A story by OrigamiLuke100
Told By Alan Wade
Everything had caught up with me, and I laid against the toilet bowl, puking occasionally, the hurl of leftover roast, soup, peas, rib-b-qs, and countless other things that were in my stomach now laid in the water. My teeth hurt, and my body felt weak. Literally, where had I been?
I was at home, packing. I didn’t feel it there, I boarded the airplane, felt nothing, and I had made landfall, moved in, been here for a few months, kept to myself, and only now has it all hit, at the start of the second semester of my Junior year.
Ground yourself, Alan. Ground yourself in the now.
Mom and Dad are dead. Okay, yeah, that hit long ago. It’s not old news, the wound is still bleeding, but it hurts, dang-it, it hurts bad.
Justice Pleats. I was at the top of my game after the whole Novick crap, and I was so high above the water that I felt as though everyone around me was grabbing for my legs. So I weighed them all down, and I had nothing, and man, I was put into a really dark space after. Richy, the Court…
…Madalyn. I loved her, I was with her and there was nothing but peace. She was the light of my life, and I sat back and I saw that I was in too dark of a place to see it. I was too distant, too cut off, too mean. I said awful things to her that I’d never picture myself saying, all because I was too deep into my own head and too full of my own sorrowful bullcrap to see how much I was hurting her. The curly brown hair seemed to sag after months of being around me, as though I was holding her back. Her blue eyes, so youthful and bright, now had pain and sorrow in them. When she dumped me at Dave and Busters, I wasn’t affected. I was embarrassed. Now the puke coming from my stomach was full of those pains.
“Dude, are you okay?”
I lifted my head up, shivers on my arms. I turned to face who was talking to me, wiping the drool coming from my mouth, my hair sopping in sweat (and I hope none of it was from the toilet water either). I was in dire need of a new haircut, and a fresh shave.
He stood with his hands in his pockets, “I’m Kev.” He said. I looked at his leg, which was a robotic limb. In his pocket was another puppet, this purple bald head sticking out.
Jeez. I forgot to mention this.
I moved to Madison, New York a few months ago. We live in a small house that I guess my grandparents owned before they passed. I’m going to Wheeler High, a much better school than Kane in really every way except for one: the school literally across from it is closed and abandoned. I guess they have a thing for puppetry here too, because I started off homeschooled for the first semester, and I return the second and everyone has things from Marvel Comics. So I’m here, in the bathroom of Wheeler, late to my first class, puking my guts out because this whole transition that has been my life for the past few months has caught up to me.
I wiped my sweat off and put my back against the toilet.
“Yeah.” I grumbled, standing up.
“I… I’ve been here for like ten minutes, listening to you hurl. Let’s go to the nurse.”
“Not much for words, huh?”
I stood up and patted myself down, “No, I’m… I’m just trying to figure out some things.”
“I’ve literally never seen you around before. Did you go to Kirby?”
“For a bit.”
He furrowed his eyebrows and crossed his arms, looking me up and down.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes, man.” I turned and looked into the mirror. I had large patches of scruff on my face, and my hair was a mess, long and covered in curls. I had put on a few pounds too, and my shirt was covered in a disgusting puke stain. I drank some water as Kev looked at me.
“Where’s your ID?”
I took it out and showed him. Alan Wade.
“Heh, like the soup company. Too much salt, though…”
“That’s my mom and dad’s soup place.”
Kev, slightly embarrassed, crossed his arms and smiled and looked awkward, “Really now?”
“Yeah, I’m from Jutefruce, over in California.” I mentioned.
Kev took off his hoodie and handed it to me. I quickly put it on, trying to cover the puke stain, “Thanks…” I said.
“Listen, school ended a while ago. Why don’t we walk home?”
And so we did.
Kev started telling me all about Wheeler and Kirby, the rivalry that existed, and the time he was a bad guy for a bit – someone called Artron. He mentioned how he was in love, how he’s been in a relationship for quite a long time, and we had to take a pause as I vomited again in some grass. My nerves were getting so deep to me that I couldn’t even think to eat.
We sat down at the door to my house, and Mr. Whogley -er – Danny stepped out.
“Alan, did you make a friend?”
“Well, he doesn’t know much about me, and I’ve been throwing up pretty much all day… By the way, you can have the hoodie back.”
Kev raised a hand, “No, no, literally keep it, please. It can be your first piece of Wheeler merch.” I looked down at the logo on the sweatshirt, with “WHEELER HIGH” above it.
“Thanks.” I said.
“Well, come on in, Mr.-”
“Kev.” Kev said. He stood back up and we walked into my house, which smelled of Febreeze and whatever Danny was cooking. I bet CJ and his dad were living in our house while he was at Kane. I don’t know. I… I apologized. I kept apologizing. I just want to feel good. I want to find that peace of mind. I just don’t hear from him.
There’s nothing of that sort – no sign of peace. Not anymore. I can’t seem to find the peace of mind I need, no matter how much I try to work on myself.
The house was tiny. It was secluded, and it seemed like the further my life went on, the more tiny everything seemed to become. My friend group now consisted of only me. I moved out of a mansion into a small home, and now I’m in an even tinier one, a whole country away.
We didn’t even have a basement. So we walked into the living room, and I sat down across from Kev. The family’s clock went tick-tok over and over.
“This is a nice place.” Kev said, breaking the silence.
“Thank you. It’s nothing like my house in-” that’s a lie, “I mean my first house. It was nothing like my first house. A large mansion, sprawling with room-upon-room.”
Kev’s face didn’t change much, but he crossed his robotic leg over his regular one while surveying the space, “So you’re like, rich, or something?”
“Citizen Wade’s money is pretty good, but they locked my account after I opened a second school to house troubled kids.”
Kev shuffled in his seat, “Woah. That’s… heavy.”
I smiled, “I tell you what, I’m shocked the local government allowed it.”
“I am too.”
“Yeah, it was closed after I was being stalked by a gang.”
“That’s… also pretty wild.”
“Eh, that’s what you get when you’re the Batfold, I guess.”
A smile formed across Kev’s lips, and then he erupted into laughter, “That’s hilarious! Just like Batman, huh? I- I see the connections!”
“You could say that. It was a school full of students with different DC Puppets. And then we had Donner and Lampert, which was the same case at those two as well. Supaperman, the Fold–”
“The Fold. I figure it’s the Flash, right?”
