This is Part 1.
When you've finished, just us for the continuation of the story: Part 2.
Hashtag Barry was called a lot of things: Hambone Barry, Humperdink Bingleberry, Hashfag Buttface, but not always because of his ridiculous name. No, the most common thing that people called Hashtag Barry was the ugliest kid who had ever lived.
The sun shone brightly while sparse clouds passed overhead languidly. The colors today were more vibrant than they had been for as long as he could remember. A light breeze tickled his wispy, thinning hair, and he pushed it away from his bulbous eye. He blinked several times and then looked down. He placed his tiny hands into his pockets and kicked rocks in slow, imperfect arcs across the waving grass. He imagined the world beneath the canopy of green: ants as large as horses, spiders the size of elephants, and the endless jungle of--
“Wait how did you even--?”
“What the hell are you doing!?”
Hashtag Barry raised his eye toward the voice and noticed a blurry object in the sky. It appeared to be getting larger the longer he stared at it and becoming clearer and clearer until right before impact and he remembered where he was.
He heard the laughter before he regained the rest of his senses. Stupid kickball. They put him out in right field where no one kicked the ball except for Angela because they say she’s left-footed but he’s not even sure that’s a thing. He knew his left foot was stronger than his right foot but that’s because it had more toes. The ball was not supposed to come near him let alone his head.
He slowly pushed himself up and looked out toward the other kids. They were indeed laughing, but they were not pointing. They weren’t looking at him either. They couldn’t. It was hard to look at Hashtag Barry without forgetting where you were or what you were doing or even where you were going. Their faces covered, that horrendous sound belted out into the air above him and he sat down in the jungle of six-legged horses and eight-legged elephants, lowered his head and sighed.
Later, right after the final bell had rung, Hashtag Barry found himself between his locker and a forearm, Brad’s forearm. Brad’s eyes were averted but his voice was direct, “What the hell was that out there?”
Hashtag Barry whimpered, “Out where?”
“God, recess, where else? Kickball, taking one to your… uhh, erm... head?”
“You forgot!? We’re in the bottom of the 7th and you just forget?”
“Were we even keeping score?”
Brad shifted uncomfortably. This conversation was taking longer than he had hoped.
“Listen, little dude, you ever get between me and a winning game again I will bash your face in so hard you’ll wish you were…” he hesitated, then started giggling, “..oh man, haha, oh I almost said... Hashtag Barry...” the guffaw was unnecessary “...but then I realized you’re Hashtag Barry! Haha, oh shit…”
He lowered his arm and sauntered off, a cackle or two echoing down the hallway.
After Hashtag Barry walked home, he dodged the obnoxious questions from his parents about his day, talked about the weather, listened to rants about the current state of politics and the price of bread, ate dinner, hid in his room, procrastinated from doing his homework by browsing the internet and staring at the wall, eventually gave up on doing anything, turned off the light and climbed into bed, laid there, his eye wide open, staring at the ceiling, and had a flash of panic about not doing his homework.Then he thought about Brad’s arm on his knobby throat and drifted off to sleep.
A silver flash and an arc of red. The walls cornered to a point and the arms no longer can cover themselves. Shiny sharp floor. The colors are more vibrant here. More vibrant than in years before the dust fell and covered everything in gray but not now, now there is red and silver and red and blue. Why must one have two when one could have one and why must one have one when one could have none? None is better than two. For if you have two then you have some, but if you have none than you can’t have some. And none is better than some. Red and blue and red and blue.
The alarm clock’s red face stared at him, its incessant beeping penetrating his misshapen skull. He smashed his fist upon the snooze button and rubbed his eye. He could have sworn he had just fallen asleep, but the sun’s dull beams poured in through his open window.
He dragged himself out of bed, haphazardly got dressed, and then thudded down the hallway, the sound adorned with yawns and groans. His parents had already left the house. He poured himself a bowl of cereal and opened the refrigerator. There was no milk. He slumped back into his seat and shoveled the sugary crisps into his mouth, chewing noisily. Dissatisfied, he dropped the bowl into the sink, slung his backpack over his right shoulder, opened the front door, locked it, closed it, and turned around.
The light was hazy and thick with fog. He kept his gaze tilted downward as he walked, watching the lines of the sidewalk cruise under his shuffling feet.
Inside, the other students whispered loudly. Hashtag Barry strained his ears to hear what nasty rumor they were spreading about him now, but try as he might he didn’t hear his name or one of his many nicknames.
They’re not… talking about me?, he thought. His heart nearly leapt out of his chest at the thought of being ignored for one day and a large toothy grin spread across his face. He could actually eat lunch! He could sit in the grass at recess and not worry about balls or rocks or sticks suddenly striking him in the head! He could quietly study in study hall! Oh, the possibilities were just endless!
He swung his locker open and began to organize his books.
“Hey, Hashtag!” a piercing voice rang out.
Hashtag Barry looked up to see a boy with thick glasses resting upon a small nose and two large ears.
“Oh, hey, Squeaky, what’s going on?”
“Oh man, did you hear about what happened?”
“Happened? To what?”
“Seriously!? Oh dude, to Brad. Brad’s in the hospital.”
“He sick or something?”
“No, not at all. Oh my god! I can’t believe this. I can’t believe you hadn’t heard. This is insane!”
“Just spit it out!”
“Dude. His eyes. Someone took his eyes.”
Hashtag Barry’s skin rippled from his neck down his curved back, sending a shiver up to his brain.
by Dan Diehn (@diedan)