Story idea submitted by: Ryan McGechaen: Apathy and Lethargy
Nord was the best in his class, the best in North America even. Charts and bulletins were sent with the top names – Nord was always number one. People looked up to him as somebody who really contributed to his field. Young kids wanted to be him, others were jealous of his abilities that seemed to pass most by. There was nothing he couldn’t do – he was invincible.
“Nord!” His mom hollered in her southern accent down the rickety stairs into the unfinished concrete walls of his basement hideout. “Do you want mash potatoes with your fried chicken?” Her old voice came through strong, like she lifted wooden beams or hauled machinery around for a living.
“I told you not to bother me after 3pm mom! You know I'm busy!” Nord paused, ear towards the door making sure she was done before returning to the screen. His stomach growled and he realized he hadn’t eaten today. He had been up since 7pm the night before running through plans with the team. He thought for a second. “Bring it down then if you care that much!”
Nord’s mom came down the stairs slowly carrying a tray full of dishes. Her famous fried crispy chicken, homestyle mashed potatoes, and a piece of deep dish style cornbread cake was laid carefully on aged plates beside the glass of whole milk on the tray. She got to the entrance of his room and looked around.
Plates littered the desk he was sitting at. Half empty cans of pop, bottles of juice and sodas, energy drinks, and wrappers plagued his room enough that the smell of old food assaulted her nose when she stepped inside.
“Oh Nord! What have you done here, this place is a pig pen! I want you to clean this up right this instant, bring those plates upstairs and let them soak. Grab a garbage bag and toss these bottles out.” She picked one up and tilted it, a slurry of congealed sugar juice and mold slushed to the side. Disgust filled her rough face, and she wiped a strand of silver hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear.
She surveyed her son. He’d been the tallest in his elementary school until he got to about grade 5 when the other kids started hitting puberty and grew like weeds. They shot up a good 4-6 inches taller than her son, and 4-6 inches broader too. Nord was big, but not in a flattering way. He stood maybe 5’8” tall whenever he got up from his desk, and weighed in probably, oh, about 250 she guessed. He was very disproportionate. Kids used to call him ‘the beach ball’ because he was so round. Due to the teasing he had a very short temper.
“Nord! Right this instant!” Nord ignored her and continued his work, clicking furiously and speaking into a headset every once in a while. She wiped a layer of dust off an old candle and lit it with a single match she found on his desk, hoping the smell would dissipate. She watched the flame flicker and bend with the slow moving breaths of her son who barely left his room. Nord was unmoved and uninterested. She walked closer and unplugged the computer cord from the yellowing socket in the wall. “Now get to -”
Before she had a chance to finish, Nord screamed in rage and sprang from his chair, knocking it over with the force. Without thinking he shoved her hard as he bellowed, sending her flying onto his unmade bed.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” Nord stood over his cowering mother who shielded her face and looked on in horror as her grown son in his 30’s snorted and bared his teeth at her like a mad horse, spit flying every which way out of his bright red face. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU DID YOU BITCH!”
Nord was inconsolable. He started ripping at his hair. Screaming like a child, hitting his head with his fists and kicking his old furniture. He thrashed at the herbage and papers on his desk, sending them flying everywhere. He shrieked and cried out in what might have seemed like a Turrets attack. His mother sat where she lay on the bed, eyes wide in absolute horror and disgust, backed up sitting against the wall now she tried to get him to calm down.
“I WISH YOU WERE DEAD!” Nord ran at her, his arms outstretched as he clasped both hands around her shoulders and started to shake her small frame.
“Nord, stop! You’re hurting me! Stop!” The words squeaked from her mouth as her head hit the wall behind her.
A scream from the fire alarm roused Nord from his rage as he dropped his hands from his mother and tuned to gape in terror as his entire desk was engulfed in flame. The flames has spread along his entire desk, and starting to lick up his wall, his curtains now fully engorged as black smoke filled the room and it became unbearably hot.
“My stuff! I can’t leave my computer!” He started choking on the smoke that started to fill his lungs as he covered his mouth with the sleeve of his shoulder. His mother groaned quietly from where she crumbled after she hit her head. His head whipped to her and then back to his computer, almost impossible to get to now.
He dived for the ground and started crawling under the smoke towards the desk where his desktop computer sat. He was getting light headed now and coughing uncontrollably, even from his position on the floor. When he finally reached the computer tower he seized it only to shriek out in pain – the metal casing was as hot as an oven, burning his hand and singing his fingertips. He drew back his hand sharply, inhaling unconsciously, sucking in more smoke which prompted more coughing.
As he toyed trying to pull the cables from the wall, he heard things banging. Firemen had barged into the room, yelling. One grabbed his mother from her spot on the bed, he head lulled listlessly before the fireman hoisted her over his head and motioned for a second to look inside the now pitch black room.
The second fireman yelled his name over and over, trying to find him as he hid under the desk trying to take his prized computer with him. The fireman tripped on his foot and began pulling his ankles to drag him out from under the fiery inferno he was in. Panic gripped Nord at losing his life’s achievements and he kicked the man away, striking him in the wrist and arm, wrestling free.
More cracks and bangs were heard as pieces of the roof and ceiling boards fell down around them, trapping Nord under the desk and he quickly unplugged the cords by wrapping the base of his t-shirt around them. The fireman was yelling again, desperately grabbing Nord’s leg now, pulling him by his belt out from under the burning beams.
Nord cried out grabbing the tower as he was pulled out from under the beam, the room was as pitch dark as night and he was inhaling so much smoke it burned his throat and mouth. The fireman reached down to grab him, but with Nord’s tower clung to his chest, burning his skin – searing it to the metal – the fireman couldn’t carry both. He tried to pull the tower away from Nord’s body only to pull off a strip of Nord’s skin, bubbling as he watched it burn into the metal tower. Nord – in a last attempt at saving his life’s work – hit the fireman in the collarbone, separating the men in an awkward scramble as the fireman screamed at him. Nord jumped to the ground and clutched the computer as the smoke filled his brain and his eyelids grew heavy.
More beams and pieces of ceiling fell down, creating a permanent barrier between Nord and help. The fireman yelled and screamed before being dragged off by two other firemen who had come back to help. It wouldn’t matter because the house was falling apart. The top floor started to crash down as the three men ran out just in time.
Nord smiled in the blistering heat of the fire, metal casing melting onto his arms and down his legs as he gripped the computer. He saved it, that’s all that mattered. Everything he worked so hard for was on there, years worth of stats, data, items, and epic drops. It was the only thing that made him feel powerful.
His mom used to yell at him for playing too much of the game. She didn’t know the reputation he had. She didn’t know he was the number one player in North American. He was so tired.
He coughed as his eyes slid closed.
They’ll come back for him - he was invincible.
The rest of the house collapsed.
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