All his life he has tasted a bittersweet pill, a mixture between his favorite tropical aroma, mango, and something wretched like moldy cheese. So he regarded reality, with a bit of ennui. He was but a speck of dust in this infinite realm of light and shadow, a tragicomic caricature, an insignificant worm chewing his way on muddy yet strangely alluring leaves...oh, no, he started soliloquizing again.
He could not help but notice how pathetic he sounded. Time to feast his eyes upon his good characteristics before he fell further into the depressive pit he dug for himself. He supposes he was a good comedian if one would count making fun of himself a worthy attribute. He had nerves of steel, and this was no exaggeration, as he worked in retail, and on more than one occasion he had imagined strangling his annoying clients yet he had admiringly stopped himself. He was tall, dark, and mysterious, so he fits the cliche nicely. Luckily there was no one who threw themselves at him, he barely tolerated himself let alone a life partner.
All these characteristics only make him sound misanthropic, unfortunately... Well, there is something else, a secret that no one knows. No, he was not a superhero in charge of protecting his city, he can barely protect his younger brother, whom he has guardianship over, from scarring his knees. Wily little fellow that he is.
In truth, he was a writer. There, he said it. He made minimum wage at his job and came home to feed the brat and tuck him to bed. Because the world may be cruel, and their parents may be dead but he still loves his brother. And come night, he put ink to paper and let his imagination run free. It was so cathartic. So thoroughly cathartic. Or as his little brother, Vincent would say, superb.
Superb also happened to be his favorite new word. He used it in everyday conversation like yesterday at the park and the whole police fiasco.
'Slow down, munchkin, and don't scream your head off or the uniform-wearing guys will think I am kidnapping you!' He would say, looking over his shoulder at the cops who were patrolling a children's playground. They smirked at him. Honestly, who were they hoping to arrest, the boy in the sandbox who was pouring sand over a little girl's head?
'Superb, Gil!' Vincent would answer.
Gil...short for Gilbert. Gilbert Killjoy Maberry. Yes, his middle name was as true as they come.
Sometimes, sometimes he wishes his life would be more interesting, peppered with adventure. He's not asking for much, only an encounter with a mythological beast here and there, traveling to unknown places and different cultures, discovering, no, tasting the unordinary.
And by testing he means engraving it into his skin, only to somehow travel up into his brain and to write the most arresting novel the world has ever seen! Mwahahhahaha!
But, alas, it looks as if it is only a pipe dream, an elusive chimera, taunting him from the inner recesses of his mind.
When will it end?
Another excruciating day at the retail center, Gilbert returns home hoping to find the old, bubbly, crimson wine in the attic and to just lose himself, albeit in moderation, to the sweet decadence. It had been a gift after all.
The reason he keeps the wine in the attic is noble and therefore worth mentioning. Let us just say that after he found his little brother pouring decades-old wine into unwashed glasses, Gilbert had sprung into motion and in the blink of an eye confiscated the loot. It was hard enough dealing with a hyperactive seven-year-old, but an inebriated one? That was the stuff of nightmares.
Of course, the fallout was less noble and more…tyrannical. He might have told Vincent that a child-eating ogre has transformed the attic into his domain and also decided to guard their 'elvish' wine. He was slightly ashamed for that lie but also slightly proud of how effective it had been.
That was why today he was walking leisurely in the attic, searching for the famous wine, because it had been a while since he hid it and he'd never had elephant memory.
While searching the cupboard he comes across an old, dusty book and a matching pen. The cover was ebony and he cold read, barely eligible words at the back of the book, a warning. Don't play God.
Don't play God? What was that supposed to mean? Did the book accuse him of being a megalomaniac and if so which sources had betrayed him? Hahaha, just kidding. The book was odd, that's for sure, but he quite liked odd…
Gilbert took the book in a hurry and forgetting about the wine he started dreaming of the myriad of wonderful things he could write in the book when…
'Gil, what's for dinner?' Vincent asked softly, with big doe-eyes and an unruly mop of hair.
'Damn! I mean oopsies, kid, I forgot to cook again.' Gilbert admitted sheepishly.
'Are we going to eat imaginary food?' Vinny asked, a tad too excited at the prospect of turning dinner into a game.
'No, no, no, no, no. Let's raid the fridge. We have milk and oh Captain Crunch!' Gilbert exclaimed.
'No! Not again!' the kid whinged 'Whenever I eat them I feel as if I am transforming into one giant lollipop!'
Gilbert smirked and said 'Er, matey, that is no way to respect cereal'.
Vincent laughed before Gilbert acquiesced and told him to eat some cereal while he made dinner. A meager dinner, that is. And yes, he was telling him to spoil his appetite, but it was better than for his little brother to be hungry, or so he justified himself.
