Karry lay on his bed, eyes staring at the ceiling. He had been in this position for days, months even-he was just too tired to get up and make himself something to eat or get a shower.
His phone buzzed. Karry turned his head to look at it: the caller ID was Mom.
He groaned. His mother was in New York working on something or other, and she hadn’t returned in almost a year. Karry didn’t even remember when she was home.
Karry declined the call and turned so his eyes were staring at the blank ceiling again. He was hot, bored and tired, and he didn’t want to do anything except stare at the ceiling and wipe his mind for a bit.
Karry sat at his desk, staring at the computer screen. It was state-of-the-art type, with multiple screens and unlimited data. He was watching Big Hero 6 on one screen, How To Train Your Dragon on the other, and surfing the net on the third.
His phone rang again. Karry sighed and glanced at the screen out of the corner of his eye; it was Mom. Again.
He declined the call once again and returned to watching his shows, eyes half-closed. He watched Big Hero 6 a million times already and he didn’t even like How to Train Your Dragon.
Karry’s phone rang yet again. Karry literally rolled his eyes and finally acknowledged the fact that his mother wasn’t going to quit calling him until he answered.
“Hey Mom,” Karry answered, stretching and leaning over his chair. “What? No, I’m not going out. I am perfectly happy staying at home.”
He listened to his mom rant some more, then cut in and said: “Mom, I don’t need friends. Outside there are more people and more cars. Inside there is only me and there are no cars unless I go down into the garage. I don’t need to go out!”
Karry groaned when his mother continued to argue with him. “Okay, okay, I’ll go somewhere. I’ll explore somewhere. Bye.” He ended the call and threw his phone onto the bed, then threw himself onto it.
He didn’t want to go out. The world was noisy, and polluted, and dirty.
Karry heaved himself from his nice, comfortable bed and pulled out his backpack. He could be gone for at least a day. Maybe less. That would be good.
Jackson opened the train door and stepped onto the vehicle. He maneuvered he and his guitar’s way to look for a compartment to sit in.
Jackson spun around and came face to face with a boy, about fourteen or so. He was covering his right eye and scrunching his face up.
“Sorry, did I hit you with my guitar? I’m so sorry, are you alright? Was it hard?” Jackson said quickly, moving towards the boy.
The boy, whose name was Roy, looked up at the young man standing in front of him. His eyes analyzed everything about him-Roy even knew what he ate for breakfast. Cereal.
“Oh no, it’s okay.” Roy said, rubbing at his eye and smiling at him.
“Are you sure? I think the train has a medical doctor or someone,” Jackson tried again, looking around.
“No, really, I’m alright.” Roy said quickly.
Jackson slid into the seat opposite him. “I was worried that I might have caused you a eye problem or something.”
Roy laughed. “Hey, I like your guitar. Is it made by Play By Ear?”
“It is, actually,” Jackson smiled. “Do you play the guitar, too?”
Roy shook his head. They sat in slightly awkward silence for a while, until a new voice interrupted them from their thoughts.
“This is my seat.”
Roy looked up and saw another boy facing him, eyebrows furrowed.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Roy apologised, standing up and letting Karry take his seat before flopping back in his own.
“What are you guys doing out here?” Jackson asked curiously.
“Oh, I’m taking a tour,” Roy replied, eyes scanning the train.
“You mean travelling,” Jackson corrected. He glanced at Karry. “And how about you?”
Karry didn’t bother to answer. He just stared out of the window and tried to ignore everybody there.
Roy stared at Karry for a second, then asked Jackson hastily, “Where are you going then?”
“Me? Vagabondage,” Jackson said dreamily.
“Vagabondage, then where is your destination?” Roy said confusedly.
“To a poetic and far-away place,” Jackson smiled.
Karry laughed unkindly. “So childish,” he murmured.
Jackson stared indignantly at Karry. “You are wearing a cartoon related shirt,” he pointed out. “Who's more childish?”
Karry rolled his eyes to Jackson, then away again. Roy raised an eyebrow. He found Karry… intriguing.
Somewhere along the way, a man asked them, “Hey kids, do you guys use OPPO phone? My phone is out of battery, can i borrow a charger for just five minutes?”
Jackson pulled out a charger from his bag. “Here,” he offered the charger to the man.
“Kids, who are you calling kids,” Karry said resentfully.
The man stared confusedly at him, then shrugged and sat down.
“I know right, I’m even taller than him.” Jackson said.
“I’m 15 already, still other people call me kid,” Roy laughed.
“Oh, I’m 15 too,” Jackson said, smiling at Roy.
Karry smirked at them. “Sorry, kids,” he said smugly. “I’m 16 already.”
