The Journey Across Callio
WARNING: This story features adventure, fantasy, drama, angst, humor, gore, suggested sexual themes (both het and slash), and much more. You were warned.
This story was written as "bare bones" and posted. Therefore, later chapters have yet to be edited or added onto yet. I have been going back and editing, adding detail/scenes/dialog
Chapter One: Leaving Home
It's happening again. He stares, eyes transfixed as if rendered motionless by a spell while a faint, undulating line weaves its way along the bottom corner of the front door window.
"Tyler!" his mother calls, breaking his thoughts. He turns around on the porch and sees his mother next to the parked family van. "Tell your father I packed them already," she orders. Annoyance drips from her voice, and her worn and tired face, round glasses nearly falling off her nose, peers up at him. Her hard grey eyes meet his blue ones, and she quickly flashes him the look. Having been lost in his own mind, Tyler hadn't been listening to his parents' argument, and the look let him know that he now must quickly assess the situation before his mother makes a fuss over his lack of interest. He attempts a quick peek over at his dad, standing on the opposite side of their parked family van. His father is busy pulling on a strap in an effort to secure their luggage to the roof.
Tyler's delay causes his mother to tap her foot – a warning of her waning impatience. She crosses her arms across her chest to emphasize her impatience. Inwardly, Tyler determines that it wouldn't matter what he says now, but he knew better than to not answer at all. That would be much worse.
"Yeah, sure," he responds without much care.
She huffs as if surprised he had the gall to no even pretend he cared. She turns to her husband, an already graying-haired man of 38. She querulously yells, "He's not even listening!"
His father's brown eyes close as his chin drops to his chest as if in mental restraint, and then he flashes a pleading look towards the heavens above before he brings his attention to Tyler. His mother, knowing when she's being ignored, starts up again, yet his father speaks over her, his strong voice drowning her out her squeaky one. "Just go back inside and grab your sweater."
Tyler looks down to his plain t-shirt and jeans. The air around them is nearly stifling with heat and humidity. Ah, the good ole' south. Still, happy to be excused, Tyler turns toward their small two-story home; however, before he can pull the door open, his mother decides to chime in one more time.
"And grab the socks that I'm sure your father left behind."
Like his father before him, his eyes roll upwards as he drags his feet through the entryway into the cluttered home, and in the distance he can hear his parents arguing with one another as if the closed door would hide their voices.
'Sure, family vacation…why not?' he thinks with a bite of sarcasm. He maneuvers around boxes of stuff that his parents left by the door and heads for the narrow wooden staircase. He takes his time climbing the stairs, each step seems to echo his own mind as it groans under his weight. Their homes hasn't been remodeled like the other homes in his neighborhood as his parents combined income could scarcely afford to go out to eat let alone fix up the house. It had come as a complete surprise when they first told him a week ago that they would be going on vacation. Maybe his mom got a bonus or maybe another relative was paying for their travels.
Either way, he hopes his parents will surprise him and be happy for once when they are in a new place with new scenery and new things to do. "Maybe this will be good for everyone," he says to himself for the third time that day as he opens his bedroom door. Something negative pulls at his mind as he thinks this, but he pushes the thought away. His mind quickly repeats, 'good, good, good' as if willing for good things to happen. He groans, annoyed by his own mind. "Think something else," he tells himself.
His small room is unusually tidy for a teenage boy. His bed was already made up, a habit he had developed at an early age. His desk is organized with books and comics organized in alphabetical order, though he wasn't sure why he did that since his parents never asked for it. The walls, meanwhile, are bare except for a hanging shelf with equally organized books. One time, when relatives had visited, they had remarked how odd his room looked, especially compared to the rest of the house. He had shrugged then, just as he would shrug now if someone said something about it. After all, he just liked his things to be easily found since it saved time.
He spots his black hooded jacket hanging off the desk chair.
He isn't sure why they were taking a vacation so late into winter. He's going to miss school because of it, not that that entirely mattered. He isn't popular, so he won't be missed very much. However, he does not want to be stuck listening to his parents argue all while he still has homework to complete. He looks to the alarm clock by his bed and sees the miniature numbers flickering a faint green.
'Speaking of school…' he only had a few minutes before one of his classmate would come over with notes that Tyler had lent him. 'Guess I gotta hurry.' Quickly, he grabs his jacket off the chair and heads towards his parents room.
