Chapter 1: Dreaming of Things Long Past
"Look at the pretty flowers Joshua. Aren't they beautiful? They're your mom's favorite, you know." I looked down at the flowers my father gestured to. They were pretty, with pink petals that stood out against the bright green grass. My young eyes were enthralled by the flower's sway as the wind blew.
I ran around in the grass, grazing around absentmindedly. The day was beautiful - nothing but blue skies, with no clouds to be found. As I scuttled around, I eventually reached the border of our home. It was the edge of the floating island, which peered over an endless sky.
I always feared the edge. There was nothing to stop me from falling into the sky, and I didn't even know how long I'd be falling for. Would I die? Would I just keep falling forever? What would be waiting for me at the bottom? I dreaded finding out… but at the same time, I wanted to know what was out there.
A large hand wrapped around mine. "Don't worry about falling down. As long as I'm here, I'll always be holding your hand. Even when you can't see me, or when you think I'm not there, don't worry. I will never let you go."
My father chuckled and squeezed my hand. "Joshua… hey, Josh, wake up already!"
The soft squeeze suddenly became a violent shove. I forced open my eyes, only to find myself in a dimly-lit room filled with other boys in pajamas. I was back in my bedroom. I immediately groaned into my pillow. God, mornings in the orphanage were always the worst.
My good old friend John, the red-haired kid who kept shaking me, kept whining about how all the good food was going to be taken if we were late again. "C'mon Josh, I don't want to start off the morning with raisin bran again!" I groaned again.
"Fine, I'll go on my own then. But I won't be saving any Froot Loops for you, y'know."
After a few seconds, I managed to sit up on my bed with a little bit of effort. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, letting them get accustomed to the artificial lights of the large room. From my right, John kept poking me in my cheek. "Oh, I was worried you were dead for a second. Are you a zombie? Just so you know, I'm not really all that tasty. Lots of carbs."
"Knock it off you doofus." I smacked him with my pillow.
I noticed that the room was mostly empty besides the two of us, as most of the other guys have already left to the cafeteria for breakfast. "Crap, we gotta go!"
"Oh sure, pretend like it was your idea." I didn't have time to smack him with my pillow again, so we instead bolted out of our rooms and headed straight to the cafeteria almost like it was some sort of race. John, being the more athletic out of the two of us, easily outpaced me, but I did manage to get some good distance on everyone else who wasn't participating in our little run.
I suppose that, in order for this story to make any sense, I have to introduce myself. This is my story after all, so it's only fair that you'd know who I am. My name is Joshua Myers and as you might have guessed, I am an orphan. Ever since I was a baby, in fact. At least, that's what everyone has been telling me all my life. Social workers, therapists, doctors… the only thing I actually know about my parents is that they're dead. Car crash. Who they were before that, I have no idea.
Well, I might have a few ideas.
Even though I was only a baby when my parents supposedly died, I've been having some weird dreams recently, of a man, a woman, and a little toddler. This wasn't a random family - I felt that in the back of my mind, I knew who these people were. The warm voice of the man as he carries his son across a garden. His mother's pleasant smile as she kisses her baby goodnight. It was the idyllic family life that an orphan like me never had… but why did it feel so familiar?
Every time I raised that question to one of my doctors, they always had the same response: a manifestation of a subconscious desire for a family, a fantasy about what his parents could have been life if they haven't died before he had a chance to meet them. When they first gave that explanation to me, I thought that's what it must have been. As the dreams kept coming, however, I realized that there was more to these dreams than just "fantasy".
Could they have been memories?
"Hmph, what's with the empty plate Josh?" John asked through a mouthful of Froot Loops. He was sitting across from me in a cafeteria table, the same table we always sit in the morning.
"It's not empty. See, I got eggs." I poked at the yolk of the omelette on my plate with my plastic fork.
"Dude, you always get more food then that. I mean, you're like a darn vacuum cleaner when it comes to sucking up food, especially in the morning. I mean, I haven't seen anyone else that can stomach that many bowls of crappy orphanage oatmeal other than you. So what's up?"
"Uh… my stomach hurts. So I'm not really all that hungry today." I rubbed my stomach, hoping that it would convince John to change the topic.
John tilted his head. "I think you're definitely lying. Man, we've known each other for, like, our whole lives, Don't you think I can tell when you're hiding something?"
John wasn't going to let this go until I finally told him what was going on. As annoyingly persistent as he was sometimes, I still appreciated that he has good intentions at heart. It makes me kinda regret hitting him with a pillow this morning.
"Fine. I'll tell you what's going." I went on to explain what was going on with my dreams, and what the doctors kept telling me about them. All throughout my explanation, I kept noticing John furrowing his eyebrows in confusion, which a pretty natural reaction all things considered.