“But you still watch the same cartoons as we do,” Jackson argued.
“I thought you said the cartoon was childish,” Karry said, raising his eyebrow.
Jackson shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then said, “My name’s Jackson Yi, you?”
“Roy Wang,” Roy replied.
“And you, Childish Boy?” Jackson asked, staring pointedly at Karry.
Karry stared incredulously at Jackson. “My name is Karry Wang, tramp.”
Roy started to laugh. He found it funny that the two were always arguing.
Karry gave his card to the guy at the counter. He felt somebody pat his back and turned and saw that guy who was sitting beside him on the train. Started with R. R something.
“Roy Wang,” He laughed when Karry asked him what his name was.
“Why are you here?” Karry asked.
“I heard this is a very famous tourist city,” Roy replied, then was interrupted by the presence of Jackson.
“This is your stop too?” Karry said. It was getting annoying, these two 15 year olds trailing him wherever he goes.
“I’m robbing, do you want some money?” Jackson said off-handedly, waving the cash in the air.
Karry felt around in his pockets. “Where’s my wallet?”
Jackson turned around and threw him his wallet. “16 years old and you still can lose your wallet on the train.” He scoffed.
When they reached the main city, Roy asked, “Is this your first time travelling by yourself?”
Jackson cut in, “Roy, Karry just said that he is going to treat us for lunch today.”
“Me? Now, why would I do that?” Karry said.
Roy smiled. “Let me find a good restaurant for us,”
His robotic eyes scanned the place. “There’s a pretty good fried chicken place here,”
“Really? I really do like fried chicken,” Jackson added.
“Let’s go,” he said, and Jackson and Roy started towards the fried chicken place, with Karry trailing behind them and counting his money.
A few minutes later, the boys sat on the steps, eating the fried chicken that Karry had rather reluctantly bought for them.
“Roy, help me play a song,” Jackson said, pulling out his phone. “My hands are oily.”
“O-K,” Roy said teasingly, flicking on the phone. “Hey, your phone’s out of battery, you want me to charge it?”
“Sure,” Jackson said absently, his eyes glued to the half-eaten chicken in his hand.
Roy got up and walked to a secluded spot, making sure that the other boys didn’t see him. He held his hand over the phone and charged it in five minutes. He did kind of felt drained but it was for the best. He could recharge in twelve minutes, anyway.
Once they finished their ‘lunch’, the three boys started walking around the city. Roy was fascinated by everything he saw, Jackson was only interested in the music displays and Karry was just trudging along, half listening to Roy’s chatter.
“Look!” Jackson pointed out. Karry and Roy turned and saw a crowd of people gathering around a man who was singing and dancing.
“A street performer,” Karry whispered to Roy, who was wondering who he was.
They moved along in the crowd, and the street performer beckoned to Jackson, who handed his guitar to Karry for safekeeping and joined the dancer.
Jackson really was good at dancing. Roy and Karry clapped along to the beat as people shouted and whooped at Jackson’s dance moves.
After Jackson’s performance, they hightailed it to the beach. Jackson yelled from the sidewalk, “Ocean! My hometown! My-”
They didn't get to hear the last of Jackson’s sentence, because Roy gave him a push and he toppled over the railing he was sitting on and fell into the water.
He resurfaced, yelling at Roy. Roy laughed, then raced down to the beach and waited at the shallow end of the water, seeing Jackson crawl towards him, dripping wet.
“Let’s have a race, see who’s the fastest to get to the end of the beach!” Jackson shouted up to Karry, who was leaning over the railing and smiling smugly at them.
Jackson took off, Roy right on his heels. Karry didn’t follow the two immature 15 year olds. He just leaned against the railing and closed his eyes, feeling the wind ruffle his hair.
“Ah, just run!” Roy yelled in his ear, startling Karry. He opened his eyes and felt Roy drag him along the edge of the beach.
They both caught up with Jackson, Roy bearing most of Karry’s weight.
“Why is a 16 year old letting somebody younger than him carry his weight?” Jackson said laughingly, poking Karry in the side.
Karry glared at him and almost dumped the whole ocean on him. It made Jackson quite mad, because he had just dried off.
The boys continued splashing water at each other and giggling, very manly giggling of course.
“Oh my gosh, we will have to change our clothes.” Karry stared in dismay at his sopping wet shirt.
“Last one at the sidewalk is a rotten egg!” Roy yelled, and they all dashed to the sidewalk, Karry included this time.
“Where are we going now? It’s getting dark,” Karry asked. They were all sitting on the sidewalk railing, their wet shirts rolled over the railing.
“Is there any place you want to go?” Roy addressed them, watching the ships pass by.