“Yeah. Not many people could figure that one out.”
“Makes sense. It’s a crap pun.” He leaned towards me, his legs now both on the ground, “So, you’re the Batman-type. You are rich-”
“Not anymore.” I interrupted, “Frozen bank accounts, remember?”
“Not many people can just up and leave their state and fly half a country over to start a new life, man. You’re rich, regardless of the money you have or don’t-have.”
Kev was making a point, “Yeah, that’s true.”
“You lost your parents – I’m sorry, by the way. Did you have a relationship that–”
“Totally failed through no fault of my own? Not really. King’s run was so stupid when he did that.”
“Thank goodness someone agrees!”
Madalyn’s face appeared in my mind. The curly hair, the slight grin. I remember the way her perfume smelt, and how she would hold my hand in such a manner that it felt like she’d never let go, “It was all my fault that I lost her.”
“Dang. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my honey-bun.”
Kick him out. Kick him out because he doesn’t understand your pain. He doesn’t get the strife.
“I mean- I know what it’s like to lose something. This leg. Stays with you for the rest of your life. Just like losing your parents, or your first love. It… it makes sense why you would be puking today, man.”
Nevermind, nevermind. He gets it. He understands the pain afterall.
“I cried. I cried and cried because for a time I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk again.” He looked at his watch, “I don’t know. I didn’t want to be treated as different. I didn’t want to be talked down to. Did you experience that when you lost your mom and dad?”
I nodded, “I remember the apologies I got from teachers. The pullings from classrooms to hear the condolences.”
“Total bullcrap, amiright?”
“Grief… grief is tough, Alan. And I have to get going – large essay I gotta write. But just know that I’m here for you. I’d be happy to have you join my lunch table tomorrow. All I have to say is that while grief is tough and forever, it is the greatest medicine to help you see some things. You know?”
I laughed, “I know.”
“And I’m sure that’s something you’ve heard a hundred times before too. I’ll see you around.”
He got up, shook my hand, waved goodbye to Danny, and then left the house.
First day at Wheeler, and I guess I have a new friend. Even if I was vomiting all over the restroom he has probably used many times before.
I have to brush my teeth after writing this.
Last night I had a dream.
I know it was a dream because my mom and dad are there, and we’re eating dinner with Madalyn and her family… well, just her dad.
Dad is dressed like he always was when I was with him. A Hawaiian shirt and khakis. And Mom is wearing a dress, I think one from one of the vacations we were on. Madalyn… She looks gorgeous.
Her hair is straight. I had only seen that once before, when she decided to try it for a day. She had mentioned to me that I didn’t appreciate it enough, and, I mean, it wasn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it was her. That was all that mattered. Madalyn was gorgeous. She would be perfect if her head was shiny bald, or if the locks flowed like Rapunzel. But… I didn’t appreciate her enough. I don’t know if I told her that she was beautiful that day. I should’ve said it everyday, but I didn’t.
And her dad was really kind. Always was. He loved to dress nicely for any occasion. One time it was just me and him on a Taco Bell run. Madalyn needed to freshen up, he got tired of it, so we went out. Dude was wearing a suit – the same suit he’s wearing tonight, in this dream. Dad would’ve gotten a kick out of it.
But it’s quiet at the table. They’re all staring at me.
“Chicken is nice, right guys?” I ask.
Madalyn was at first sitting to the left of me, but now she sat at my right. She kept switching seats in a flash. But she places the fork down.
“I’m so disappointed in you.” She says.
I stare at her, a bit confused about that statement. I open my mouth to say something, but nothing flows from it.
“You were going to be great, son.” Dad sighs, “You were going to be something special.”
The scenery begins to darken at my dinner table. On my lap is the puppet of Batfold, and I swipe him to the ground, like a dirty napkin.
“I thought we raised you to be better.” Mom said.
“And you were such a bad boyfriend to my daughter, boy.” Madalyn’s dad tells me.
“I’m sorry.” I muster to say.
Madalyn is to my left now, “Sorry never cuts it, don’t you realize that, Alan?”
“Did you think about how we would’ve felt?” Mom asks.
“About what?” I feel my heart rate begin to pick up. And then my focus shifts to something on the ground. The puppet.
And the voices continue to get louder. The words of how horrible I am continue. They bite and scratch at my ears. And then my eyes open, and I’m laying in a bed, thousands of miles away from the graves of my parents and the two living voices that would be able to vocalize these feelings to me.
It felt so real. I hated it. I found myself cupping my face, letting out a sigh, and then a sob.
It’s been the nightly routine. Some days the dream switches with the faces of Chris and Theresa, Matthew and Stuart. Other nights it’s Madalyn using facetime to yell at me. Or I’m on a ferris wheel with my mom.
Every single time I dream about this, though, I can’t leave the room where it happens.
The lunch table. When I was younger, I had many friends surrounding me, then Mom and Dad passed, and I was alone. I had a friend, CJ, but… we fell out. I looked around the cafeteria, trying to find a place to sit. A place alone, where no one would bother me, and no one would confront… me.
“Alan!” I heard a voice exclaim. I tensed up, and my eyes darted around the room, landing on the person waving me down: Kev. He grinned a wide grin, “Come on!”
I got my food and sat down across from him. Sitting next to him was a kid with a puppet that looked like… Batman?
“Hey! Kev told me a bit about you. I’m Gar.”
“Hey, Gar…” I said, I pointed at his puppet, “You’re Batfold here? I thought this was, like… Marvel themed.”
Gar laughed and removed the puppet, “No… No, I’m the Black Pen-ther.”
“Oh…” I grew flushed with embarrassment, “I’m sorry. I just… misinterpreted—”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I get it all the time.”
Memories… Memories flood into my head of my time as the Batfold, and I can’t help but wonder if Gar has had to do the same stuff; battle underground organizations, open schools, but he looks so… normal.
“So, what’s your puppet?” He asked.
“Oh, I was Batfold, back at Kane High School.”
“I… I didn’t know that existed around here.”
Now it was my turn to laugh, “No, no, I’m from California.”
Kev elbowed Gar, “I told you! This dude’s awesome. He was Batman, bro. Can you believe that there’s other schools in this country that do the exact same thing?”
