Bryan sighed, and closed the browser tab. He picked up hisphone, hoping in vain that some notification had popped up in the 5 minute
interval since he’d last checked it. The cute anime girl smiled up at him from
the screen, but it had long ago ceased eliciting any emotional response in him.
He slouched further down into his seat and pondered again what to do. He’d
checked all his favorite social media sites a dozen times already today. None
of the games in his extensive digital collection held any appeal. His friends,
what few he still communicated with, had all gone to sleep hours before—the
downsides to having gainful employment, as it were. He briefly considered
picking up the book he’d recently purchased, but he’d had incredible difficulty
getting interested enough in the plot to make it past the second chapter. He
almost opened up a new browser tab to look for a job, if only so he wouldn’t be
lying next time his father yelled at him about how worthless he was being. Ultimately,
it didn’t seem worth the effort.
His slouch had deepened almost the point of lying down when
the doorbell to his small apartment rang shrilly. The shock actually jerked him
just enough that the wheeled chair slid backwards and in the process deposited
Bryan to the floor. Confused, he looked down to the phone he still held in his
hand to check the time. Who on earth could be visiting at this hour of the
night? It made no sense. Belatedly Bryan realized he kept no weapon, or even
anything suitable for self-defense, in his measly abode. Then again, what kind
of intruder rings the bell? Bryan pulled himself to his feet and walked the
short distance to the door.
He paused in front of the entrance. Was it really wise to
open it? Perhaps it would be better to just pretend he was asleep; most people
were at this hour, anyway. On the other hand…maybe it would finally be
something interesting. Worst case, it could be something to at least complain
about to Claire and Scott tomorrow. Bryan gingerly reached out and opened the
The figure was on the taller side, roughly around six feet
he’d guess. What had clearly been brown hair had been dyed to a shade of
bubble-gum pink, which clashed in a horrifyingly fascinating way with the
electric-green lipstick that had been hastily applied. Eyeliner had been
applied in quantities and with an expertise often associated with excited
preteens. The left ear sported several large hoop earrings, and the right a
large stud containing some kind of dark gem. The plain black choker seemed
oddly demure in contrast to the rest of the outfit, which would have easily
have blended in at any punk rock concert. Combat boots, bright mismatched stockings, pink tiger-print
skirt, tightly-bound corset, and an assortment of wrist accessories all vied
for Bryan’s attention. What ended up actually occupying his mind, though, was
the fact the figure was clearly and absolutely male.
The stubble-studded face broke out into a wide grim, and the
man struck what clearly was supposed to be a jaunty pose.
“Ahoy there, Max! It’s time for ADVENTURE!”
“…my name is Bryan, not Max. And who are you supposed to
The man’s smile froze, and he began vigorously patting
nonexistent pockets in a clear search for something. Bryan could barely make
out the man mumbling to himself, something like “…have sworn I didn’t forget again…” though it was hard to tell. With
an irked expression, he gave up on the futile search. Like a switch, the smile
that was obviously intended to be “winning” plastered itself upon his face
“Well, doesn’t matter anyway, Bryan! Your adventure awaits,
and I am here to accompany you! To answer your question, I am Aaron! Aaron Yan.
Although you can call me Erin if you want, some of them do though I don’t quite
understand why…” The man trailed off, and his gaze grew distant. Bryan wasn’t
sure how, but he had someone managed to actually pronounce the different
spellings while speaking. With a startling suddenness, Aaron’s attention
suddenly seemed to snap back to Bryan.
“NONETHELESS! That isn’t pertinent at the moment! THE TIME
IS UPON US! We shall embark immediately! Although I must say I’m a bit
surprised at your clothing choice.” Bryan was sure Aaron’s maxed vocal volume
would wake his neighbors, though Bryan honestly didn’t care that much. Bryan
glanced down, taking in his faded, well-worn jeans and one of his many text
t-shirts (“Irony is when someone writes ‘your an idiot’”). What had Aaron been
expecting him to wear?
Wait, why was Aaron expecting anything of him?