Karry shook his head. Jackson butted in, “There’s a clover forest near here,” he said. “The glow worms there are famous. It’s a popular topic on Facebook. Let’s go and take a look!”
“What’s so good about glow worms?” Karry scoffed. “They’re just a bunch of glowing bees.”
“The glow worm is a yellow-green colour worm,” Roy said. “The light is produced by different organs in different parts of the body. Terrestrial glow worms usually live in highly-concealed forests. However, aquatic glow worms are very sensitive to the environment.”
Karry and Jackson exchanged incredulous looks.
“The water cannot be polluted, as well as the light.” Roy finished, the information in his head coming from his brain/computer.
Karry and Jackson’s mouths were open so wide that time literally stopped and looked at Roy too.
“In a word, they need plenty of water and leaves in order to survive!” Roy said quickly, his mouth curving into a smile.
“It is strange that the clover forest has glow worms,” Roy concluded.
“I saw the pictures online, they’re beautiful. Let’s go check it out.” Jackson countered.
Roy smirked at the supposedly bored Karry. “Come on Karry, I know you want to go to.”
Karry sighed. “Fine, if that’s what you guys want.”
“We have to go!” Jackson said, eyes lighting up in excitement. He slapped Karry on the back, making him fall onto the sand. “Let’s go!”
Karry glared up at the two figures sitting on the railing. “You guys won’t move like that.”
They started climbing up the stairs leading to the clover forest, Roy keeping up a running commentary about the animals that they have and will see. Karry had no idea where he stored all the information in his brain.
They ran along the wooden planks, climbed trees to see where they were just for fun, and generally had a good time.
At the end of the road that they were following and the start of a long climb to the top of the mountain, Roy stopped and looked around.
“Wait.” He held up a hand to stop the others. His eyes scanned the area, his mind checking for something.
“There’s an accident that happened near the tunnel; they blocked the road.” Roy reported.
“Blocked?” Jackson said skeptically. He checked his phone. “It really is blocked, but it can’t be, we didn’t see anything happen.”
“We still have enough time if we head back now.” Roy said. “But if we keep going, we will need to here there overnight.”
“Let’s head back then,” Jackson said.
He noticed Karry shaking his head. “You said that glow worms are just a bunch of glowing bees,” he said accusingly.
Karry shook his head. “I hate it when people give up halfway while doing things.”
“You guys can go back first, I’ll be able to go up myself.” Karry said, hefting his bag and starting towards the trail.
Jackson glanced at Roy. “I’m the one to say that I wanted to see the glow worms, it would be shameful if I back out now,” he said. “Let’s go.”
They continued trudging along the forest footpath, stopping now and then to give Roy a break. He was the youngest of them all in term of months.
“It’s so hot,” Jackson said finally during one of their rest-breaks. “This isn’t even a small forest, it’s huge.”
Roy scanned the area again. “We’ve lost the path.” He announced. “We’re even further away from where the glow worms are.”
“Oh no, so we are going to stay here tonight,” Jackson said in dismay.
Karry walked towards a huge stone slab that had fell on top of a grassy ledge. “Over here!”
They crowded inside. The space fitted them, leaving some light and quite a lot of space for them.
“Finally, a place where we can chill for a while,” Roy smiled.
“‘Chill?’” Karry said confusedly.
“Relax,” Roy explained. “I can’t believe you don’t know what ‘chill’ means.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a loud rumble.
Karry shook his head and laughed. “Now, either a storm is coming or someone is hungry. Who did that?”
“Not me,” Roy said, shrugging and laughing.
“I… also don’t think that it was me.” Jackson said lamely.
There was another rumble.
“Oh, fine. It was me.” Jackson admitted.
Karry and Roy burst out laughing.
Jackson sighed. “We can’t find glow worms, and no food either.”
“We can’t go anywhere. This really is shaping up to be the best trip ever.”
Karry, feeling angrily guilty, suddenly stood up and left the small space.
Roy and Jackson stared, one confused, one intrigued, after him. Jackson didn’t know what happened to Karry, while Roy was wondering why Karry felt like that. It wasn’t his fault.
Karry continued stumbling down the forest. So far, he hadn’t found any food, but he had followed some trees he thought were mango trees. Hopefully they were. He wasn’t a biologist.
He looked up and smiled. Those would have to do, but he didn’t think Jackson or Roy would be picky.
Karry collapsed onto the stone he had claimed as his seat. “Here, I found some fruits,” he panted out. He had ran all the way back with a heavy branch in his hand.
Roy smiled in thanks to him and started eating. Jackson was more apprehensive, saying that the fruit might not be edible since it was freshly picked from the trees. Karry and Roy convinced him to listen to his stomach soon enough.
