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Chapter One

The still-young artist woke to a plush feeling. It caressed his backside, and relaxed him. As if he were sleeping. Had he been sleeping? He certainly felt so. Warm light waved to his eyes as their blankets slid off, and they opened. What he thought was the sun- which hung directly above him.

As the light stared him down, his mind, suddenly completely awake, understood he was not home. All warmth immediately fled the room, his spine stiffened in an upright position. In front of him sat a man, professionally, but plainly, dressed. A white button-up shirt with white pants, combed hair and a simple name tag.

“You’ve already got the job.” The man stared directly at him, like he could read his mind. “How about starting today, René?”

René sat back, surprised that the man knew his name. Tempted to ask, but his very thoughts were interrupted when the man handed him a neat, thin packet of papers. Stapled at the corner with a shining, silver little pencil. Details of him, and his life, were there, printed in warm grey letters. His full name was René Jules Bram, he was seventeen, and lived in the small town of Station. And he already had a job. Not once did he consider working two, when he still lived at home.

“Where- am I?” He hesitated.

“Welcome to ‘Eon Studios’, young man! You…” He spread his arms out and leaned back. “Made it to the animation industry!” His fingers wiggled in a silly attempt to make it seem like a major achievement. René only rested his head in his hand.

The man held out his hand. “Pleasure to meet’cha. Name’s Malvin. Alex Malvin.” René took his hand, and shook it forlornly with a frown.

“You okay?” The man asked. René’s eyes were locked to the paper. “Sir, how did I-”

“Get here?” The boy nodded, deep in thought. “Well,” the man continued. “It’ll be hard to take in. Relax. I’ll explain.”

René sunk back into the chair, with forced deep breaths. Surely, every terrible circumstance which passed into his mind wasn’t true. He surely wasn’t kidnapped. Everything around him contradicted the possibility- the cleanliness, the kind, soft-spoken man. If the man intended to harm him, surely, he would have by now. He surely wasn’t dreaming, for he just woke up. And most assuredly, he was not pronounced-

“-dead.” The man finished. In René’s sea of thoughts, the man’s words were lost.

“Excuse me?” René stammered and leaned close to the man. Perhaps he heard wrong.

“I know it’s hard to believe, and I’m sorry to say- you’re dead.”

“E-Excuse me?” He repeated, without another way to respond, and laughed. “No- No I’m not.” He ruffled his hair, felt his face, to make sure he was still there. So the man decided to switch subjects.

“René, what’s the last thing you remember?” The man leaned forward and touched the tips of his fingers, with his elbows relaxed on his knees. All the white of the room flashed with familiarity, and the boy choked a little. “My- hospital room.” He sat dead in his chair, now, his arms and legs limp, and looked at nothing. Heavy thoughts buried his mind, and he felt sick, and numb at the same time.

But maybe- maybe it still wasn’t true. Maybe he had been discharged already? Maybe- but they were useless thoughts that, like him, didn’t last long. He looked away from the man, who stood up, and gently placed his hand on René’s shoulder.

“Come with me. I’ll show you around.”

       

~Art done by Francesca Reissman

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