I stared at the screen, as it stared back at me.
My name is Dylan Bell and I am... well, just a normal kid. I was born not here, but far away. A place that’s destroyed, a place that’s forgotten, a place treated like taboo. Even just saying the name of the destroyed country of America will get you shunned, the New World is just like that; The government tried to change it, said that there was nothing wrong with it, but even the Supreme Leader can't force other kids to stop. Nobody could.
I lived in a small two-story house in a small town, a place forgotten throughout the vast country. Though only twenty minutes from the capital, it wasn't big enough to be recognized. Here, it was a combination of death and chaos.
--Dylan Bell’s house in True Korea--
”Dylan! Be ready for school!”
"Dylan, come on! You have five minutes!"
I stomped down the stairs, my black backpack slung over my shoulder. My brown hat sat upon my long messy black hair and I wore a simple light red hoodie and dark blue sweatpants. It was a simple outfit, something to wear if you truly didn't care.
To be honest, at this point, I didn't.
The downstairs was small; consisting of a small room in the corner with brown shag carpeting, a small tv and an old black couch. The kitchen was small, consisting of several old moldy counters and a wooden dinner table in the middle. My mother stood next to the dinner table with a frown on her face as usual. She was drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, but I could see she had different intentions rather than just saying bye before I left for school.
”Sweetie, you need to stop wearing that hat to school. It doesn’t look nice.”
”My friend wears a hat to school, so why can’t I?”
”Not to be rude... but he’s a bit weird. You’ve never been over to his house?”
”No... but I’ve seen his dad pick him up. I don’t see anything wrong with him.”
”Look, I don’t want my son copying a kid you barely even know. That boy is nothing but trouble. Take the hat off.”
I threw the hat down on the table, giving my mother the death stare at the same time. The reason I wore the hat wasn't to copy him, it was to hide myself. I was shunned for being different there, and wearing the hat kept me hidden.
”Fine. Can I go now?”
My mother nodded. I groaned and walked irritably out the door - she truly was a bother sometimes.
But sometimes, she was also right.
The walk to school was long; Our family didn't own a car and the bus didn't come this way, so I was forced to walk. Each step I took down the sidewalk felt threatening, like I was being watched. I took a look to the sides every few feet but didn't see anything. Bushes, trees, roads - nothing abnormal. But I always felt like I was being watched, though I didn't know by who.
But I saw it when I approached the building. Right outside the school were a few kids, sitting out front glaring at me from across the street. I walked past them, but as I came through the front door they followed.
"Get the hell over here you piece of shit!"
"Listen or I'll stab you!"
I ignored it, continuing to walk towards my class. One of them grabbed my arm, shoving me against the wall. None of the other students or teachers cared, they let it happen. Even the ones that did show concern, they couldn't act.
--West Ridge Academy--
The sky was a depressing grey, the clouds plain white. The grass was lacking a nice shade of green and even the breeze was a bit chilly. The large brick school sat at the end of the road, cars waiting outside to pick up kids. School was finally over, and I’d be able to go home and do whatever. At least that was my plan at first.
All I wanted to do was sit down and die, but I didn’t get that choice. Instead, I was forced back into my seat until the bell rung. I didn't cry, didn't scream, I just put my head down and hid my face in the wooden desk. But as soon as I stepped out of the classroom, my afternoon and the rest of my life changed. I came out into the hall, the floor shiny white marble and the walls a fancy spruce wood. It looked like a rich private school, but it was, in fact, a corrupt prison of despair.
”Hey kid, get over here.”
It was James, the guy known around the school as the dealer. Not just of drugs, but of everything: Weapons, contraband, anything legal or illegal. As long as it wasn't American, he could get it for you.
”What do you want James?”
"You promised me money for the purchase you made last week."
"I don't have it on me. I can get it on Monday."
But I made a mistake putting my wallet in the visible side pocket of my backpack.
"Bullshit! I can see your wallet right there! Now give me the money you little shit!"
He grabbed me by the arm and I broke away, stepping out of reach. He stopped leaning against the wall and lunged at me, attempting to grab my backpack. He gripped my strap, but I attempted to break away.
”STOP!” he shouted as he tried to take me down.