“You know, we should stop eating soon.” Karry said, leaning against the back of the stone. “There is something called overeating and saving some for breakfast.”
“Picture?” Roy asked, stopping long enough to hold his hands up in a pose.
Karry and Jackson both laughed and held their hands up in a V shape.
Roy, in his mind, took a mental and physical image of them. He saved it onto his phone, making sure to send it to Karry and Jackson later for a laugh.
For some reason, they decided to go outside. Karry and Roy sat on some mossy stone steps while Jackson lay on the floor.
“Karry,” Jackson started.
Karry looked at him expectantly, his hands toying with some weeds he found.
“Why did your mom want you to travel by yourself?”
Karry sighed. “My mom… said I’m always at home. And it’s not normal that I don’t have any friends.”
He threw a torn weed, and it hit Jackson accidentally on purpose. Karry threw it that way.
“But guess what, I’m friends now with weird people like you guys.” Karry added.
“Hey, who are you calling weird,” Jackson said, punching his arm gently.
“Did you know,” Roy said, “people say that the friends you make when you were 15 or 16 will be lifelong friends.”
“Why is that?” Karry nudged Roy.
“Cuz of youth,” Jackson said. “Hot summers with enthusiasms. Wonderful dreams and passionate teenagers. Of course it’s lifelong.”
Roy laughed. He suddenly remembered the fireflies, and why they came here. The electricity he received from charging Jackson’s phone surged through him, and he looked at his hand, which was glowing with yellow light. Something to attract the yellow-green worms.
“Hey, look,” Roy said excitedy, standing up. “Glow worms!”
“Woah,” Karry said, placing a hand on Roy’s shoulder and standing up.
“It’s so beautiful,” Jackson smiled, starting to chase the glow worms flittering around them.
They followed the glow worms to a clearing in the woods, and Roy and Jackson started chasing them around with Karry leaning against a tree and smiling.
“We better get back,” Karry said at last, checking his watch. “It’s midnight. I’m the oldest, so I get to set your bedtime.”
The puppy eyes Roy made was almost too much for him. Almost.
They (read: Roy and Karry) made a fire back at the ‘cave’. Jackson just crawled on top of the stone he called “Jackson’s bed” and fell asleep immediately.
“Are you always the only one at home?” Roy asked. He and Karry sat beside each other, near the fire for warmth.
Karry didn’t answer, just leaned towards the fire. His hand snaked towards Roy's, and stayed on top of his.
“Okay then, what do you usually do at home?” Roy persisted.
This one Karry could answer. “Watch comics, play video games, sleep.”
He stared at Roy. “You? Roy Wang, you don’t seem like a travel person either.”
Roy ducked his head. “This is my first time, too,” he admitted. “I’m glad to meet you guys.” He smiled at Karry.
Karry smiled back at him, then lifted out Jackson’s guitar. He set it across his lap, half on Roy’s, and started playing Counting Stars.
Roy sang along, and although they couldn’t see him, Jackson started singing along softly too.
“I’m happy too,” Karry whispered softly when the song ended, Roy asleep, his head on Karry’s shoulder. “Before, I thought that there was nothing bad about being alone. But when I see happy friends in the comics I read, I’m kind of jealous, too. They’re just comics, though. Now I know that I can have those kind of friends in real life, too.”
Roy remembered taking those pictures of Jackson and Karry and saving them in his mind. He opened them, and felt himself smile when seeing them so happy.
He wasn’t real, though. He could become a figment of their imagination, something like a hallucination. Only good. It was better than the alternative.
He remembered what happened the first time he revealed himself to someone. His father had scolded him, grounded him for a week. He didn’t even have his Ipad.
Roy didn’t want to say goodbye to Karry and Jackson. But it was for the best.
He entered Karry’s mind, since he was nearest to him. His subconscious was warm, different than any other he had entered.
Roy searched for the most happiest memory Karry had of him. He finally saw the time when he was chasing the glow worms, and Karry had fixed his eyes on him. It was, by far, the most warm memory in his mind.
Roy looked again at himself running in the clearing, chasing the glow worms, sadly. He wouldn’t see Karry again unless he wanted to, unless Karry wanted to.
There was just one more thing to do.
He walked over to Karry, who was watching Roy with a dreamy smile on his face. “Goodbye,” he whispered gently. Karry obviously didn’t hear him, but when he woke up, Karry would remember those words.
Roy snapped his fingers, and he melted away from the scene, watching as his image was replaced with Jackson running after the glow worms.
