I remember the last time I was here.
I was probably around eight or so.
I placed a hand on the stair railing that I used to place my backpack around as a child and I took the steps up to the upstairs hallway. I placed my hand against the wall as I was stepping slowly toward my old bedroom, opening the door slowly and taking a couple of steps through the door frame.
I remember the room being full of so much love.
But now. Now it was just so bare.
I walked over to where I used to have my desk set up before the window and placed my hands on the windowsill and leaned forward to look out of it. My childhood best friend's house was still across the street.
At least what I think it's still his house.
I pushed myself away from the window as the rain started to pelt against the glass. I stood straight once again and stepped back slowly.
Why did we come back? The only reason why we left was because of the second marriage. How he wanted to leave. We didn't know that he would leave in that way though. After the second one, mom was completely crushed. The one she thought would stay.
Another man that proved her wrong and broke her heart.
Another reason why I will forever protect her.
"Atlas?" I turned around to see her standing there with a folded up rubber thing within her arms and a little metal contraption in her right hand. "I kind of got a bad feeling about the weather and kind of figured we couldn't get the beds and everything out of the U Haul so I bought some air mattresses for now and some new blankets."
I smiled at her softly. "Nice thinking mom." She smiled back at me with a little sparkle in her vibrate blue eyes that mine mimicked all too well. She walked over to me and looked out the window that I was staring at.
"You know, I went over there before the rain came thundering down. Tobias's grandmother is still there. You know what that means." She placed the bed and the air pump down on the floor before she wrapped her arms around my shoulders.
"Don't be afraid to go reintroduce yourself." She placed her head on top of mine. Barely being able to keep her chin on top of my head due to my recent growth spurt. "I know mom. It's just-"
"Atlas James Lake if you dare say that Toby might have forgotten you I will make you blow up that bed with a straw." We laughed like a harmonized chorus as her head fell to my shoulder.
I always forgot that she let me drop my original last name.
If only she let me dropped the first part. I would much rather be named after the man that left other than being named by a man that broke her heart knowing what the other did. I just always have this thought to state "Hey mom you can call me Jim or something. Anything other than Atlas. Anything other than James. Anything that would make you not remember either of them" but I never got the nerve.
She kissed my cheek and unwrapped herself from me with a pat on my shoulder. "Just don't forget to get used to the town again. Reach out to the kids you used to know. You never what can happen if you try."
I could hear her steps slowly retreat. About to leave me alone.
"Hey, mom." I turned around to see that she was just about to exit the room. Her hand placed on the door frame as she rolled on the ball of her foot to look back at me. "You do know that if you want to call me something different than Atlas. Something other than James. It wouldn't mind me."
She walked back to me with a soft smile and placed her hand on my cheeks.
"My beautiful boy."
I placed my hand on hers as I gave her a small smile back. "If you think that your name brings up memories of your father then you are so terribly wrong." She pushed aside my floppy jet black hair that contradicted her red flaming locks so effectively. "You are so much more than a name. So much more." She kissed my forehead gently and then pulled me into a soft hug as I entangled myself with her.
"You are everything to me, Atlas. If I named you after your father or not. If I allowed Walt to name you or not. No matter what you are named, I see beyond that. You might be Atlas James Lake, named after his father and his step father's favorite god but you will forever be my son. No bad memories will take that away." She pulled back to place her hands on my shoulders with a soft smile. "But if you want to be called something else, I'll never deny you it."
It was a place I used to know.
With door frames that I used to get my height measured on.
With floors, I once cried on.
It was the town I was raised the first part of my life in.
The place I used to know the best.
But it's moments like this that make me realize how much I missed it. With a house that used to feel so big after there was space that we thought would never be filled.
It was when we left that we thought it was filled and it was when we come back that we realized that we never needed it to be filled in the first place.
It's within my mother's arms that I finally acknowledge that I don't have to make up for the pain that she's been through. I don't have to be "more of a man" than what the men in her life were.
I can just be me.
That's all I have to be.
Doesn't make it less anxiety filling though. I will always try to be all that they aren't. Glad to know though. Wonderful to know. Won't stop me though.
I woke up the next morning with a spring in my step and my heart on my sleeve. I got off the air bed that I completely forgot I even filled the night before and noticed that my mom must of brought in some of my bags while I was asleep. Two backpacks and a gym bag were resting on the floor which I knew instantly what they contained.
A change of clothes from these sweats and v-neck? Don't mind if I do.
I opened one of the bags to find one of my running outfits instantly. I took it out and inspected it. It was a pair of black joggers with white stripes on the calves and a black long sleeved shirt with matching strips on the biceps.
Never forget Atlas, morning exercise is what makes a young man like you remain strong. Never forget to stay in fit condition. You never know what might happen.
I rolled my eyes at the memory of my step father.