Once I was done, John took a few seconds to process exactly what I just said. "I'm not sure I understand but… you're not lying about all those weird dreams with your parents in them, right?"
"Of course I'm not." I replied. "Why would I lie about something like that? It's not like 'dreams of my dead parents living on a floating island' is just a story that'd randomly pop in my head."
John chuckled and punched me in the shoulder. "Yeah, that's what I thought! I'm gonna believe you, for now. So they aren't just regular dreams, you say?"
"I don't know how to explain it, but I feel like I'm remembering stuff from my childhood. A childhood that, if my parents really were dead when I was just a baby, I never would have had."
John crossed his arms. "Maybe you did have a childhood then? And nobody told you because…" John shrugged. "I dunno, adults pull shady stuff all the time."
I laughed, and took a bite out of my omelett. I haven't realized how hungry I was until now. Hungier than ever even.
It was a really big mistake getting just one omelette.
"Catch!" John threw a basketball at me from across the court. I managed to catch it with both hands, although it kinda stung a little when it impacted against my bare palms. Ouch, that is going to leave them red for quite a while.
After breakfast and the usual morning routines, we're allowed to wander around the orphanage doing as we please as long as we abide by the rules. Me and John generally head out outside to a gated basketball court after breakfast and play a few rounds. Despite being a fair bit taller than John, I still lose all the time because he's a lot better at jumping than I am. My spindly limbs just can't cooperate with me long enough to score points.
The staff member that was supposed to be supervising us was wearing a set of headphones and reading some sort of comic book, so he was completely unaware of what was going on with us. Which is totally against what he's supposed to be doing, but hey, I'm not complaining.
I was about to shoot the ball to the hoop when I suddenly felt something heavy impact the back of my head. A bucked and nearly fell to my knees - a sharp pain erupted from my head, blurring my vision for a few seconds. I noticed a ball rolling behind me, and then I noticed who threw the ball at my head.
Three other kids approached the court, and just from the looks of them, I could tell they were bad news. They wore unflattering scowls on their faces, and walked with an air that screamed of entitlement. In other words, they were the kind of generic bullies you'd see in a high school sitcom.
"Hey twerps," one of the kids hollered. "You're hogging the court. It's our turn, so scram before we decide to use a little… deadly force." He punctuated his threat by slamming his knuckles together. His two cronies repeated the same gesture behind him.
'I don't know if you noticed, but this court doesn't belong to you jerks." John snapped. "If you're going to be assholes about it, I don't really have a reason to 'scram', now do I?"
The head bully sneered. He approached John, his footsteps smacking against the gravel pavement. John stood his ground, looking the bully straight in his eyes. When the kid closed the distance between him and John, I noticed how much he towered over John. I would have guessed he was, like, six feet by looking at him.
The guy picked up John by the collar of his shirt and raised him until they were face to face, their eyes locked on each other. After a few tense seconds, the bully grunted and violently threw John against the floor. "Forget about it, you freaks ruined it. Losers like you are not worth the effort."
The trio stormed off in the other direction. I glanced at John, who was lying in a crumpled head on the floor. He squirmed, struggling to get up, which is when I noticed a flash of red on his cheek, where he had been badly scraped. He left a red stain on the granite when he lifted his head.
John was hurt, and I didn't do anything to stop them. He'd stood up for himself… no, not just for himself, for me too. I didn't do anything but stand around and watch while he got thrown to the floor.
For some reason, a white hot pit boiled inside my stomach. I can't let them just get away with this. They couldn't just hurt whoever they want because they felt like it. Those kind of people… are the absolute scum of the world!
In my revenge-fueled rage, I did something incredibly stupid that sounded cool in my head at the time. In my defense, it was my adrenaline doing the talking, not me.
"H-hey! Just because you think you're tough… doesn't give you the right to beat up some innocent kid who was minding his own business! What the hell is wrong with you guys!?"
The three stopped in their tracks, and slowly turned to face me with those chilling glares. It was at that moment I realized I made a mistake that might just cost me my dignity and maybe even my life.
"Oh, looks like we got a hero over here boys."
"Oooh, look who thinks he's so brave!"
They kept laughing at me as they drew closer. I tried to hold my ground, like John did, but the bully in command went straight into action by punching me in the gut. I was expecting him to keep mocking me, so the sudden punch was completely unexpected.
The sudden intense pain caused me to fall to my knees. As I clenched my bruised stomach, I noticed the guy who just punched me raised his leg, as if rearing up for a kick. A kick that was aimed straight towards me.
I clenched my eyes shut, dreading the impact. I couldn't run away, I couldn't fight back any more. Why did I even think I stood a chance? I could have just helped get John to the nurse's office and get him patched up. Or I could have just gotten the staff to intervene. I could have done all that instead of choosing to act like some big-shot hero.