“I still don’t understand, what adventure? And why are you dressed like that?”
“It is NOT THE TIME for questions! Your adventures await, we
must set off at once! Barn chalice, as they say!” Bryan briefly had time to
wonder who in the world actually said that before he was firmly grabbed by the
hand and jerked into motion by the exuberant Aaron.
As Bryan sputtered out questions, they were all but lost to
the void as Aaron chattered endlessly over him, promising him excitement and
adventure and all the things Jedi weren’t supposed to crave. Bryan found himself
almost incapable of looking away from the monstrosity that was Aaron’s attire.
The fact his eyes kept wandering to the space between the man’s leggings and
skirt end left Bryan feeling increasingly uncomfortable and confused.
They rounded the corner on the block. Aaron dug into a
pocket with his free hand, and with a motion a nearby car emitted an excited
trio of beeps. Somehow the aged Honda Civic, sporting mismatched colored doors,
had been wedged in between two other cars in a manner that defied Bryan’s
understanding of physics. With a jovial shove, Bryan found himself forced into
the passenger seat.
Aaron’s prattling hadn’t ceased for a second, but now
included several reminders for Bryan to buckle up (despite the fact he already
had) as Aaron executed what could best be described as a 13-point turn. Finally
free from the parking prison, Bryan suddenly gripped whatever handholds he
could as Aaron slammed down on the accelerator.
Despite the time of night, the streets were not completely
empty. Bryan had to physically bite down on a scream as Aaron, with a cry of
“Ah HA!” turned his attention completely away from the road for a handful of
incredibly long seconds in order to connect an aging iPod to the car’s stereo
system. Bryan was relatively certain they sped through at least two red lights,
but had closed his eyes after the first and couldn’t be sure.
The bright voices of Swedish pop singers blasted from the
speakers, and in an entirely unnerving fashion Aaron began swerving slightly in
time with the electronic beat. For the first time since they had met, Aaron
finally paused long enough for Bryan to get a full question out.
“I get you’re going to show me a ‘good time’ and it’ll be
exciting and all that…but where exactly are you actually taking me?!”
“Ah, that would spoil the SURPRISE! They say anticipation
makes the heart grow fonder, after all!”
“…I’m pretty sure no one says that. I think you’re mixing
“Oh, come now, my good man!” Aaron possessed a remarkable
ability to shut Bryan up despite his every intention not to. “Life’s wasted
without a bit of excitement, eh? I assure you, EVERY customer I’ve had in the
past has been more than satisfied by my performance, if you catch my drift!” A
sudden swerve to avoid a car driving at a far more reasonable speed, followed
by a long and angry horn. “Why, the fair lady of Astoria, the Princess
Esmeralda, once remarked that a night…“
Bryan found himself ignoring the
resumption of Aaron’s torrential tale-telling, and instead praying (as he
hadn’t in over a decade) that wherever Aaron was taking them, they’d at least
arrive alive and in one piece…
The amusement park was quite empty, though they had walked
in easily enough. Aaron had gone silent upon exiting the vehicle, and Bryan had
decided that asking questions was pointless, and just hoped that whatever Aaron
had planned would soon become clear.
The pair wound their way through various darkened booths and
empty queues, and eventually Bryan found himself ducking under chains to reach
the entrance to a large Ferris wheel. He stood, slightly bewildered, as Aaron
attempted with much gusto to open the locked control box for the ride. Over the
rattling of the metal casing Bryan could just discern muttering that he was
certain contained words no lady was supposed to utter. As if sensing the gaze,
Aaron looked up to Bryan.
“Not to worry, I’ll have this sorted out in a jiffy! Can’t
be that hard, right? Just flip a switch, and VOLLA! Instant ride.”
“…you seriously think they keep these things ready to go
through the night? Did you come in here thinking you can just flip one switch
and the entire amusement park would come to life?
Aaron’s expression froze mid-grin, and Bryan could almost
hear the mental gears shifting in panicked thought.
“…can’t you? Pretty sure I’ve seen it done before!”
