle of the song.

"I did NOT send you to school to gawk at girls! You are here to study! No dating! NO looking!"

Placing his index finger at the center of his round large glasses, the young man slides his frame closer to his eyes as if to regain focus. He brings to attention the girl's high class attire as compared to his own worn jeans and old t-shirt with the phrase "Baseball is Life." His conditioned logic reminds him of the advice he received from his older brother while in high school.

"You will never be worthy of any girl...EVER.

If I can't be happy, then so can't YOU!."

The young man walks away, his presence still unnoticed by the girl; neither of them realizing how the their chapters of fate will soon overlap.

Approaching his new room, the last one at the end of the all-boys floor on the right just before the emergency exit, he notices, from the corner of his eye, his new neighbors residing across from his room. They are huddled around a big television, congratulating one another with high fives as they complete another level of "Super Mario Kart."

Entering his room, he meets his new roommate, Daniel, a much older student from Taiwan. He introduces himself as one who has paid his way to University by working as a palm reader in the streets of Taipei.

"By the way," Daniel says pointing to the empty bed on the right. "I'm giving you this side. Hope you don't mind. Your side gives off negative vibes."

"No worries," El replies, holding back feelings of cynicism.

El tells himself, "It's going to be one entertaining school year."

He decorates the corner of his desk with Windcharger, the Transformers action figure he received on his eleventh birthday, and the only childhood toy he was able to save after his entire collection of Transformers and G.I. Joe figures were sold off by a close "friend," Jules, who kept all the profits.

Above his bed, on the empty space of the wall, he firmly tacks a comic book, 'Web of Spider-Man' issue number 31. He repeatedly cleans and centers the comic in order to achieve a satisfying alignment that complements both his senses, and the laws of symmetry according to the Universe.

Outside, the rental vans begin slowly dispersing as the settling atmosphere suggests the conclusion of a rather active day. Families and students exchange their final wishes for a successful semester before saying their "good-byes."

In the rustle of events, a slight wind continues to scatter more dry leaves onto the ground.

Except for the black bird perched within a tree branch, no one notices the shadow that has stood idly for some time inside of a room, deliberately vacant.

The mysterious shadow, who has surveyed this "Welcome Day" since the beginning, inanimately continues standing behind the window as if time has no relevancy to its questionable presence.

Coincidentally, just like El's room, this shadow is also on the first floor of the all-boys hall.

Neither the shadow, nor El, realize that the chapters of their fate will also...

overlap.

Author Notes Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)

It has been a little over nine years since Eu El's first encounter with the entities which exist on the other side of the shadows.

In college now, he moves into his new and temporary home: the dormitories of San Francisco State University, where the chapters of his life will soon become darker than what he is prepared to accept.


Chapter 7
Laundry Day: Clean and Single

By Cybertron1986

An awkward calmness in Mary Park's lobby emits the feeling of a quiet, cheap hotel before midnight as the dormitories, once crowded with undergrad students, are now silent.

Bulletin boards, tacked with last week's lists of room assignments, face an elevator that suddenly spills a group of rowdy students onto the lobby, where loose, open discussions regarding a Saturday night in downtown San Francisco fill the atmosphere.

"You know the rules, guys," one proclaims.

The group, in unison, laugh, "What rules?!"

However, on this night, another student decides to be the exception to the rule of youthful freedom. His shirt with cut-off arm sleeves brandish an out-of-date fashion statement, "CHOOSE LIFE." The bold caps attract more attention then the loud, annoying squeak of a laundry room door from where he exits. His shirt implies an unlikely crossover between a mid-80's music video, and the current trend of a Tupac rap song.

Eu El, his body language appearing bolder, seems comfortably oblivious to the laughter coming from two of the girls.

Unsure as to why his social status has yet to improve, he continues unembarrased with a basket of freshly dried clothes that emit a strong aroma of spring flowers as a result of an overuse of fabric softener.

The group whispers rude comments about Eu El's noticeable smell of laundry and eighties fashion. Together, they sing, "Wake me up before you GO GO! I'm not planning on going solo!"

Purposefully loud, a girl giggles, "Nowadays, even nerds look buff."

Oblivious to the passive insults, Eu El slows his walk down to half speed as his attention focuses toward the second phone booth from the left where, once again, the young Asian girl is seated behind the clear doors. She appears tenser than before. However, her ability to remain elegant in her state of anxiety triggers the song, "There She Goes," to re-play inside El's mind. Her fingers carelessly entangle around the phone cord as wrinkles of concern feverishly form around her forehead. In every odd moment, she exerts a laugh, but this time she withholds from concealing her smile behind her hand. On top of the phone, a cheap lighter and a pack of cigarettes lay flat with an open cover revealing more than half the contents missing. For the past week, El has yet to know who she is, and where she is from. His only knowledge of her is that she occupies the same booth at the same time of the day, everyday, since moving in.

Before the girl feels the weight of his stare, El casually returns to a normal walking pace.

Observing from behind a snack dispenser, Daniel, El's roommate, comes out from hiding, laughing as he catches up to him. "Hey, Wu El! You're doing laundry?!"

"It's EU El," he corrects, confused to the logic of the question. "Of course. How else would one prepare for the school week?"

"But, it's Saturday."

"If I don't wash today, then how do you think I will have time to iron tomorrow?" El explains.

"*Ai-yah, who irons clothes in college? Besides, on SATUR...," Daniel gives up mid-sentence as he notices El's puzzled expression augments into an obvious confusion.

"Forget it," Daniel decides.

Keeping a curious gaze towards his roommate, Daniel breaks the silence in the empty halls of the all-boys floor with a bold observation. "I saw you!"

"Saw me? What are you talking about?"

"I saw you!" Daniel chuckles. "That girl in the booth! You were staring at her!"

"So?"

"I'm just relieved is all," Daniel snickers.

Tightly grasping the laundry basket in one hand, El struggles to unlock their room with his free hand. He is thinking of a reply as he struggles not to drop the freshly washed clothes. "Relieved? About what?"

"Wo yi zhu dou zhi dao wo shi yi ge mei nan, bu guo xing hao ni mei you kan shang wo. Ni hai suan zheng chang," Daniel responds in Chinese Mandarin.

"What?"

Daniel shakes his head. His eyes stare become a tragic expression suitable only for funerals. "Sorry, I forgot. Sadly, you do not speak Chinese."

"I grew up in Stockton...CALIFORNIA."

"Which is WHY I'm not surprised you don't speak Mandarin."

With one eyebrow raised, Daniel provides a concise translation. "Let me say, though I'm attractive, I'm relieved to know you find that girl more attractive than myself."

Disgusted, El hastily folds his laundry using a meticulous, rhythmic technique that results in symmetrical folds. After deep thought, he glares back at Daniel, who is disappointedly shaking his head.

"I don't get it," Eu El finally answers.

In slight disbelief, Daniel finds humor in his roommate's sense of fashion. "You, cutting off your shirt sleeves, and smelling like flowers doesn't give off a 'straight' impression."

El takes a longer pause. He struggles to arrive at an understanding to the comparison between the word, "straight" and his fashion sense.

"At least you have good taste in women," Daniel compliments for the purpose of keeping the conversation going.

Still ignoring Daniel, El continues folding his laundry with an intent to pass a military inspection the next morning.

"You never been in a relationship before, have you?" Daniel fearlessly deduces.

Unsure if his roommate is leading toward a bad punch line of an insulting joke, El continues ignoring him.

"C'mon, I'm serious, El. I'm at least six years older than anyone in the dorms. I'm more experienced in the art of dating."

"What're you suggesting?"

"Listen, El, before you go stalking girls again," Daniel snickers, "We're going to Chinatown together. There's a great barber and the best dumplings in San Francisco."

"What are dumplings?"

"Ay-yah. Seriously? Do you even know how to use chopsticks?" Daniel replies, sounding more disappointed as the shortcomings of his roommate are slowly revealed.

Eu El nods without confirming either a "yes,"or a "no." He nods because he is satisfied with the workmanship of his folded clothes that are being neatly organized into his dresser.

"Never mind," Daniel frowns as he searches for his car keys amongst the clutter on his desk. "Maybe, it's better you don't let anyone know your handicap with chopsticks. Presently, you're like last week's losing lottery ticket: you wouldn't stand a chance winning anything; let alone women."

"Why?!" El, a competitor, seems triggered at the hint of being called a failure.

"She's Asian," Daniel justifies with a blunt answers. He notices the sensitive reaction in El. "Though you're Asian on the outside, on the inside you're like a visitor from another planet."

A glow of praise emanates in El's tone. "Like Krypton?"

Daniel strains a smile to hide his disappointment with his new friend. He is careful to not damage the dormant potential of his roommate.

"What? Ai-yah, El. You're more like a fortune cookie than a superhero."

Inside, Daniel regrets his comfort of opinion.




Author Notes This is a developing novel. For those just reading this specific chapter, please note that there are previous chapters prior to this. Yes, there are paranormal intrigue involved that will later be presented. However, if you would like to know what Eu El is facing, then please read chapter six.

*Ai-yah is a Chinese phrase, or Chinglish that expresses dismay, shock, or fear.

Thank you, Google for the classic George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, WHAM! picture circa 1984.


Chapter 8
The Fortune Pt.1

By Cybertron1986

Slowly, the sun slips between the Pacific's edge where the horizon ends. Reflecting against the fading sunset, a bridge illuminates in a majestic glow giving emphasis to the name 'Golden Gate.'

Like an orchestra, the metropolis sitting against the estuary's edges combusts into a symphony of lights upon the touch of night.

From afar, the lights rhythmically mimic the motions of a mechanical system of arteries fused into an opened chest of a concrete robot gazing at the overcast of clouds from below.

Looking deeper into one of the thousand moving lights on Interstate 280, is a red, two door Civic. By all standards it is the perfect fuel efficient, commuter car for frugal University students.

Inside, the cassette stereo plays the song, "In the Air Tonight." It changes into Tupac's "Rearview Mirror," a variation.

Abruptly, the tune ends as Daniel hastily parks inside a garage on the outskirts of San Francisco's Chinatown.

A brief walk leads Daniel and Eu El into a nearby restaurant, where a lively atmosphere of customers are surrounded with the aroma of freshly steamed dumplings and roasted pork.

With each passing second, measured by the ticking hand of a dusty wall clock, a continuous chatter of Mandarin brings Daniel back to the comforting feel of Taipei's nightlife.

However, El sits with his back hunched. He looks out of place as his newly highlighted hair breaks the traditional, natural black standard of the time, catching more attention than the blue ESPIRIT sweater he has worn since junior college.

"El," Daniel, suppresses his laughter from across the table. "Before I ask, I want to tell you..."

Struggling to grasp a single steamed shrimp dumpling with chopsticks, El glances back at Daniel, who skillfully snatches his dumpling as it falls mid-air almost splashing into the small plate of soy sauce below.

"Out of all the Asians I met, you're the only one who has the worst chopstick skills. Not to mention," Daniel continues, "you're the only guy in the human race who carries a picture of *Andrew Ridgeley in his wallet."

"Why wouldn't I carry a picture of Andrew Ridgeley? Imagine where the world would be without him?"

"Seriously, El. Andrew himself wouldn't carry an old picture like that. Other than his driver's license, he wouldn't be found dead with that picture."

El gradually becomes irritated. He defends his perception of normalcy with an unexpected fact that could only be known in the thoughts of a child who grew up in the eighties.

"If it wasn't for Andrew Ridgeley, 'Last Christmas' would never had been written, and the world would had succumbed to the replay of cheesy Christmas songs."

Daniel laughs louder, "That song is almost as old as eight-track players."

A sour note subtly plays in their conversation.

"I find that equally insulting as comparing me to a fortune cookie," El confesses.

"Insulting?!" Daniel looks confused. "Dude, I just finished translating how to cut your hair into an unknown Andrew Ridgeley's style from 1982, to a non-English speaking Chinese barber! THAT was embarrassing!"

"That picture came in handy, didn't it?! She had no clue how to properly highlight my bangs without my picture."

"Of course she wouldn't have known. Nowadays, barbers aren't supposed to cut hairstyles from FIFTEEN years ago! You should have told me beforehand you had that picture. I sounded stupid translating something that CAN'T be explained in Mandarin!"

"It was fourteen years. Not fifteen," El corrects, oblivious to Daniel's embarrassment.

"Anyways, it was interesting to hear you describe how to highlight hair in the style of Andrew Ridgeley while speaking Chinese. It sounded like a whining grandmother singing a rap song," El adds as he gives up on the chopsticks.

El grabs a fork. In one motion, he stabs into two shrimp dumplings at the same time.

"El! Slow down!" Daniel shouts loud enough to turn a few customer heads their direction. "These aren't chicken nuggets, okay?"

Using chopsticks, Daniel effortlessly steals one of the dumpling from El's fork as if to mock his lack of skill. "Anyways, embrace it, El. It's your destiny. You ARE a genuine 'Fortune Cookie.'"

"Why do you call me that?"

Daniel's question seems to be presented with the intention to deliver a subtle insult toward El's unique background.

El continues, "What does that even mean?"

"Where do you think fortune cookies come from, El?"

"They're from Panda Express," El replies confidently.

Daniel, loses his patience. "There's no mistake. You ARE American as a fortune cookie!"

Author Notes This is a developing novel. For those just reading this specific chapter, please note that there are previous chapters prior to this. Yes, there are paranormal intrigue involved that will later be presented. However, if you would like to know what Eu El is facing, then please read chapter six.


*Andrew Ridgeley was the co-member of the popular '80s band, "WHAM!" He partnered with George Michael and co-wrote one of the most unforgettable pop songs for Christmas entitled, "Last Christmas" in 1984.


Chapter 9
The Fortune Pt.2

By Cybertron1986

"Don't you get it?" Daniel laughs.

