He was already dead. Or, that's what he thought anyway. It really depended on the meaning. If "death" was a state where one didn't live, then by that definition, Gregor was definitely already dead. How could he call the life he lives now living? Wake up. Go to school. Come back home. Repeat. His family was happy and content with their new life, and Gregor often pretended to enjoy it with them. His mom often tousled his hair as he walked in the door and asked him how his day was.
"Good, thanks, Mom." Gregor would then smile half-heartedly and climb into his room while his mother went into the kitchen with Grandma to make dinner.
His dad managed to find work as a professor again after he miraculously recovered from his trauma. That was probably the last day Gregor really smiled. Lizzy and Boots were ecstatic, going so far as to buying a cake and poppers for the occasion. Lizzy was now in Middle School, and while his mother was fearful of Lizzy going through puberty, she remained calm and collected. Boots was… well Boots. She went to kindergarten for several hours and made tons of new friends. She no longer had any trouble speaking, and Gregor sort of missed the little baby he carried through his adventures.
He tried to convince himself that he liked his new life, like the rest of his family. But when his body shuddered when he walked by Central Park or when Boots started singing about bats and big animals, he felt a pang in his heart and he knew that he couldn't fool himself. He just… wanted to go back.
That place was his drug, and he couldn't stand the rehabilitation. Just one more time, he told himself. If I could go there one more time, I would be happy forever. That is, if he could remember where "there" was. But he didn't care what the place was or where it was. He just knew it made him happy and he wanted it.
He never would have imagined that death was the only ticket.
It was a humiliating death. He fought through hordes of men and giant monsters, but fate decided to deride him with the death of gravity. Thank God for Isaac Newton for giving it a name to curse. Curse gravity for granting him death! Because the day he died was the day everything changed…
It was a supposed to be just a normal day. Of course, now, he would often look back and sometimes wonder what would have happened if it was just a normal day…
"GREGOR!" a sharp voice sliced through Gregor's daydream. Shocked, Gregor jolted his head upwards and frantically looked around, searching for the source of the horrible sound. His eyes eventually rested on the teacher, Mrs. Evans, who was staring at him with a disgusted look on her face. Her hands were on her hips, and Gregor groaned inwardly. She was waiting.
"Yes, Mrs. Evans…?" he murmured. He never really liked Mrs. Evans. She was far too strict for her own good and it seemed like there was always something stuck up her-
"Do I have to remind you that this is not nap-time!" she shrieked. Gregor grimaced at her voice. "This is detention. I would like you to keep that in mind the next time you decide to wander off to your own little world." She scoffed.
"Yes, I understand, Mrs. Evans." Gregor muttered.
"No," Mrs. Evans shook her head. "I do not believe you do. I'll give you a punishment so that you will remember it." She smirked.
Most of the other kids in the room snickered while the rest merely gave sympathetic glances in his direction. Everyone knew what was coming. Mrs. Evans turned back to her desk and pulled out a stack of papers from a cabinet. There must've been hundreds of papers in the stack. With a scary gleam in her eye, she strode towards Gregor and plopped the papers on his table with a huge SMACK.
"I need these papers to be stapled. Take every three pages and staple them together, then put them in a separate pile here," she smacked another empty desk. "Understand?" she smirked.
Gregor nodded reluctantly and she trotted back to her desk, seemingly triumphant. Gregor pulled a face at Mrs. Evans and sighed. He had done this so many times it seemed natural to grab the stapler, take three pieces of paper, staple it, place it on the other side of the desk, and repeat. In fact, he was quite proficient at it. Proficient enough to spare him from Mrs. Evans' complaints, anyway.
When he was about halfway done with the stack, he heard the bell go off. Detention was over. All the kids packed up and got ready to leave.
"All of you are dismissed!" Mrs. Evan's voice called out. "As for you, Mr. Gregor, you are staying here until you finish that stack." She scowled.
Gregor's ears roared. How unfair could she be? He cursed under his breath as his hands continued to move like a machine. After a few more minutes of the incessant torture, Gregor heard the door swing open and saw a girl and a boy walk in. The boy was tall and lean with short brown hair and had a smiling face. He was pretty relaxed and didn't seem to care for Mrs. Evan's threatening stare. The short black-haired girl, on the other hand, looked quite disturbed and strategically placed herself behind the boy to avoid Mrs. Evan's glare of doom and gloom.
"Excuse me?" Mrs. Evans stood up at her desk. "Who are you two?"
"Uh, sorry." The boy scratched the back of his head. "We're here for our friend, Gregor. Detention is over, right?"
"Not for him it's not," she sniffed. "Since he was falling asleep in detention, he needs to staple all of these papers. Now out!" she pointed out the door.
"Geez." The boy grimaced. "Cut him some slack, will 'ya?" he glowered at the teacher. "I bet he's had a hard day, dealing with teachers like you."
"Matt…" the girl nudged him urgently, warning him to not go too far.
"Is that so?" Mrs. Evans narrowed her eyes. "Why don't you and your little friend go and help him then!" she seemed to snarl as she pointed in Gregor's direction.
Matt shrugged. "Fine." He smirked and went over to Gregor, much to Mrs. Evans' irritation. The girl quickly followed him and quickly murmured an apology to Mrs. Evans before they both sat down next to Gregor.