While equally bare, the few items that are present, like the TV remote, magazines, and extra pillows, are littered across the floor. He sighs and picks up a few things, tossing them to the bed, where he discovers his dad's socks truly had been left, but so, too, was his mom's makeup bag. Not surprised in the slightest, he grabs the items.
Something catches his eye as he moves to leave the room. His parents have floor length mirror panels running across the left side of their room, and it was his reflection that gave him pause. He ruffles his dark hair as he looks himself over in the one farthest from the entryway.
He wonders if he looks fine. He would never describe himself as handsome, though he doesn't think he is too horrible looking either. His face a little narrow, cheeks high, a classic "European" look as his mother told him. His body is a little too thin, as always, but there is nothing he can do about that as his father is equally as thin. His skin might be on the lighter side, but that wasn't unusual considering a lot of people his age were pale even in the sunny south where it never snows. His clothes may have come from the local used shop instead of the nice mall downtown, but they fit well on him. His shoes are actually new, though nothing to brag about, not that he cared to brag. He shrugs at his clothing and checks his teeth, which are mostly straight. He supposes they look fine as well, and after a moment of staring into his icy eyes, he hurries back down the stairs before his parents come looking for him.
Stepping back onto the porch, he sees his classmate Jared jogging up the sidewalk from the left-hand side. Immediately, he casts a glance to his parents on the driveway below. They, taking notice of the visitor, quiet down immediately for fear the teenager might think ill of them. He hears his mother grunt to his father's last request, and she steps up onto his porch to get the items Tyler had retrieved. "Thanks," she says softly, feeling just a tinge ashamed. Tyler, wanting her to know she was just as wrong as his dad, holds up the forgotten socks and makeup bag. Upon sight of the bag in his hands, her thin lips form a small circle before she takes and hides it under her cardigan in hopes his father won't see her mistake. 'She never learns.'
Tyler doesn't bother watching her make her way back to the car, where he knew she would stash it someplace his father wouldn't think to touch. Instead, his attention turns to Jared, who breathily climbs the stairs to his home. Inwardly, Tyler notes the irony of Jared's clothing choice since he consistently wears basketball shorts, sneakers, and a sweat-resistance shirt, though the other boy is a bit pudgy and certainly never took to running in gym class. Honestly, they must have been gifts, expensive ones at that. He knew what that felt like as most of his clothes were hand-me downs not usually hand-picked by him from any decent store. 'Gotta wear what you have, I guess.' He remains thankful that all his clothes were simple shirts and jeans.
Tyler smiles at Jared, who does not offer one in return but quickly hands out the notebook.
"Hey, man. Thanks for letting me borrow these."
Being one of relatively decent grades and a habit of constant note-taking Tyler is used to other kids in his class asking for his notes or advice on studying. "Yeah, no problem," he says with a shrug. "What did the teacher say?" He inquires in reference to a request he had asked in return for borrowing the notes.
Jared holds his finger up as he quotes. "'Cover chapter twelve and thirteen'." He drops his finger. "I'd do fourteen to be safe." He wipes sweat from his dark brow. "Man, I hate not having my car anymore. It's not fair. I've gotten straight A's for the past two years."
He recalls an earlier conversation he had with Jared, where the poor kid had his car taken away after he got a C on a test. "I thought they were going to give it back to you before Winter Break."
"They're too worried, what with that one kid."
Tyler's eyebrows weave together in confusion. "What kid?"
"Didn't you hear? Another one sent to jail for trying to have his own band."
Tyler crosses his arms as his mind races. His parents were constantly reminding him that something like that could happen to him as well.
"No, I didn't hear about that," he says solemnly.
"Jeremey Collins. I think he's two years older than us but he didn't get to graduate with the rest, got held back, and my parents are thinking that if I have my car then I might get into trouble like him. Seriously, though, do my parents even know me? I never cared about music. I just want to get into college and get my hospitality degree," Jared rambles, frustration and annoyance causing his voice to drag.
Tyler's mind searches for where he had heard that name, and an image pops up. Senior Jeremey with a bowl haircut. "Huh, yeah, I remember him."
The other boy waves it off. "Yeah, yeah. Doesn't really matter though." Jared looks to the family van. "Eh, what are you guys doing?"
"Uh…yeah." He says, though Tyler knows the boy doesn't remember at all. "Well, cool, I guess. I'm gonna go."
"See ya," Tyler calls after him, but the boy doesn't stop to say bye. He hurries on off the porch and across the driveway. Tyler drops his arms.
The Law claimed another one.
