At some point I got over the fact that I had been chosen. In the end, I convinced myself that it would be just like that time when I was in middle school and went on a school camping trip. Granted I had suffered from acute separation anxiety. The first night of that week long trip I had muffled my tears in my pillow. Luckily I had the top bunk in the corner of the cabin and my classmate in the bottom bunk had been a prodigious snorer.
But that was then. This was now, and I was different now than from then. Or so I told myself. To keep my mind off the eventual move, I dove into a world of fantasy. There was no real information about the Magic Nation, only a collection of rumors and stories from people who’ve never been. It was a wonderland, a paradise full of wonder and mystery, and unicorns. It was a dark fathomless place where we, the chosen would be sacrificed to appease some great evil. All in all, it was a land where anything could happen. And so, from lack of anything real, I concocted my own ideas.
Playing, revising different scenarios, good and bad, I eventually boiled it down to a singular thought that I repeated over and over. A mantra akin to the ones I made just before a big game, a big test, ‘This’ll be fun.’
Even so, the few days before I was to be taken from my home were days I spent in a daze; an automaton acting without being present, without any real thoughts. I relied on my parents for most of the planning, the double checking, the worrying, and the triple checking. They probably forgave my lack of cognitive response due to shock, at least, I hoped. Still, when the day came that I was to be taken away, so did the tears. Against my will and despite all my tricks, a few lonely drops traced their way down my face before the last hug was released.
Turning from my parents at the door, I saw Joey, seeming incredibly embarrassed to be there. It was a school day and I had not expected any of my classmates to be present.
“You crying man?” he asked, awkwardly looking anywhere but my face.
“Naw.” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Just allergies.”
Joey nodded. “So hey, you weren’t at school the last couple of days so, I went ahead and decided to bring this to you.” Joey twisted his backpack forward and produced a semi-large card, six pages thick front and back. “The team made it, then several of our classmates took it and wrote notes and stuff.” Joey proffered the farewell card.
Taking the card, I cracked it open and quickly scanned the contents. There were a few letters, one was over half a page long; Lauren of course. The bulk of the messages, long and short, seemed to wish me a safe trip, to not forget the message senders, and to let me know in no uncertain wording that I would be missed. It was like a miniature end of the year yearbook signing. Nestled in the center of the card was an envelope containing a sheaf of photographs, some of which also seemed to contain messages on the back.
“Won’t you be in trouble for being here instead of class?” I chuckled reading one of the captions that someone had written for one of the photographs, recalling the disastrous teambuilding exercise our coach had put us through, though, in retrospect, it had served its purpose and the team had become stronger as a result.
“Naw, Ms, Hee knows where I’m at and Timothy is taking notes. I’ll be back before lunch ends.”
One of the cloaked and hooded members from the Magic Nation whom had been waiting for me took a step forward and motioned for me to hurry up. I swallowed hard, feeling a hard lump form in my stomach. Realizing the inevitability of what was about to happen. I wanted to cry, I wanted to curl into a ball and let the day wash by, to start again, to live a life where this never happened. There was a fear, that nothing would ever be the same again.
“Hey,” I turned back towards Joey, a quaver in my voice that I was powerless to squash, “take care of the team, you’re gonna have to be the one to bring home the trophy this year.” I held out a fist.
“No fear.” Joey tapped his fist to mine. “That trophy’ll be here when you get back. It’ll be like you never left.” It was a lie. Even then I knew it, though I chose not to accept it. Even then I knew that the moment I left, nothing could ever be the same again. With a nod I hefted my bags and walked towards the waiting vehicle, leaving Joey standing on the curb.