That doesn't matter now. I made my choice, and this is the consequence. There's no use in doing anything but laying down and taking it.
Lay down and… take it?
No… no! I've been laying down and taking it for my whole life! And I'm just going to keep letting myself be abused like this, like some worthless ragdoll?
I refuse to live like that any more! I'll fight back… and I won't lose… ever again!
A tremor shook the court. The bully lost his balance and fell down onto the pavement, with his fellow cronies falling into a pile behind him. Cracks started to form underneath the three of them, until the entire ground collapsed from their weight, sending them tumbling beneath the ground into the newly-exposed sinkhole.
The cracks stopped right at my feet. A sudden surge of power flowed through my veins and disappeared as soon as the quake stopped. I didn't know what just happened right now but… I'm definitely grateful it did. It was a little too convenient that a sinkhole opened up at just the right time though… do coincidences like that really exist?
The worker who had been distracted by music and comics couldn't ignore the sudden sinkhole that appeared a few feet away from him, and he fled straight away to alert the rest of the orphanage.
I looked back at John, who was struggling to get up on his elbows. I tried to reach out for him, but I couldn't move. Any energy I had before had vanished just like that. I was completely drained.
I collapsed on the floor, and drifted into unconsciousness.
"I always knew you were dumb, but I didn't know you were that dumb. Good thing that sinkhole ate those jerks, or otherwise you'd be a lot less alive right now."
"Shut up. You did the same thing too."
"I never made any mystery of my idiocy. What's your point?"
After that whole incident in the courtyard, John and I were taken to the makeshift nurse's office. We were laying side by side on cots, talking in hushed voices as the nurses hustled right outside our room.
"How convenient was that sinkhole though? I didn't think lucky coincidences like that happened outside of movies and TV. Hm… maybe the mole people are responsible for it?"
""Yeah, right." Even though I scoffed it off at that moment, I still couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't just a lucky break. To be honest, it wouldn't be the first time something like that happened to me. I remember when I was little kid, I used to jump up and down when I was throwing tantrums. I remember the earth shaking strong enough to break all the plates in the kitchen, which everyone then had to clean up.
Nah, the thought that a toddler could have been responsible for an earthquake by jumping up and down was so absurd it wasn't even worth considering. Maybe it was a coincidence after all. Stranger things have happened before.
The door to our room clicked open, and in came the director of the orphanage - a young blonde woman who had her hair done in a messy bun, and was never seen with out a blue pantsuit. "Oh, thank goodness the both of you are okay. Nothing is broken, right?"
We both shook our heads. The director sighed in relief. "Goodness… I'm sorry you had to deal with those delinquents. I promise that they'll never bother you two again, okay?"
"Thanks m'am." John muttered in response.
"In the meanwhile, the court is closed until we can fill up the sinkhole and make sure that the court's structurally sound so we don't have any incidents like that in the future. The nurse also told me that you two will be staying here until dinnertime, so get plenty of rest for now and make sure not to do anything that'll just get you even more hurt. Have a nice day!"
After her speech was done, the director waved good bye and shut the door behind her.
"Damn it…" John groaned. "Playing ball was the only thing I liked about this stupid place. Now I can't even do that? Gah, what's even the point any more…"
As John went on ranting, I closed my eyes. My exhaustion snuck up on me, and I couldn't stop myself from falling into a light sleep. Images of the day so far flashed across my mind - the dreams, breakfast, the bullies, the sinkhole… and suddenly, I found my gaze fixed on a patch of ground. The earth started to crack, and the cracks kept expanding further and wider as a large, green hand rose from the newly-formed crevice and gripped the surface of the earth in attempt to pull itself up.
"Hey, are you listening to me?"
John's voice snapped me out of my sleep-induced stupor. It looks like he finally finished his long-winded explanation about how annoying this orphanage, which I'm sort of glad I missed because it's the fifth time I've heard him repeat it. Fifth time this month to be specific.
As John started to repeat his rant to me again, the image of the green hand stuck in the back of my head. Yet another thing my brain conjured up that I can't find a reasonable explanation for… I was starting to get fed up with all these weird dreams and visions now.
A/N: Heyo, and welcome to my first story on this site! I've actually been a fan of Wizard101 ever since I was a little kid, but I only recently just got back into it. The basic outline of the story follows the events of the game, but diverges later on as Josh starts to develop into his own character. I'm mostly writing this for fun and for practice, so I apologize if it's a boring read. I still need to get a handle on my writing process.
In any case, I apologize for the slow start! This chapter was going to be quite a bit longer, as this was the chapter that Josh was supposed to find out he's a wizard, but my internet is kinda going haywire so I decided to cut it off at the infirmary, since that seemed like a good point to pause.
If you did enjoy the story, I would appreciate it if you left a review with your thoughts, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. The next chapter will be coming shorty!