Eu El is unamused. "It's an analogy, right? But, it's kinda funny how a fortune teller is comparing me to a fortune cookie."

"What I mean, El, is that in Asia you are not considered Asian because, you grew up in America."

From the look in El's reaction, Daniel seems to have answered a lingering question that has haunted El since grade school.

"In America," he continues, "you are not seen as an American because, on the outside, you are Asian. Just like the fortune cookie!"

Daniel laughs loudly as if to intentionally place emphasis on the awkward insight.

El risks to clarify his disappointment using his natural perception of the world. "So, what you are saying is people aren't ready for an Asian Superman?"

"El," Daniel begins, a glimmer of empathy reflects in his stare. "I didn't say that. What I mean is that when you understand the origin of the fortune cookie, then you may arrive toward a truth your parents were not capable of explaining to you."

"Where is the fortune cookie from?" El's voice sounds like a child eager for a new story.

Daniel places his chopsticks on top of his dipping dish that contains only a residue of soy sauce left. Taking a sip of hot green tea, he sighs a breath of indifference to the story he is hesitant to share. For Daniel, this is common knowledge. But, for El, this is a revelation.

"The Japanese will say they invented the fortune cookie. But, the Chinese argue a Chinese entrepreneur, who immigrated to San Francisco, invented it when Chinatown was in need to promote their local businesses."

"Therefore," Daniel continues, "in a way, the fortune cookie was 'born' in San Francisco. Fortune cookies are seen by the Chinese as an American creation. What foreigners don't understand is that fortune cookies don't exist in China. But many westerners, including Asian Americans, assume they are Asian because, that is what a fortune cookie appears on the outside-- Asian! In reality, they are very much American...like you!"

Shocked, El leaves Daniel to laugh uncontrollably until his laughter becomes a broken chortling of breaths.

A connection develops between El and one of the two fortune cookies he picks up from the table, where they were placed next to the dinner check. "If I'm a fortune cookie, then what are you? You're the one who reads palms."

"Fortune cookies don't tell the future," Daniel answers, taking another sip of tea. He decides to leave his fortune cookie uncracked near the check. "But I can, El. You want me to read your palm?"

Excitement emanates from El. "Really?! I never had my palm read."

"Yeah? And I never read an extraterrestrial's future before," Daniel jokes. "What did the fortune cookie tell you, El?"

El unfolds the small, rectangular strip of paper that reveals the three letters printed from the fading, cheap ink.

"It says...

'run.'"



Chapter 10
The Untold

By Cybertron1986

Nervously, Daniel repeats the ominous message pinched between Eu El's fingers.

"Run?"

"See?" El reveals the message. The word clearly stands out on the white strip of paper. "It knows me!"

The "fortune" sparks a thought in Daniel, who interprets the message more as some coincidental, inconclusive warning.

"Maybe, I can tell you something you don't know."

El stares at the top of the table where Daniel's hands rest in a way that suggests El to do the same. There's a stutter of doubt in his reply.

"Y-y-you're going to read my future? Isn't palm reading like voo-doo? I saw this movie once..."

"No. Voo-doo is for movies," Daniel interrupts, sounding almost insulted. "C'mon. Aren't you interested to know about your chances with your girl from the phone booth?"

El reflects about the hour spent arguing with his mother on the phone about changing his hairstyle to look like his fashion idol, Andrew Ridgeley. He decides there is nothing to lose.

Daniel reassures him. "Come Monday, El, whether I read your palm, or not, you're going to find out if that girl is a fan of the '80s. Hopefully, she likes ESPIRIT sweaters, too. You do know that is a girl's brand you're wearing, right?"

El looks at the ESPIRIT logo across his sweater. Each letter, printed in large rainbow colors, start to take on a different meaning.

"My mom said this sweater looks good on me."

Out of pity, Daniel decides not to take advantage of the moment with any suitable, humorous comeback to the unintential insult comparing palm reading to voo-doo.

"I'm a complete loser," El admits.

"Let me see your palm, El."

Though curious to know about his future, El feels strongly about his future routins involving baseball and watching episodes of 'The Simpsons' will go unchanged. Yet, his hesitance suggests some weight of doubt.

"Women aren't shallow," El states, "My mom told me it takes more than fashion to find the right person."

El continues rambling in hopes he may discover one comforting reason to ease his doubts. "My little sister did a book report in the sixth grade about a Japanese girl, Sadako, who tried folding a thousand paper origami cranes."

"Why?" Daniel asks perplexed at El's random statement.

"Because, the book report was part of my sister's weekly homework assignment."

Daniel eyes roll to his roommate's cluelessness. "I mean WHY would the girl fold a thousand paper cranes? Why not a dozen, or a hundred?"

"She wanted a wish. She figured she could get cured of cancer if she folded a thousand," El explains. "A hundred, I guess, is too small a number to appease the Gods of love."

"You're saying," Daniel pauses, as he has many times before to give time for the pressure of laughter to alleviate from inside.

"You're saying," he repeats, "that you plan to ask this girl out with a haircut of the guy responsible for the song, 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go!' while sporting a girl's ESPIRIT sweater, AND giving her a bunch of paper cranes?!"

El's optimism remains visible, though the tears from Daniel's laughter imply a comical, but ominous outcome to El's plan.

"Yup," El replies confidently, an air of nativity lingering close by.

Still laughing, Daniel struggles to ask, "What do you hope she sees in all this?!"

"That my patience, actions and love for her are equally as superhuman as the attributes of Superman, the greatest superhero in the comic universe."

Daniel catches his breath. El's response was enough to spark a light of inspiration within Daniel's doubts.

"Show me your hand, El," Daniel, again, requests.

Daniel, his curiosity momentarily outweighing any amount of pessimism, insists to El, "Instead of telling your future, I'll prove to you how palm reading is legit. I'll reveal something only you would know."

"You're going to tell me about my past? You can convince me more if you tell me what will happen in the next hour."

Daniel looks insulted. "It doesn't work like that."

Convinced, and equally as curious as Daniel, El places his hands on top of the table. Using small random motions, he adjusts his palms like a person overcomed with OCD until it becomes a mirror reflection of Daniel's hands that are directly placed across.

"Dummy!" Daniel shouts, slapping El's hand. "The right hand is for girls! I only need your left!"

Taking his left hand, he presses El's palm. He closely examines each unique line that, according to Chinese palm reading, defines each person's past, present and future. With each release, El's circulation returns the natural glow in his skin tone.

"Your blood flow is good. You never smoked?"

"That's something Super-man would never do," El proudly comments.

Arriving at a notable discovery in one of the many lines of El's hand, Daniel changes his focus to El's eyes. He looks more concerned than before.

"Running is in your nature. It's been with you even before you could walk. But, according to your palm," Daniel points at a specific line. "There is an imperfection."

"This line here," Daniel says, pointing, "It tells a very interesting story."

Author Notes Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 11
Weight of the World

By Cybertron1986

(Daniel attempts to convince Eu El to the truth behind palm reading. He presents the story, written already within Eu El's palm)...

-1991, Stockton, California. Five years before the events of the previous chapter-

Laughter from a television audience mixes with the clamour of metal inside a garage, where two teenage boys trade their final week of high school repairing a rusted, broken ten-speed bicycle.

On cue, the defining phrase, "Did I do thaaat?" from the latest episode of 'Family Matters,' broadcasts from a television sitting on top of a dryer as Eu El clumsily drops a small wrench in attempt to tighten a large bolt on the rear wheel.

Simultaneously, the boys laugh at the coincidence with comical, "nerdy" snorts.

"Duc, Can you find me a larger wrench?" El asks, examining the fresh abrasion to his index finger.

Duc, the theraputic sidekick during El's developmental years, understood his friend better than his older brother. Together, though neither acknowledged it, they survived their separate experiences as that invisible kid in school; the guy who was always turned down by every girl he asked to a school dance; the boy who gets stuffed into the locker between classes; the one whose pants is pulled down in the lunch line; the kid whose father spent their salary on material things that upgraded his status amongst the relatives rather than invest in their second born's future.

They are both children of immigrants. And though they shared these experiences to some degree, there were many physical differences between them that were equally unique as the cultures that defined their backgrounds. During their time in high school, they were an inseperable, awkward pair as C-3PO and R2-D2.

"Dude, El. I thought my Dad was bad. But, your Dad bites. He's turned you into a nut case."

Hopelessly, they stare at the broken bicycle. A flat tire, its air slightly escaping, makes a hissing sound with each pump. El looks at Duc with a deep sense of urgency, hoping he can provide a solution.

There is only silence.

"I have no idea how I'm going to do this," El admits.

"Don't look at me. I'm already lending you my bike. Sorry. This is all I got. It's a hand-me-down from my dad. I swear, the last time it actually raced was when 'The Flock of Seagulls' sung their last hit."

Again, simultaneously, despite their dismal circumstance, they react to the historical reference with laughter and another "nerdy" snort.

"Seriously, El. My dad wouldn't let me go to the prom either. But, when you asked him to help you with this triathlon and he said 'No!' that's a Darth Vader altering his deal with Lando Calrissian kinda low."

El makes a sigh that seems to augment their shared feelings of hopelessness. It was the kind of sigh that a person makes when it begins to rain, but realizes their umbrella was left at home.

"The difference between you and me is that I went to the prom even though my dad was upset," Duc adds.

"But," El argues, "you went with your cousin!"

"Correction. I went with my THIRD cousin."

El makes an awkward, unconvincing smile to Duc's statement.

"At least I went," Duc whispers. "Why didn't you go? Scared? I thought you were taking the only Chinese girl on campus to the prom? What happened with *Mo Chou?"

"I wasn't scared. She wanted to go with that wrestler who looks like Johnny from 'The Karate Kid.' Besides, my dad needed me home to babysit."

"How do you do it, El? You go from smelling like burgers and fries, to dirty diapers four days a week."

"I don't consider taking care of my sister to be a job. My parents don't pay me for that," El answers, his patience wears thin as he continues struggling with the bolt to the bicycle's rear wheel.

"Why is your dad against you competing, El?"

El makes another familiar sigh that seems to add to the frustration. "He said I'd fail and it'd be a waste of money and time."

"I get it!" Duc proclaims. "You're competing in the triathlon because, you want validation!"

"What?" A look of confusion distracts El away from his repairs. "What does that mean?"

"I learned this in psych class. This is more than just a triathlon to you. This is the FIRST ANNUAL Tokay High triathlon; meaning you want to make up for missing prom by replacing it with something else that you feel is equally as special. By competing, you cancel out missing prom. AND, at the same time, you prove to your dad you're a winner. It's a two-for-one win for you!"

El refuses to admit the relevancy behind Duc's analysis.

"Okay, Sigmund Freud. Maybe, you're right. But, don't you think it would had been easier had I went to prom?" El makes it sound to be more like a cheap therapeutic observation.

"Correction," Duc replies, sounding more annoying. "It would had been easier had you asked her out before the blond and blue-eyed jock did."

El finally agrees with a hesitant head nod, as Duc attempts to comfort him in the best way he knows.

"I respect you, El. At least you're trying to make things right. Even if I was athletic as you, I would not have that same motivation. Tomorrow, in the race, don't do it for *Mary, or your dad. Do it for yourself, and ALL fans of the Transformers! Your future is riding on this race, El."

"Riding?" El responds. "Is that a pun?"

Again, as they did before, the two simultaneously laugh with that same "nerdy" snort before continuing on with the near impossibility of repairing a bicycle that appears ready for the junkyard than a race.

--3:47 p.m., the following day after school--

Sitting in a recliner, Eu El's father watches a blow-out baseball game between the A's and the Red Sox on a newly purchased forty inch television.

His father's consciousness is flatlined to the sound of the garage loudly closing through an opened door.

In between innings, El enters as a McDonald's commercial reminds him he has to clock in for work in less than an hour. The commercial interrupts his father's concentration enough to adjust himself away from the comfort of the recliner.

Suddenly, El's father is eager to validate the anticipation of his son's failure.

"How'd you do?" he asks, his father's eyes never disconnect from the television.

El, his hands cut and darkened with bicycle grease, walks pass him. His feet drag in defeat across the carpet, his head hangs low as if he lost not just a battle, but the entire war.

"I..." El could not even utter his next word as his father interrupts.

"See!" his father shouts, "I knew you'd lose! Good thing I did not buy you that bicycle. What a waste of money that could have been! If you had listened to me, then you wouldn't be soo grumpy!"


--Present moment, 1996, back at the Taiwanese restaurant--

Completing the reading of El's palm, Daniel stares back in amazement to the disturbing story he just revealed. El rubs his palm against his shirt, as a feeling of pity emanates from Daniel. El, however, reacts with childlike forgiveness to the event he's never spoken of since high school.

Daniel grabs El's palm again, hoping to clarify another detail.

"There is something else," Daniel tells him, pointing to the small jaded line on El's palm. "There is something you did not mention to your dad."

"Yeah. I never told him."

"What?" Daniel asks.

"During the triathlon, I never mentioned I was in the top three throughout the race. All I needed was to complete the bike race. I would had won a medal; maybe even first place."

"'Would have won?'" Daniel repeats.

"The bicycle chain snapped halfway into the biking race," El admits.

"How many competitors?" Daniel asks.

"There were 370, maybe 400 students and teachers who competed.

I went from top three in the first two events to finishing dead last.

I carried that rusty, old broken bike on my shoulders...

like a crucifix...

all the way back to school, while people laughed and threw rocks at me.

I never told anyone I didn't cross the finish line, or how different that day could have been if my dad had just believed in me."

"My attempt at erasing the prom," El adds, "ended up giving me more misery than I started out with."

Author Notes *Mo Chou is a Chinese name, that, when literally translated, means, "free of sadness." In real life, Mo Chou's American name was Mary.

Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 12
The Wait

By Cybertron1986

(September, 13, 1996, Friday. 05:45:32)

Again, he passes the empty phone booth, the second one from the right, as thoughts of the girl and his future run pass his mind like a fast forwarding film. He rewinds to where he recalls her smile, the one that made his heart beat inside him like a wild bird.*

Lost in imagination, his emotions calculate the possibilities.

Amongst the products and sums, he decides on a wish that the girl would, in some way, become intertwined with his uncertainty, the doubts of today that were molded by his past.

Consciously, or unconsciously, his desires persuade him to challenge the higher powers he cannot see nor understand, for an opportunity he may not be prepared for.

"One chance," he proposes, "to touch that feeling of belonging. Give me a chance; I'll do the impossible. I'll fold TEN THOUSAND paper cranes. That's ten times more than Sadako wanted. Give me a sign, and it's a deal."

Eu El looks above the elevator, where the numbers indicating the floors above periodically light-up as it makes the descent to the lobby. For a time, the elevator hesitates before continuing.

Behind El, a group of undergrads enter the lobby. They are engaged in a rambling, but entertaining conversation filled with rambunctious laughter. The hall monitor, sitting behind the lobby desk, reminds one couple of the rules regarding smoking inside the building. The commotion does not avert El's thoughts of the girl.

Engrossed in imagination, El fails to notice from within the noisy group the girl he is thinking of emerges.

Unseen, she stands behind El. She ignores his untimely chuckles that, quite possibly, were triggered by a discreet thought of her.

The elevator arrives, spilling another rowdy group of undergrads onto the lobby's lively atmosphere. Both El and the girl, still unseen, filter through the crowd and enter into the elevator.

As the doors close, El hears her voice for the first time. Her youthful tone implies a genuine, respectful intention.

"Could you push number four, please?"

Her voice sends him into a nervous state. His slightly shaking hand pushes the elevator button with tense motion.

"Thanks," she gently replies.

He stores every note of her voice like one of many favorite '80s songs, but he finds himself paralyzed to the realization that his knowledge of girls is still under some sort of overdue development.

The unexpected occurs as the doors open. In that defining moment of their chance encounter, she steps onto the floor, her attention glowing with curiosity. Her head, looking over her shoulder, attaches her eyes to his. Their stares connect like charges of two opposite ends of magnets.

Unintentionally, El fails to quickly identify the signs of her emanating approval that shine from her eyes. She waits for his acknowledgement. Instead, she is received with an awkward response of one whose life is a tragic reminder of consistent rejection with peers from his hometown, where boys, who were consistently rejected for being a fan of Marvel comics and Transformers, went unnoticed throughout grade school.

Overcome with doubt, he resembles a shy schoolboy whose eyes are focused on the floor below.

The inner voice of his father reminds him, "No looking! No gawking! No talking with girls!"

Before the door closes between them, the girl risks a brief, delicate wave of her hand towards his direction just in time for him to notice.

Wondering who the lucky recipient could be, El naively turns to the emptiness behind him.

Ascending with the elevator that immediately malfunctions half a floor above, El fails to notice the girl's fragile smile that was meant for him.


(September 13, 1996, Friday, 02:15:46)

A cafeteria jukebox plays George Michael's latest song, "Fast Love." The seductive rhythm is drowned by the chatter of students eating dinner.

This particular setting paints a perfect portrait of social conversation before the dominance of instant messaging and status updating.

Many seats are taken except for the chair across Daniel, who expects El to arrive soon. He tastes his meal, a bland fillet of baked fish, and yesterday's leftover vegetables that has been mixed into a watery base labeled "tomato soup." Minutes later, El arrives carrying a meticulously arrangement of food on his tray.

"Anyone here can tell if you entered the cafeteria!" Daniel exclaims.

"How?" El smiles, flattered by the attention.

"Because, you're the only person who selects George Michael songs on the jukebox."

Daniel notices El's dinner tray: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a large serving of spaghetti, and a bowl of the tomato soup that are perfectly presented in a way that suggests it will be photographed for a brochure advertisement.

The look on both their faces suggest a desire for more dim-sum from the night before but they realize neither posses the monetary freedom to eat out on a regular basis.

"The elevator malfunctioned," El informs as he reveals a set of chopsticks he purchased from their visit to Chinatown.

"Chopsticks?" Daniel comments, his stare, confused, is more concerned about El's utensils than the fact the elevator broke down. "For spaghetti?!"

"I'm practicing."

Daniel can not help but make an uncomfortable look as the combination of chopsticks and spaghetti give off the same impression as would combining soy sauce to a taco. "Practicing? For what?!"

"At being Asian," El replies. "Didn't you hear what I said? The elevator broke."

Continuing to ignore El, Daniel rolls his eyes in disgust while taking a drink of water. He points with his pinky finger to the table behind them.

"Don't look," he says very casually, "But, your girl is sitting a couple of tables away."

El glances over.

"Don't be obvious!" Daniel buffers his disappointment as best as he can.

Retracting his head, El thinks of another approach before daring another attempt to see the older man, dressed in a suit and tie, sitting with the girl. Her smile reminds him of the first time he saw her inside the phone booth.

"Here's your chance! Ask her if she likes your haircut," Daniel laughs, tauntingly pointing towards El's new hairstyle, the one meant to resemble the hairstyle of Andrew Ridgeley from 1982.

"Is that her uncle?" El asks.

"I doubt it, Einstein."

"Older brother?"

Taking another sip, Daniel again points using his pinky finger. "Look closer."

El takes a more cautious glance. His observation is long enough to notice the man intimately holding her free hand. Moments later, the girl drops her napkin, the one she wiped her lips with and pulls the man's head towards her for a kiss. They exchange a few words before leaving, unaware of the watchful eyes of the two roommates.

"Is the dinner that bad?" El assumes, sensing the urgency of their departure.

"For a guy whose tie is probably worth more than your wardrobe, I doubt this place was good enough for that romantic moment," Daniel deduces from experience.

"This brings me to you," Daniel says, turning to face El.

"Me?"

"Think about it," Daniel begins to explain. "The guy is refined; he wears expensive suits; and you're wearing the same jeans and sneakers since day one. Your shirts have comic book themes. AND, your new hairstyle suggests you're going on tour with New Kids on the Block."

"It's a style...from WHAM!," El corrects. He stops to think of a suggestion that may help his chances to connect with Daniel. "So, I need a tie?"

Frustrated with El's lack of understanding, Daniel changes the subject to where they last left off at the restaurant when Daniel read El's palm.**

"What do you think about my palm reading, El?"

El shrugs his shoulders. Though impressed at the accuracy, he makes no acknowledgment of acceptance. Noticing El's skepticism, Daniel takes a chance at an obvious insight that does not require any fortune telling to deduce.

"You never clicked with the cool kids, huh?"

"No," El answers, "the cool kids would beat me up because, I read a lot of books. What else would a kid be doing in the library?"

"Maybe, they bullied you because you checked out books instead of girls?" Daniel laughs.

"My own cousin," El continues, "the homecoming queen in high school, ignored me between classes. When I waved to her, she would hide. She thought I'd damage her image if anyone knew we were related. But my dad still asked I be nice to her, though."

Daniel apologizes to El for another laugh he could not control.

"What do you do for fun, El?"

"Sports, but no team wants me. Growing up, I split my time playing with Transformers and babysitting my sister. I was into Transformers that..."

Eu El pauses, giggling to a memory.

"I spent days with my collection," he repeats, "that I discovered the reason behind the name, 'Optimus Prime.' Wanna know?"

"I'm afraid to ask."

El holds up seven fingers.

"'Optimus' has seven letters. Seven is a PRIME number. Get it? 'Optimus PRIME?'" El laughs at the pleasantry of this childhood discovery until another memory re-surfaces.

"How did you survive high school?" Daniel asks with curious intent.

A more deeper and noble tone emits from El's voice that sounds like a teenage Captain America struggling to survive puberty.

"It's a good thing I once read 'Web of Spider-Man' issue #31."


(September 13, 1996, Friday, 00:33:13)

Outside, two young freshman dressed in pajamas sit on a bench. Together, they share a cigarette underneath the soft buzz of patio lights that illuminate the confining mist of a late Friday evening.

Meanwhile, behind the counter of a completely empty lobby, waiting to check I.D. cards, a hall monitor sits as he wearily reads a text book regarding film history.

As the temperature drops, the mist eerily thickens around the couple like an uncontrolled hemorrhage in a body of water. There is movement inside the misty particles, but there is no breeze that can be felt stirring the foggy haze. The couple, rubbing their arms across their chests, prematurely retire from the cold.

Simultaneously, they reveal their I.D. cards to the half-awake monitor as they wait for the elevator. The monitor relays a nod of approval before a sudden chill persuades him to put on his leather jacket that is a replica from the movie 'Indiana Jones.'

Neither the couple, nor the monitor are aware of the coldness that has stepped inside. It moves to the right toward the slightly opened door that leads into the all-boys floor of Mary Park Hall.

Inside the hall, a loosely taped flyer advertising an upcoming floor meeting falls to the ground. It goes unseen as the lights flicker like a broken camera that flashes uncontrollably. In between the light and dark, a vague shadow materializes against the wall, but there is no owner. In two heartbeats, the figure fades by the door only to reappear eight rooms down at the opposite end of the hallway in front of the emergency exit.

Two more heartbeats of time passes. In between flashes, as if with purpose, the shadow turns to face the closed door of the last room to the right.

Just as the lights return to normal, a resident from the middle of the hall steps out to investigate the activity. However, the entity continues unseen.

"Stop playing around!" he yells into the emptiness. "Geez, I hate it when my anime is interrupted."

Our attention is now on the other side of the room at the end of the hallway, where a large glass cookie jar sits on top of a desk with a handful of delicately folded origami paper cranes the size of a thimbles rest. Each are meticulously placed at the bottom. The emptiness of the jar suggests a lifetime before it can be filled to the top.

Laying alongside a book entitled, "Reality Therapy," by Dr. William Glasser, is a pack of colorful origami paper that have yet to be folded. Each sheet is cut into smaller squares that are sixteen equal, separate parts.

Unknowingly, gliding towards El, asleep as a barely audible song repeats in his headphones that loosely cover his ears, is the shadowy figure.

Uninvited, the shadow seems to intently observe the creative display of colorful paper cranes. Uncommon as it is to encounter origami activitiy on a Friday evening inside a dormitory that is known more for grown-up pleasures, the scene becomes stranger as the shadow moves with interest toward the cookie jar.

Observing from afar, one would have an urge to warn El he is not alone. From the same viewpoint, others would scream witnessing what the occupant of this room cannot see at the moment he drifts away into what is slowly becoming a nightmare:

A dark outline of a faceless observer dressed in a dirty white robe begins creeping towards him.

(00:00:00)

Author Notes *As told in chapter 6, Welcome Day
**From the previous chapter, Weight of the World

Picture from Google.

Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 13
The Thirteenth Chapter

By Cybertron1986

The darkness approached without warning. The chill felt different and at the same time, familiar in a way that sparked a dormant memory from long ago.

And that terrified him.

The temperature, dropping sharply, woke him like a scream; it was as if the universe was warning him for the coming of something ominous. However, for Eu El, he had a special way of adjusting to unexpected changes.

Consumed inside by both the darkness and his random thoughts, he sits on his bed struggling to make sense of a frightful vision that took shape of a girl wearing a white robe, which appeared convincingly real.

He stares long into the emptiness surrounding his room, hoping the erratic snoring of his roommate and the hum of a digital clock would convince him he is safe within the familiarity of his own reality.

A muffled laughter projects from across the hallway, where his neighbors are viewing a VHS tape they purchased from an adult store from the outskirts of Chinatown earlier in the day.

Though invited to partake in the events, El's stubborn but noble refusal stirs questions among his neighbors, who cannot connect with the moral code of conduct influenced from the pages of his favorite comic book.

In El's mind, there is no question between seeking entertainment from an adult video and the gratification of adhering to the character of a fictional role model in a cape and mask. Even if his chances to make new friends ended with social exile, El, his nature defined by the phrase, "With great power comes great responsibility," could never imagine bowing down to the villainy that is peer pressure.

Possibly, this stubborn faith is the reason why he was chosen for this night and many other nights that will follow.

Slowly, the deeper chill creeps into his room.

An arm's length away, a thick sweater with a lightning bolt logo is neatly folded on top of a dresser. He considers to put it on. Instead, he chooses a different comfort from the cold in the form a CD, a song by 'Savage Garden,' which he had yet to listen to.

Attached to the CD cover is a post-it note that reads, "You MUST listen to this! XOXOXO, Insignificant Little Sister #3."

He ponders between the choices of listening to "The Best of WHAM!" or the newly released CD single, "Truly, Madly, Deeply," while his lack of knowledge to the language of social acronyms has El wondering about the meaning behind, "XOXOXO."

The very thought of switching CDs in his stereo, a device that has played nothing but WHAM! songs in both cassette and CD, has already sparked a feeling of treason against his favorite musical pop idols, Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael.

For El, these changes seem like a continuous, chaotic break within the fabric of his universe.

He had been comfortable in his routine until this night in which, moments ago during the first two verses of the new CD single, he hesitantly accepts a melody not sung by George Michael.

Above him, a spider crawls from behind his comic, "Web of Spider-Man" issue #31.

As the song repeats, the spider appears to mimic a page from the storyline which influences him to spare the small nocturnal predator from a crushing fate in the same fashion as his childhood superhero did on page 13, panel number seven, his fingers touching his chin.

Then, as depicted in panel number eight, he, too, switches off a bed lamp as the digital clock strikes three minutes pass three in the morning.

Yet, El does not own a bed lamp.