“Did you have to fight like… a group that formed the letters ‘D.A.R.K.S.E.I.D.?” Gar asked.
The thought of a Darkseid character showing up horrified me, “No.” I said.
Gar turned to Kev, “Then he doesn’t do the exact same thing as us. Do y’all have a Justice Crease or something?”
I could see the chills appear on his arms, “Used to?”
“Like, you guys had a civil war or something?”
“Something like that.”
Kev grinned, “Batfold vs Superfold: Dawn of Creastous!” He exclaimed.
“Nah, no it was like… I don’t know, it was bad. Like, I guess if I could compare it to anything, it would be Tower of Babel, but we didn’t have like a Ra’s Al Ghul.”
Both of them kind of looked at me funnily, “We… we don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kev admitted, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s all good. I mean, I know a lot about X-Men but, as far as I can see, there’s none of that here.” I said.
“Do you have a puppet here?” Gar asked.
I shook my head, “I’ve only been here for this semester. I was homeschooled last semester, so…”
“Oooh, what about Dark Claw?” Kev asked, “Batman crossed with Wolverine?” Gar shook his head at this.
“I don’t know if I want to—” I said.
“Hawk-Owl?” Kev pitched.
Me and Gar spoke in unison, “Who?”
“Ultimate universe superhero, literally the same as Batman.”
“No, bro. He shouldn’t just be the Wheeler Batman, come on.” Gar said. Kev then started throwing out names, Wolverine was taken, Old-Man Wolverine was stupid, Daredevil was blind and I wasn’t (“It would be really controversial…”), no good puns for Punisher (Besides, it might be taken?), Night Thrasher (Similar reaction to Hawk-Owl), Sentry??? The Superman clone? Miracle Man?? NightHawk, the literal version of Batman from Marvel’s DC universe, some random like Black Fox.
“Dude! I wanted this to be organic, come on.” Gar said. He then looked at me, “I think you’d be a good fit for Moon Knight. Just , because of your whole vibe… I just wonder if, because you’re, well, you, if that would be your best fit.”
I knew some about Moon Knight; his multiple personalities, his worship of Khonshu, the moon god of Egypt… how he skinned that guy’s face off.
“I’m not sure…”
Then, in a swift motion, Gar slid the puppet of Moon Knight over to me, “I’m… I’m really saying this because I gotta get rid of this puppet I made, and besides: you need something for that Hawaiian shirt pocket! Congrats, Alan Wade, you’re now… the Moon White-Out! Now you’re truly a part of the group!”
I smiled, looking down at the puppet; the hooded hero, his face blacked out, his eyes the only visible part, coming from the shadow.
“Thanks, guys…” I said. Compared to when I took up the Batfold, this time I wasn’t called; I was given it. Just because, just because a puppet needed to be gotten rid of.
“So, do I do vigilante work around here?”
“I… I guess? It’s up to you. We’ve been kind of light around here on that whole stuff.” Kev said, “Or, you can just vibe with us.”
“I… I think I’ll just vibe with you all.”
They then did a chant, slamming their hands on the table like a drum, “NEW FRIEND! NEW FRIEND! LET’S FREAKING GO!!!”
And I couldn’t help but smile; I had friends.
How am I going to $&*@ this up?
The… The Other Dream.
“Wake up.” He tells me, “Alan Wade, you are almost an adult, and I know you can hear my voice. Wake up.”
I groan, the voice sounding so familiar, “Wha…” I say. I open my eyes, and I sit up in the chair. I’m back in the mansion, back in my old room. The hardwood floors, the computer setup at the far side of the room, a lamp sitting behind a chair, and sitting in that chair is… my father.
“Took you long enough.” He tells me.
I look at him, and I feel scared. In my mind, I feel like he’s alive. I know, I know, ‘You should know it’s a dream!’ I can’t. If you’re dreaming, you can’t tell until you wake up.
“Hey, Dad.” I say, “I’m sorry for sleeping in.”
“It doesn’t matter, I’ve been needing to have this talk with you.”
He stays sitting away from me, distant and shifting into spheres of black and white, becoming abstract in my head because, as time goes, the faces slowly fade out.
“You’ve been doing the origami business for a while now.” He says, “Frankly, it’s childish. Aren’t you a little too old to be playing with paper dolls?”
This was what always got me about people that didn’t understand the whole “Origami Business”. It wasn’t like we were playing pretend. It wasn’t like we believed a puppet was speaking to us, or that we were just crazy. These puppets were representations of us. We didn’t thumb wrestle, or anything. At least, I don’t think we did. At Kane, we didn’t… I can’t say the same about Lampert, or Donner, or even Wheeler here.
“I don’t know, Dad. I’ve been having fun.” I lied.
“You’re lying to me. Son, I love you, and I’ve been proud of the endeavors you’ve been doing, but you need to drop the puppetry. I tell you what— it’s time for you to take over the company.”
The company. Citizen Wade’s Soup and Meats. It was meant to be my empire when it came time, and I knew Dad was right. But I wasn’t ready, I was a teenager.
“I know what you’re thinking.” He said, “‘I’m a teenager. I shouldn’t have that responsibility yet.’ Son. You are a Wade. You’re not just any teenager. You’re our son.”
“He’s right, Master Wade.” Danny said. That was when the whole dream started to fall apart. Danny never called me that anymore. He calls me Alan.
“I’m dreaming.” I said.
“… What?” Danny asked, but his voice came out as my father’s.
“I’m dreaming. You don’t call me that anymore.” I looked at my lap. Moon White-Out sat there. I started to sweat, and then I woke up. Either I am Alan Wade, the billionaire Soup restaurant owner, or I am Alan Wade, the Batfold… Or I’m Alan Wade… The Moon White-Out.
Maybe I’m Alan Wade, the kid who just wants one good night of sleep.
A Shadow of the Knight to Come
I stare at myself in the fogged up mirror. Taking a rag, I wipe away the fog to reveal who I am; Alan Wade, the kid with the most messy, patchy beard known to man. Small areas of the beard have turned light-gray, either because of stress or because of age (though being seventeen with a gray beard shouldn’t happen). I am also sopping. Head to toe I am covered with water after showering and cleaning myself, and I knew it was time for a change. While I couldn’t get a haircut this morning, the least I could do was get rid of this awful, ugly, ecosystem growing upon my chin and somewhat above my lip.
