I had promised someone quite a while ago that I would post the NaNoWriMo story I started working on a couple years ago. Finally convinced myself to go ahead and post it. I'm pretty self-conscious/critical of my writing. Enjoy it for what it is.
Chapter 1: Meet Lance
In the end it did not matter. Everything he had tried to achieve had been for nothing and all the recognition he desired would be heaped upon someone else. Someone who, in his mind, did not deserve it at all.
He wondered how it felt now that everything was coming to a close. Was the sweet taste of victory starting to turn sour in the mouth? As the darkness began to overtake him, he started to think back to the day that had started all the subsequent events that lead him to where he was now. If only he had ignored that accursed prophecy and just gone back home; none of this would have happened and he could have gone on with his life.
The beginning of the chain of events could be traced back to one day not even a month prior. A mere month ago, Lance Hartman had been an ordinary young man. Though at that time, ordinary had not been enough.
There was something that the world could not seem to deliver, and it was something that Lance longed for more than anything. Lance wanted to be a hero. Not one of those "everyday" heroes that were promoted in elementary school. No, he wanted to be like one of those lucky bastards in the movies who were in the right place at the right time to accomplish something amazing and were practically praised the rest of their lives for it.
For just over twenty years Lance had worked his butt off to make it into that mystical place that adults called "the real world". On TV, the real world was portrayed as a place filled with adventures and hijinks. It was also a place that could offer a great payback if you worked hard enough.
After graduating from college, Lance had discovered very fast that the mystical realm of the "real world" was much more disappointing than he had been lead to believe. Every day heading to his job to earn a living was possibly droller than it had been previously.
Lance had worked his butt off to show the real world that he had what it took to make it. So far the real world had done squat in return. At that time the only payoff had been that he could finally afford the new gaming system he had been wanting, and this was how he was spending his time on his day off.
"Even in video games," Lance muttered bitterly as he controlled the hero of the game.
Lance glanced up at his clock and realized that he needed to grab something for lunch. That would mean a trip to the store down the street, as he had not been shopping yet. At least a trip to the store would be something to help alleviate the tedium of another day.
The walk to the grocery store took Lance past a small clump of forest. It was never something that Lance had paid attention to in the past, but that day was different. Something moved off in the distance just out of the corner of his eye that made him jerk suddenly.
Squinting into the forest, Lance tried to make sense of what he thought he had seen. It was something that almost seemed like a horse! It had to have been because it was too large to be a deer. But that was impossible; there were no wild horses around here. It couldn't be a runaway horse from a farm since the nearest one was miles away.
There had been something else about the creature Lance had caught a glimpse of. He could have sworn that he saw the blurry shape of a human torso. If that were the case that would mean he had seen a centaur!
"Too many video games," Lance rationalized as he ran a hand through his short and spiky auburn hair. "Either that or my job is already starting to make me crack. I'd buy that."
Settled on a reasonable explanation for the moment, Lance took care of his business at the grocery store. However, on the way back past the woods, Lance paid more attention to the forest than he ever had before. This time, though, there was no sign of anything unusual. Because nothing showed up a second time, Lance was able to brush off the initial occurrence without a second thought.
"You saw a what?" asked Donna incredulously over the phone.
Lance sighed before he replied, almost quietly, "A centaur. An honest-to-God centaur. I don't even know why I'm telling you this."
"Because you tell me everything," Donna relied matter-of-factly.
It was true, Lance told Donna nearly everything. No matter how embarrassing it might potentially be. Donna Church was a friend who happened to now live and work in the same area. Lance had a thing for Donna and was always on the lookout for something that might impress her or catch her attention. In this case though that might not have been the smart thing to do.
"Just how much did you have to drink last night?" Donna asked, this time sounding a bit exasperated. Lance tended to go out drinking on Friday nights. His way of rewarding himself for surviving another hum drum week of the "real world".
"Nothing," Lance replied firmly.
Donna wasn't buying it because she replied in an equally firm tone, "Don't lie. How much? No one sees unicorns while they're sober."
Lance's face was growing red, though Donna couldn't see that. "I told you I didn't have anything! And it was a centaur, not a unicorn."
"Fine! A centaur. Pardon me. But I have to ask again, why are you telling me this?"
Lance rolled his eyes before sighing with exasperation. "Ya know? I don't know anymore. Just forget I said anything."
"That's gonna be real hard," Donna replied, barely stifling a snort.
"Whatever," Lance said with annoyance as he hung up the phone.
As his frozen meal rotated in the microwave, Lance reflected back to try and figure out what he had been thinking when he called Donna to tell her what he had seen. It was so ridiculous, and calling someone to blab about it seemed like a childish thing to do.
In retrospect, Donna lived near the same stretch of forest. It was practically in her back yard. Lance had been secretly hoping that Donna might have noticed something going on back there. However, that plan blew up in his face and Donna now believed he was hung over from the previous night. His Friday night drinking escapades were seriously eating away at his credibility. Not that Lance had much in the way of credibility to begin with.
The microwave beeped and snapped Lance out his thoughts. At the same time, it drew his attention to the coffee maker, which rested next to the microwave. This reminded Lance that the next day was Sunday.
Every Sunday, Lance and Donna met at a local coffee shop for brunch. It was a reason to get together and talk, prepare themselves for the tedious week ahead and enjoy some good company. For the first time, Lance wasn't looking forward to this weekly meeting. After the phone conversation between the two of them not long ago, Lance was expecting some mockery to be heading in his direction.
One of Donna's favorite past times was to give people a hard time. Lance was her favorite target because he made it "so easy". It was always in good fun, Lance could tell that.
The main reason why Lance put up with it was because it meant that he was the topic of discussion, and Lance's personal weakness was that he loved being the center of attention. He never saw it as a weakness however and relished any opportunity to do something to steer conversation in his direction. This might have been the only time when Lance did not want to be the focus of attention.
Sure enough, the first thing that Donna brought up when they met at the coffee shop the next day was the secret Lance had divulged over the phone.
"You saw a centaur, huh?" she questioned as she sat down with her skim latte.
Donna's bright red hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail and she was wearing a dark green sweater against the growing autumn chill. Lance was never short of jokes about Donna being a fiery red head with a quick temper. These conversations usually ended with Lance gaining a new bruise on his upper arm.
Once Donna had commented on the previous afternoon's conversation, Lance rolled his eyes as he sipped from his coffee.
"I was really hoping you wouldn't bring that up," he commented sheepishly.
Donna blinked as if she couldn't believe what Lance had said. "You tell me that you saw a centaur and you think I'm not going to bring it up? You don't just casually drop things like that and keep going."
"What else am I supposed to say about it?" Lance remarked with a shrug.
"What did it look like, for starters," Donna prompted.
"I only saw it out of the corner of my eye," Lance replied. "In fact it was so quick, it was probably a deer and I let my imagination get the better of me."
"Stop trying to make excuses," Donna pushed, "you never let your imagination get away from you. The few times you do, you don't tell me about seeing centaurs. Why did you call me about it?"
Lance was quiet for a while before he replied, "It was in that clump of forest. I was curious if you had seen anything strange back there lately."
The sooner this conversation was over, the happier Lance would be. He had quickly begun to regret ever bringing this up. He felt like such a child, it was ridiculous.
"Not lately, no," Donna commented. "Then again, I haven't been paying much attention."
The conversation hit a silent patch as both Lance and Donna sipped quietly at their coffee. Lance was extremely grateful as he took a moment to savor his warm drink.