Eyes closed, his imagination reverts to the girl from the phone booth whom he encountered in the elevator earlier.

He recalls her hand waving at his direction before the elevator malfunctioned.

His calculative nature concludes the odds of her acknowledging his existence was highly favorable. This very thought, in which he considered every variable of doubt, transforms into a picture drawn from the raw mind of a rare breed of fan boys affiliated with the comic universe.

Now, with headphones firmly embracing each ear, the slow beat of a new song, "Truly, Madly, Deeply," transports his soul into a familiar place he had not visited in a long while.

Below, he sees the lights of the metropolis co-existing with the neighboring Bay.

Above, a full moon is slightly covered behind the delicate transparency of a cloudy mist. The girl, whose name he has yet to know, is holding his hand, smiling the way she did when he first saw her.

She is wearing the same outfit she wore inside the phone booth, the second one from the right, during move-in day. On the flip-side, he has on a tight Superman outfit.

The infinite stars above seem to complement the romantic song that is playing. Every emotion is precisely captured with each word sung from the melody which he cannot describe, nor relate to; but he finds intriguing.

The song gradually fades into end. He gently leaves her on the top of a building, gliding with the gracefulness of a hummingbird approaching the stigma of a flower.

He flies off with a wave of his hand, floating deeper into the night and never looking at the direction to where he is going. Instead, his gaze is fixed onto her as she fades into the distance that grows between them.

A rush of emotions fuels him from inside, burning like a raging, desperate fire.

Suddenly, he pauses.

Realizing he has flown too far, El sees a different place he does not recognize, but feels he is no stranger to. The song's rhythm gently transforms into a desperate shaking of the doorknob from a darker side of a place that appears to be a disturbing reflection of his room, where he finds himself once again...

in bed.

The door slowly opens with a noticeable creak. From behind, a pair of pale feet emerges. Covered in a dirty white dress ending above its pale ankles, the feet begin forward; floating just above the carpet at a deathly slow pace until freezing in mid-air. It hovers just a breath's distance away from his bedside. The carpet saturates with water dripping from ash-like toes that have slowly turned toward El's direction.

Realizing he is paralyzed like an insect caught in a spider's web, he tries to wake.

In his motionless but conscious state, he accepts two frightening absolutes:

One, he knows he is being observed.

Lastly, the feet begin to move...

towards him.

Author Notes Picture from Google.

Enjoyed this chapter? You'll love the additional chapters already posted. Feel free to follow on Facebook: Fortune Cookies (EL)


Chapter 14
First Date EVER pt. 1

By Cybertron1986

"I'm not sure which question is more ridiculous," Daniel rebukes, feeling as if his roommate lost his touch with reality. "You're asking if I wore a dress while watching you sleep?!"

Certain his encounter with the girl in the white dress was real, Eu El stubbornly persists for clarification-- almost clueless to the emotions behind Daniel's confused and comical expression.

"It's a simple question."

"First of all, unlike you," Daniel pauses with each bite of his sandwich, "real Chinese don't shower in the morning. We shower at night."

"I didn't know that."

"You know what your problem is, El?"

Unknowing to Daniel, the Chinese language spoken by El's great-grandparents is foreign to him as their routines which he never practiced. Instead of understanding his roommate's limitation, Daniel makes an impulsive comment that leaves El, a first generation Asian American, to again struggle with an identity that he is still searching for.

"You are more American than you think, El."

El's eyes set like the sun descending behind a horizon for his last time. His posture droops, as the weight of shame creeps from behind.

"Hey, I think you're alright," Daniel laughs. "But, not in a way that I'd wear a dress to watch you sleep."

From the corner of Daniel's eye, he sees a girl suddenly approaching their table with gold highlights in her youthful black hair that bounces with each step of her high heels.

In one motion, she removes a folded note with rigid edges from inside her overcoat. Without slowing a stride, she places the note next to El's lunch tray. She turns her eyes to wink at El, who does not reciprocate with any interest to acknowledge her.

Her magnetic features emit a static disruption revealed by Daniel's stuttering reaction.

"W-w-what just happened? What is that?"

Daniel is frozen between shock and the strong scent of her perfume.

"Duh! It's a piece of paper," El replies, his eyes rolling upward.

Daniel snaps out of his trance. "Well?"

"Well, what?"

"Aren't you going to open it?!" Daniel eagerly asks.

El conveys a much deeper interest toward another topic.

"Not until I know more about this 'Chinese' thing of taking showers in the evening. Just to clarify, it's ONLY in the evenings? No exceptions? I never heard that before, and I'm half-Chinese."

Daniel's eyes open wide, still attached to the movement of the unfolded note in El's hands. He is shocked to see El crumbling the note into a dry spit-wad. Uncaringly, El places the wad of paper inside his jean's pocket like a gum wrapper waiting to be disposed of.

"Dude, El. You ARE weird."

"Being half-Chinese doesn't make me weird."

The reply is misdirected, but Daniel does not care, rolling his eyes as if the developing nausea inside him is progressively getting worst.

He reaches for his water glass as a new pair of girls begin acting strangely behind El. Suddenly, Daniel has difficulty taking a sip. Accidentally, he coughs out his water.

"Are you alright?" El asks.

"The girls behind you are talking..!"

"Really?"

"One keeps pointing at you, El. They're laughing every time you lick your ice-cream. Do you know them?"

El glances casually over his shoulder. Noticing his attention, the girls abruptly look away in attempt to avoid attention.

"I've seen the girl with the long hair before," El answers uninterested.

"That's the one talking how 'cute' you are... over and over."

El continues eating, clearly unconcerned to the transpiring attention behind him.

Daniel, not surprised to El's disinterest, attempts to light the dormant fire of passion that he believes exists in his roommate as the girl continues pointing at El, his back turned. "She really is into you. Where'd you see her before?"

"She followed me to the bookstore at the start of the semester."

Daniel struggles to admit what appears to be the obvious. "Wait. Does this mean your WHAM! haircut is..."

"...actually working? Honestly, I'd bet it's my ESPIRIT sweater," El interrupts.

"I...

can't...

believe this!" Daniel exclaims with shock.

"But..." El begins.

"'But' what? There are no 'but's,' El."

"Okay," El redirects his thoughts, trying to avoid the word 'but.'

"...that's not the girl from the phone booth."

A portion of ham from his sandwich is dangling from Daniel's mouth.

"Who cares, El! THAT girl LIKES you! Maybe the phone booth girl is..."

"But," El interrupts Daniel again as he catches himself using 'but' again. He stops to think, his eyebrows tense in thought.

"She...is...not the girl from the phone booth."

Daniel coughs out a larger portion of his sandwich. "I can't believe I'm hearing this!"

His mind stepping into the world of insanity, Daniel hastily considers his roommate's options. El does not recognize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that many would die for.

El appears concerned to Daniel's silence.

Startlingly, Daniel pounds his fist onto the table. His chair falling backwards as he stands up.

"I can't take this anymore!"

"Sit down!" El pleads. "Where are you going?"

Madness in his eyes, Daniel insists, "When I come back you are going to have a date!"

"No! Don't!"

Straightening his collar and brushing the crumbs from his mouth, Daniel walks toward the girls, who hesitantly accept his request to sit with them.

El pretends to enjoy his melting ice cream.

With each laughter from across the table, El conceals his embarrassment by sulking behind his ice cream cone.

A few more words exchange between Daniel and the girls before he returns with a look of satisfaction emanating from his smile.

"Okay! It's set!" Daniel declares happily.

"What did you just do?"

"Duh! I just hooked you up! You can thank me later."

"What DID you say to them?" El repeats.

Daniel chuckles, "I mentioned how shy you are and that you had something to tell the girl you saw at the bookstore. But, having sensitive bowels, you rushed to the restroom before you could talk to her."

A sigh of relief escapes El. "Oh, thank goodness. I thought you told her I liked her."

"Her name is Kaoru!"

Daniel claps his hands once in excitement. "And, you got a date with her!"

Author Notes This is a continuation from my novel that I have been working on. Parts may be muisunderstood. Please understand that this is a developing story, and not a one time short story. Previous chapters are available by clicking onto my portfolio. Thank you in advance for any insights and comments.


Chapter 15
First Date EVER pt. 2

By Cybertron1986

"What is that?" Daniel asks as he watches Eu El remove a shoebox from underneath his bed, the lid secured by a rubber band.

El adds a crumbled note inside the box and returns the box back underneath his bed. He sits behind his desk never answering Daniel's question. Instead, he engages in his textbook, his eyebrows tense with deep concentration.

"Can I take a look inside?" Daniel asks, taking hold of the shoebox without permission. Eager, he almost snaps the box's rubber band.

"Go ahead," El replies, his eyes never seem to leave his textbook.

A bewildered breath escapes Daniel, his expression appears scripted for comedy. As he lifts the lid, his mouth drops in shock. Frantically, Daniel unfolds each note.

"There's got to be three...maybe, four dozen phone numbers inside!" exclaims Daniel. His hands shake as if he won the lottery.

El, still invested in his reading, is responsive as a child lost in daydream.

"Dude!" Daniel shouts. "Have you called any of these girls?!"

"Nope."

Daniel turns to El in dismay. El's calm hush begins to chissel away at Daniel's rationality.

"You mean to tell me you've received phone numbers from random girls and you don't intend to return any of them?!"

"Yup."

"WHY?!"

Daniel waits for a reply, but it doesn't arrive as urgently as he expects.

"Haven't you ever read a Spider-Man comic?" El asks.

"Wha-- What?!"

"Haven't you read Spider-Man...?" El repeats.

"I know what you said. But, what do comics have to do with these phone numbers?"

"If you are familiar with Spider-Man," El begins, "then you probably heard of the phrase, 'With great power comes great responsibility.'"

Daniel's eye twitches. "Dude, El. If I was you, then I'd be the 'Mack-Daddy' of this entire campus!"

"That's why you are not me."

Confused, Daniel stares into the obliviousness of El's eyes that fail to light any amount of understanding. Daniel pleads for an explanation while clawing his cheeks with irritation, his patience nearly spent.

"El, I'm afraid to ask, but what does that supposed to mean?"

"Don't you get it? I have this 'great' power, and I'm being responsible with it. If you had this power, then you'd probably misuse it. It's a good thing you're not me. You could end up hurting someone, or yourself."

Daniel makes a comical gesture by stabbing his heart with an imaginary knife.

"I'm going to pick a number from here and call for you!"

The remark successfully detaches El from his book's hold. Immediately, he stands up as his book falls to the carpet.

"How can I talk with other girls when you already set me up with that girl from the cafeteria?"

"El, remember rule number one! When dating..."

"Let my mom know when I'll be home?" El finishes.

Daniel sighs, almost defeated. However, the chance at El taking the right step toward breaking his shell of social awkwardness gives Daniel excitement and hope, despite the possibility that everything could end in failure.

"No, Einstein," Daniel corrects. "Always have a 'Plan B' just in case 'Plan A' doesn't work."

"At the very least," Daniel thinks to himself, "I may get a good laugh out of this."

"So, Romeo, what's your game plan for tonight?"

El, picking up his textbook from the carpet, feels the dampness in the book's cover caused by the moisture of the carpet, where the mysterious presence of water had yet to completely evaporate since the morning.

El ignores it, accepting the mysterious vision of the girl dripping water from her ankles to be nothing more than a hallucinogenic result of a burrito supreme he ate for dinner.

"Maybe, she'll want to try origami?"

"Really, El? She's from Japan. That's like taking her to eat ramen noodles when she came here for the burger and fries."

"So, Panda Express?" El suggests.

"Didn't I just say she came here for the burger and fries? She's had plenty of noodle dishes from where she's from."

"But," El argues, "Panda Express makes Chinese food, not Japanese."

"El, I'll pray for you."

"You're not religious."

"For your sake, dude, it won't hurt to believe."

El begins walking toward the shower room located outside in the dorm hall. He is not certain whether, or not the style of his fashion idol, Andrew Ridgeley will appeal to his date.

El is clearly undecided. Yet, what tears him apart more is deciding between serenading 'Careless Whisper' or, 'Last Christmas' to her.

Suddenly, from five rooms away, Daniel yells into the hall.

"Yo, El!"

El turns to acknowledge him.

"You do know that origami is viewed as a girl's activity in Japan, right?!" Daniel laughs.

"No, it's not!" El laughs in return.

"She might think you're gay!"

Simultaneously, from each side of the all-boys hall, rows of doors suddenly open. Each resident peers outside their rooms, curious and amused to whom Daniel is shouting to.

El rushes into the shower room, his hand covering his face in before a noticeable blush validates the subtle, but obvious embarrassment in El's face.

Author Notes This is a continuation from my novel that I have been working on. Parts may be misunderstood. Please understand that this is a developing story, and you are arriving near the middle of events. Previous chapters are available by clicking onto my portfolio. Thank you in advance for any insights and comments.

Picture from Google.


Chapter 16
First Date EVER Conclusion

By Cybertron1986

Their first date together was like a tender comedy script. The future of this moment would not be determined by her genuine interest in him, but by whether, or not she could tolerate saying, "I love you just the way you are," for the rest of her life.

Already, her patience was dissolving faster than ice surviving a summer's day on the sidewalk.

The evening began with their eyes locked at an awkward standstill the moment Eu El presented a cheap, unopened pack of origami paper, and suggested they spend the night creating something children would find intriguing: kirigami, a variation of origami that involved cutting paper to create artistic designs.

In the middle of their activity, she expects him to make the move that would re-direct their focus away from the colorful paper, and more toward her interests.

Rather than acknowledging her obvious restlessness, El amplifies his precision of attention to his paper cutting skills by slowing down each of his careful incisions. Kaoru, his date, a native of Japan where kirigami has been a familiar, but uninteresting part of her life since grade school, smiles back in politeness more than with enthusiasm.