‘First, you apply shaving cream.’ Dad told me once, over a year ago, ‘Carefully massaging it in, you make sure you have an equal layer across your face.’
‘Next, fill your sink up with hot water. Your mother doesn’t like it, but I love seeing all the progress when I am finished, so that I can wash it all down the drain. Take that razor, and soak it in there for a minute, before shaving your face.’
My blade makes the water turn foggy from old shaving cream. I then move it to my face, and I move it in a downward motion, starting from the cheeks, then to the left of my neck— GAH!
In the white of the shaving cream comes the deep, oh-so-familiar shade of red, streaking down my neck. The sharp pain is temporary for now, and it isn’t worth applying a patch to. It’s thanks to how much hair I’ve grown, and the lack of proper grooming that this happens.
I stare at it in the mirror. The fact that I’m bleeding.
Even as I move through the rest of my face, getting rid of the sad excuse of a mustache, and avoiding my lips at all costs, my neck continues to leak blood.
It’s not like I slit my own throat. A Gillette Razor won’t kill a man.
‘Get the excess off first with hot water, and then follow it up with cold. Rid yourself of any impurity.’
But that’s the thing, dad. I am bleeding from myself. I am the one that was impure. I am the one that’s messed up. But I take the hot water and put it on the rag, washing my face off, and then I take the cold and I close up the pores.
‘This is the part I like the most.’ Dad said sarcastically.
‘What is it?’ I asked. He stayed silent, ‘Dad, what’s the part that you like the most?’
Then, I felt the burning sensation on my face, much like I did over a year ago. The aftershave, the pure alcohol upon my skin, burning away infection and wounds. My bleeding doesn’t cauterize, but my neck burns worse and worse as I rub the aftershave on. I don’t scream like I’m Kevin in Home Alone, but I do flinch as I feel it drying my face out.
After a few minutes, I apply lotion to my face, making me look as perfect as ever. But myself, due to my mistakes… they can’t be shaved off.
Wheeler classes are so complex. It might be the advanced program playing with me, or it might be how everyone around me seems to just be better at everything than me, but there’s something about Wheeler’s classes that make it hard to catch up with and learn. I like the challenge, though.
Gar sits next to me in this class, and he seems to take it really easily. I’m not sure if he is just putting on a face or what, but he seemed to treat this stuff like a game. As the teacher taught pre-calculus, he took his notes, and then played whatever the newest game was on his laptop. One minute, it’s solitaire, the next was Snake. When Gar and Kev saw me this morning, they really vibed with the cleaned-up look for me, “You look like Jeromè without the, yknow, blonde hair.” Gar told me during Pre-Calc today.
“Jeromè. He’s the weird kid up front.” He pointed towards the front of the class, where Jeromè sat. When he did, Jeromè looked back at us, and I saw the spitting image of myself, except for, well, the fact his hair was blonde.
“He can’t be that weird.” I said.
“Oh, he’s weird. Like… I don’t know how else to say this, but he’s just… he’s been through a lot, and because of it he’s weird.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“He lost his parents a while back— oh.” Gar said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that.”
“I know you didn’t, but it’s… It’s kind of true, I guess. We become different, not weird. I’m going to go have a talk with him.”
It was a group activity, and I got up to walk to the front of the class. Gar tried stopping me, but I continued walking forward. Moon White-Out sits in my chest pocket. As I walk up to Jeromè, I get a better view of his button-up shirt.Similar to my Black and White Hawaiian shirt (The white Pineapples are so cool…), his long-sleeve white button-up contained black moons all over it.
“Hey, I’m Alan.” I said. Jeromè looked up at me, and I could see the familiar face of Oh my gosh. I’m looking in a mirror. A mirror that used L’Oreal Paris. And then, his eyes shifted to my shirt pocket.
“Moon Knight…?” He said.
“What?” I asked. I looked down at my hooded puppet, and I realized how bad I wanted to change it to the suit look, just because of how iconic, yet simple it was, “Oh, this thing? Yeah. It’s Moon Knight. Me and my friends Gar and Kev call it the ‘Moon White-Out.’”
“I’m supposed to be Moon Knight.” Jeromè said. I see where this is going. It never happened at Kane, but I was kind of starting to figure out that Wheeler was really different, even down to it’s tone, from Kane high school.
“Oh, well, we could both be Moon Knight. I mean, like, we are almost adults. We can share.”
“It’s just, I don’t know how to fold, so, like… I was supposed to be Moon Knight.”
“Listen, do you want to be group partners on this?” I asked.
“No, because you took the Moon Knight role before I got to.”
Bewilderment overcame me in this moment, “I’m sorry, I mean, I could just give you—”
“I don’t want your puppet. I was supposed to be Moon Knight. You took the only idea I had.”
“Listen, Jeromè. We’re not so different, I think we can be great—”
“It’s best if you leave, thief.” He says, “You just made an enemy…”
I raised my hands in defeat and turned away from him, going back to my seat next to Gar.
“So, did it work out?” He asked.
“No, man. He got jealous that I had M.W.O.”
“Welcome to Wheeler, where everyone wants a character, and everyone hates it when that character is stolen.”
“Dude… Kane had 1960s Batfold. We shared.”
“Yep… Not gonna cut it here, unless you’re one of the many, many, many Spider-Folds. Everyone wants to take a crack at being him.”
I couldn’t get out of my head the fact that Jeromè didn’t want to be my friend simply for the puppet on my finger. But it was for such a totally dumb, absurd reason. I could understand him having it first, heck, I could even understand… No, y’know what? I couldn’t understand anything about this.
This was a dumb, cliche idea, that I didn’t want anything to have a part of. It wasn’t some grander scheme against me. I wasn’t dealing with a Court of Origami Owls, I wasn’t dealing with Jokers and Banes, nor was I stuck in Washington DC, screwing over my friends and fighting a “Legion of Plume.” This was a child, wanting to hold onto child-like crap.
So, I took the Moon White-Out puppet, and I placed him in my pocket.
“… Anywho, me and Kev are going to the roller rink this weekend. Wanna come with?” Gar asked, seeing that I was clearly peeved.
“Who’ll be there?”