"Geez, man." Gregor snickered. "You're gonna get suspended or something if you do that."
"Eh, so what?" Matt shrugged. "Better than letting my best friend get treated like a dog. Right Rachel?" he prodded the girl, who jumped in surprise.
"Ah!" she squealed. "Matt!" she fumed. "Gregor's right. You might want to calm down on the attitude there."
"Ah! Betrayal!" Matt gasped in over exaggeration as he clutched his heart and pretended to die. Gregor chuckled as Rachel continued to berate Matt about proper etiquette.
"Alright guys, let's get this over with." He gestured towards the pile. "You didn't think you were just gonna sit here and watch me finish this by myself, did you?" he gave them each a look.
"Right." Matt groaned. "Forgot about that."
"Sorry!" Rachel blushed as she quickly grabbed a stack of papers.
And with that, silence took over them. Despite the pain of it, the arduous task actually went a lot faster than they expected. They got to whisper about their day, complain about their homework, and plan for their summer vacation. Before they knew it, all of the papers were stapled nicely. Even Mrs. Evans appeared to be somewhat pleased. As soon as they placed the papers in her hand, they bolted out the door.
"MAN I could NOT wait to be out of there!" Matt bellowed as he rushed outside into the falling evening. Rachel giggled, following closely behind as Gregor stretched in satisfaction.
"It wasn't too bad," he yawned. "Especially since you guys were helping me." He threw his arms over their shoulders and smiled. Rachel and Matt groaned comically and pretended to buckle under his weight.
Gregor stared up at the sky. Being with his friends was probably one of the only times he actually felt like he didn't need… that place. Gregor frowned. That place? Where was that place…? Gregor stopped in the middle of his tracks as Matt and Rachel went on, laughing at some joke. He furrowed his brow as he groped around in his memory. The place he wanted to go to. The place he kept dreaming about…
It was almost like- wait.
Gregor stopped. He thought that he must have been imagining it, but he could swear he saw a figure waving at him from far away. He squinted at it, and just as it was coming into focus, it ran off. What was that? Normally, he would have dismissed it as nothing, but for some reason, he found himself unable to think nothing of it. He wasn't sure, but he thought for a moment there, the figure looked familiar… It couldn't be. Gregor shook his head. But what if it was?
"Yo, you hear me, Greg?" Matt tugged on his arm. "The dinner plans are still on today, right?" Gregor snapped out of his daze. Oh right. Dinner plans. Gregor quickly made up an excuse.
"Huh? Oh. Yeah.. about that. Sorry guys. Mom wants me home early tonight for uh…" he snapped his fingers, his mind racing. "Uhh… A special family event." He responded apologetically. He craned his neck. Was the figure still there?
"Huh?" Rachel pouted. "But you said you were available yesterday!"
"Yeah, sorry. Mom just makes events really randomly at times." He pretended to be upset. "Maybe tomorrow."
"Hey, you sure you can't ditch your little family event for one time to hang with us cool people?" Matt asked jokingly, turning towards Gregor.
But Gregor wasn't there. He was sprinting across the road, running towards the figure in the distance. He could hear cries of Matt and Rachel behind him, but he paid no attention. He had to know.
He ran and ran and ran until he reached a small bridge that he needed to cross in order to get to his house. It was a simple bridge that hung over a river about a hundred feet below. The ropes surrounding it were brittle and nearly snapped at the mere touch of it. As Gregor reached the bridge, he realized that the figure was gone. Out of breath, Gregor slowed down to a half in the middle of the bridge and cursed. He almost had her.
Suddenly, a gleam below the bridge caught his eye. Something was in the river. Gregor lay on his belly and crawled up to the ledge of the bridge to crane his neck over it. What he saw took his breath away.
He found himself staring at a girl floating on the water at the bottom of the river. The strange thing was that nature didn't seem to notice the girl, and the water flowed naturally, as if she wasn't there. Her eyes were tinted with unmistakable purple, her white hair billowing in a wind that didn't exist. She looked around for a moment and then looked up. She locked eyes with Gregor and immense joy seemed to creep to her face.
The moment she locked eyes with him, Gregor's eyes widened and he began to remember. Events flashed through his mind like a movie played on fast forward. Everything he had forgotten wedged itself back where it belonged – his memory. The Underland. Ares. Vikus. He looked down again and saw that the girl had reached out for Gregor. The ecstasy on her face began to infect his own and he reached out as well when suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge wave rippled across the river and washed over her. She disappeared.
Emotion broke through rationale and Gregor yelled in shock. He reached out further, leaning out while holding the ropes of the bridge. He could hear something behind him, but he paid no attention to it. All he knew was that he had to get down there. Get down to her. Get down to Lu-
The rope he was hanging onto suddenly gave way and let him go. The sound of his death resonated throughout his mind as he fell.
He turned to look at the bridge and saw Rachel and Matt staring wide-eyed at him from the top of the bridge as he fell. They must have chased him…
He wanted to call out to them, to say he was sorry, to say that he didn't mean for any of this to happen.
He opened his mouth…
Then, the river opened up and ate him.
AN: And there you have it! A quick rewrite of Chapter 1. Changed a few things around, but it shouldn't affect the story too much. Review and tell me if this was an improvement from before! (if you remember, that is...)