Monday came and his father left for work. Zach refused to get up when he was called and his father didn’t bother to come get him after he called for the second time. He was awake the whole time but he would not move even as he heard his father eating breakfast and preparing for his day. Even when he had to go to the bathroom, he wouldn’t allow himself to get out of bed. If pressed, Zach would have said that he was tired and grumpy and didn’t want to talk but mostly he didn’t want his father to see that he was kind of scared. He didn’t want to explain to his dad that since they moved in, he felt like this whole place was just kind of wrong. Not just the house, which felt entirely wrong to him. The town itself seemed kind of wrong in a way that he couldn’t explain. Zach didn’t know what it was but he already knew it was useless to try to tell his father how he felt. He knew that his dad would just blame it on him being miserable over the move and having to leave his school. It wasn’t like he was thrilled about that but there seemed to be no way to really express that there was something under his unhappiness that was ringing some kind of alarm in him.
It was full daylight by the time Zach finally dragged himself out of bed and made his way through the house to the kitchen. It was the strangest thing but he felt like everything around him was on mute. He was unsettled by the fact that the house seemed to make no noise at all. No creaking like he should expect in an older house. No shifting or rattling or anything. Just pure, muted silence. Perfect for something to disrupt but nothing ever seemed to do that which creeped him out more. As he came into the kitchen, Zach decided that he had enough of this silence and turned on the radio, trying to find any station that didn’t suck. Without the internet, he didn’t have access to any of the other stuff that would usually fill in his music for him. When he didn’t find anything to satisfy him, he made his way into the living room where their TV was set up to receive nothing but basic channels for the moment. It was useless as is but he could still hook up his games and that would at least fill the void where there were no noises. It wouldn’t be as good as being able to connect to the internet because then at least he would be able to talk to someone else. At least he would be able to disrupt this feeling of being a million miles away from everyone and everything in the world. If nothing else, it would take his mind off everything and maybe it would help him get some grounding so he wouldn’t creep himself out anymore. Setting an alarm on his phone to go off at least half an hour before his dad was due to come home from work, he slipped the phone into his pocket and sat down to play a game that he knew he could beat but it would take a while. It was mindless but it would fill the hours.
Since his mother’s death, Zach had found that games were both great and horrible for coping with what he was doing. On one hand, it made the world disappear for a while. When he was angry, when he was upset, when he wanted to shout at his dad for being bad at everything, when he wanted to cry until he couldn’t anymore, the games offered him a break from everything. It was somewhere else that he could go to that didn’t involve him being himself for a few hours at a time. At first, it was great. He could just sink into the storylines, if they had them, or just mindless clicking and nothing would matter. It didn’t last though. After the first month, he started to notice some cracks in his coping strategy. For one, he couldn’t sit that still for long anymore. He hated being stationary and found that after sitting for too long, he would be fine at the time but he would end up restless and achy after along session. He also started to feel the onset of that hollow feeling again almost immediately after. It was like it was just waiting for him to stop so it could pounce on him. Whatever relief the games would offer was immediately gone the second he would lookup and see that he was not in his home and he was stuck in a world with a father who didn’t know how to be the parent he needed and his mother who could never come home to make things better. That feeling only seemed to get worse every time he picked up the controller and he found that it was getting to the point where he was almost afraid to get too into it but he didn’t know how to function without it. He knew these all sounded like excuses to his father but he couldn’t think of any other way to make the feelings boiling inside of him go away, even if it was just for a little while. At least, they usually did.
Zach continued to play what should have been easier levels for him but kept dying by making stupid mistakes. Initially he was annoyed with himself but underneath it,he knew he was distracted. There was something that was making him break concentration and it always seemed to happen just when he was hitting a crucial point in the game. This one wasn’t really heavy on story or anything so it wasn’t like he was getting that sucked in but it had clear objectives that should have been easy to get lost in. He tried to push aside whatever was bugging him but it still lingered just beneath the surface of his conscious mind. He would start with some puzzle or quest in the game and continue to play, only to break the emersion of it suddenly and fail again. He set the controller aside and tried to figure out what was going on with him. It wasn’t like there was any noise in the house so it wasn’t like that was what was distracting him. He wasn’t hungry so it wasn’t like he was getting clumsy. He slept fine and even though he’d woken up early,he wasn’t tired so that wasn’t it either. Zach watched the pause screen and wondered if he should give it another shot or if he should just give up for now. Maybe find something with a real storyline and maybe that would be easier to get through. It ran the risk of him ignoring his alarm in search of save points if he played something a little more story heavy but it might be worth it.
A door closed behind him and Zach silently cursed under his breath. He looked outside and saw that no matter how much he might have been distracted, he must have been playing for hours because it was much later in the day than he thought. He patted his phone, wondering if he had accidentally set his alarm for AM instead of PM and cursed himself for getting it wrong. But he was certain that he hadn’t done that. He was sure that he’d checked the time before sliding the phone into his pocket. He turned to face what was certain to be his angry father, asking him how long he’d been sitting on the couch. Instead, the lights in the hallway were still off. There was no one there.
Zach was suddenly aware of a very specific odor that filled the room. A scent that had no business being in that house and he knew for a fact that it wasn’t there before. He felt a cold sweat prickling his skin as he recognized the heady scent of roses hanging in the air of his new home. He rubbed his arms, not sure if he was shuddering from the cold he suddenly felt or if he was ready to admit that he was more than just a bit creeped out. A sound breaking the silence made him gasp and he was certain that he would see something appear but he soon realized that it was just the sound of his alarm on his phone.