The writing prompt from NANO fiction is: Think up an unusual addiction and give it to your character. Write about how they go through each day, week, and month with this addiction.
The Other World
The problem with Harold was that he read too many damn books. Even when we were kids and I went over to his house to play, I'd have to sit in his room, fiddling with his action figures while I waited for him to finish a page or two or ten. Did I mind? Maybe sometimes, but not really. It's cool to see someone love something so much. And if I ever got annoyed on the outside, maybe it was just because I was jealous on the inside.
All of this was fine when we we still walked together to the small elementary school, but once we started taking the bus to the larger middle school, things changed. When you're little, you're so physically sheltered from so much of the world that your mind has to fill the rest with wild guesses and extrapolations. That's okay. But if you want to become a functional adult, then those childhood flights of fancies have to go away, replaced by what's real. That's what growing up is.
That's what Harold couldn't do. Fifth grade was a feral delight for me; a chance to learn truths you can't learn in books: truths about girls and friendships and the way things work. The things that really matter in life, I mean. I tore into this new world with ravenous hunger.
But Harold? His face would smooth and he'd just put on a painfully fixed smile. His expression was just like a mask, and like a mask it couldn't hide his eyes: shiny and frantic. I tried to help him, I really did, but instead of coming with me, he'd just retreat into another one of his damn books. He was happy in them, you see. He understood them. It was where he wanted to live.
We stopped being friends eventually. I was never mean to him, but by the end I was never precisely nice to him either. It was hard to be around him. He watched us like we were animals in a zoo, objects of wonder and pity and envy. Did he ever realize we watched him like he was the one in a cage? I don't know.
All of this is to say: I'm not surprised that he ran away. This world, the one in this town, was one he didn't understand or want, so why wouldn't you leave to find the world that you want? In a weird way, I suppose I'm proud of him for that. Or... maybe not.
But no, I don't know where he is now. I guess I could imagine it, but what would be the point?
This story may have lost its way. It's supposed to be about how addicting imagination can be. At its worst, a strong imagination can contort the truths of the world into the shapes you want them to be, and when things don't work out, what are you going to do? Accept reality? Or retreat back into the warm embrace of your mind?
The story doesn't really delve into that issue, however. If I were to re-write it, Harold would need to be far more prominent, and there'd have to be additional details and specific scenes. Oh well, I can always imagine that it's more complete than it is! (lol me)