Paul let out a groan as he sat on the edge of his bed. He had just gotten out of the shower after dinner and was putting his clothes away for the day. He emptied his pockets from today and the crystal ball rolled out of his pants pocket and onto his bed. He tossed today's jeans into his hamper before sitting on his bed with the crystal ball loose in the palm of his hands. He observed it carefully, holding it up to the light in his room and peering into the crystal and its flame. No matter which way he turned the crystal, the flame remained right-side up. However, Paul noticed that when he turned the crystal at a very obscure angle and looked at the flame from the top down, he could see an engraving in the crystal ball. It was some type of flower that he wasn't familiar with. Out of curiosity, Paul took his phone from his bedside table and snapped a picture of the crystal ball's engraving.
He tucked the crystal ball beneath his pillow and began to dig for information on this flower.
"Paul. Psst. Paulie!" came a soft, young voice. It was Ann at his door.
"What's up?" Paul asked with a smile.
She charged into his room and leaped onto his bed. Her pink pajamas ruffled as she jumped and plopped down beside Paul. "Whatcha want for your birthday?" she teased.
Paul pat his younger sister on the head. "Ah, I don't want anything, sis. As long as I got you and mom, I don't need anything else."
Ann rolled her eyes. "That's boring. Don't you want a cool toy?"
Paul looked around his room at his gaming consoles, then back to Ann. "I've got enough toys," he laughed.
"What abouuuuuuuut--a puppy!?" she squeaked.
"I've got enough responsibilities," Paul said, shaking his head.
"Aww. Okay. If you change your mind, mom wants to get you something," Ann said hugging her older brother tightly.
"Aight sis. I'll let mom know. Now get to bed." He kissed Ann on her forehead and hugged her. "Goodnight, shrimp."
Ann pinched Paul's leg before darting out of his room. "I'm a crab!" she screamed, giggling all the way to her room.
Paul went back to his phone and continued digging for information on the flower. When he found it, Paul was sure that it was the same flower engraved on the crystal ball. "The Lotus," he recited. "A beautiful flower representing rebirth. Huh." Paul looked for other images of the lotus flower but they were all the same in description and depiction. But he didn't understand the symbolism behind it or why it was engraved on the crystal ball. He pulled the crystal ball from beneath his pillow and examined it again. The Lotus sparkled and Paul had to stop looking at it rub his eyes. Paul sighed and got up from his bed to close his door. He went back over to his bed and took his lockbox from beneath it. He rolled the tumbler until the combination was accepted, then opened the lockbox and put the crystal ball inside. He carefully closed it and slid the lockbox back under his bed. This time he could be sure it was safe at home and not on his person.
But what did it all mean? This was the same crystal ball from his dream. Objects didn't just jump out of your imagination! So how on earth did it get to his room? He had to do more research during the day. Hopefully, looking at the crystal ball for too long wouldn't affect his dreams. Paul turned off his bedside lamp and sat on the edge of his bed. "I should get to bed..." he thought. Paul turned over and pulled his blanket and sheet over him. For some reason, he felt completely exhausted, despite not taking part in any major physical activities today. His eyes felt heavy and his pillow felt cool. In a matter of minutes, Paul drifted off to sleep.
"Wha--" he was here again. Paul awoke on a cold metal slab with shackles around his hands and feet. He was wearing a prisoner's uniform and had been placed in a cell. He approached his cell door and placed his hands on the cold steel bars. At the center of the room, a man with an obscenely long nose, wild white hair, and a strange but convincing unibrow sat with his hands folded under his chin at a fancy wooden desk. His white gloves suggested he wasn't a prison warden, but a businessman. His suit was a dusty gray and his tie was a dark black. On the desk was a quill and ink with neatly stacked parchment before the strange man.
"Hey. Hey! Hey, where am I!?" Paul barked from his cell.
A slam came from Paul's cell as a new face appeared before him out of thin air. Paul fell back out of shock and onto the hard floor. A tall, dark-skinned man rippled with muscle and dressed in a velvet blue vest-suit had slammed a billy-club against Paul's cell door. The tall man's dark green eyes frightened Paul, enough that he scrambled backward to the edge of his cell. He was completely bald but had a fine goatee around his mouth and chin. The tall man tugged on his vest just slightly as he spoke to Paul. "You do not address the master until he addresses you." His voice was deep and cold without an ounce of care behind it.