“Just me, him, and his girlfriend Cassidy.”
A girlfriend. I didn’t know Kev had a girlfriend. Or maybe I did; maybe he mentioned it. I felt myself breathing a bit heavier, and then I looked at him, smiling, “Y’know what? Sure. I’ll be there tomorrow. Count me in.”
Gar did this funny little celebration dance, and I smiled a bit.
The Trippy Dream
I am in a dream.
Sometimes, you know something is a dream without knowing you’re in a dream. If you know you’re in a dream while knowing it, you can wake up from it.
Tonight was different. I knew, due to the absurdity of it, that I was dreaming. But I could not escape it. At all.
Dave and Busters in Jutefruce, California, always had a distinct smell to it. The wafts of fatty foods, running kids, and annoyed teenage workers who didn’t know what deodorant was always signified we were in a place of fun, joy, and… future stomach pains. She sits across from me, Madalyn.
Madalyn here has her fluffy curly hair, this time done up in a messy ponytail. She is wearing a hoodie I bought her, and leggings. We sit up on higher chairs than usual, our legs unable to touch the floor. Mozzarella sticks sit between us. Madalyn is holding the side of her face, looking upset.
“What is it?” I ask, looking at myself from the third person. Off-camera, she says “I’m fine, I’m just… thinking.” Which was, for the most part, a good thing. Her thinking usually led to good ideas, like breaking up because I’ve been extremely hard on myself, her, and others, or going to a new movie. There’s… There’s only been two times when she said she was thinking.
“About…?” I asked, still seeing myself in the third person.
“Well, you have just so much to balance, Alan.” I’m still unable to see her.
“You’re right. I mean, I’m Batfold,” a puppet appears behind me, “future CEO,” a representation of wealth… shifting between money, houses, and the company’s logo, “leader of the Justice Pleats,” the JP logo appeared behind me, and as I continued, more representations of my responsibilities appeared behind me, until everything in my shot was covering my side. Then it cuts to Madalyn.
Madalyn is gone. The table now has two extra chairs, so there’s one to the right of me, one to the left, and one in front. In front of me sits Bruce Wayne. His black hair combed to the side, dressed in a suit and tie. To the left of him is Batman, who’s cape clips through his chair and longly flows onto the floor of Dave and Buster’s. His pointed cowl and long scowl makes me nervous. To his right (or my left) is Marc Spector, the Moon Knight. He also sits in a suit, completely white. He also wears a totally white mask, and his eyes glow a yellow-ish white hue. They all look at me.
“Your responsibilities are going to kill you, Alan.” Bruce tells me, “I mean, I’ve had to balance so much in my life. You do too. But you can’t be a superhero. You can’t.”
“The rich guy is right,” Moon Knight states, “You can’t fly, and you can’t buy cool gadgets. You’re just a kid.”
“I feel your grief, kid.” Batman says, looking now directly into my soul, “I know what you’re going through. We all do. Sometimes, though, the cross is not yours to bear.”
“But… sometimes, if you feel the duty, you can pick the cross up and continue forward.” Bruce reminded Batman, “This wasn’t your fault. A poisoning of your parents, through pure accident, is not your fault. You didn’t put the poison in there. It just came by some bad meat, a bad luck of the draw. You shouldn’t be blaming yourself for that, but you also… you also shouldn’t be using it as an excuse to watch your friends. You don’t need to be a superhero, sometimes, you can just be a good person.”
“Or push people away.” Moon Knight said.
“Or hurt others… don’t do that.” Batman told me.
“Go ahead, Alan. Wake up, wash your face, and go out with friends. Hold onto them. By the way our lives work, those people are so few and far between.”
“Trauma can do that to a person.” Moon Knight laughed.
“So hold on to those people, because they’re good. They love you because of who you are, and you don’t need to justify yourself.” Batman said.
“Anyways, we’re sorry for hijacking the dream. Your alarm is about to go off in three… two…”
And then I shot awake, and the alarm went off shortly after. It felt weird to see fictional characters in my dream. It felt weird to hear from them what I’ve been needing to hear for like, forever.
After The Roller Rink
Besides the hilarious falling that occurred between me, Cassidy, Kev, and Gar (and the funny moment when me and Gar collided, making us fall on our butts), nothing much really happened at the roller skating rink that was important. It was the trip to Madison Park, and our talk by the lake, that really stood out to me.
Kev can drive. He’s not good at it, his prosthetic leg tends to over or underestimate the pressure he puts on the pedal, but he can drive. I had never been to Madison Park; I didn’t even know it existed, to be honest. So when he parked, I got to bear witness to one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen. Sure, while central park exists, it’s in the middle of NYC, you look around and you can see the highrises in the distance. Madison Park, meanwhile, is somewhat on the outskirts of town. It has a trail around it, and a lake in the middle of the area, with a few docks for people to walk into. Cassidy took Kev’s hand and ran to a dock.
“Are… Are we following?” I asked Gar.
“Do we have a choice? Thank goodness I’m not third wheeling for once.” He said.
We all laid together on the dock, looking up at the stars. Cassidy didn’t say much to me or Gar, but she held Kev’s hand. Kev looked at Gar.
“Y’know, bro, we’re going to be seniors next year, and then after that… college.” Kev said. Gar laid still for a bit, and then he looked over at him.
“I know, dude. Let’s just enjoy the now.”
“It’s just… it’s a little nerve wracking. Has your parents made you shadow any colleges yet?”
“One or two.” Gar said.
“I know where I’m going.” Cassidy chimed in, “I’m worried, but it’s nice to… y’know, know.”
They started talking about college, about their fears, about their excitement, and I sat there, listening. These were people that have known one another for a while, years, and I just… was there, a side character in their own story.
This realization didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Maybe if I were me a few years back, I’d be so angry to realize I wasn’t the main character of everyone’s life. But what got to me was the fact that these people had lives outside of me, outside of what we’re doing here, and each one of them had their own thoughts running through their heads that I would never get to know. I look at the stars, and I see that each one of them is like their own person; so far apart, but if you wanted to, you could connect them and make shapes, interpersonal families. Even Danny lived a life while I wasn’t there. CJ, Christopher, Emily, Madalyn…
Cassidy and Kev are cute. They’re very sweet to one another, and they always communicate about boundaries, and what’s bothering them. It’s never “I’m just thinking…” they just tell. It’s very refreshing to see it, and I love it, but I can’t help but miss, and wish, that Madalyn would want to try it again. But I haven’t heard from her in a while now — over a year in fact. It makes me kind of sad to think about.