I hit the floor, my bag’s contents spilling out. He went for my wallet and I slapped it out of his hand, money spilling out. Before he could do anything else, I grabbed the wallet and my bag, running towards the exit. James scooped up the money I had dropped and ran towards me, attempting to take the rest.
From behind a door, a voice spoke, ”stop it, now!”
The bathroom door slowly creaked open, a boy stepping out. He wore a brown jacket and blue jeans, and brown hat covering his face.
James scoffed, ”what the hell do you want?”
”For you to back off. Now get outta here and go back to your shithole of a home before I shove your ass into the pit Damon dug outside!” the boy in the brown hat shouted back.
"What are you gonna do? Oooo you have a hat, so scary! You ain't nothing but some emo loser with no friends! Weak little-"
Before he could finish his sentence the boy leaped forward, grabbing James by the arm and putting him in a headlock. He then revealed a large silver knife from his sleeve, pointing it towards his neck - "back.... off."
He broke away from James and stepped backwards, letting him go. James scoffed and walked off, half of my money currently still in his pocket. The boy then turned to me, picking up a dropped folder from my bag and handing it back to me.
”He take anything?”
”Just a bit of cash. Nothing much.”
”Hey, I know how much your family is pressed for money. I’ll get it back after school, okay?” He said with a hand on my back.
“Thank you... really.”
”No problem. I have a lot of sins to make up for.”
He walked off, leaving me alone. I didn't know what sins he had, what he even meant. All I knew is that I would find out - eventually.
Half of my money was gone and my mom expected dinner on the table tonight. Of course, we still had the usual frozen stuff, but tonight she gave me her savings and told me to get something good. I didn’t have enough for the really good stuff, but I did have enough for something other than TV dinners.
I strolled down the street, staring out into the road as cars drove past. I stopped for a second, staring down at the wads of money in my hand. I then looked back up at the road, at the cars speeding past, and for a second I considered something dark. I could end it all. Right here, and right now.
I took a single step forward towards the road, but as soon as my foot hit the dark pavement, a voice came from behind.
"Uh excuse me, are you looking for somewhere sir?"
I turned around to see a man behind me, looking at me with interest. He had pale skin and thick glasses, wearing a dark suit and black pants. A simple red tied pulled off the sophisticated look, and it was nice to see someone who actually spoke English for once.
"Um... yeah just uh... buying groceries for my family," I told him as I stepped away from the road, facing the man nervously.
He smiled, "oh okay then. I thought you were looking a little lost."
"Well I am wondering where the StuffMart is. Haven't been downtown in awhile," I told him, trying to avoid eye contact.
He pointed down the sidewalk, "around the corner, past the game store and between the dress shop and cafe."
I smiled and nodded to him, "thank you," before walking off down the street. A small smile was left on my face, and the dark thoughts I had before left my mind.
As I passed approached the StuffMart, I saw a shining sparkle from the store across the street. It was the gaming store, and as I approached it, the sparkle came into view. It was a black and blue visor sitting in the window display, a small case sitting next to it. The glass in the visor was blue and the plastic full black, a golden emblem sitting on the top. On the bottom was the name of the product, written in gold. Next to that sat a game case, a large metal dragon drawn on the cover.
”Ah I see you’re interested.”
I turned my head, seeing the same man eyeing the window. I was a bit confused on how he had gotten here, since I didn't think I had been followed, but I continued the conversation.
“Yeah... what is it?”
”It’s a VR MMORPG. Have you you played an online game before?"
”Uh no. What is it?"
”A multi massive online role-playing game. A large world full of weapons, quests, bosses and anything your heart desires. It appeals to people of different genres by having two different worlds, Sci-fi and Fantasy. At the moment it’s on a special with the VR headset: the 5Vision.”
I looked through the window and saw it - the console. It stood right on the shelf, the price staring into my eyes. I could afford it, but I wouldn't be able to get the food she expected me to get. Most likely my mother would scold me and ground me for a week before attempting to find out where I bought this so she could return it. But I probably had enough left over for the usual cheap quality food we had and to be honest I enjoyed the smiley face fries and dinosaur chicken nuggets. I finally made my decision,
”I’ll take it."