“…in MOVIES! You seriously thought this would work?! I
thought you knew what you were doing!”
“Ah ha ha ha! No, uh, well, you see, this was an, er… A
TEST! Yes! A test to see if you were paying attention! And you’ve passed
SPLENDIDLY, my good man! Now that we’ve, uh, established your CREDENTIALS, we
shall proceed to the real adventure. QUICKLY, m’lad! We have no a moment to
Bryan once again discovered
himself being dragged behind Aaron at a breakneck pace as they made their way
back to the car…
“Now, Brian,” Aaron again demonstrated his remarkable
ability to pronounce spelling differences between homonyms, “what I think the
issue here is a certain lack of TRUST! Clearly you don’t, for reasons I can
hardly understand, think I’m actually going to do what I was hired to do!”
“What WERE you hired to do? I still don’t know why you were
here!” Bryan may as well not have asked the question, as Aaron barreled on—both
verbally, and on the road.
“So what I think we need now is a little TRUST exercise! I
shall continue driving, but with my eyes CLOSED and my hands OFF THE WHEEL!
Together, we shall reach out next destination intact and whole, and by god!
We’ll have done it together! Can’t get much more trusting than that, eh?”
Bryan actually uttered a small shriek this time as Aaron did
as he had just promised before Bryan could even respond. He practically threw
himself at the wheel as Aaron leaned back, grinning and eyes closed, threw his
hands in the air and pressed his foot to the floorboard. The engine of the
beat-up old car roared hoarsely, but the car surged ahead. Bryan tried his best
to keep the vehicle on the road from his precarious leaning position, and out
of the corner of his eye caught the flash of black and white as they tore down
Seconds later, the sirens and flashing lights confirmed his
worst fears, and Bryan let out a deep-seated moan. Well, at least this
“adventure’ was over. Bryan had never been more excited to speak to a cop.
“AHA! The fuzz! Excellent!” Bryan froze in response to these
unexpected words, and almost veered off the road.
“Well, now, Bryan, we can’t stop
here! We’re partners in crime, as it were! An old-school chase, nothing like
that to boil the blood and brighten the spirit!” Bryan had thought the car had
reached its peak speed, but he was proven wrong. Aaron controlled the
accelerator, and a crash at this speed would be fatal—Bryan had no choice but
to continue driving, as additional lights appeared in the review mirror and
Aaron began cackling cheerfully…
Several eventful hours later found Bryan panting on a remote
hillside, legs clutched tight to his chest as he rocked back-and-forth slightly
by himself. Aaron emerged from behind a nearby tree, and gave what was supposed
to be cheerful slap on the back that sent Bryan tumbling down the hill several
yards. Lacking the energy to do anything else, Bryan simply groaned and looked
He was unsure from where Aaron had produced the clothes, but
he had winked conspiratorially at Bryan and said some long sentences about
“throwing them off the tracks” and “never recognizing us now.” He seemed to
ignore the fact that Bryan himself was still dressed the same, but Bryan wasn’t
sure how he felt about Aaron’s new outfit. Certainly less garish than before, nevertheless
the pastel blue sundress and polka-dot headband still gave an incredibly
feminine appearance to a man who otherwise gave no such airs. As if to
emphasize the point, Aaron tromped off down the hillside in the combat boots he
still wore, singing some unfamiliar tune in a bold voice.
“Ah-HA! What’s that I hear?”
Bryan couldn’t muster the energy to look. Surely it couldn’t
concern him if he stayed where he was. Aaron started humming to himself, with
the occasional interjection of “Ah-HA!” as he busied himself with something
near the bottom of the hill.
Several minutes later, more rapid tromping. Bryan opened his
weary eyes at Aaron’s insistent tugging on his pantsleg.
“So, um, yes, we should go!”
“Aaron, I’m sick of this. I’m exhausted. Just let me lie
here till dawn breaks and I can get a taxi back home.”
“Um, yes, well, about that. I wouldn’t stay there if I was
Bryan dimly realized Aaron was speaking, but what had
thought was Aaron’s humming hadn’t ceased—rather, it was growing louder.