For the last half hour, El oversees the signs that included a "Hajimemashite," a colloquial Japanese greeting which means, "Nice to meet you," followed by Kaoru's strong Japanese accent that should had sparked a thought of consideration in his approach to impress her with Japanese culture, a subject she attempted to leave behind when she decided to study abroad. Neither her sigh, reeking with boredom, accompanied with her subtle comment, "I was born in Tokyo, but you know more about Japanese history and culture than most my family would care to know," could slow El's childish fervor of spewing historical facts about origami like a robotic encyclopedia.

Between each of his breaths, El somehow infuses the biography of George Michael's evolution beyond his success with 'WHAM!' into their conversation that has quickly turned into a lecture-like, classroom experience regarding pop history.

He adds with equal clarity, without any pause, advice on how she could be compatible with both his mother and younger sister.

Unnoticed by El, is her declining desire in spending another day together. Her interest is dying faster than the time it takes for light to reach the moon, an analogy that could had nudged El's limited capability of identifying Kaoru's discomfort,

Unknowingly, for El, the embarrassment of his first impression of him has chiseled into her mind like a steel tool chipping away at the centuries old bark of a redwood tree.

"Did you know my little sister is in the seventh grade? She sent me a 'Savage Garden' CD the other day, and claims they're just like 'WHAM!' because the group includes a lead singer and a guy, like Andrew Ridgeley, who plays the guitar, but never sings for some reason like Andrew Ridgeley. I don't think there can a group as equally as good as 'WHAM!' What do you think?"

Her eyelids, heavy with boredom, struggle to stay open.

"Honestly," she wearily begins, "I never heard of "'WHAM!'"

Her response conjures a surprising, uncomfortable dismay that silences El, who is now speechless to Kaoru's unknowing. Identifying his confusion more quickly than El can recognize her boredom, Kaoru suggests an alternative.

"Can we go outside? I'm getting hungry," she says, winking her eye.

"I love noodles! How about you?" he exclaims. Kaoru giggles at his childish spirit.

Suddenly, his roommate's warning, the advice he gave him just before their night started, replays in his mind. "When she tells you she is hungry, don't say, 'Panda Express.' Don't say, 'Panda Express.' DON'T SAY, 'PANDA EXPRESS!'"

Naively, El regurgitates the last words that echo inside his thoughts.

"How about Panda Express?" he proposes.

Eager to shift away from the dull conditions, Kaoru accepts. Yet, inside, she craves more than a fast food atmosphere to set the kind of romantic mood that could alter the path of where their date is heading. She is unaware of the limitations to El's creative imagination that would satisfy Kaoru's romantic standard, one that included anything beyond the ideas he solely retrieves from the experiences of other classmates who attended high school prom, a rite-of-passage that El, instead, replaced his prom night making "Happy Meals" and returning home to change the dirty diapers of his younger sister.

"Do you have a car?" she asks.

Instead of admitting he has barely enough money to purchase an upgrade for a "Super-Size" meal, El offers what he believes is something no girl could refuse.

"How about we...walk? That should give us more time to converse more about origami and introduce you to the history of another great '80's band: 'A Flock of Seagulls!'"

Kaoru laughs uncomfortably. Out of politeness, she accepts his suggestion with a noticeable sigh of frustration-- a sound which, probably, is directed to the lack of desire involving subjects she has no interest in.

"Can you guess WHICH 'WHAM!' song I literally listened to everyday for two years?"

"I don't know any 'WHAM!' songs, but..."

El interrupts Kaoru as if she never breathed a word.

"That's okay. I'll tell you! It was 'Last Christmas!' I played that song over and over again in the cassette deck of my car; even during the summer!" he laughs, oblivious to her flatlining conscious.

As El continues into the night, Kaoru decides to retract her hand that was about to hold his.

Preferring the security of her own empty pockets, she makes a deeper sigh that sounded more like a last breath...

for life.

Author Notes This is a continuation from my novel that I have been working on. Parts may be misunderstood. Please understand that this is a developing story, and you are arriving near the middle of the events. Previous chapters are available by clicking onto my portfolio. Thank you in advance for any insights and comments.

Picture is of Paul Reynolds, the lead guitarist of ???????????????¢??Flock of Seagulls,???????????????¢?? and El.


Chapter 17
The Future in the Palm of the Hand

By Cybertron1986

Daniel acknowledges the gloom of silence coming from across the room. "Are you thinking about your high school triathlon? Or, are you depressed that Kaoru doesn't want to hang out with you anymore? I'm sorry I shouldn't had brought that up the other day. And, maybe, you're just not ready to be dating."

*El mutters, "It was more the triathlon."

*"Race. Triathlon. They're the same! Don't let yesterday eat away at you. That could open up a hole in your soul for spirits to feed on!"

El turns his attention to the bottom of the cookie jar, where an empty space the size of a fingernail has yet to be covered with one, maybe two paper cranes. He hesitates to complete the last fold of the crane already in his hand.

"I'm not the only one," El replies.

"What does that mean?" Daniel asks, sitting by his bedside, confused.

"Everyone has at least one in their life, right?"

"One what?"

"Regrets," El sighs.

"Regrets? Regrets are a part of living!" Daniel smiles.

El, slightly more attentive, completes the small crane.

He meticulously places the paper bird at the empty spot of the jar, only to realize there is at least one more needed in order to completely blanket the bottom. Before starting another, he wants to hear what Daniel has to say.

He stands next to the window, where he sees a reflection of himself. The reflection triggers a replay of unfulfilled moments much like the triathlon he did not finish, and the countless disappointments involving his father's lack of support.

Daniel offers a light of hope. "You know that saying, El? About how life is cruel? Your experiences tend to be slightly more challenging than us 'normal' people. For sure, they're unique. Eventually, everyone gets to where they need to be...when the time is right. Maybe, your time isn't now."

El chuckles, wanting to start the other paper crane, but his laughter affects the coordination of his hands.

"What's so funny?" Daniel asks.

**El laughs louder. "Are you trying to convince me my date with Kaoru was supposed to end up so bad? It's no lost to me. After dinner, we came back to to play chess. She wanted me to remove my shoes. I did. And, then she wasinto my feet more than me teaching her the 'Blitzkrieg' move."

"It kinda weirded me out," El adds.

"At least, you didn't take her to Panda Express like I told you," Daniel reminds him.

El's laugh becomes uneasy, knowing he had forgotten his roommate's key advice. El becomes uncertain to distinguish if his roommate is laughing with him, or at him.

"Like I said, I don't know the future, but I can interpret it. That was your first date, El. Nobody EVER gets that right the first time."

An unexpected pause hints another embarrassing moment from El's untold past.

Daniel infers, "Wait. Have you ever been kissed?!"

"My cousin kissed me once."

"El," Daniel, slightly disgusted, makes a sour face.

"El," he repeats, "maybe it would be best you don't talk about that."

El shrugs his shoulders; his understanding is equal to a child's cluelessness.

He completes folding the last crane that would cover the jar's bottom. Before placing the crane inside, he analyzes the folds under the light with his palm. Like a jeweler putting the finishing touches to a freshly crafted diamond, he is patient and precise.

He notices a few imperfections at the edge of the head, which he corrects with careful, repeated motions with his fingers until its symmetry is flawless.

"I picked out the notable parts of your palm, and I was able to analyze your future," Daniel says, pulling out a notebook from his shirt pocket.

"According to my calculations there are quite a number of interesting things that connect your past, present, and future," Daniel states as he reviews the scribbles inside his spiral notepad.

"El, your experiences, no matter how strange and difficult they seem, are happening for a reason."

Daniel continues flipping through the pages, skipping more than half of the contents until he arrives at the page he wants to emphasize.

El places the crane into the jar, completely covering the entire bottom, when Daniel mutters several long, and indecipherable sentences in Mandarin. Daniel stops, continuously talking under his breath to find the English words that would best translate his calculations in a way that would make sense to his non-Chinese speaking roommate.

"El, listen," Daniel says in a more serious tone. "The fate of the world will depend on your son."


Author Notes *Details explained in Chapter 11, Weight of the World
**Please read Chapter 16, First Date (EVER) Conclusion


Chapter 18
Parallelism

By Cybertron1986

"Check your mailbox! I sent you a package!"

"I'm doing laundry," Eu El informs his sister. "'There's a peanut butter stain on my WHAM!' shirt."

"You mean that shirt with 'CHOOSE LIFE' printed in big, black capital letters?" she asks sarcastically.

"Throw that away already!"

El laughter suggests an awkward realization that his fashion sense is out-of-date. "Yeah," he replies, uncomfortably. "That one."

His sister giggles, "The package I sent you will surpriiiiiiiize you."

"Why?"

"I gotta go, big brother. I'm going to a party. Tell me what you think when you open it!"

Before leaving, El requests to have his collection of Robby Thompson baseball cards mailed to him, abruptly adding, "I love you" before hanging up the receiver.

The walk to the mailbox in the dormitory lobby is met with the muffled, shy laughter of approval from a group of International girls from countries he's never been to. With hands covering their mouths, they comment in different languages about El's physique, built for sprinting, revealed from his cut-off t-shirt that exhibits the Chinese character for 'Love,' an obvious, but mistakenly implied assumption of El's desperation for companionship.

His interpretation of their laughter triggers a high school memory, one that has closely attached like a hidden, but unforgotten scar...

-Summer 1989, Stockton, California-

A dark grey car, its old engine coughing like a dying, obsolete model, rumbles to a stop by a boy carrying a wooden softball bat on his shoulders with a broken, soiled mitt that is one size too small. Upon closer observation, we see the boy to be a younger El, who is years away from attending University. The middle of his bat has an autograph of Steve Garvey that is signed with a blue sharpie, and protected with double-sided tape that has dirt and grass stuck to the outside.

Laughter pierces through the convulsing rattle of the muffler as taunting words spew from the open windows. Their ridicule hits El in the form of an egg thrown from the backseat. El's naive perception of the world is supported only by his faith and characteristics portrayed in the pages of Spider-Man Comics.

"Dude!" a voice yells from the passenger side. "A skinny-buff China man from Japan thinks he's Jose Canseco!"

Another egg is thrown that hits El's exposed arm, its shell piercing the lower right elbow. He examines the blood that drips like tears falling onto the ground. El looks up, noticing that one of the passengers is a former classmate who sat behind him in middle school history class three years. This is the same classmate he helped pass a chapter test about the Civil War.

"Hey, China man!" the driver yells, pulling at the corners of each eye to purposefully present a condescending squint. "You're a little too early for Halloween, China man. Did your mom dress you with those tube socks?!"

Without wincing, El pulls out the eggshell from his elbow, wiping away the blood that clots slowly.

Before speeding away, the tormentors laugh one last time.

"WANNABE!"

He arrives home, ringing the doorbell as the label, "Wannabe," replays in his mind. His father opens the door with a noticeable, annoyed expression because he is missing the Red Sox game, and Roger Clemens is pitching against Mark McGwire, the hitter who will break Babe Ruth's homerun record a decade from now.

"You've spent the entire day playing baseball again?!" his father asks, visibly upset.

El nods, turning his body to conceal the wound on his elbow.

"Why don't you stay home?!" his father continues, irritated, "Your younger sister needs attention! There's cleaning around the house! You're wasting time! You're not good at sports. Just quit before you fail!"

El, ashamed, mutters an apology, but the rising tone of anger in his father voice continues rambling of how life on the farm was difficult when he was a boy. He explains to El how survival depended on the cooperation of all family members.

"Playing sports," his father adds, "is a luxury. Not a necessity. Remember that."

El's father returns to his recliner, where he misses Clemens stinking out McGwire with a 95mph fastball.

-Present day, October 1, 1996, Mary Park Hall Dormitory-

El retrieves a large brown envelope from the mailbox. Rushing into his room, he opens it with curiosity to what the thickness inside the envelope could entail. Reaching in, he pulls out a letter and the latest holiday issue of 'Animerica.' El takes the letter, reading it as he places the magazine onto his bed shelf, below his copy of 'Web of Spider-Man' issue #31, that is perfectly aligned onto the wall.

The letter reads:

Dear Insignificant Second-Born Brother #2,

Surprize! Remember that drawing you helped me color for the contest? Skip to the magazine's 'Fan Art Gallery' page! That drawing of our Veritech Fighter and Rick Hunter WON honorable mention! Thanks for convincing me. I know I didn't want to submit anything when you asked. I guess it's because I didn't think we would win. Now, I feel like drawing forever! Maybe, one day, I'll become an artist? Can't wait for the next contest! Thanks for believing in me!

Love,
Insignificant Last Born Sister #3

El secures the letter into his desk drawer, against the window. He is aware of his roommate's absence. However, from the corner of his eye, he notices an insidious outline of a girl, her face hidden behind long, black ruffled hair. Her dirty white dress clearly reflects onto the window.

Surprisingly calm, El pretends to be unaware of her presence. He begins calculating from the corner of his eyes the analytical possibilities.

He concludes the image is a figment of his imagination, an illusion of the company he desires.

The shadow raises its neck. Its face is covered completely behind hair that is darker than shadows.

She moves like a puppet, invisible strings attached, in a haunting glide.

Her reflection in the window is enough to jolt El, who turns to find nothing but a closed door.

Between them, for now, an unseen line separates them. A line drawn by the laws of the universe, which purpose is to divide the living and the dead.

Soon, once again, El will soon find himself back in that darkness.

Author Notes This is a continuation from my novel that I have been working on when time is allotted from both work and family. Please understand that this is a developing story, and you are arriving near the middle of events. Therefore, parts may be misunderstood. Previous chapters are available by clicking onto my portfolio to clarify any questions. Thank you in advance for any insights and comments.