At least there was somethings that he taught me that actually helped me through out my life. Still, I find it really weird that he returned to his teaching job at the original school he taught after him and mom divorced. Still surprising he moved back here not long after hearing that we decided to, but I could also understand it. New Jersey wasn't the best of places and he always tried to tell me he loved my mother. Just weird to think that they allowed him to be the tenth grade history teacher almost immediately... And that he will me MY tenth grade history teacher. Possibly.
I changed rather quickly into the fresh pair of clothes and grabbed my phone off the floor from where I had it charging. I dug into my bag to find my ear buds I packed and instantly drowned myself in music as I walked out my bed room door. Almost not realizing the note that was stuck to it.
I grabbed the little yellow sticky note and read it aloud to myself.
"Had to head to the hospital for shift training since I haven't been there in a long time. If you haven't noticed, your clothing bags are were your dresser will be. I know you'll probably go on your morning run so there will be some money on the counter down stairs just in case if you need something on your way around town. Don't forget to eat when you get back. Love, Mom."
I smiled at the note and pocketed it as I went down stairs. I walked into the kitchen to find twenty bucks and my athletic arm band that had a slot for my phone.
Huh, must of found it after writing the note.
I rolled up my sleeves and put the arm band on after placing my phone in it's own little slot. I plugged back in the head phones and grabbed my set of keys off where I placed them last on the counter. My little Gun Robot on a ring causing the sound of slight dingles as it smacked against the two keys lightly. I walked out the front door pressing the mic button on my ear buds causing me to drown in music as I locked the door. I pocketed the keys in the same one that held the twenty and zipped it shut.
After that, I started on my normal run. Hoping that my somewhat hazy memories of this part of Arcadia won't let me get lost.
Just a little more man. Lets get to this corner.
I was trying my best to breathe steadily as I ran down Delancey. I passed by so many places I couldn't help but have swells of memories over. Alex's Arcade, the two restaurants Elvira and Xang, as well as the movie theater. There was even the little flower store still down the block and the electronic store near it.
I smiled as I stopped on the ending corner of the street.
So many things never changed, yet so much felt so different.
There were faces I remembered and those that I didn't. Like I saw Seamus by Alex's and Shannon at Bella's both not far from where I saw Eli out by Elvira. Then their was Darci and Mary who I didn't really recognize till I look behind me a couple times as I passed.
Man, I never quite realized how much time actually passed. Five or so years is more than just a little bump in the road. They all look so different now.
A lot more different then when we were all in elementary.
I remembered there used to be a small little park that was down the adjacent street of Delancey and started to head that direction. I shook my head at myself as I jogged down the street.
Can't even remember street names but I can remember the names of people I used to go to school with. Nice Atlas.
My feet gave gentle thuds to the concrete as I passed by faces that were a blur, matching the beat to my music perfectly.
Note to self, Papa Skull is actually really decent to listen to while on a jog.
I stopped myself dead in my tracks when I felt a little push into my shoulder and turned my head to see that I accidentally shouldered someone that was running in the opposite direction and they fell to the ground. I pulled my ear buds immediately and tucked them into the collar of my shirt as the person was pushing themselves into a sitting position.
I lent out my hand in their direction. "I'm so sorry I didn't mean t-" I went silent as they pushed their strands of black hair out of their face showing pale skin and mocha eyes. Instantly I felt as if my tongue was replaced with cotton and my mouth was being sucked dry.
She was beautiful.
"It's okay. It was my fault of trying to push passed people. It's what I get for being late." She looked up to me with a smile. She took my extended hand that I forgot I even lent out to her. I instantly snapped back into reality and helped her off the ground.
"I don't think I ever saw you before. Are you new?"
"Kinda. I used to live around here when I was younger but my mom and I decided to move back after a little while."
"Well, that explains why I don't recognize you! I've only lived here for a year." As she was dusting herself off I took I quick glance over her. She was wearing this bluish black and purple lined blazer with a Papa Skull sweater underneath. She had a skirt that matched the blazer with leggings and what seemed like plan black vans.
"Nice shirt by the way. Papa Skull's pretty good. I haven't gotten the chance to listen to their latest songs though with moving and everything."
"Wait, you listen to Papa Skull?!" I chuckled at her heightened enthusiasm and smiled. "Yeah. I've even been to one of their concerts when I was in eighth grade."
"Did you know that they're coming to here for a concert? There's been word going around that it's gonna be their best one yet."
"Yeah! I asked for tickets from my mom for my birthday to go see it since I turn sixteen the week of, but there's almost little to no chance of that happening though." I laughed as she giggled along.
"So you're fifteen huh? Me too! Since you're new, somewhat, what school did you decide to go to? The academy or the normal high school?" Before I knew it we were walking down the street the opposite way of how I was running. My morning jog now long forgotten.
"I went with Arcadia Oaks High." Much to my dismay. But it was better than option two. "If one thing is for sure from what I remember, the academy kids are complete jerks and I'm not gonna deal what that." She laughed at my statement as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
She's a unique one. Bright blue streak in her hair and all.