Tyler grits his teeth together as he thinks about it. Third one this school year. Ever since the government outlawed nearly all creativity and expression, everyone was encouraged to pursue 'meaningful' activities. Children were taught to concentrate in science and math or perhaps an athletic skill. Literacy is 100 percent, and the amount of college students had more than doubled in the past couple of years, which was a good improvement. The economy is thriving as jobs in the medical, research, and marketing field boom. New, helpful inventions are being made all the time. Everyone wants to have the latest and greatest technology, so working towards high-paying jobs was a must. However, all of these good things came at a price.
Printing for most fiction had stopped. Music and art classes were taken out of the school curriculum. Artists were told that they could no longer sell their work, and musicians were made to halt any progress. They were allowed to play classics, for classics stimulated the brain, but little more than that. Whatever art galleries still existed featured pre-approved paintings typically from before the year 1800. Famous movie stars had to stop playing fanciful rolls and instead switch to reenact events in history or some other "useful" thing that could be used to teach students.
Things weren't always this way. When Tyler's parents were young, BTL (Before The Law), kids could do anything they wanted. They could start a band, go roller blading, go to the arcade and pig out on candy. Now their heads were constantly stuffed with monotonous voices droning information while their bodies munched on tasteless health foods. Everyone struggled to stay in shape and to stay under the radar since no one wanted to be picked up by the police for being foolish enough to do something outside-the-box. It just wasn't trendy to be unique, artsy, or creative anymore unless it pertained to advancing science. It made sense to be realistic, logical, dull.
He sighs. It's just another reason why he never bothered to tell Jared, or any of his so-called 'friends' about what had been happening to him. They wouldn't understand.
Or maybe, on second thought, they did know that something was wrong with him. They simply couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was, though. They knew he enjoyed odd things as a child, and they knew his parents weren't quite up to par as model citizens. As a consequence, none of the other kids really stayed to speak with him for very long. None of them really invited him to do anything, not that he really cared to do the things that they did. He lives as a loner, though not completely by choice. If he opened up and confided in people, he was sure to wind up in jail or a mental health facility. After all, his own mother didn't believe him when he first told her, too. She chalked it up to stress from his advanced classes, but he knew it was deeper than that. And so he couldn't tell anyone, and he had no choice but to be a loner.
This left him virtually friendless and the rare occurrences of socialization were essentially limited to brief instances like this one with Jared.
"Just hand me the map!" he hears his father yell. The sound forces Tyler to tune into what is transpiring below him. His mother and father were standing on opposite sides of the car with both the driver and passenger side door open. Through the open doors they were fussing at each other.
"I told you it wasn't in the glove box," she says as she defiantly holds the map away from Tyler's father.
"Maryann, I swear…" his father's voice trails off, and Tyler, sensing his father is about to reach his limit, rushes over to help break the tension.
"Is there anything else I can do?" he offers.
His mother, angrily staring at his father, shoves the map into Tyler's hand. "Here, hand your father the map." She grumbles and moves to get into the passenger seat. She slams the door shut behind her, which only makes his father more annoyed.
Yet before he says a word, Tyler walks around to the other side, hands over the map, and asks a question to disrupt them. "We should stop at that little diner you guys like, right?"
His father looks to him, and, knowing his son is trying to break the tension, he decides to swallow whatever he was about to say. He calmly looks over the map and then gets inside the car.
Tyler briefly wonders if parents that could afford GPS were as easily angered as his parents, a sentiment that he had spent a lot of time wandering about when he was younger. He shakes the thought and jogs around to the back because the left side door doesn't open.
His mom rolls her window down and sticks her hand out. "Goodbye home. Not un-happy to leave for a bit!" she says to their cluttered home, her voice drawing Tyler's eye to the house as he grabs for the car door handle. A feeling rises in the pit of his stomach: dread. He had the same negative thought earlier but had shaken it away. It was coming in full force now, this unsettling feeling that's gnawing away at his insides. He takes a deep breath as he wills for the thoughts to vanish.
Slowly, he climbs into the car and settles in for a long ride. He puts his earbuds in, connecting it to an old music player, when his parents begin their regular chat on where to stop to stretch their legs and eat. He doesn't care to listen because he had made his suggestion already, so it was up to them on whether or not they listened. So, he watches silently as they slowly pull away from the curb and their house.
As they turn out of view, something whispers to him, 'you will never see your home again.' He closes his eyes tight and prays that for the first time in his life, he will be wrong.