Of course today would start with his earbuds breaking. And of course, it would be his last pair too.
Eyebrows scrunched, Cade fiddled with the cord. Music reached both his ears, but as soon as he let go his left bud stopped working. Fiddle with it again, twitch and lose it. Repeat for two minutes until the left side stops working completely, and finally give in and resolve to buy a new one.
The boy reluctantly rolled out of bed. He hadn’t planned on going out today, and he wasn’t happy about the change in schedule. The earbuds were thrown into the trash, only to be fished out a second later. Small things like this were getting harder to find, they might not be in stock. And Half-working ear buds were better than none.
The trip wouldn’t take too long, so he was quick getting ready. Instead of agonizing over what he wore, he grabbed a tried and true outfit- navy blue skinny jeans and a black hoodie with wing decals on the back. It took longer than he wished to get his bedhead to look just right, so he only put on the bare minimum for makeup. He finished up with a few accessories, earing and bracelets and the like, nothing too unusual.
Double-checking the mirror, he nodded at what he saw. Not his best, but good enough. Time to go.
Leaving his room, he could hear the clink of dishes coming from the dinning room. Cade scowled. Of course his parents would be eating. Of course he’d have to see them as he made to leave. Putting his hood up over his head, he walked out, resolute on getting out the door as quickly as possible.
Both of his parents turned towards him as he entered. His father, in a nice-looking dress shirt despite the fact he was staying home today, averted his eyes immediately; but his mom continued to stare. Her dress was as cold and white as the rest of the house, highlighted only by the smallest bit of black.
(Cade blamed her for their home, really; he knew for a fact that they weren’t as wealthy as the house made them appear. The crystal chandelier was bought after months saving up, and that wasn’t real mahogany. Everything was too bright and shiny. It was all fake, and he absolutely hated it.)
There was a third dish on the table, sitting across from his parents. He turned his head away, walking straight by both of them. His mother continued to watch until he was finally at the door. He couldn’t hear her sigh over his own frustrated huff.
He felt better after leaving- though that good feeling only lasted a few seconds. The general store was only two blocks, but it felt like more with all the people he had to deal with. Preachers stood on soapboxes yelling about the end of the world. Con artists looked for someone to sucker into a Pokémon battle. Beggar after beggar kept trying to guilt him, and if he had to hear one more story involving some sort of natural disaster, he swore to god…
He stopped to admire Old Man Graffiti’s newest piece of art. The mural took up an entire wall, showing a giant, black dragon surrounded by lightning. It wasn’t anything new; the crazy old coot would often ramble about his experience seeing this Pokémon. He could hear it now- ‘The giant dragon dove from its mountainous perch to terrorize the valley below. A storm formed around the great beast, with winds worse than the strongest tornado and lightning so frequent it may have well been rain. ‘
Cade thought it was all hogwash, really. If such powerful Pokémon existed, there’d be no way it wouldn’t be common knowledge- not to mention the fact that how Old Man Graffiti survived changed every single time he told the story. His only proof was the lightning scars that covered his body, but with the way the world was today he could’ve gotten those from anything.
The man himself was off to the side, facing away from the boy, packing up his things. That was a bit of a surprise, he must have just caught him after he finished, Walking up to the man, Cade asked him, “Out of jail already?”
Old Man Graffiti grunted. “Too full of actual criminals to bother with a graffiti artist.” He turned his head towards him, “Surprised you’re not there yet, though.”
Well, that was harsh. And unnecessary. Cade was a lot of things, but a criminal wasn’t one of them. “Might want to get your brain checked, old man. I haven’t done anything.”
“Not yet.” Old Man Graffiti said, standing up with his stuff. “With the way you’re headed, it’ll be any day now.”
The artist started walking away, obviously done with the conversation. Unfortunately for him, Cade wasn’t. “Now why do you think that? It’s not like I’m going around spray-painting every damn wall I see, or anything.” He said, keeping perfect step with the man. He wasn’t heading in the direction of the store, but Cade could easily loop back after he was done bothering the guy.
“It gets it out of my head,” Dear old Graffiti muttered, “Still see it, every time I close my eyes…”
“Pretty sure painting it all the time would make it stick more, not less.” When the old coot only gave a noncommittal ‘hmm’ in response, Cade decided to continue with a faked cheery lilt, “Today’s art was great, by the way! Way better than the last twenty times you did it. A real shame it’ll be gone by tomorrow.”
