The Quest You Have Chosen Defies Your Fate
by Beth Cato
You are reading a book, and within that book you now walk through the iron gates of the junior high school of your youth.
You don't understand how you are reading of a real place within this old fantasy book of adventures you found in the closet of your childhood bedroom. These particular pages didn't exist before, here in this volume that you read until its white spine was bowed, swaybacked, broken.
Today you have fallen between the plot lines, the inked illustrations, the bookmarks you once placed at the major decisions you were asked to make--yes, your cheating is known. The bookmarks are gone. You can no longer flip back to choose between releasing the unicorn on page 32, or continuing into the forest on page 210, or the various other forks in your literary path.
Instead, you are at your old school. Again.
Fog shrouds the buildings and open corridors of the campus. A backpack weighs down your left shoulder. Your AD&D books must be in there. They were your lunchtime salvation. The one time each day you could cast magic spells.
You were supposed to be a wizard, after all. To awaken one day with extraordinary powers. But you lived on contemporary Earth, and reality shriveled the brilliant dreams that empowered you through the night.
A boy emerges from the fog. Your first bully, from fourth grade. "Hey, stupid!" he calls. "Oink, oink! Fat, ugly, stupid!" Weeks and months of daily abuse are compacted into a torrent.
Other figures emerge from the mist. That horrible boy from seventh-grade math. The girls from eighth-grade P.E. Your brother, frozen as he was at an angry twelve. Their jibes flow together and compete for precedence.
You back away, then stop. Hopelessness clenches your throat like a zombie's hands. What's the point of resisting? It'll only continue tomorrow. You are doomed.