Night came, but Gilbert could not think of anything to write at that moment. Guilt was overflowing his senses. Why is he such a loser? Why does he not take care of his little brother better? Why was his boss such a miserable cheapskate?
That night he decided to use the book as a diary of sorts and poured his heart out, bitter tears staining the immaculate paper. He wrote something like this:
'I am a slave to my turmoil and a mere acquaintance to my conscience. The tenebrosity is swallowing my soul and if I let it go on any longer, I might become like my boss, Mr. Wilson. Surely that is worse than any death imaginable'
He ended the three-page emotional writing with a wish, something he did not usually do.
I wish tomorrow I would get a pay raise.
Day came and as usual, it was time for Gilbert to make his zombie-walk to the retail center. Right before entering, he noticed his boss walking towards him with a malevolent grin on his face.
'Oh, shit. Did he notice I'm late by two minutes? He'd fired for less' Gilbert thought.
Mr. Wilson walked towards him like a smug peacock, opened his mouth then…his face went slack, his eyes widened and you could see a tender look in them he'd never had before. Like a father looking at a cherished son. Did aliens replace Mr. Wilson with a clone? Not that he was complaining.
'Gilbert, old lad, just the guy I was looking for!' Mr. Wilson said.
'For? For what? Decapitation for slacking?' Gilbert asked suspiciously. He wouldn't put it past his boss.
'You get a pay raise, my boy. You deserve one. You work hardest than anyone here…"
As Wilson was singing his praises, Gilbert couldn't help but think it was a dream.
He rushed home, feeling exhausted yet beaming, almost madly. He slammed the door open and said:
'Vinny! Guess who got a pay raise, little fella?'
'Wow! Mr. Wilson gave himself a pay raise?' Vincent asked and Gilbert laughed while asking 'Why do you think that?'
'It makes sense. Who is Mr. Wilson's favorite person? Himself!" the little boy answered, proud of his deduction.
'That may be right, Vinny, but today Mr. Wilson got off his high horse' Gilbert started to say before his brother interrupted him.
'I didn't know Mr. Gilbert had a horse'
'It's an expression. Vincent, today, I got a pay raise' Gilbert answered.
His little brother stared in awe before hugging Gilbert and saying 'Congratulations!'
Gilbert knew it was the enigmatic book that was responsible.
Once again at the hearty place, golden sundrops bathing their faces and choirs of angelic cherubs melodiously swaying to a celestial hymn…Ok, maybe not. Maybe they were at the park, with his intrepid little brother climbing the monkey bars, but the heavenly image was haunting Gilbert's mind. He was feeling almost manic. So overjoyed was he because of the pay raise that he took his eyes off Vincent for a moment, and then lost him.
His brother, his anchor, his everything…gone. He started howling like a dying wolf 'Vinny! Vinny!'
Right before almost fainting from worry, a suave, gentlemanly voice said from behind him.
'Dear boy, is this the little troublemaker you are looking for?'
Gilbert turned wearily before exhaling reassuringly and engulfing Vincent in a loving embrace.
'Thank you, thank you so much…' Gilbert stuttered before looking at his rescuer.
He was tall, handsome, and dressed formally, well almost like for a funeral but the clothes did not hide his lean muscles. He had warm brown eyes and a knowing smile on his face. He seemed old too, probably in his late fifties. He looked odd dressed in black clothes on a torrid summer day, like an ugly duckling among a group of swans yet Gilbert liked odd. And his weird choice of clothing reminded him of his late father.
'You're welcome, young man. Walk with me' the stranger said.
'Is it too late to tell him I abhor human interaction?' Gilbert wondered.
'Gil, Mr. Richardson bought me ice cream' Vincent said proudly.
'What did I always tell you. Never take anything from a stranger.' Gilbert said, a little miffed.
'Ice cream doesn't count' Vincent said with all the wisdom of a seven-year-old child.
'Especially ice cream. In fact, we should practice you not getting ice cream ever from anyone until you are of legal age.' Gilbert said and tightened his hold on the little boy.
The boy was about to cry.
The stranger laughed.
'My, my, you are a strict parent.'
'I, uh…' Gilbert said intelligently.
'Don't get me wrong, I admire that, young man. It reminds me of efficiency compared to expiration.' the stranger said.
'Expiration?' Gilbert asked.
'Indeed. 'The fell Sergent, Death, is strict in its arrest' ' Mr. Richardson answered.
'Shakespeare' Gilbert remarks and Mr. Richardson smiles and compliments him in a paternal way, saying 'Smart, boy'.
They continue talking about their favorite poets, books, philosophy, and little by little Gilbert comes out of his shell.
He actually wouldn't mind having Mr. Richardson for a fatherly figure.
However, just before departing, Richardson said something ominous 'How dreams seldom become reality, unless one has the right book'. That intense look he threw him, that Cheshire smile looking quite not right on so old a visage. Old and so shrewd. Did he know the truth?