“What?” I just realized they were trying to speak to me, “I’m sorry guys, I was just… kind of lost in my own thoughts.”
“What about you? Are you planning on going to college?” Gar asked.
“Probably. I have to take over my family’s company, I feel that obligation.”
“Do you ever miss it? California? Home?” Cassidy asked.
This question struck me. I was never asked that. The premise of missing a place is odd, because Home is not where the house is, it’s where the heart goes. Jutefruce and California are not my home, and as I thought more about it, neither was New York. Neither would Virginia, Tokyo, London…
But my brain goes back to Madalyn. And it goes back to Mom and Dad. It flows to CJ, and it visits the Justice Pleats briefly. That’s where my home is. But I’ve burned it down.
“I don’t know. I have done many things in my life that have led me to really, really disliking California, and Jutefruce. I’ve messed up so much in the last year and a half. I have been such a fool, I’ve made so many people upset. Those people… those people were my home, but I don’t see them anymore, I don’t hear from them. So I don’t have a home much anymore, and I’m building one here, but I can’t say I don’t miss my mansion that was Jutefruce’s people.”
“Alan,” Kev said, looking away from the stars for a bit, “You’re only human, man. If you think you belong in California, you should go back. Humans mess up. We are not meant to hide across the country, away from the problems at hand. You can stay here with us, but man… Man, you should really think about going back there, at least trying it again. Whatever you do, we’ll all love you anyway.”
I didn’t say anything. I was stunned. Not upset, but stunned; these were words of support, of encouragement. Of friends. And I hadn’t messed it up. We continued to lay there for a bit, maybe for an hour, just talking about life, the universe, and everything in between.
I didn’t want the night to end. I didn’t want this to stop, but I felt myself getting tired, and Kev wanted to take us all home.
He dropped Cassidy off first, then Gar, and as he pulled up to my dinky house in Madison, New York, he looked at me.
“We care about you, man. You’re a great person, even if you threw up all over a bathroom that now I’m too scared to use.”
I cracked a smile, “Thanks, man. These… These words mean a lot to me.”
“Trust me,” he said, “I know what people need to hear because there was a time when I wish someone would tell me those words.” He then laughed and lightly punched my shoulder, “Now scram so I can speed home!”
“Fine, fine, just drive carefully, man.”
Kev laughed, “‘Carefully.’ I have no other choice, Alan Wade. Have a good night.”
I walked inside, said hi to Danny, and quickly crashed onto my bed, falling into a deep… deep sleep.
For the first time in a long time, I finally had a good night’s sleep, and a good dream. It might not be one hundred percent true, heck, it might not even be one percent true, but it made me happy.
In the dream, I am stepping off the plane, Danny next to me and all of my luggage being carried, or… hovering. It’s just hovering in the air around us. People turn and look at me and Danny, and then I see Madalyn, and she’s clapping, happy that I’m coming home. As I wrap her into a hug, the others appear; Chris, Theresa, and… CJ. And they pat my shoulders, and even Richy is there, and I’m happy. They forgive me. Or I… I forgive myself.
“It’s okay to be you.” She whispers, “Because if you weren’t you, you wouldn’t be the person you’re supposed to be.”
These people in the dreams… they might be them, but they’re also me. They’re my mind, they’re the parts of myself that hate myself, and somehow… Through Gar and Kev, I finally love myself again. I like who I am, or I’m starting to finally get there.
Behind the group is my mom and dad, and Batman and Moon Knight, and I wake up at three AM, sweating. Not a cold sweat, just sweating. Sitting next to the puppet of Moon White-Out is my phone, and I quickly pick it up, because I… I don’t know who I want to call, or why.
But his name sits there, at the earliest part of the list; CJ. My finger hovers over the name, and I sigh, closing my eyes because I don’t know if I can handle doing it…
But then I tap it, and the phone buzzes, and buzzes.
It’s midnight at home. On a weekend.
He’s probably up.
And then it clicks, and it’s silent.
His voice, deeper now, comes through the phone, “…Hello?”
For a moment, I thought about hanging up. This might be a mistake, “Hey, CJ!”
I’m so scared. For a second, I am beyond terrified that he’ll hang up. That he didn’t want to hear my voice, and that I just made a massive blunder, but then I heard a sigh— a sigh of relief? A sigh of shame? “Hey, Alan.” No. It’s a sigh, followed by a smile.
“It’s… It’s been a while!” I said, “A long, long while. And, like, I’ve just been up in New York lately, and I was just chilling, and I wanted to, well, y’know. Reach out, and whatever.”
“It has been a while. I’ve been… Well, I’ve been protecting Kane for a while now.”
“Oh, as the CreaseWing?”
“Well… I was that for a bit, mainly at Marukami. Right now, though… right now, I’m… uh…” He kind of trailed off, “I know you probably didn’t want me to do this, and I’m sorry, but like, I’m the BatPen currently.”
“The… The ‘BatPen?’” I asked. I wasn’t upset; it made sense, but I was just… insanely confused that he came up with a better pun for the character, especially with his track record of puns for Robin.
“Yeah! I have my Robin, too. He’s a freshman, pretty young, pretty moldable… But Alan, this is the craziest thing to me: he’s just like you.” My anxiety starts to ring; is he about to say this kid is an awful, terrible person?
“He’s just… scared. He’s worried about messing up, and he’s… well, he loves Hawaiian shirts.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Man. I’ve been dealing with Marvel Origami over here.”
“Seriously?” He asked, “That’s insane. The whole continent away and you’re dealing with the opposite brand.”
“Heh… yeah. I made some friends here, but… but I’m not staying… I’m coming back this summer.” Then, it’s silent. “ — And I know I apologized in that gift I gave you, but something was just eating me up inside. I just… I was just in a bad place, CJ. I was scared, and hurting, and I pushed you and so, so many others away. I… I want to face everything and rise, I want to come back to Jutefruce; maybe not come back to Kane, but just be there, and I was wondering if we could… y’know — start bridging that gap we had?”
I thought the line went dead, “CJ?”