--Dylan Bells' House--
I arrived home several hours later after devising a plan. I got the usual food we got; it was cheap but filling, and instead of taking it into the same package, I put it into the package of the 5-Star quality food. Hopefully, that'd fool my mother...
My mother opened the door as I knocked, looking at me with a dirty look on her face. "Where have you been?! It's been three hours since school got out and you haven't even texted me!" she said angrily.
"Sorry, there was a delay on getting the food. Sochun was working today," I lied. Sochun was a guy who worked at the Stuff-Mart on certain days and was basically the most racist person you'd ever meet.
I handed her the plastic bag and she took it, walking back inside. I followed her as she began to take everything out of the bags, placing them on the counter.
"Were you with the boy?"
"Your friend. The bad one with the hat."
My Mother and I looked to the side to see a girl walk out of her room, another girl right behind her. My sister Chloe. She wore her school uniform: a black skirt with a white sweater vest. Her skin was a bit pale and her eyes were basic brown like mine, her deep blonde hair coming down just below her shoulders. Her school emblem was stitched to the shirt though her hair covered it.
Behind her was her best friend Naomi who looked fairly similar. She had shoulder length brown hair though in a slightly messier style than my high-class sister. She was wearing the same school uniform except she had a pale yellow vest instead of a white one.
"Mother!" Chloe exclaimed, "Can you stop for just a day! There is nothing wrong with him! I've met him and at the most he's simply just secretive! He doesn't have to explain his life story for you to like him!"
She scoffed and walked back over the counter, continuing to unpack the food, "Dinner will be at nine, be down then."
I nodded and walked towards the stairs, dropping my backpack next to the door and picking my hat off the coatrack. But as I slipped it on, I noticed Chloe and Naomi were following. They followed me into my room and I quickly closed the door behind them.
"What do you want?" I asked them both. I didn't need them here now...
"You lied," Chloe said simply.
When she spoke it stopped my path to the window. I turned around to face them, noticing a smirk on Chloe's face. My expression told the truth.
"How do you know?" I asked her.
"Because I was talking to him a few minutes ago. He's been home since school let out," said Chloe as she pulled out her phone, "so why were you late?"
I stopped and took a deep breath. Hopefully, she wouldn't tell mom, though anything could happen. But at this point I had to show her... Slowly, I approached the glass window next to my desk. I pulled open the blinds, revealing a cardboard box sitting on the windowsill. I unlocked and slid open the window, grabbing the box and pulling it inside.
Chloe and Naomi watched in awe as I dropped it on the bed, the box's contents trapped inside with thick clear tape.
"What did you buy?!" Naomi asked as she stared at the large package.
Naomi quickly rushed forward but I stopped her, attempting to rip off the tape. Chloe watched as I struggled to open the box and walked over to the desk. She handed me my butterfly knife which I quickly stabbed into the space between the tape and the box flap, cutting through it cleanly.
I opened it up to reveal a white visor encased in Styrofoam. Right under that was a game case, the words 'DragonLight Online' written in gold above the silver dragon.
"You bought the 5Vision?"
Naomi grabbed the visor from the box, looking it over a few times. She stared through the blue glass, admiring the invention. I snatched it from her and walked over to the laptop.
"I'm gonna set this up.... so you can go now."
dinner," said Chloe as she walked to the door.
I gave Chloe a thumbs up, and she left the room, Naomi followed her. I then turned the laptop which was installing the 5Vision software...
After several minutes, it was done, the information loaded into the device. The game was installed... and I was ready.
Slowly, I laid down on my bed, feeling decently comfortable. I then grasped the device and slowly lowered it down onto my face. I adjusted the small screw on the side to fit my face, staring through the blue glass. But I couldn't bring myself to press the enter button. Was I scared? A new experience, a new world... I shouldn't be scared, because of this place... it was a place where I can be myself, a place where I can't be shunned.
"Take me in."
I pressed my finger down on the enter button, the ceiling of my room disappearing and being replaced by... nothing. I could feel myself blacking out... going away...
Everything turned white, and there I saw it. Large text floating in the light.
Welcome New Player. Enter DragonLight Online?
I was here. My new home.