Heart’s Desire

“Junior! Wake up!” His mom’s voice penetrated the closed door. Junior was already awake; he heard her call the first time. This was the second call, but he always waited for the third one. He loved to make his mom come in and wake him up. Junior stared at the video game console on the carpet.

“I don’t wanna go to school,” he mumbled. The chubby child rolled over on his back, shut his eyes and puffed his cheeks. He was only 9 but he learned that he could sometimes get what he wanted by shutting his eyes and holding his breath.  “I wanna go somewhere and play video games all day and never come back!” He held his breath while he made his wish. Junior heard the click of a doorknob. He sighed and opened his eyes. He heard another click the moment he realized he wasn’t in his bed anymore.

The boy watched an iron bar click into place in front of him, then he looked around. He watched white particles coalescing into long bars. The bars darkened to resemble iron and then they slotted together to build a cage around him. The boy was so entranced that he did not try to get out before it was finished. Instead, he looked around at the rest of the room.

His cage was being built in the center of what appeared to a castle’s common room. Black stone floors reflected the orange light from the fireplace. Elegant tapestries decorated the purple crystalline walls.

“Welcome to the AlterNet, Unique #27 -El Corazón,” an unseen female voice said. Junior thought it sounded like the cage speaking to him. “You do not have a registered AlterNet character, please leave this Earth. Would you like to create an AlterNet character” The voice asked.

“YES!” Junior yelled. The situation did not unnerve him at all, he was used to getting what he wanted.

“Violet Server rules require the presence of a guild officer. Please standby.” Junior saw a light come in the distance. A faint glow appeared in the crystalline wall. After several moments another, larger glow. Then an interval later, an even brighter larger glow. The boy realized he was watching the lights come on through the walls as someone came closer to his room. Finally, the next room lit up. Junior saw a faint silhouette through the wall, but could not make out any details.

The shadow walked to the entrance, then turned into the room. A young woman with shoulder-length blond hair stepped into the light. She wore plaid pajama pants and a long pink shirt with a ’32’ on it in white numbers. She saw the young boy and gave him a comforting smile.

“Hola, Estrellita,” She said. She walked to the cage and placed a flat palm on the top of it. The iron bars disintegrated into white powder, then disappeared. “I’m Grace,” she said. “You want to make a character, huh?”  Junior nodded.

“We can do that, but not right now. My guild has some very important rules about different Earths. You’ll learn them all at some point, but the important one now is we don’t accept underage members without parent’s permission.” Grace placed a hand on Junior’s shoulder. “But I’m awake already,” she giggled and gave him an over-exaggerated shrug. “If you want to hop home and get your parents I’ll wait here.” Junior nodded and closed his eyes. He clenched his fists and puffed his cheeks, but didn’t go anywhere. After a few moments, he opened his eyes to see Grace.

“I don’t know how,” he said. The woman nodded.

“It’s okay. New Estrellas get lost all the time,” Grace said. She touched his shoulder again and applied pressure to guide him toward the room’s exit. “We don’t have any celestials in the guild, but I’m sure we can find you a ride tomorrow.” Junior did not want to wait until ‘tomorrow’.  He wanted to make his character now. He clenched his eyes shut, held his breath and stood his ground.

“#27-El Corazón requires inhibitor to interface with nanos. Estimated build time: 27 hours.” The disembodied voice said. A swarm of white nanos gathered around Junior’s wrist. They orbited his plump wrist like rings around a planet.

“What?” Grace asked. “Violet, identify Uniques in the common room.”

“Grace. #32-El Músico, Awakened. Unknown. #27-El Corazón, Slumbering,” the mystery voice said.

“Holy hell, kid,” Grace stared the boy with wide eyes. “You’re something else,” she shook her head. “I don’t know how you got here, but we can’t get you home without making your character. Might as well do that tonight.” Junior nodded.

“Might as well,” he agreed with a confident smile. He knew he’d get what he wanted.

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