“I… I’m still here. I… listen, Alan. I just wanted to tell you that, after being in this position for a while, I know how you feel. I understand it. Wholeheartedly, I get it. Me and my Robin, we’ve faced crap, and I see how he gets nervous, and I understand it. I see you in him, and because I’m… y’know, doing what you were doing before, I see you in myself a little bit more right now. I can’t say I fully forgive you for what you did, but I am… I am certainly ready to be friends with you again. Or try it. Why aren’t you coming back to Kane?”
“… The Court of Origami Owls?”
I realized I sounded crazy, “Nevermind. It’s no big deal. Listen, you wanna play Fortnite sometime later?”
“Sure. Listen, Alan, it’s midnight, it’s getting late… I got to know, though: Who was Richy Wickinni?”
I forgot about him. Well, I didn’t forget, but he certainly took a backseat. I sighed, and I told him everything about Richy; from the new Robin recruitment process to the We are Robinigami group, and CJ listened to the entire thing.
“Maybe we should reach out to him when you come back.” He said, “I’d like to meet the famous Red Hoodie.”
“…Sure.” I said, but I was feeling so happy to finally have my first and oldest friend back, the kid who was like my little brother, “I’ll talk at you later, CJ.” I said.
“You too, bud.”
The phone call ended, and I thought I was dreaming as I drifted back into sleep, grinning ear-to-ear.
This Dream Isn’t Feeling Sweet
About a month has passed since my call with CJ and the Roller Rink night. I’ve been doing pretty well for myself as of late; I’ve been shaving, exercising, and feeling pretty nice for myself. Cassidy and Kev have invited me to third wheel on their trips, which I appreciated, but I didn’t want to take. Cassidy even tried setting me up with some of the popular girls on campus, but none of them were… like Madalyn.
And I know, it’s a stupid idea to think that way. Maybe no one will ever “be like Madalyn.” But I can’t… I can’t fathom anyone else. My grades have been on the up, and it seems like by the end of this quarter, I’ll be on the principal’s list.
I’ve been talking with Danny. We think that at the end of this school year, I should move back to Jutefruce, and then go to college at Nodel, so I could instantly take over the company and be right there after graduation.
I’ve totally forgotten about him, but I’ve redesigned the Moon White-Out puppet, to fit my newer, much better appearance. The talk with CJ made me realize that I should try and pick my head up, and to reflect that, the Moon White-Out puppet is in a dapper suit. Yeah, he still wears the mask but he’s dapper now. As things have chilled at Wheeler, kids just walk around with the puppets in their shirt pockets or sticking out of their backpacks. It’s a time of great peace, it seems. Gar told me there was some conflict a few months back about who should lead the “OrigAvengers”, but it doesn’t really mean much nowadays. It’s just somber for some of the seniors who are also OrigAvengers, because they’re graduating soon, and so the younger members are hyping them up, along with trying to support one another. There’s not much time for conflict with a random villain-of-the-week.
I carry Moon White-Out around with me nowadays, just to fit in. But today, when I was walking with Gar and Kev, an oh-so-familiar student stood at the end of the hall. His blonde hair, his collared shirt and his tie… he stood out like a sore thumb. Jeromè.
“If it isn’t my mirror.” He said. The crowded hallway was really loud.
I stared at him, “What?”
“‘If it isn’t my mirror…’” He repeated.
“Dude, I’m going to be honest. I cannot hear you, like, at all.”
He then yelled, “If it isn’t my mirror!” It made the entire hall silent, and I felt myself turn red with slight embarrassment, knowing people were staring at us now.
“Oh…” I said, “And if it isn’t… the guy that said no to working with me because I had a puppet he wanted.” I just really hated this concept. We literally could just coexist with our own version of the puppet, but no.
“I am Jeromè, and you took my puppet idea. Because of that, I’ve become…” He then brought out a dirty puppet, one that looked exactly the same as Gar’s original Moon White-Out puppet, except it had fangs… and looked like a mummy, “The Shadow White-Out!”
“Is… Is that really a character in the comics?” I asked.
“Seriously. A mummy version of Moon Knight, called The Shadow Knight.”
“He’s Marc Spector’s twin.”
I looked at Gar and Kev, who both shrugged, and I turned back to him, “So, what? You want a —”
“Thumb wrestle for the title of Moon White-Out!”
“Yep, figured as much. Got it.” This was really the first time I’ve had conflict as the Moon White-Out. My first enemy, my first foe. In the comics, Moon Knight is crazy. Seriously, he rips the face off of a dude and wears it. He has like, seven different personalities. He fights vampires one week and lands in a mental hospital the next. I figured that maybe, since this kid was so in character, I… I could be too.
So, I started to ramble.
“I am Moon White-Out,” I started, “And I do not care if you are my brother, my clone, or someone that looks like me with blonde hair, you must know that I can take you down in a heartbeat, with the power of my mind, and Khonshu, the Moon God whom I believe in… wholeheartedly?” I lied. Kev put his hand on my shoulder.
“Hey, bro. You’re sounding a bit weird.”
“I know.” I said, “I was… just trying a character out for a bit.”
“What did we tell you? Be yourself.”
That’s right. Be yourself, and conflict can be resolved, “We don’t need to do this, Jeromè.” I said. He paused, breathing a bit heavy, “We don’t.” I stressed.
“But, you took my puppet.” Jeromè sighed.
I walked closer to him, talking the whole time, “We’re not so different, man. Listen, I know I’ve only been here for a few months, but I know about what’s happened to you. Your family, how you feel like you’re alone. Trust me man, you’re not. You never were. People are here for you, resources are here for you. It’s not the puppet on your finger that makes the person, it’s their actions. It’s who they are, it’s how they speak to others. Jeromè… I know you’re scared. I was too. I was so scared, I made up plans for all of the people I thought of as friends, and how to stop them. I wrote up, after it was all said and done, their strengths. But I only focused on the weaknesses and things I could exploit at the time. There’s people here that are willing to be your friend.” I said.
Jeromè was starting to cry now as I approached him more. I brought him into a hug, “I know it’s tough.” I said, “But if you want to be the Moon White-Out, you can take the puppet in my pocket, and you can know that I’m here.”