“Hello? Anybody in there?” A man called out, his voice gruff. Karry and Jackson didn’t hear him, asleep.
“Kids, wake up.” The man said, shaking them awake.
“Why are you guys here, it’s cold inside,” the man asked, pulling Karry and Jackson to their feet.
“It’s morning already,” Jackson realised.
“Where’s Roy?” Karry said, looking around. Roy was literally the laziest person ever, he couldn't have woken up early.
“Roy? Roy, where are you?” Jackson called out in the small space.
They walked into the open, both of them calling Roy’s name. The man trailed behind them, at a loss for words.
“He just disappeared, do you think something happened to Roy?” Jackson said worriedly.
“Let’s call the police,” Karry said. He was worried, very worried about his youngest friend.
When Jackson switched on his phone, he cursed and asked the man, “Sir, do you have a charger?”
The man nodded. “In my car.”
Jackson scrambled for the car and plugged the charger in. Almost immediately, his phone sounded and a text message appeared on the screen.
“Roy,” Jackson breathed. He turned and called out, “Karry, Karry! Come here!”
Karry rushed over.
“I got a message from Roy,” Jackson threw a sideways glance at Karry. The older boy’s face was already white, and it became paler still as Jackson read the message:
Please forgive me. I was very happy with you guys. The friends you make when you were 15 or 16 will be lifelong friends, don’t ever forget that.
Jackson looked at Karry again, and he had a tear leaking out of his eye. He suspected something must have happened between Karry and Roy at some point at night, but Karry can tell him when he was ready.
“Let’s go home,” Karry whispered.
Karry was packing his bag. His family had decided to go on a trip to America and his mother told him to start packing right now.
Just as he finished putting (read: squeezing) his last comic book into his bag, his phone rang.
The caller ID was Jackson.
“Hello?” Karry said, pressing his phone between his shoulder and his ear.
“School ended already, and still no sign of Roy,” Jackson spoke into the other end.
Karry swallowed. Roy was still missing and they hadn’t found him yet. Karry still didn’t understand what had happened.
A word echoed in his mind: Goodbye.
It came with an awfully familiar voice. Karry was sure that it was Roy’s, but he had no remembrance of the place where he said that. Was his memory really that bad?
“Do you have any ideas about where Roy could have gone? He just disappeared since that day.”
No need to remind me, Karry thought forlornly. “Did he contact you?”
“No,” Jackson said. “Do you think everything's alright with him?”
“If anything happens, he should be able to contact us. He has both our numbers.” Karry said, sounding like he was trying to convince himself too.
“He just disappeared without a trace, what kind of friend is this,” Jackson scoffed.
Karry felt the need to stand up for him. “Maybe because of something personal.”
Jackson didn’t answer, and Karry ended the call. “Still can’t believe he disappeared.”
There was another ping from his phone, and Karry checked the screen. Somebody sent him a folder marked ‘Pictures’.
“Huh?” Karry flipped open the lock and scrolled through the pictures. There were photos of painfully familiar memories: he and Jackson climbing a tree, he and Jackson smiling at the camera in the cave.
Roy! It must have been him who sent Karry the pictures! He searched for a message, hidden somewhere in the pictures, or at least something, something to help him contact Roy.
At the end of the photos, a message was written in Roy’s neat handwriting:
Beach. 3 o’clock. Don’t be late.
Karry pumped his fist in the air. It was still 2: 50, he could make it in time. He dashed down to tell his mother that he was meeting his friend and sprinted out of the door, leaving his parents staring in confusion at him.
He made it just in time at three to the beach. Karry looked around him, but his 15 year old friend wasn’t in sight.
Karry sighed and leaned against the sidewalk railing. He should have known that it might have been a scam or something.
But then, who managed to get the pictures?
Karry faced the sea. It was a sparkling blue, much too happy for Karry’s mood.
He absent mindedly fumbled with his phone, and dropped it onto the sand. It magically disintegrated, and the tiny particles flew away in the wind.
“Wait… where’s my phone?” Karry said, staring down at the sand.
Karry closed his eyes. That voice was painfully familiar…
He turned, his eyes still closed. He didn’t want his bubble of hope to burst.
A warm body pressed against his, and a laughing voice said, “Open your eyes, Childish Boy. Don’t you know that it’s rude to not look at your friends in the eye?”
Karry felt a hand lift his eyelid, and Roy was standing there, his eyes bright.
“You came back,” Karry said. He smiled, and it was the most painfullest thing he had to do.
“And I’ll stay,” Roy added, his voice full of laughter. "The friends you make when you were 15 or 16 will be lifelong friends, remember?”
“Yep,” Karry smiled, wrapping his arms around Roy and kissing him.