“Do yourself a favor, kid and shut up. “
He didn’t shut up. “No patience today, huh? You usually last longer than this.”
Old Man Graffiti grumbled, probably the closest he could do to a disappointed sigh. “You used to be such a sweet kid, too. The hell happened?”
“Those teenage years, huh. Such damn trouble.”
He didn’t respond to the sarcastic comment. Instead he continued on as if he hadn’t heard Cade at all. “Such a damn shame. Wouldn’t be able to survive out there, not at all. He’ll go out like Theo at this rate.”
Theo, Old Man Graffiti’s dead kid. Died two years ago. But there was no way he was going to go out like that, because Theo died by-“I don’t do drugs.”
(He really didn’t- even peer pressure from other rebelling kids couldn’t get him to. It terrified him, what those things could do people, what he’s seen. People unconscious in the street, having to rely on strangers to roll them over so they don’t choke on their own vomit. A woman crying in a ditch because she’s too high to understand what’s happening.)
“He just couldn’t handle it no more,” Old Man Graffiti’s eyes were distant. Cade didn’t even know if he could still hear him. “He just didn’t have it in him.”
(Beggars getting their kids to ask for money, not for the food or water they needed, but just because they wanted their next hit…)
“Don’t fucking try to justify how he went- you know what that bastard and his wife did.” When the older gentleman didn’t respond, Cade threw his arms into the air, “They fucking let their kids die! Left them alone just so they could choke on some drug! And you couldn’t help them, because you were stuck in some jail cell because you wouldn’t stop drawing on walls!”
(Sometimes he forgets just how awful grown ups can be.)
The man just stared at him with large, sad eyes. “It was the water. Toxic water fell from the sky. The kids couldn’t handle it- they were already dead when Theo left.”
(Cade refused to believe that.)
Cade practically growled. “Whatever. I’m going to the fucking store. I’ll talk to you more when you’re not so fucking-“
Cade jumped. That yell didn’t sound angry.
“Don’t just- Goddamn
it Cade, get out of ther-”
It was too late. By the time the child realized what was going on, a pitch-black wall had already separated the two. The panicked face of the artist was the last thing he saw before he was consumed.
“The hell?” He looked around, could only see the same black wall trapping him on all sides. “Old Man? Hey!” He pounded on the wall in front of him. “Old Man Graffiti? Are you still there?!” He couldn’t hear anything from outside. “This isn’t funny! Oi! Old Man! Old Man Graffiti! Mr. Winston!!”
Despite being desperate enough to use the artist’s real name, nothing changed. He was still trapped.
Cade cursed under his breath, backing away from the wall as he started to sweat. Okay, so, he was trapped in a sphere. He could tell it was a sphere because- despite the fact that no light could possibly get in- he could still see everything inside perfectly clear, including the ground. It looked like he was standing on a circular island, surrounded by blackness. This- this wasn’t man made. It was probably the chaos- must be the chaos. There was no way it wasn’t.
He knew about the chaos, of course. He’d even experienced it firsthand before, but never like this. Nothing had ever managed to shake the Flair family. Earthquake? Their house was fortified against that. Toxic water falling from the sky? Just stay inside- they had plenty of supplies.
He had never heard anything like this. A trap that sprung out of nowhere? A black sphere that suddenly appeared? How could he have possibly prepared for this?
The thought struck him like thunder. This was a personal prison meant just for him.
Stepping back up to the wall, he tried to push it. Then he tried kicking it. Belatedly, he realized touching the chaos was probably not a good idea, but he didn’t care. He continued kicking it, over and over, yelling louder and louder, hoping against hope that he could break out, that someone would come and save him. That something- God, the Devil, even Old Man Graffiti’s stupid black dragon- would make everything all right again.
Nothing happened. He stopped, after his foot started hurting but before he broke anything, and sat.
Right. He was stuck. He could only wait, then. Cade didn’t really know when he had started crying, but there wasn’t anyone there to see him, so he didn’t try to stop. (It was all he could do, really.)
(What Cade couldn’t have known was that time moved differently inside the sphere. It was slow; so slow that compared to the outside world time might as well of been not moving. By the time he sat down, Old Man Graffiti, his parents, and everyone else he’d ever known were long since dead.)
His tears were drying up, but he hardly felt any better. He brought his knees up to his chest and laid down his head. The last thought he had before time stopped completely was I just want to go home.