Diana and Patrick followed my terrified gaze towards the creepy child walking towards us. Surprisingly, they didn’t seem to be that shocked.
“Hey, you finally going to come play with us?” Patrick calmly asked the pale-ghost-face.
As the figure stepped into the light, I realized it was just a small kid. What I had mistaken as pitch-black eyes were actually large circular sunglasses.
Ok, so not a ghost. But to be fair, who wears sunglasses indoors? The kid took a step back. “I was just going to get some juice,” he said. “There are still over 100 imps that I need to destroy before I can reach a save point.”
Diana threw her hands into the air. “You and that stupid game,” she said.
“It’s not stup-“ the kid began to complain before Diana turned to me and cut him off.
“Ignore Harold. All he’s done since we got here is coop himself up in the attic playing video games.”
I was about to say that actually seemed kind of nice, but Diana’s scowl told me she wouldn’t find it very funny.
Patrick smiled. “We’ve been next door neighbors to the Hopes since we were born. Diana and I have always tried to include him but…” He shrugged.
So that would make Harold the son of the larger couple out in the front yard. I wasn’t particularly surprised, to be honest.
“Harold Hope?” I said, trying to be nice. “Sounds like a superhero name. Like Peter Parker or Clark Kent or…”
“Bruce Wayne?” said Harold. “Arthur Curry? Steve Rogers?”
“Ok, well, not every superhero is like that…” I could see why Diana was a bit irritated with the kid.
“It’s a stupid name,” said Harold. “When I get older I’m changing it to something cool.”
“They could just call you ‘No’,” said Diana. “At least calling you ‘No Hope’ would be accurate.”
Harold turned a bright red, emphasized by his normally colorless face.
Patrick stepped between the two. “I have an idea,” he said. “What if we just go outside and grab some food? I think Dad was going to grill some burgers.”
Thankful for the interruption, I readily agreed, even though I wasn’t particularly looking forward to going back into the heat. Diana, Patrick and I went to join the adults, while Harold, still pouting, headed back upstairs to continue slaying virtual imps and demons.
The rest of the day proved to be exactly what I expected, mainly a bunch of introductions and questions that I had to smile through. It wasn’t awful, but I would have rather been reading or listening to music. On one hand, Harold was a bit of pain, but I couldn’t blame him; sometimes it’s nice to be alone. Patrick and Diana seemed to always be together despite their opposite personalities. I could see how growing up near the two could get a bit tiring, even if they were both relatively welcoming to me. Still, the first chance I got I excused myself to go read in my room. It’s not that I didn’t want to play nice with the twins, but…well, sometimes it feels like there’s this “meter” I have, like a gauge in a car, and the more I talk with others, the more that meter fills. Every so often, I just need to be alone to let that meter recharge. I could tell that Diana and Patrick were people whose meters were a lot longer than mine.
Later that evening, as our parents were preparing dinner, I decided to check up on Harold in the attic. Even though we had kind of started off on the wrong foot, I hoped I could get try to get on his good side. The last thing I wanted was a whole month of awkward tension. Plus, I guess I felt a bit of solidarity towards the other loner of the group, even if he was a few years younger than the rest of us.
As I walked up the creaky steps towards the higher levels of the house, I could hear the digital sounds of fantasy creatures screaming and epic music playing in the background from a TV. I was never much of a “gamer” myself, and the types of fiction I read was more firmly rooted in reality, crime and detective thrillers being my favorites. The whole fantasy genre just seemed a bit overdone and ridiculous.
I knocked on the door at the top of the stairs but didn’t get any response. A cold draft blew by and I shivered involuntarily. How could this kid be comfortable enough to hang out here?
I stepped inside, expecting to find one of those stereotypical attics with a bunch of knick-knacks and old antique items lying around, but it was actually just a normal room with a couch, a few shelves, and a TV. In fact, the only things abnormal about it were that it was even colder inside, and that Harold was nowhere to be found.
Huh. That’s weird. I hadn’t seen him anywhere else in the house, and the TV was still on, displaying a vivid landscape covered in dragons and knights. I hugged myself against the chill. It was so hot everywhere else and yet it felt like I had stepped into an arctic tundra. Option A: Harold really liked air conditioning, or Option B: something seriously weird was going on.
As I looked around the room, I noticed a closet that had been propped open. Moving forward to get a better look, I felt the temperature drop even more. The door seemed to be stuck on something, which was why it couldn’t close.
I looked down. A pile of snow had formed at the base of the door.
A noise like a trumpet caused me to glance forward through the doorway. Miles and miles of a snowy mountainside spread out into the distance.
Yeah, I’m going to go with Option B.