Jeromè sighed, and the hallway went back to their regular business, as they were hoping for a fight, not a hug. Me and Jeromè talked a bit later, and I gave him my puppet, the dapper one. It fit him more anyways; not many people go to public schools in a shirt and tie.
Later on, after class I went back home, thinking about this exchange.
If you asked me a year ago how I’d react to a kid wanting to fight, I’d say I’d want to beat him in. I’d want to kick him where it hurts and tell him that he couldn’t be Moon White-Out. But I’ve gotten older, and with age, I’ve grown wiser. Dream Bruce Wayne was right, I don’t need to be a superhero. I can just be a good person.
I want to keep Jeromè in mind for the future. I want to reach out to him later on, see if he’d like to come help out with the business of the company, if he’s good with anything. I’d like to bring in people that I think need it into my future for Citizen Wade’s Soup and Meat.
… Danny was packing, and I wasn’t sure why.
He told me to help him out, and finally, when the essentials were packed (including my computer), he told me what was happening.
Apparently, during my walk home, in the course of mere minutes, school was cancelled for two weeks, as were some flights in the next few days.
“Alan,” He said, “We planned to go back at the end of the school year, but I hate to tell you this… we’re going to have to leave now. We don’t know how bad it’s going to get. We don’t know what’s going to happening, or if flights will be closed for months on end. I’m sorry, I know that this has to be tough on you.”
“Could I… could I see Kev and Gar one last time before we leave?” I asked.
Danny smiled, “Sure. Meet me here in an hour or so for the flight back to Jutefruce. First class, exactly how you like it.”
Kev and Gar were really happy that school was cancelled. We met back up at the park, and they were jumping around, throwing papers in the air, grinning with glee. “We’re out!” Kev said, “We’re out, we’re out we’re out! Me and Cassidy are gonna have so much fun, it’s gonna be so epic.”
“And we’ll get to hang out everyday!” Gar said.
“Guys…” I tried speaking up, but they continued celebrating.
“No crappy principal, no weird food, this whole Covid thing is AWESOME!” Kev yelled.
“Guys!” I spoke louder this time, they looked at me.
“Yeah?” Gar asked, “What’s up?”
“I hate to tell you all this, but… My butler wants to fly me back to Jutefruce now. That’s… That’s why I met up with you all here.”
Gar and Kev were silent for a bit. Kev looked down, and kicked with his prosthetic leg.
“But… don’t worry, I mean, I hope we can still stay in touch on Discord and stuff, besides; I can always fly down and see you two. I’m rich, remember?”
Gar laughed at this, but it was evident that I had suddenly killed the mood in a fast, swift motion.
Then, unexpectedly, they both wrapped me in a hug with them. “I promise to see both of you guys again.” I practically repeated. Gar then pulled us away.
“You better, dude. I’m planning on going to college in Cally anyways. The beach is calling my name…” The Black Penther said.
“Where are you looking?” I asked.
“Nodel University!” He said. I suddenly smiled ear-to-ear.
“For real?! That’s where I’m going!” I said, “Or, planning on going. We’re only juniors, after all.”
“Yeah.” Gar said, “But dude… y’know what that means, right?”
“ROOMMATES!!!” We all said.
“What about you, Kev?” I asked.
“Oh, probably going wherever Cassidy is going, but that means I can still see you guys during the summer and stuff, so we can have some awesome tomfoolery.” Kev said. We all looked at him for a moment, because something about going to the same place as your girlfriend just rang a “red flag” bell, but something else told me that he and Cassidy would do just fine.
We hugged one last time, and said our goodbyes. The Moon White-Out said his farewells to the Origami Vision and the Black Penther, and I boarded my plane and flew back to Jutefruce to the silent darkness of the city, hours later. My memories are still intact, memories I will never forget. I smile now, writing this, because I think my time at Wheeler, a much better, brighter school than Kane, had truly given me some of the lessons that that place would be unable to give me.
One Last Time
COVID-19 Has ravaged the world.
To be honest, it’s not been bad. It’s just that an entire summer has gone to waste, and I haven’t gotten to do anything special. I’ve gained a couple pounds, lost a couple more, and I’ve been keeping up with exercise, but man is Jutefruce dead. Nothing has happened since I’ve gotten back. My landing wasn’t marked by applause, it wasn’t even marked by booing and hisses, it was just quiet. CJ has been living in the mansion currently. His father said that he needs to keep socially distanced from us, but it’s only been a few months and it seems like it’s all gone now. We’re starting school without masks again, and we’re moving on from it without much of a hitch. Yeah, it sucks for the students who didn’t get a proper graduation, but we’ve luckily gone back to normal.
I was in a dream.
It was just brief flashes. From Mom and Dad, to their funeral, to my first night. It then jumped to me beating Conrad up, and the times with CJ in Novick, and the riot… Justice Pleats and the DC trip, and then the whole… the whole mess afterwards. It closed with me crying in front of the Court of Origami Owls, and me tearing up that Batfold puppet where I stood.
Afterwards, I did my morning routine. I looked at myself in the mirror, staring at the blemishes on my face and the now fuller beard. It’s so, so, so boring here. I hear from Kev and Gar, who are both preparing for their Senior year. We talk about college, and how excited we are for the future. Gar might be coming to stay with me while he visits Nodel. If we end up going there, we might room together.
I’ll admit, I’ve somewhat let myself go. But the times I’ve had with Gar and Kev are times I will not forget. They don’t know it, but they helped me out of a place I didn’t even know I was in; they brought me out, they helped me see that I was a person worthy of being happy, of being loved and appreciated. That yeah, I make mistakes, but the act of living with them, and seeking forgiveness is great for moving on. They may not have said it straight to me, but I certainly gotten it from them.
Sitting on my bedside, next to my earliest version of the Batfold puppet, is the Moon White-Out. Not my design with the suit, but Gar’s original, hooded design. My two worlds, both sides of the same moon.
It is an incredibly groggy, annoying morning. And then the doorbell rang, and my headache shot through my head.
“Who is it?” I asked.
It rang again. Maybe it was Danny, getting groceries and unable to open the door himself. I wore a loose Hawaiian shirt, making my belly stick out. Opening the door with the thought of Danny in my mind, I came face to face with someone I didn’t think I’d see.
“Alan Wade.” He said.
“Did… Did Madalyn put you up to this?”