"As a fellow student of Arcadia Oaks High, I can show you around on the first day if you would like? Can't leave a fellow Papa Skull fan to wonder on their own." I gave her a smile that felt a lot more genuine then the ones I've been giving away recently.
"I'd like that. Thank you."
She typed her number in my phone that was still within it's holding contraption and sent herself a text so we had each other's and when we reached the corner we separated. Her stating that she was late to meet up with some friends at Alex's and I decided that I was going to run around and explore what has changed and what hasn't. She wished me luck and told me if I get lost to not be afraid to text her and she'd help me get to the closest street I remember. I thanked her once more and went on our way.
A place I used to know with a little bit of difference.
A nice little change.
A passed a couple of stores that I remember riding a bike passed everyday as I placed my ear buds back in. I looked behind me and slowed down till I was jogging in place. I smiled at the corner that I was standing.
A place with a nice little change.
A nice little change indeed.
Leaves rustled as I ran passed. A slight clinking ringing through the woods. I could hear my feet sound like thunder in the pitch darkness of the forest. I grabbed a hefty branch of the tree and swung myself through an opening of the end of the forest. It was a cliff like flat land that showed a beautiful showing of the rest of Arcadia. The shadow of a beast like being seemed scared before me. Looking back and forth of where to go next but turned around after figuring out it had no where else to go.
A large shadow stepping back from me as I began to step forward. I could tell he was scared immensely.
You should be.
I grabbed the handle of my sword and walked closer to the being with little to no fear. "We can either make this easy or difficult. Either way, this will end with you being stone by the sun or stone by my blade. Your choice."
I could hear a soft whimper come from the being as I continued to advance and it's foot touched the edge before the drop. As I got closer I could tell more of it's features. It's pitch black stone skin with marks that replicated all the others from over the years. Their hair always reminded me of grass instead of anything else but what do you expect from trolls? I never expected them to be here though.
A place I used to know with things like this? It's suppose to me small and quiet, not much here to see. But mythical monsters? Thought that was a New Jersey thing.
"I'm sorry buddy. But you know what I am and I know what you are. There are rules that I placed with your people and I'm bound to keep. Tormenting those of innocence being one of them."
The being then changed. A green mist around it before it became a smaller version of what it was with it's rock skin turned flesh and grass looking coverage now hair. It's skin was now tan to a rather dark degree and hair was a dirty brown. The changing of the eyes is what always get me though. It's bright blood like hue was now that of a misty yellow color.
Like that of a disease or a polluted fog. So sickening.
"Come on, young one. I was only doing what was asked of me. The name was drawn!"
"And I told your people that your order was no longer allowed to do as such as I'm around! You're stealing children! Unknowingly tearing families!"
"You're one to talk. Atlas."
I gritted my teeth and held Daylight in a tight grip.
"All because I was my step father's pawn as a naiv-"
"You are always to be naive! Do not blame it on age, human. Your kind is ignorant! If it was my way, all of you would of been replaced!"
I took a step forward and pointed my sword toward the human looking being. I tilted the chin of him up with the tip of my sword. I looked deep into the yellow eyes that looked back at my blue ones. I could tell he was actually afraid while he was acting mighty. I tilted the sword sideways and pushed it against his cheek causing him to break his persona and whimper once again.
"But it's my kind that was chosen to help bring yours down. Starting with those that decide to go against the peace I'm destiny to bring."
There was a scream.
There was a burst of blue light.
There was skin that turned back to stone and fell to the ground in a thud.
Then, there was silence.
I placed Daylight back onto my back and then my armor flashed off rather quick. I grabbed the amulet before it was able to fall to the ground and placed into my front pocket.
"Walt sure has a way to pick them. He should learn to get some lackeys that know when to talk and when to shut up." I placed a hand on one of the pieces of stone and closed my eyes.
"Still, you did not deserve to die. I understand the forceful nature of your superiors. Ulesakum gubag atheacuth. Isheya'akun dulracuth."
Rest in peace. Deya's grace.
I swear I did it for the right reasons. Holding firm on the rules that were formed is what keeps the peace. For now, that is. Until the changelings decide they are above the law due to me... Knowing one of their superiors.
But I will be here to stop them none the less.
I turned to look over the city after I retracted my hand from the remains. It was an absolutely beautiful sight for such a gruesome scene. Regret washed over me rather quickly with that thought. Grieve replacing my lack of emotion from earlier as I felt a single tear fell from my eye and curve down my cheek.
Such a place I used to know and I don't remember the pain knowing so well how to swell.
Doesn't help I don't know who I am anymore as well.
A place I used to know was only a home to a boy I used to know.
Now it's a battlefield like everywhere else has been and what hurts the most...
What hurts the most is when I look in the mirror I don't know who's fighting it anymore.