-The Unbound Realm: Vol.1, Chapter 2

Dad comes from generic anglo.  Mom hails from Korean immigrants.  (My mother’s genes are definitely stronger—I could easily pass for a full-blooded Asian.)  A month after my eighth birthday, they filed for divorce.  Two years later, Mom re-married to a coder named Gary.  Gary, like my biological dad, is generic anglo. 

If I sound kind of blah, I apologize.  I’m kind of blah about everything, I guess. 

Life was supposed to be a thrilling adventure, filled with meaning and crystalline purpose.  But instead of adventure, I got a confusing slog where you “win” by piecing together an eventual retirement.  Time freedom after seventy-odd years of toil and sacrifice?  No thanks. 

Am I lucky I think this way?  I’m not sure—my peers seem genuinely psyched about the white-picket life. 

I couldn’t care less. 

Still, I suppose I should be grateful for my parents’ support.  They pay for tuition, my one-bed apartment, and food for my dog:  Gribbles. 

Mom’s Americanized, but some old-school Korean came to the fore when I told her I wanted an elderly rescue.  She wanted a doodle or a Frenchie—something fashionable.  At the time, I couldn’t have explained why I insisted on Gribbles, but now I recognize it as the same urge that made me sign that contract.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Gribbles isn’t fashionable, not by any stretch.  His right eye is blind and milky, his left ear is ragged and torn.  If I had to guess, I’d say he’s a ridgeback-daschund mix.  His body is wide and squat—not as ungainly as a pure-bred daschund’s, but not as graceful as a true ridgeback’s.  He likes to snooze on my lap (sometimes my nose or my mouth), and he’s hopelessly addicted to food and toys (big surprise, I know).  When he scarfs down kibble, it sounds like he’s saying gribble gribble gribble, hence his name.

Speak of the devil.  As I open the door, Gribbles waddles up, tail wagging. 

“Hey goofus.”  I hunker down and scratch his sides.  “Miss me?” 

His wagging intensifies—his back paws lift off the floor, thumping the ground in alternating time. 

“Yeah.”  I scratch his ears, chuckling at his enthusiasm.  “Yeah, you did.” 

Gribbles is the best thing that ever happened to me.  Sure, I have family and friends, but my dog loves me unconditionally.  And to experience unconditional love in a conditional world…well, it gives me hope for something greater.  Something greater than money and likes and Twitter verification badges.

“Want a treat?”  

Predictably, the ‘T-word’ flips a switch in his brain—he circles in place with manic excitement.  

“Easy, nerd.  Same menu, different day.” 

I walk in the kitchen, open the fridge, and grab some Nommie McGobberYoms out from a ziploc.  These are cookies made by my neighborhood pet store:  ZigZag Zoomies.  (if you’re unfamiliar with all things Dog, “zoomies” is slang for Frenetic Random Activity Periods, or when a dog sprints back and forth for no apparent reason).  ZigZag’s products rock every label in the history of food:  free trade, organic, wild caught…I’m a true San Franciscan, and it shows in my groceries.

None of that matters—not to me, anyway.  During sophomore year, I became briefly obsessed with names and titles.  But as the world turned and the years passed, I cared increasingly less about pigeonhole labels, and even less for the tribes they spawned.  Tribes seem to make everything worse—join up with one so you can fight with another. 

When the virus hit, I fostered the hope that people would come together (they did, for a bit) but people are people—soon enough, we grew back into our collective indifference.  I guess I’m a symptom of it.  I am in no way interested in stupid square hats or fancy diplomas.  I don’t get psyched about paid time off or a sweet corner office.  It all feels like a cheap facade—an excuse to rejoice in empty status symbols. 

Gribbles is the only one I know who seems truly content; he honestly enjoys his fur-bound life.  Sometimes I wonder—is he wise or ignorant?  If I could limit my perception to his little doggy brain, would I choose to do so, if it meant being happy? 

He finishes eating, then runs back over and paws my knee, brimming with please-gimme-eatos urgency (eatos isdog-speak for food, in my mind). 

Back to the kitchen.  This time, I pull out a rawhide from a plastic jar, earning a loud, tortured whine.  I roll my eyes in mock-annoyance. 

“Tell me how you really feel.”

I hand it over and he heads for the balcony, poking through the pet-gate attachment I fitted to the sliding glass door.  (That’s how I know if he really likes his treat—if he goes outside to eat it by himself.)  Gotta say, one of the greatest joys in life is giving your dog a—

I freeze in place.  My mouth drops open.

The open pet-gate, instead of displaying foggy San Francisco, flashes with a man’s blindfolded face:  thin, tight-lipped, and grim.  Glowing runes shine from his blindfold, alternating between searing violet, midnight blue, and a black so dark it has a light of its own. 

As the view pans down, I glimpse a curved knife in his armored hand.  In the stormy backdrop, there’s a craggy fortress atop a mesa. 

And then he’s gone.  

———

I run to the pet-gate, my face slack with disbelief.  This little plastic square is a magic portal into another world.  I can’t believe—

Wait.  I close my eyes, hands out as if to say hold on, calm down. 

It wasn’t real. 

Then:  You’re not well.  See a doctor.

I’m struck by dread as I consider my fate.  Pitying looks.  Prescription meds. 

Judgment.

No.  I clench my jaw.  I’m not crazy. 

I poke my head through to the outside balcony.  Gribbles—splayed on his belly, chewing his rawhide with singular tenacity—warns me off with a trailing growl:  Leeme ’lone.  Dis bone is MINE.

Relief crashes through me.  No chasms, knives, or blindfolded Night Elves.  The world is normal and sane, as it should be.  Gribbles on the balcony, eating his treat.  People down below, doing whatever. 

The world is normal and sane. 

As it should be.

2 thoughts on “-The Unbound Realm: Vol.1, Chapter 2

  1. Wow. I love how you set up the normalcy and mundane life he had. Then to give a glimpse of that something more that he yearns for. Clever use of the foreshadowing and tension building. Looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

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