Prologue

A New Year

January 7, 2013. That was the day winter vacation ended and all the schools in the area, including the one down the street from my house, were back in session. However, if you had happened to be one of my teachers, classmates, or friends, you would have noticed an empty desk in my respective classes and that I was nowhere to be found. Why is that? I'll rewind back to New Year's Eve, so you can see for yourself.

The sky was overcast, the sun just barley poking its head out from behind the clouds of late afternoon; a time when the sun had almost set in the late December sky. I was sitting on the bench at Bus Terminal 1, one of six terminals that made up the small city's bus loop. Behind me was the Liquidation World that the bus loop seemed to surround, when in reality terminals 2 through 6 lined the front of the store, leaving Terminal 1 by itself on the building's left side like some kind of reject. In front of me was Glover Road with four lanes of bustling traffic, a concrete meridian splitting it length-wise down the middle. On the opposite side was the local Value Village, one of a number of businesses that were part of Highland Village Mall. Looking passed the thrift shop's parking lot, I could see 56th Ave, a handful of other businesses, and the alleyway known as Fenton Lane which lead into the heart of downtown. My house was in that general direction.

I lifted my wrist and glanced at the digital display of the watch strapped to it.

5:22 pm, it read.

I was late. The bus ride alone was an hour at best, and I still had to catch a Skytrain down to Scott Road after that.

There's no way I'm gonna get there by six, I thought.

Lowering my arm, I looked around at the small number of people that had gathered around the bus stop. Then I saw a bus pull up to the intersection to my left, its right turn signal blinking. I hoped that bus was mine, and as it turned in my direction I scanned the display that sat just above its windshield and found-

-that it was brightly lit with the words 'Sorry, Not In Service.' The bus drove passed the terminal and turned right into the alleyway behind the Liquidation world before slowing to a stop. The buss driver then shut off the engine, exited the bus, and proceeded to go on his break.

Damn.

I lifted my wrist and glanced at my watch again.

5:23 pm, the bus should be here by now-

Lowering it, I looked around once more.

-where the hell is it?

I was growing inpatient, and I considered the idea of going to the Value Village to wander the isles and kill time. I probably would have done that, if I hadn't already done so shortly after missing the 4:58 bus by a matter of seconds. A bus I wouldn't have missed if I had realized a minute or two sooner that I had forgotten my wallet. I let out a sigh, watching the world go by as time moved like a slug on pavement after a spring rain. Then I spotted another bus, and dismissed it just as quickly when it didn't turn right. More time passed, and a third bus pulled up to the intersection, its right turn signal blinking. I eyed it with passive eagerness as it waited and then turned, revealing the display.

502 Surry Central Station Via Willowbrook

I stood up, grabbing the plastic bag that had been sitting next to me on the bench, and joined the crowd of people as they formed a line next to the Bus Stop sign. I fumbled with my wallet, fishing out the $1.75 that I needed for my bus fare. I was soon on the bus, in the very back, looking out the window as the bus pulled away from the terminal. I lifted my wrist again and glanced at my watch.

5:30 pm

I let out another sigh and reached into the bag I had placed on the seat next to me, pulling out a silver PSP and a pair of yellow, plastic headphones from the late 80's. Plugging in the headphones, I turned on my PSP and scrolled over to 'Music.' I then opened a sub menu and scrolled down to 'September' by Daughtry. Starting the song, I began brainstorming, imagining a line of emergency vehicles driving down a dirt road lined on both sides by trees. Then a house engulfed in flames comes into view. Two children, a ten year old boy with blue hair and green eyes and a six year old girl with red hair and blue eyes, stand in front of it; watching in horror. Many mental images later, including the fiery death of two parents and a brother, the song ended and I selected another to listen to.

About an hour later, the bus arrived at the closest Skytrain station, sitting at the very end of a large system of train tracks. Myself and a good number of other people got up from our seats, exited through one of the two sets of doors and made our way up a flight of stairs to the station platform. A westbound train was already waiting there with its doors wide open, ready for passengers. I rode the train for three stops, and began to back-track the elevated train tracks on foot; cautiously crossing a highway exit, walking down a path alongside a giant empty lot, ditching the path to cross the almost empty parking lot of a Home Depot, and walking passed vehicle salvage yards. It was around here that I found myself listening to a song that fit perfectly with my melancholic mood. In truth though, it wasn't really a song. It was more of a... melody, I guess? I'm not sure how to classify it, but it was called 'Brooks Was Here' and I was tempted to put it on repeat.