“Yes, you see, apparently they don’t like being disturbed
from rest, and while I had heard that gifts of that sort were very memorable,
it seems I may have miscalculated slightly in the difficulty involved in the
procurement of, well…”
Bryan sat up in horror as he realized what he had taken for
a particular deep shadow was actively moving, as if composed of hundreds of
smaller pieces. Finally, it clicked.
And again they were sprinting
away as the horde of angry bees chased after the would-be invaders of their
“But you have to admit, Bryan, it was quite exciting, right?
Nothing like running for your life to remind you that, well, you’re alive!
Amirite? One day soon you’ll look back on everything that’s happened tonight
with great fondness! That’s what I tell myself, anyway. And then after, when…”
The thin fabric did not make the hard molded plastic
noticeably more comfortable, but at this point Bryan was happy to take what he
could get. He was exhausted. Theoretically he was looking at the value menu
that had been shoved in front of him by an irritated waitress (glaring the
whole time at Aaron Yan) but his gaze was more akin to a veteran’s
thousand-yard-stare. His mind was elsewhere, such as on the bit with the black
cat and the—no, he needed to focus on other things! He was doing his best to
forget about the events of the past several hours, particularly the
“adventures” after the encounter the bees.
He was failing miserably.
As he sat there, the light from the newly rising sun
suddenly blinded him. This only further increased his misery. For want of
anything better to do, and against his better judgment, he tuned back in to
what Aaron was saying.
“…more for the fancy restaurants. But have you SEEN how
little food they give you? I must say, it’s FAR more EFFICIENT to go to a good
ol’ fashion AMERICAN DINER TRADITION like this! Do you see how much more food
you get for the amount you paid? Simply splendid!”
“Well, I haven’t paid anything yet.”
“Oh, my lad, I meant for the whole package! The meal is
naturally included in the price you were originally quoted at for the
“Look, I’ve tried to tell you this already, I don’t KNOW
what package you’re talking about! I STILL don’t know why you’re here, I don’t
know what adventure or experience or…or..or WHATEVER this is supposed to be?
Can you just take me home!?”
Aaron’s eyes widened slightly, and Bryan suspected he may
have gotten through to the man for the first time in the entire evening. Bryan
could once again almost see the metaphorical gears grinding in action as Aaron
attempted to seriously process what he had just heard. For perhaps the first
time since he had first met Aaron Yan, neither spoke for the better part of a
minute, the normal clatter of an early-morning diner filling in the void.
“…well then,” Aaron finally broke the silence. “This is, er,
rather a pickle, I’m afraid. So you did not
order this service? This all came as a (rather positive I hope!) surprise?” His
stare was unnervingly intense, though he was smiling throughout in a rather
For once, Aaron listened with
his full attention to the reply.
“-until your next great adventure!” and the door slammed
shut, leaving Bryan in blissful quiet with only the hum of his idle computer
filling the room. He quickly lowered himself onto his coach and closed his
His stomach rumbled briefly—Aaron had very quickly cancelled
breakfast plans, practically dragged Bryan back out to the street before
hailing a taxi to rush them back to his apartment. As usual, Aaron had let
loose a torrential stream of apologies and thinly veiled pleas that Bryan not
mention this to anyone, not that Bryan intended to.
The word “adventure” briefly crossed Bryan’s mind, and he
could not repress a shudder that coursed through his body. Not even a day
previously his boring life had seemed,
well, boring: now he was relishing remaining indoors for the next 72 hours and
doing whatever he felt like, and that would very likely be ‘nothing.’ He
shifted slightly, and Aaron’s grinning face flashed in his mind’s eye. Bryan
shuddered again, though this time it more closely resembled a convulsion.
No, he was now quite satisfied with his life. If anybody
rang his doorbell again, he would relish opening it just to slam it in the
In his pocket, a vibration announced some new notification.
He’d check it later—he was in no hurry.
No, this was how life was meant to be.