A shadow of life

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

There was a kingdom where there were no fairytales. Or make-believe. Or daydreaming. Or any sort of thing that could possibly distract you from living your actual life. Now, this may sound extreme, like a tyranny, like a corrupt society, but truth is, everyone was happy in it. Well, almost. There’s no such thing that can please anyone...

Table of Contents

Prologue

Prologue   Once upon a time… There was a kingdom where there were no fairytales. Or make-believe. Or daydreaming. Or a... Read Chapter

Chapter I

Chapter I.   Different. It was a word people from the Kingdom avoided, because they didn’t want to seem self-centred. Back... Read Chapter

Chapter II

Chapter II.

It was a bleak autumn day, and Atel had just turned 15. He had dark hair reaching up to his shoulders now, a few strands hiding his forehead. His lips were slightly curled downwards when he was in one of his thoughtful moods and a crease formed between his eyebrows.
He liked spending most of his time alone, given the fact that Lucas barely had time to see him these days; it wasn’t like he had another option, anyway, everyone agreeing that he was an arrogant and dubious fellow, staying clear of him.
Sometimes, he contributed to this image people had of him by making snarky remarks, which he would later regret. Not even he knew if what was said about him was true. He didn’t really know who he was, hadn’t given it much thought; when he did, he thought he was being self-indulgent, like everyone else said. It’s impossible not to be at least a little bit influenced by the ideas of the society you live in, and he was, no matter how different from the rest he felt. For one, he didn’t have a good opinion about himself, accepting the portrait everyone else painted of him. And he had moments when he questioned if anything he did mattered at all.
He knew Lucas liked the stories he wrote and didn’t give up on their ‘silly games’ even after lots of lectures from his mother. He now met up with Atel mostly in secret, but he didn’t want to stop, no matter how many times he kept saying that he should.
But Lucas was on the right track. He was paying attention in his classes, as well, and helping his mother as much as he could. In return, she turned a blind eye and pretended not to notice when she figured out that he was still meeting Atel occasionally.
Now, Atel was heading back home from his classes and was taking his favourite route, through the forest.
This forest was none other than the one near the King’s palace. There weren’t many tree-forests, most of them being replaced with Nitrees, but this was one of the biggest in the entire Kingdom. It wasn’t meant just for royalty, though, and any person could go wandering through it, as long as they did their duty throughout the day.
The path Atel was taking wasn’t too far off into the forest, but it was a good hideaway from prying eyes. People didn’t usually take it, preferring the main path, that had benches and places for picnic around it.
This one, though, ended with a fallen tree, the perfect sort of bench for Atel and Lucas.
Atel looked at his watch, ignoring all of the Reminders and Planners, and sighed. Lucas was late as usual, probably practicing something after classes. He was working twice as hard as he was ought to be, wanting to get a place to work at a Factory two years earlier, because his mother’s health was poorer and poorer.
These Reminders and Planners we have mentioned were messages that people got on their watches, that helped them manage their working and leisure time better, creating a sort of balance between them. It was life planning at its finest. Atel hated it.
He was looking through the papers he had brought with him, when he heard a rustle among the leaves of the bush behind him and, when he turned around, he was met by Lucas’ green eyes, glancing furtively around him.
Atel rolled his eyes.
“Can you stop being stressed for a moment?” he asked, patting the place beside him on the tree trunk, which Lucas immediately took, wiping the sweat off his forehead. He forced a quick smile.
“Great. Now you’re stressed about not looking stressed” Atel observed and then laughed.
“And you’re being annoying as per usual” Lucas remarked, but this time returned a genuine smile. “So, how is the story going? Have you decided if you want Joedi to die, or do you want to continue writing her story...?”.
Atel clicked his tongue and gave Lucas the papers. “I’m not telling you yet, but I would love to see your take on her. How you imagine her. I’m really curious about how you’ll draw her eyes. You’ve got a thing for that” he said softly.
Lucas had once made his portrait, while Atel was telling him about a book he had stolen from the library. It contained pictures of works of art that people used to create back in the past, but it had been banned from being used in history classes (for which it was originally created), due to reports saying that some students had become ‘dreamy’ and sort of ‘gloomy’ during that class. Nonetheless, Atel had managed to get his hands on it and he was so excited and happy while talking about it and marveling about the “beautiful things they made back then, Lucas, their lives had so much meaning”, that his eyes were lit up, the light brown catching on the light and mingling with that shade of yellow that was sometimes visible near his pupils. And Lucas managed to capture all that, the passion and happiness in his eyes, the spark.
And since then, Atel asked him to illustrate his stories. He couldn’t draw the same way his friend did, he had a passion for words and expressing himself and his feelings, but he couldn’t create worlds with colours. Sometimes he wrote stories inspired by Lucas’ creations. And so was their partnership, from which Lucas sometimes distanced himself, saying that painting unreal things didn’t have a point at all and that he wasn’t even that talented, anyway. But Atel gave him confidence in himself and whenever he stayed away from him too long, he felt that urge to draw again, more powerful than ever.
“I’ll get on it as soon as I can. I have to finish this project for my classes as well, I slacked on it a little bit because I was focusing on architecture - you know how I want to be an architect when I finish my time working in the Factory - and I also made those drawings for you and -”