The picture used is the actual drawing that was printed in the holiday issue of Animerica from 1996. Yes, this is a true story.

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Chapter 19
Dark Vacancy

By Cybertron1986

On the first floor of San Francisco State's Mary Park dormitory, an empty room exists. Almost everyday it is ignored unless, periodically on some nights or time of the day, residents hear noises from the inside.

Janitors of the residential community are aware of the fact the room is unoccupied.

Yet, in fear of spreading rumors, the unspoken history attached to the room is a traumatic memory that was thought best to never be mentioned.

The silence, however, could not stop the curiosities of the neighbors residing a door or two away.

The questions began innocently,

"Does anyone live in there?"

"Do you know the resident of that room?"

"Is this room rented out?"

And the answers varied.

"Nobody."

"It's a storage room."

"They're making repairs."

And, sometimes, the responses weren't comfortably embraced.

"Is it true? I heard someone died in there."

"They can't rent out the room because a suicide happened in there years ago."

"I heard the last resident complained about weird stuff happening inside."

Occasionally, when someone happened to walk by, the slaming sound of a closet door or dresser drawer could be heard, and the mystery of anyone occupying the room was assumed to had solved itself.

"See. I knew someone lived there."

But, the question remained:

"Who?"

_________________

October 24, 1996, Mary Park Hall, first floor of the all boys' hall...

Two familiar roommates begin walking down the hall, six doors from the empty room.

They are in disagreement to the possibility of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker to ever conceive a child together.

"Isn't Luke the boyfriend of Leia?!" Daniel asks.

"No. That would be Han...Han Solo," Eu El replies, clearly discouraged to the lack of 'STAR WARS' knowledge. "Didn't you watch 'Return of the Jedi?' Luke is her BROTHER."

"You're a dork. The point is, according to your palm, Mr. Baseball," Daniel continues, his passion for science fiction clearly not as great as El's, "you're going to have a son born in the year of the dragon."

El is confused. He wants to know more, but the fear of the future exceeds his curiosity. There is an unpleasant sense of dissatisfaction emanating from his eyes.

"But, what about my future as the first Asian baseball player in the Major Leagues?" he asks, doubtful of his capabilities as a parent.

"Let me describe the details in a way you can understand more easily."

There's a higher sense of urgency in Daniel's voice.

"IF Han and Leia were to ever have a baby, then depending how good a father Han Solo is will determine the fate of the universe because; their child, LIKE YOURS, will also become either powerfully good... or powerfully bad."

"You mean like Darth Vader bad, or an EVIL Superman kinda bad?"

"Stop with the dorky references! But, yeah," Daniel answers. "And, when you become a father," he makes sure to place more emphasis to the next point, "I recommend you complete your studies as a teacher with that same intent to do good in the world as you explained to me. Don't aspire for a better paying career. Knowing how to teach will help you as a parent. The field of education will not make you wealthy. There will be no amount of wealth more important for tomorrow than you becoming a good parent to your son."

"So, what you're telling me is...I'm Han Solo without a chance to play baseball in the future."

"Sure. Ok," Daniel replies, tired of trying to convey the importance of his son.

"As long as you understand your son is going to be a very important person, then I've done my job," Daniel adds with a smile.

"Possibly, El, your son could be Superman," he concludes, not waiting for another comic book reference from his roommate.

"You're referring about Jor El?" El interrupts.

"Whatever. As long as WHAT I'm telling you gets into that space fantasy head of yours. YOUR son is vital to the future of humanity."

"But, what about me becoming the first Asian baseball player in the major leagues?"

Daniel sighs a breath of discouragement, frustrated at repeating himself. "According to your palm, you're an average guy who will be the father to the one that will save the world a generation from now. That's something way more important than playing baseball games, El."

"Wow! I'm Jor El!" he exclaims, more satisfied.

"Who? Jor El? WHO is Jor El?! Your uncle?" Daniel asks.

"Jor EL," El answers, enlightened to the coincidental spelling in the names, "was the father of Superman. He imprisoned the three criminals of Krypton which included the infamous General Zod into the phantom zone, which looks like a window, before sending his baby son, Kal El, to earth moments before their planet was destroyed."

As they pass the door of the vacant room, their discussion fades behind the slowly closing hall door.

Inside the vacant room, an unseen darkness stirringly intensifies. However, this shade is slightly different from the shadows created by the surrounding foliage.

There exists no light, manmade or natural, that is able to pierce through the intense blackness that extends beyond the shade of pitch black darkness conjuring inside the room on a mid-day afternoon.

The cloud materializes into a dark, grainy and obscure figure that splits into the form of not one, but three figures. In the front, a girl is standing with a white dress, her black, ruffled hair covers her face. To the right of her, is a young man wearing a leather jacket. His gaze is intently fixed to the spot below him, where a pool of blood had been replaced with new carpet.

And, lastly, a towering black shadow stands behind the couple. Underneath its deep, dark outline of a black hood are the exhales of a cold breath that could persuade a thousand warriors to surrender into fear. Seemingly, the intimidating figure becomes tied to the conversation of a child that has yet to be born in the year of the dragon.

But, what is as equally important as this ominous moment is another instance which already occurred exactly a week before today, the anniversary of the death of history's most honored athlete who sported the number 42 on his baseball jersey.

On that day, an incident took place a few rooms down to the end of the all-boys hall from this vacant space. This incident marks a long, familiar encounter with the unseen demons that have plagued an ever evolving world, where vulnerability feeds the hungry, forgotten souls.

And, in this particular struggle, an unheard, meager contender, whose name happens to correlate with the symbol of hope from a planet destroyed by a solar explosion, will stand between light of life and the darkness that is death.

The encounter of good and evil will begin in a room on the first floor of Mary Park Hall located just before the emergency exit to the right, and it shall continue to wherever this unknowing, young man will venture to.

Armed only with the inspiration of character found in 'Spider-Man' comic books he read underneath his bed as a kid during rainy nights with a Green Lantern lantern, this young man will make a choice that will ultimately determine the fate of both his future son, and his son's destiny to preserve the future of mankind.

And, somewhere within the now unfathomable depth of a vacant room, where an ascending eclipse of a black cloud buries an unspoken past, is a vengeful longing to repossess what was taken by a boy who, long ago, chose to save his baby sister from the cold grasp of a crooked, desperate
hand that never forgot.*

Author Notes *Please read chapter 5, "The Curse" for more details about this mysterious entity.

To grasp the backgrounds of the speakers, please read previous chapters. I purposely limited the identity of the speakers for the purpose of feel to the listeners hidden within the empty room, the dark entities who have no idea who are actually talking.

Picture found from Google search with key words, DARK ROOM.

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Chapter 20
Nightmare

By Cybertron1986

October 17, 1996, 6:02 a.m., one week earlier...

A shadowy cloud moves ominously to the end of the hall of Mary Park's first floor, where the all boys rooms are assigned.

From every angle, the light of the early morning, nor the lights from the ceiling are able to justify the concise movements of the shadow that appears fueled by purpose rather than from the faint sunlight of an early dawn that peeks through a small window. A dense mist thickens around a doorknob with control, convincingly appearing to grasp the knob with urgency.

The door shakes, but the sound goes unheard by the sleeping residents who will awaken from their sleep within the hour to the seventh anniversary of game three of the 1989 World Series, when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake froze the world of sports.

On the other side of the shaking door, Eu El remains asleep until the noise of metal and wood creates enough disturbance to stir his attention. He discovers his body's unwillingness to react to the desperation of force that creaks his door to a slow open.

The shaking stops briefly as the silence suddenly gives way to the sound of the rusted hinges that enable El's partial consciousness to distinguish a familiar, but unwanted recognition of a pale foot.

Again, the foot slowly drags along the carpet touching it just barely as the saturation from the dripping seams of a dirty white dress leave behind a cold, wet trail of water.

With morbid grace, this uninvited guest completely reveals itself from behind the rusty door in a surreal hover. Each of its long, pointy toenails graze along the bumpy carpet as if without concern, or soul.

The moment feels as if the familiarity of time and tangibility had been replaced by a realm not governed by the laws of earthly physics, but by the inescapable, dark forces that surrounds each celestial body engulfed in the blackness of the universe.

It pauses either to be noticed, or to issue a silent warning to El, whose conscious has partially returned. His faint wake is confirmed only by the noticeable chill of mist that exhales from his breaths.

Each foot of the visitor turn counterclockwise in a complete, awkward circle that implies some disturbing sign of disagreement with the world's normalcy. And, without effort, the feet complete their twist, stopping as each pointed toenail turns toward El's bedside.

Like prey bitten by paralyzing venom, El struggles to open his eyes. He is able to turn his neck to get a better view of his guest. Yet, his efforts seem to anger the stranger.

El makes more effort to take sight of what he believes is a nightmare. The moment steadily materializes into a convincing, undeniable truth he refuses to accept.

The feet come in and out of sight with each of El's forced glance, floating closer as his rising heartbeats equal the intensity of the drumbeats in New Order's song, "Bizarre Love Triangle" (The Extended Dance Mix Version).

Turning his head one last time, El discovers the feet has vanished.

He breathes a sigh of relief. The now vacant spot of the carpet convinces him the last few minutes were one of many bad dreams, this one being more unforgettable than the any other. Yet, his state of paralysis convinces him the event was real, and unfinished.

*(Every time I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray...)

Again, El turns his head, this time facing directly toward the ceiling. Without his thick, prescription glasses that correct his 30/70 vision, he barely makes out a shocking, blurred silhouette of a girl floating above his uncovered feet, where his toes peek from the blanket's edge. Each feature of her face is completely hidden underneath thick black hair that mock the light of dawn.

(I've waited for that final moment you...

say the words that I can't say)

Like a lightbulb moment of certainty, El is convinced he is in the presence of a frail, vulnerable girl.

Like the girl, El, too, defies the world's normalcy in his own style, a genuine reflection of a unique past.

"A girl!" he tells himself with passionate interest. "Isn't she from my Japanese 101 class?"

There's an awkward pause between them as the beating of his heart slows to a calm wonder fueled by curious desire, rather than fear.

Again, he acknowledges to himself, "There's a girl in my room! Awesome! A girl...on my bed! My friends aren't going to believe this! I'm not a loser!"

With the characteristics of an innocent schoolboy, he advises himself, "Don't be a doofus. DON'T BE A DOOFUS!"

His eyes turn far enough to the right, where he checks on the well-being of his copy of "Web of Spider-Man" issue 31. A spider scurries behind the comic tacked perfectly onto the wall as if to seek protection from the cold aura of evil that fills the room.

Oblivious to the potential danger, El smiles towards his silent visitor, never understanding he is now in a place he does not belong.

The gesture connects a bridge of emotion between the awkward pair; one possibly evil, the other naive. And, in an instant, time stops long enough for El to witness the parting of her hair that opens wide enough to reveal one of two eyes.

As their gaze connects, she feels...

salvation.

Author Notes Please note this is chapter 20. Please read previous chapters to understand what is being developed. Picture is of my niece, Rein, which was edited to capture the moment.

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*Bizarre Love Triangle, written by New Order in 1986, from their album, Brotherhood.


Chapter 21
Awakening Pt.1

By Cybertron1986

-Stockton, California, Fall 1989...

She bought the wooden softball bat from the sports department at SEARS partly because it was not only on sale, but for the reason she could not distinguish the difference between a softball bat from a baseball bat.

El's mom noticed his growing interest in baseball during his sophomore year of high school. The majority of his classmates played on various teams, or some organized city youth league.

Eu El, on the other hand, spent his developmental years perfecting the science of babysitting. This was at his father's request. His sister, who barely begun kindergarten, needed more attention than from what his father provided her between every televised inning of a Boston Red Sox game, or the amount of money he threw away to the relatives in East Asia. His father did have a plan for the future, but it did not include El.

When El was able to practice his favorite sport, he improvised binder paper which he crumbled and taped together to form a crude sphere. He learned through much trial and error that by adding more layers of binder paper around the center, the ball became heavier. Since he never held a real baseball in his hands before, El estimated the proper weight. His father would never think of buying El a real baseball for him to practice with, let alone celebrate his birthday, buy a Christmas present, or consider capturing those once in a lifetime moments of El with a photograph.

El's father was convinced his second born son was born to fail, and embarrass him as a parent.

However, El was special. El's father played catcher in high school. According to the stories his mother shared, El's father was quite a hitter. Eventually, a bit of that talent had carried over into El's nature. Unfortunately, his father refused to see, or nuture that ingrained love for the science behind hitting a baseball. There was never a small acknowledgement of his son's uncanny ability to consistently hit a six inch target from fifty feet away, which El drew onto the brick wall of a classroom at the nearby elementary school with chalk.

This marksmanship was strengthened from the countless days spent of the school's grass field during the summer. The neighborhood kids called the field a "Sandlot."

His mother never spoke of sports. To her, badminton and tennis rackets were all the same as the balls used for American football and soccer. Yet, even with her lack of knowledge of sports, she was the only adult willing to acknowledge El's passion for baseball, even when she had little money to spare.

The softball bat was unique among all the other bats. This bat was autographed by Steve Garvey, record holder of most consecutive games played in the National League (1,207).

El had it signed in that summer of '89, when his mom took him to a sports card show at the local mall in Stockton, where his mom usually bought new church clothes. El didn't know who Steve Garvey was, but his mom insisted the softball bat be signed since she remembered seeing the All-Star in a 'Hungry Man' commercial in between "The Price is Right," and her favorite soap opera, "General Hospital."

El didn't complain. Like his mother, he, too, perceived all bats to be equal.

Besides, awkward as it was to use a softball bat for baseball games, El finally had something more respectable than the broken broomstick handle his father gave to him when El asked for a bat to hit paper balls.