I continued my trip, walking passed a bunch of used car lots and a fast food restaurant before reaching my destination; a banquet hall. The building, sitting on the lower half of a steep hill, had two flags, Canadian and Portuguese, that hung from flagpoles situated above a lone set of double doors. The parking lot that accommodated the venue was split in two, one half staying with the main entrance while the other sunk down to become more flush with the slope. After crossing the parking lot, I stepped through the doors and into the hall's warm, foodstuffs smelling interior. My glasses fogged up due to the sudden change in temperature, but it didn't stop me from walking out into the main hall, which was full of people sitting at round tables. It took me a few seconds to spot the right one. Once I did though, I walked over to it and was greeted by an overly joyous voice.

"Hey, you found us!" That was my mom. She was wearing a black blouse with black pants, and her hair was being held up in its usual bun by a bunch of hair clips. The smile on her face did well, hiding the emotionally crippled woman behind it.

"Yeah, so?" I took off my Old Navy hoody and hung it on my chair before sitting down next to her, feeling slightly annoyed.

"What took you so long?" That valid question came from my cousin, who was sitting next to my brother on the opposite side of the table.

"I forgot my wallet and missed the bus."

"Well, that must have sucked."

"Yeah," I droned.

My older sister appeared at edge of the hall ten minutes later, pausing for a few seconds before walking over and taking a seat next to me. She proceeded to get mad at me and forced me to put away my PSP. Soon after that, the waiters began serving dinner. Soup was first, followed by a platter of fish, rice, and chicken. My brother and cousin cracked some jokes, sparking a table wide conversation. I didn't say anything though; I just sat there and listened as I ate. Once everyone in the hall had eaten, the plastic cover was taken off of the desert table. I went up to it and chose a couple of deserts, but I wasn't in the mood to have much more than that. Then there was a Rancho performance, which my mom and sister were part of, and after that the DJ played music for people to dance to. Needless to say, this wasn't new in my family. If anything it was getting real old. As people got up to dance, I retreated to the bathrooms with my plastic bag in tow; and before you say it, no I did not play my PSP in the bathroom. There was a small room next to the bathrooms that was mainly used for hanging coats, but it was hardly ever used. There was a plastic chair in the back corner of the room next to an electrical outlet, making it the perfect spot to hole up and play Burnout Legends. My mom came by the room a few times, trying to convince me to dance, but I told her each time that I didn't want to. Eventually, midnight was announced to be a mere minute away. I got up from my seat and walked out into the hall to witness the countdown commence. After the final second had passed, balloons fell and people cheered that it was January 1, 2013. When all was said and done, we all piled into the car and drove home; dropping off my sister and cousin along the way. It was two in the morning by the time we walked through the door, and my brother and mother headed off to bed. Not too long after that, I snuck my mom's laptop into my room. As to why, there's a certain yearly tradition that I keep up. It's not something weird or breath taking, just something I did as a kid that I decided to continue out of apathy. Every year after midnight, I see how long I can stay up. That year I ended up watching YouTube videos until about five in the morning. After that, I hit the hay. I woke up the next day sometime around noon and spent the day on my computer, wasting my time with Minecraft and more YouTube videos. Then it hit me. What if I did the same thing every night for the rest of my winter vacation? Of course in hindsight I now realize how stupid of an idea it was, but at the time my brother would always force me to shut down my computer by 10:00pm, and the idea of extra computer use was too tempting. So, as fate would have it, I found myself on my last day of vacation with a handful of botched attempts to mend my sleep schedule and no one to blame but myself. I went to bed early in a last ditch effort, but I was still wide awake to see the red numbers of my clock change from 3:59 to 4:00. When the clutches of sleep finally began to take hold, I realized that there was no way in hell I was going to get up in the morning.

And that's why I wasn't at school, and was instead laying in bed under twisted blankets and sheets, half-asleep.

"I just hope I don't miss anything important." I mumbled to myself.