Lucas, as shy and work-focused as he may seem in the beginning, was very talkative when you got to know him. And, even though he had other friends as well, friends who had the same goals as him in school and who had a “good influence”on him, as he became to call it, too - a phrase he got from his mother - Atel was the closest friend he had, the one he could talk to for hours if it was possible. But he was also aware of not wasting all of his time, what with the busy schedule he had. It was a struggle being this talkative and workative at the same time!
He checked his watch and started.
“Better get going” he told Atel, pointing at the stack of papers in his arms ,”I’ve got a lot to read tonight and a character to draw!”.
Atel smiled, watching his friend go. It was nice knowing Lucas did other things than the ones he had to or planned to. It was one of the things he was proud of - making Lucas see the world with other eyes.
He sat for a while, humming a song he and Lucas had invented once, while messing around with one of the forecasts. Atel had started singing the lyrics first back then, inspired by a drawing Lucas had made, of a cloud pouring colourful raindrops over a dull, grey field.
“ Feeling blue in this world of awful grey,
You feel the minutes pass and your life wasting away.
But don’t cry or drown into your sorrow,
Just check the forecast for tomorrow,
Cause the sky no longer cries with tears of blue,
Now it paints the world with colour and so should you.
The life is the canvas, the colours are your thoughts,
We don’t see it with our eyes, we just use our hearts.
Purple, orange, green and yellow,
Raindrops falling, a sound so mellow.
Red will be the King’s fat face,
While the colours are filling this ugly place.
But oh, so angry he would be if he saw
How in front of this majestic rain, so readily we bow.”
Lucas had been skeptic about the last part, not wanting to insult the King and be so rude, but in the end he had found himself humming along to the song without intending to.
After finishing the song and taking a dep breath, Atel opened one of his textbooks, the stuffy one about relationships between people. He couldn’t deny there were certain subjects that he liked at school. And he was a curious boy, always wanting to learn about the people and the world around him. It was just… sometimes, the limits that the world put on the people were too much for him. In a way, he did want to be different from the rest, after all.
***
When he got home, he sneaked quickly into his bedroom, knowing that his parents didn’t even realise whether he was missing or not, most of the time.
His room was small, with the bed right in the middle, occupying most of the space. There was a round window looking out into the garden on the right-hand wall, with peach-coloured hangings. The walls were white, quite dull, but Atel had managed to find a way to add a bit of colour to his room: near the bed, on the left side, in front of the night table, he had a vanity table. He didn’t use the mirror much, so he had covered it mostly with Lucas’ drawings, but also with a few quotes he liked, written with coloured letters. His parents were hesitant, at first, about letting him do it, but since it made him spend more time in his bedroom, seated at the table, and less time going around making trouble, they finally agreed. The drawers of the table were also the place where he kept most of his writings.
The room was dimly lit now, the only source of light being the lamp near the bed. Atel loved the calming atmosphere it gave to his room, so he usually never turned on the other lights - a habit that was bad for his eyes, because he did a lot of reading in the evening.
He sat down and opened one of the books he had borrowed from the library - it was truly borrowed this time, no theft. He had been doing some research lately, mostly studying History, a subject that captivated him. Not even he could explain why; this time around he actually realised that his obsession was useless and that he should move on with his life and look for progress in the present world. But reading about people from the past provided him with inspiration for his stories and for his fictitious worlds. Reading about the past was like reading about a whole other world in itself.
But since he had accidentally come across a weird paragraph in an old History book he had borrowed, a paragraph that most definitely shouldn’t have been there, his research seemed all the more justified.
This paragraph spoke about some kind of way in which one could create a different, parallel universe, within an object from this world. There weren’t many details, but as far as Atel could understand, the whole idea of this process was to find a suitable object - a box, an envelope, anything - in which you could then put the special ingredients - they weren’t specified - and you would afterwards be transported in some kind of dark, empty place - a parallel world. In order to make it your own, you had to imagine it, every tiny detail, every person you wanted to live there, so that it could come alive in front of your eyes. There was one problem, though: if a person who didn’t have enough imagination ended up in this destitute place and they couldn’t build up a credible world of their own, complex enough, they would be stuck there forever, without a way out.
All this sounded completely insane, and it was vague, so Atel didn’t know if he could believe it or not. Nonetheless, he was determined to search for more instructions until he was proven that there was no such thing…or until he succeeded. This was his one chance of creating something that may, one day, be seen as useful by the community. Maybe someday more people would want to escape into a world made by themselves. Maybe it would pass as a productive leisure activity. And then Atel would fit in.
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Chapter III

Chapter III.   A few evenings later and Lucas was still working on his drawing of Joedi. He had many messages from Atel on h... Read Chapter

Chapter IV

Chapter IV.   It was dark in Lucas’ small room, and the moon was nowhere to be seen outside of the window. With his eyes o... Read Chapter