There would be games for El to compete in. Yet, they mainly comprised of a rag-tag ensemble of children of various ages and skills. Some of the players were as young as seven years old, while the eldest , the pitcher, had recently attained his driver's license.

"Shut up! I need to go soon! I have to call someone!" the pitcher exclaimed.

The younger players were intimidated by the pitcher's masculine, deep voice that already passed puberty. The fact he was almost legal to drink alcohol seemed to emit an aura of invincibility to the rest of the players.

The "phone call" the pitcher mentioned was meant for El's cousin, Gigi. The pitcher had a crush on her ever since he met her the week she visited from Florida to spend Christmas at El's house.

Gigi, just a year younger than El, used him, for most of the time, as an excuse to escape the surveillance of El's overprotective parents, and spend the afternoon unsupervised at the arcade. Yet, instead of playing Galaga, or Ms. Pac-Man with the twenty dollar bill El's father gave the two, Gigi left El without any game tokens, or money for the remainder of the day that she, instead, would spend with the pitcher.

The pitcher had just struck out two batters...with just six pitches, each third strike a swinging out.

And, now, El walks up to the plate...

Author Notes Please note this is a chapter from an ongoing novel I am currently writing. To understand the chapter, and the relevance of events, please read the previous chapters. Thank you.

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Chapter 22
Awakening Pt. 2

By Cybertron1986

-Present moment. October 17, 1996, Mary Park Hall-

He was not aware, but death was staring into his eyes. Ironically, the uneasy chill of evil that looked down from atop his chest felt less awful than the bitter years of criticism from his father and brother; years that are now submerged under the depths of some dark baptism of life made from the empty tears still inside him.

The figure within lunges forward, grasping El's arms in a way that warns him of the difficult winter ahead; a disturbing chill that would remain close to him as his shadow for years to come.

Despite the surreal vision, the unthinkable thought of a girl occupying his bed fascinated El. Together, they seem like a pair of parallel lines that, somehow, defied the rules of geometry the instant she grabbed him.

She speaks using a desperate, soft and scratchy voice.

"Get out of my bed."

El turns his stare away from one of her eyes that peer from behind the narrow opening of slowly parting hair that pulsates from rhythmic, ire breaths.

The sight of her screams out a danger El cannot hear. With much effort, the vision of the girl, deduced by his logic to be nothing more than the consequence of having Taco Bell for dinner, would not leave no matter how hard he tried to wake from what he believes to be nothing but a bad dream.

Her second eye unfolds from behind the now separated hair. They connect with stares that were not meant to intersect for the sake of belief and comfort of opinion to the non-believer.

Louder, her voice repeats as if to disturbingly assure El this is more than the intangibleness of a dream.

"Get out of my bed!"

Like a bridge connecting the gates of two distant worlds separated by time, her voice carries them over together like some ominous mistake committed by the Universe that transports the unlike pair into their respective realities, where each of their unique pasts are shared like an unpleasant fairy-tale that should never be spoken of...


-*Stockton, California, October 1989, the sandlot at Clairmont Elementary School-

The whispers were loud enough to expose the evident fear inside each batter observing from the side of the baseball field. The pitcher glares at El, the next hitter, from atop the mound.

"One mistake and Eu El could die! It'll be messy if a fastball hits his head!"

The pitcher threw heat in contrast to the mild temperature of the mid-October afternoon. A sprinkle of rain, probably a product of the Indian Summer that unexpectedly visited the Central Valley that day, begins to shower the moment El steps into the batter's box, his autographed Steve Garvey bat gripped softly in his hands.

The cloudless sky somehow manufacture the droplets of rain that sparkle in the Fall sun, highlighting the afternoon rainbow shining across the grassy field of the sandlot. The beautiful colors reminds El of the times he spent watching rainbows from the hose he used to water his mother's flower bed during the summer breaks. His green thumb earned him the allowance to add onto his G.I. Joe and Transformers collection, a modern day Comic-Con treasure that would be worth tens of thousands of dollars to this day had it not been sold for a mere one hundred dollars during the Fall of 1992, by a close "friend," Jules.

"How's it possible that it's raining without a cloud in the sky?!" Jules asks El.

"Is this heaven?" Man Lee, the only southpaw on the team, 'The Stockton Sluggers,' questions.

El smiles, enjoying the spectacle that brings him to a different level of clarity and understanding.
"It's a sign," El replies, "Enjoy it."

The pitcher had just struck out the two previous hitters with six pitches, both swinging strikeouts. This enticed both teams to begin placing bets on El, The Sluggers' last hope of extending the inning.

"Three bucks says Eu El strikes out."

"Five dollars he strikes out swinging in six pitches."

"I'll give him five pitches tops, then he strikes out swinging."

"Don't make Eu El mad. He's got pop. I've seen him hit the roof of the classroom once," one player claims, pointing to the building that, to this day, sits deep in centerfield of Clairmont Elementary school's grassy field.

"He's not going to hit it," Jules pessimistically exclaims, "The pitcher is throwing a hundred miles per hour! Jose Canseco couldn't hit that! He'll probably foul a pitch. Three dollars he strikes out swinging in four pitches."

El ignores Jules with the same forgiveness that he will spply in three years when Jules trades the entirety of El's G.I. Joe and Transformers collection for a semester's worth of french fries.

Despite the discouraging prediction from Jules, who coincidentally was El's teammate, El's attention is focused toward the rainbow shining across the outfield.

The moment triggers another song to replay in El's head, signaling the beginning of the end to the most perfect summer in which, like the rainbow, the rules of nature deviate to reward this true believer with one unforgettable instant...

Author Notes *Please read the previous chapter, "Awakening Pt. 1" to understand the totality of this chapter. Remember, if you choose to review, then please note this is chapter to a continuing novel not complete.Thank you.

Pictured: The actual Steve Garvey signed bat that was from the story.

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Chapter 23
Awakening, The Conclusion

By Cybertron1986

Stockton, California, October 5, 1989, Clairmont Elementary sandlot.

Belinda Carlisle's 1989 song, "Runaway Horses" plays in El's mind as clear as the first time he heard it on his cassette Walkman player between English and chemistry class.

(Baby, the wind has changed again)

The song unlocks many emotions in El that rekindles the few key, vivid memories where he draws inspiration from.

At the same instant, El notices the shadow of a spectator hiding within the corners of his memories, but he thinks nothing of mysterious figure.

Simultaneously, half a nation away, it is the top-of-the ninth inning in Wrigley Field as Robby Thompson steps to the plate on national television with his team, the San Francisco Giants, down five runs versus the Chicago Cubs in game two of the National League Championship series.

With two outs and a full count, Thompson, the all-star second baseman, sends a wicked line drive over the left center field fence that forestalls the celebration in Chicago.

(Suddenly, all of my fences have broken)

Like his boyhood inspiration, El embraces and awakes...

(I'm cutting the reign of my life...!)

to his moment.

(Whoa! Runaway Horses!)

The laws of physics briefly deviate for two separate at-bats, one in which a nation of baseball fans applauded Robby's "go down swinging" spirit, and the other in which a handful of neighborhood kids take witness to the unlikely strength of a fifteen year old's hope against a flame throwing, sidearm pitcher who recently got his driver's license.

Two asymptotic lives moving in opposite directions on the grid of fate come together with one identical swing of their bats, fueled by resiliency.

(We take our chances everyday)

Either by the mercy of the universe, or some kind of power in its purest form of faith, El's abilities infuse as one. He calculates the variables of time, velocity and Newton's second law of motion, the conservation of acceleration, with his eyes closed.

(Oh, oh! Baby, hold on tight!)

El connects with the fastball.

(Whoa, Runaway Horses!)

The baseball travels 367 feet to left center sailing over two basketball courts positioned as far as the bleachers in Wrigley Field, where Thompson's ball landed.

Rounding each base, El briefly touches the feel of freedom away from the vulnerability of his adolescence, the baneful criticisms of his father, and the tormenting flashbacks of bullies which included his older brother choking him breathless before the start of the Saturday morning cartoons.

(Racing through the darkness

Whoa, trying to find the light)

In that instance of one's conquering of fear, El discovers a greater purpose; a purpose designed by a higher power.

(There's so much light, I feel alive when I'm with you)

Stepping onto homeplate, El scores the lone run, his team still down by four. His eyes are locked to the ground below where his bat rests on the dirt gravel. The neighborhood kids, amazed, continue to cheer his name. But El appears deaf to the commotion, never acknowledging the high fives of his teammates.

His eyes do not blink as he reaches down for his bat. Again, the universe reminds him of his place, where sometimes unpredictable and unwanted circumstances are architected by the hands of destiny. His emotions, firmly planted back onto the ground after touching the light of victory, understands the message:

there is only one Robby Thompson.

El's holds his breath as his fingers slide across the bat's wooden surface where the blue Sharpie ink of *Steve Garvey's autograph is signed at a hand's length below the barrel. He notices the tilt of the barrel that confirms his fear.

(With every end

We'll begin again)

The bat has cracked.

"Your dad is going to kill you!" Jules exclaims.


-Present moment. October, 1996, Mary Park Hall-

El awakes from his deep sleep, but he is uncertain whether, or not he is still dreaming at the edge of that perfect summer, a memory from seven years ago. His dorm room appears familiar, yet different once again...darker than he recalls. He glances at the far wall, where the unfamiliar shadow of a ceiling fan he has never seen is clear to him as the shadow of the two twitching feet dangling below the blades and the outline of a rope that is tied around a shady appearance of a girl's body dressed in a robe.

Like a disturbing movie projecting in his room, the sight persuades El to open his mind to the frightful possibility of a girl tasting her last breaths above him. His body is still paralyzed in bed, but he searches with frantic, uncomfortable twists of his head that is pressed onto the pillow by an unseen force.

He sees no physical body, or ceiling fan that would obstruct the light shining through the window; nothing except, with the last turn of his head, his eyes struggling to look past his feet, the vision of the girl in the white robe squatting atop his chest.

Bending awkwardly towards El, she positions her pale lips a breath away from his mouth.

As she did before, she whispers to him,

"Get...out...of...

my bed."

Author Notes *An actual picture of the Steve Garvey bat is presented (with the crack and signature) in chapter 22, "The Awakening, Pt. 2."

Picture is from Wikipedia.

It is recommended that previous chapters are read first to understand the totality that encompasses this chapter before commenting. Please note this is an ongoing chapter that has yet to be completed.Thank you.



Chapter 24
Shadows of the Past

By Cybertron1986

Her grip, cold but stronger, positions Eu El sitting up onto his bed as if he were a toy doll being displayed on a shelf. Their touch, like the currents of electricity, one positive the other negative, sends each of them flowing in opposite directions through the wave of time fueled by the emotions of their individual memories.

There's a glow of hope in El's eyes, a light sparked by the inspiration of '80s ballads, particularly, Belinda Carlisle and WHAM!, which empowers El with a passion for resiliency, courage, and an awkward sense of morals.* This, she knows, is something she is unable to understand even if she were alive. She sees the glow and follows it like a light guiding her to the end of a tunnel she could never leave.

She reciprocates with a memory, a recollection of a disturbing event from a time when El was not a thought in the world. Her eyes paint a portrait of suppression with tears that drip before him. Her stare, imprisoned with fear, conceal a tormenting, silent scream of regret to which the Universe never forgave.

El acknowledges the shadow of a ceiling fan that reappears onto the wall across his room. Yet, like before, where the fan should have created a shadow, there is nothing but the flat, white surface of his ceiling.

In between the slow blink of his eyes, El discovers another shadow; one he has never seen before. It rushes pass with the frantic vigor of a person desperate for help. In between another blink, he sees, as before, the eerie outline of a rope with the twitching body of a girl swaying beneath the motionless fan blades.

El struggles to wake from the absurdities surrounding him, but he is unable to break from the grip that feels stronger than the force of gravity.

El's stereo unexpectedly plays a song that conveys more mystery, but is appropriate in describing the event he is witnessing.

This melody is new and lacks the bright, youthful rhythm of his favorite WHAM! songs. Instead, the melody and lyrics beautifully contradict one another like life and death, an imperfect match meant to co-exist but never touch one another.

The song's message seems to speak the words she can no longer explain from the other side of the shadows.

("I'm so tired of being here

Suppressed by all my childish fears.")

Closing his eyes, El absorbs the slow, sweet voice. As his song carried her back to 1989,* her song shifts El to a future he has yet to experience.

There's a reflection of his older self sitting inside a car he does not recognize. He cannot associate the car's design to any familiar Transformers character shapes in vehicle mode. Yet, the contour, in his mind, is as equally appealing as the Batmobile. He is parked in front of a Safeway grocery store somewhere in San Francisco the night after Thanksgiving.

The same song plays on the car's radio.

("Your presence still lingers here,

And it won't leave me alone.")

Heavy rain is pouring and no one is outside as, blocks away, power lines and small branches are dragged down by the wind.

The reflection of himself is wearing a black Superman baseball cap with a white, cotton logo that is luminous in the dark.

On the empty passenger seat is a large open bag of Ruffle's potato chips, the only food he could afford to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Aglow, is a handheld electronic device that has yet to be invented. In El's mind, the device appears to look like something from an episode of 'Star Trek.' A small, still picture projects from its eight megapixel screen. The dull light of the picture exposes the outline of exhaustion and sadness along El's face in the dark, but he is not defeated; his eyes hold that familiar glow of resiliency.

His reflection is staring at the picture in the device, which is a face...

of the girl wearing the white robe.

The song continues,

("There's just too much

that time cannot erase.")

Like a flash of lightning, El is transported back to the familiarity of his room, where all around him are again presented in the style of decades forgotten.

Along the wall, where the shadows of the fan, the rope and the girl's body continue to project, are the drops of tears falling onto the carpet.