Paul remained silent as the large man stepped to the side and the other older gentleman in the center of the room finally spoke to Paul.
"Welcome, Paul. My name is Igor. And this is the Velvet Room."
"The... Velvet Room?" Paul asked. He approached his cell door again. It was the same room he had been in before. There was a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and it illuminated the velvet brick that made up the walls of every cell. "Why--why am I here?" Paul inquired.
"You will soon be thrust into a world with which you have no control," Igor replied. "And it is in this world that you will find great danger and peril. These dangers, no matter how false they appear, are very real, Paul. They represent pieces of a coming ruin. And only by the strength of your soul can you prevent this ruin from destroying your world."
Paul stared blankly at Igor. "Ruin? My soul? My world? What the hell are you talking about?" Paul asked again.
"Through your time, in reality, you will make many allies and enemies. It is important that you use these bonds to strengthen your soul and unlock new power. You cannot go on this journey alone, Paul."
Paul shook his head. "I don't understand. What are you asking me to do? And why am I in prison? I want answers," Paul demanded.
"You are not yet ready to commence your journey. But soon, you will take on the power of the Lotus Crystal and you will discover what lies before you. Whether or not you choose to save your world has yet to be seen," Igor replied.
Paul took a step back from his cell door and looked down at his hands then back up to Igor. "We'll have to see then."
The large dark-skinned man appeared before Paul again, tightly holding his billy-club. "Sleep, Inmate. You must prepare for your journey."
By the large man's command, Paul suddenly felt exhausted again and couldn't help but climb back onto his slab of metal and drift off to sleep once more.
Paul awoke the next morning having slept surprisingly well, despite his overly vivid dream. He jumped out of bed, brushed his teeth, washed his face, had breakfast, and scrambled out of the door to get to school. He had to see Mr. Baker immediately.
Paul made his way to the counselor's office immediately. Mr. Baker had been waiting for him and allowed Paul in right away.
"...and that's the whole dream. I remember every word of it. But I know for sure this was the same room. Without a doubt."
Mr. Baker shook his head. "This is... well, Paul. This is one of the most bizarre cases I've ever heard if I can be honest with you. A Velvet Room? Being a prisoner? A big-nosed man named Igor? I thought we may have made some headway, but this information concerns me."
Paul sighed. He thought he knew what was coming next.
"Let's keep this between you and me. If it continues to develop, we may need to seek help elsewhere. However, I don't want to jump to that conclusion right away. For now, I want you to keep your promise to me and stay away from anything strenuous. Understand?" Mr. Baker asked.
"Okay. The second block is starting soon. Hurry out of here and get to class."
Paul's third period, Physics, paired him with some new faces. They included a new student who joined the "Dedicated Fiction" club yesterday, Haruka, and another face he didn't recognize, Reno. He'd heard Reno's name before, but Paul didn't know much about the guy. Since Haruka was in the same club as he was, Paul was happy to see a familiar face. He didn't want to pester her just yet, so he simply took notes in class as Professor Young went over the semester's goal and how he intended to teach his students "step-by-step". Nothing too interesting happened, and Paul simply kept to himself.
Piper's third period landed her in P.E. with Coach Overton. She would wind up in the same class with not-so-popular student Jason Garrett and moderately well known bad boy Tyler Beckett. Boys were assigned to team building exercises today, which, unfortunately, included basketball. There were 8 boys and 12 girls total in this P.E. class. Boys were divided into teams of four and girls were divided into teams of six. Girls would participate in volleyball today. The class was not lengthy, lasting only 45 minutes. This left the P.E. class with an additional 45 minutes of free time before the next bell.
Avery would share the third period with Quinn in English II with Professor Langston. He was a bit of a hard-ass but he was a damn good teacher. Having written and published several books, Professor Langston was one of the most well-accomplished teachers on G.O.H.'s staff.
As he explained his lesson plan for the semester, Langston was interrupted by a school announcement.
"Attention students. Clubs will be available for sign-up again today after school. Club sign-ups will close on Monday, September 3rd, so be sure to join and create clubs while you can!"
- Interact with your classmates.
- [OPTIONAL] Join a club.
- [OPTIONAL] Attend a club meeting.