The thought of carpet stains remind El to check on his prized possession, "Web of Spider-Man," issue #31, hanging on the wall above him to his right.

From the corner of his vision, he notices a deviation of a quarter centimeter. The misalignment irks El to adjust his comic. He conjures enough strength to break the girl's hold, enabling him, just barely, to move his right hand.

Naively, El corrects the misalignment with slight struggle; seemingly ignoring every unsettling motion of the girl's desperation to be acknowledged by him.

El seems to find more solace in aligning his favorite comic book to match the flawless grace of the Universe than to acknowledge death's cold, angry grip that squats a breath away from his lips.

Angered, the girl's expression is quickly engulfed with rage. The stereo abruptly turns off as she continues her message with a scream that vibrates the threads which intertwine life and death.

"GET OUT OF MY BED!"

Un-phased, El politely replies, "I'd get out, but...you gotta help me wake up."

El's voice conveys an uncanny level of calmness.

As if his request was granted, El opens his eyes to the morning that soon gives way to the sound of a knock coming from his door.

He is surprised to find himself sitting upright on his bed, but never recalling if he had voluntarily sat up in the first place.

El discovers deep, purple bruises on each side of his arms. Each perforation, in the shape of a hand, begin to question the validity of the past few minutes, or hours. El checks the alignment of his issue of "Web of Spider-Man," #31, before opening his door.

It hangs perfectly.

Hastily, he combs his hair to try and regain that Andrew Ridgeley style, the one with the highlighted bangs streaking across the forehead.

He finds Tai, his neighbor from across his room, standing with a worried smile. El recalls the time he refused Tai's invitation to watch the adult videos which Tai purchased from Chinatown.**

"Is everything cool?" he asks El, "Who's shouting? Sounded like a girl."

Tai attempts to glance around El. He scans the room for the kind of gossip that would award him approval among friends.

From down the hall, El hears a radio loudly playing a former Madonna hit from 1987, "Who's That Girl."

The lyrics seemingly tease him.

("When you see her, say a prayer and kiss your heart goodbye.

She's trouble, in a word get closer to the fire.

Run faster, her laughter burns you up inside.

You're spinning round and round,

you can't get up,
you try but you can't.")

"Yeah. I'm cool," El, exhausted, answers. "It was just a dream... a bad one."

Author Notes For new readers, before commenting, it is recommended that previous chapters are read first to understand the totality that encompasses this chapter. Please note this is an ongoing chapter that has yet to be completed.

Thank you,
Euell

*From Chapter 23, Awakening: The Conclusion

** From Chapter 13, The Thirteenth Chapter

Picture from Google.

Songs: "My Immortal," by Evanescence, 2003, from the album, "Fallen."

"Who's That Girl," by Madonna, 1987, from the album, "Who's That Girl."


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Chapter 25
Heartbeat

By Cybertron1986

There was only one choice to make and that was to take the next step further into the darkness, where whatever awaited ahead, or whatever lurked behind was not the most frightening thought. Beneath him, Eu El searches for the ground he is standing on, but he finds nothing except the intangibility of empty space.

This mysterious place screams a disturbing familiarity from far inside El's memory, a scream loud to overtake the warning coming from deep within his gut to awaken and return to the reality of dorm life.

El searches for something special... something genuine and real as the warmth of two lovers holding hands in the winter. Yet, he is the perfect stranger in this dark place where hope is nothing more than a cold grip of an abandoned, atrocious memory summoned by the past.

From the distance, a faint heartbeat echoes against the corners of the walls he cannot find, nor feel. With each step, unsure and hesitant, the beat gradually increases. He finds security in the sound, the only obvious hint of life inside a place where having sight felt as useful to him as a lighthouse guiding a blind man steering toward shore on a stormy night. For a moment, out of curiosity, he sprints closer, his pulse rising frantically. With equal rhythm, the echoing heartbeat coincidentally matches each "lub-dub" of the throbbing uncertainty pushing inside his chest.

Within moments, he arrives to the source where he finds a large, oval-like boulder standing upright, its edges uneven and distorted. With each palpation, even from afar, El notices the outline of the obelisk constricting and contracting... as hearts do.

A minute passes before the details of each artery and vein, along with its texture, convinces El the object is exactly what it presents itself to be: a heart large enough to circulate the blood of the giant from the fairytale, "Jack and the Beanstalk."

He approaches hesitantly, but close enough to notice the man kneeling besides the bizarre monstrosity. The man is occupied in fortifying a crude, wooden fence around the beating organ with barb wire that pierces it between each powerful contraction. In small amounts, blood spews onto the man's clothes that El recognizes to be a uniform decorated with the insignias of a U.S. Naval officer.

The man continues hammering, oblivious and unconcerned to the thickening plasma that absorbs deep into his attire. El cannot decide whether to move closer, or to keep a distance between him and the blood-soaked man whose cynical laughter disturbingly mixes with the rhythm of the scornful clamoring from his hammer, pounding with mad urgency against the wooden boards of the unfinished fence. The large heart reacts with more ferocity.

From somewhere in the darkness a voice cries to El.

"Run!"

The scream triggers a memory of a character that once spoke to El long ago when he was a boy struggling in middle school.

Other voices begin intervening, confusing his understanding of fact and fiction. As a result, his identity amid both worlds is redefined.

"Don't show Dad or Mom your report card. I don't want them to see your 3.89 GPA."

"I don't care how you feel, or what you think. You're a loser."

"Whatever. I don't believe you."

Forgotten somewhere in the cold, scornful remarks of his father and older brother, people he was taught to trust, El has forgotten the '80s ballads that once lit his way through this darkness. And, now, there is no glow, nor flicker to guide his way home.

No longer screaming, the familiar voice continues.

"El... El, Wake up."

He feels the neutrality and concern of his mother in the voice, but he identifies the speaker to be his favorite Transformer, an Autobot whose function is: WARRIOR.

"Get up, soldier. It's time to suit up."

"Who...?" El is interrupted before he can finish his question.

"El, it's not time for heroics."

He continues looking around the darkness for answers he knows he will not find. His questions quickly multiply in his thoughts.

"Wake up. Your team will be counting on you today.

Don't be late."

Author Notes For new readers, before commenting, it is recommended that previous chapters are read first to understand the totality that encompasses this chapter. Please note this is an ongoing project that has yet to be completed.

Thank you,
Euell

Picture from Google.

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Chapter 26
Automatic

By Cybertron1986

Eu El gazes beyond the dugout across the right center field grass, where the girl from the phone booth, the second from the right in the dormitory lobby, is looking downward from the resting area of San Francisco State's Hensill Hall toward the diamond.

She delicately holds a cigarette, exhaling thick puffs of smoke smoothly as if to savor the time between her classes. Her legs are elegantly crossed in a business skirt as she relaxes on a concrete bench. Even with the long bangs of his new WHAM! haircut falling in front of his eyes, El notices the girl's glassy stare that is focused beyond the playing field. He slides his hair to the left, its highlights blending with the sparkle of the morning dew of the grass, to get a clearer view of the girl he has thought about since the day he moved into the dorms.

From far away, beyond the smoke and the early fog, El can feel the hint of concern in her eyes.

"El!" a teammate yells from the opposite side of the dugout fence.

El's attention is absent to his surroundings as he continues gazing toward the girl's direction, his head swaying to the beat of another WHAM! song, "Ray of Sunshine," playing on his portable CD Walkman.

(Sometimes,
You wake up in the morning with the bass line,

A Ray of Sunshine!)

The lyrics are loud enough to amuse a few of El's teammates to the forgotten oldie which debuted thirteen years ago.

However, from the stands, people find another kind of humor in El's personal choice for the softball scrimmage game: grey short shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt displaying a single, oversized, bold black kanji character for "love," and a pair of tube socks that stop centimeters below his knees.

Alan, the centerfielder, attempts to snap him out of his trance. "El! Get up! The team needs you!"*

(Sometimes!...
Sometimes!...
Sometimes!...
Sometimes!)

Alan removes El's headphones from his ears and throws them on top of El's new black sweater with the "No Fear" logo.

"Dude, get up!" Alan repeats. "It's time to play defense."

El puts on his mitt, a Wilson A2000, the same model used by Robby Thompson, the all-star second baseman for the San Francisco Giants. The laughter grows louder from the stands as each of his steps emphasize the contour of his bare legs and firm behind.

"El," Alan continues, "you gotta listen to music that makes you angrier. These old, corny songs are holding you back, making you into a weenie."

"I like '80s music," El replies. "Didn't you know that Flock of Seagulls and WHAM! changed the world?"

"You can also change the world with your two second run to first, but you're swinging the bat like my sister who never played before. Why are you holding back?!"

"I'm holding back?! Two seconds to first isn't good enough?" El never believing any of his performances as being short of potential.

"It's not that. That loud mouth over there just made fun of you, and you're acting like nothing happened!" Alan says, pointing to the player on the other team, a dirty blonde, blue-eyed, chiseled-chin player for the University's baseball team.

"He made fun of me? What'd he say?"

"You didn't hear him? He said the reason why you run so fast is because, you eat rice!"

El, his head shaking in confusion, does not understand the humor behind the remark. "I eat the same amount of rice as anybody. Should I tell him rice is mainly used for dinner?"

"You don't get it?" Alan asks, continuing to stare down the player with spiteful eyes. "He's stereotyping us because we're Asian. Doesn't that make you mad? If it doesn't, at least think about the other Asians who heard him feel. They're expecting you to shut him up! Hit a homerun or something! Stop holding back!"

El looks to the stands. He finds Kaoru, his first date sitting next to another Japanese girl he never met before.

The girl leans over to Kaoru's ear, whispering, "I think your boyfriend is gay."

Despite El's unorthodox, buttock tight shorts, there is an expectation for El, a player who has solidified his athletic potential by running the 20 yards from homeplate to first in 2.12 seconds.

"Give me your glove," El tells Alan.

"What? Why?!"

"I'm going to do something. But, I need your glove. It's larger for me to play third with," he answers.

El points to the player. "He's hitting next."

El secures Alan's glove firmly onto his hand. He trades his position with the third baseman, who wonders why El, who has never played third before, would leave right field, his best position.

"It's just for this inning," El assures him with a fist bump.

El's eyes never blink as he smooths the dirt in front with his palm. He brushes the dirt off, wiping his hands across the large Chinese character for "love," pronounced "ai" in Japanese, of his sleeveless shirt. His focus, intense, blocks the joking comments of the spectators who cannot take their attention away from his short shorts.

El, checking twice, positions himself by assuring he is exactly a tube sock distance away from the foul line, not a centimeter more.

The baseball player steps into the batter's box, pointing at El with the barrel of his bat while exclaiming, "Yo, Egg Roll! I bet you can't field as good as you run...or dress!"

El smiles, acknowledging his challenge and accepting it with a smile.

The WHAM! song automatically rewinds in El's mind...

(Shuffle to the beat,
Gonna take a cut,
There's money in your feet,
Gimme what you got!
Watch out boy,
Watch out boy!)

"Your shorts look too tight, Rice Boy!" he laughs.

The laughter grows larger from the stands as the WHAM! song continues to play in his mind...

(Sometimes,
You know you're going to have a good time,
And you're ready to go!)

Viciously, the batter swings at the pitcher's first underhand lob to the plate. He takes a ferocious, impatient cut at the slow, oversized softball that looks more like a grapefruit as compared to the 90 mph fastball he is accustomed to see during baseball season.

His impatience causes the barrel of the bat to hit the ball prematurely in front. He produces a laser fast ground ball just fair inside the foul line...where El anticipated it would be with one bounce.

El makes one calm, effortless motion with Alan's larger mitt, ensnaring the ball in front of him with eyes that never blink. The batter, refusing to be outplayed by an opponent dressed like an early '80s pop music video, frantically dashes for first.

(Turn the music up,
Turn the music up, turn it up,
Because the sunlight
It's all I've-
All that I've got!)

Besides the music playing in his mind, El, in a split second, calculates the mass, time, force, and velocity of his throw that will get the batter out in a single step before he can beat the throw to first. He knows it must be a perfect, strong, throw to complete the play.

He decides to double pump his throwing motion, giving the batter an additional step or two, before letting the ball loose; the batter only three steps away from beating the throw. The ball leaves El's hand like Superman's heat vision shooting from his eyes. A loud pop in the first baseman's mitt is followed by the coach's yell, "Ouuuuuuut!"

The first baseman, hesitating to remove the ball from his mitt, discovers something unreal that the batter, too, wants to verify.

"Holy cow! He broke my glove!"

There is a slight, but obvious tear in the glove's stitching. The first baseman is shocked, but is not as disappointed as the batter who walks back to the dugout knowing that El, dressed like a dancer from the "Wake Me Up Before You GO-GO" music video, has damaged his ego.

(But I'm the only one with the key.
And that's me.)

El glances to the stands, where he sees Kaoru smiling. Seemingly, she has forgotten the embarrassing details of their date together.

El, instead of acknowledging Kaoru, looks to where the girl from the phone booth had been sitting from across right center field. She is no longer there. Quite possibly she had watched long enough that she almost arrived late to her next class. El decides he is not finished with the baseball player.

"Excuse me," El says to him as he walks by.

The batter responds in disgust, "What's up?"

"Got rice?" El asks.

Again, Kaoru's friend leans toward her ear. She talks loud enough to make El blush.

"I take it back. He's not gay."

Author Notes *"Wake up. Your team will be counting on you today." As quoted in El's dream from the previous chapter.

For new readers, before commenting, it is recommended that previous chapters are read first to understand the totality that encompasses this chapter. Please note this is an ongoing project that has yet to be completed.

Thank you,
Euell

Pictures from Google.

"A Ray of Sunshine," is a song by WHAM! that was released in 1983 in their debut album, "FANTASTIC."

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