1 Where He Belongs (Prologue)

Beep Beep Beep

The sound of the beeping from the heart monitor filled the otherwise deathly quiet hospital room. The doctors had stepped outside of the room to allow time for the young man's mother to talk with him, possibly for the very last time.

The young man knew this was inevitable. He had already felt his feet go numb, the feeling starting to travel up through his body as he felt the sickness start to finally take over. Tears dripped down his mother's face as she started quietly sobbing into her hands. With great effort, he turned his head slightly towards his mother, ignoring the sharp pain in his neck as his body protested against the movement.

He gave her a weak smile as he tried to speak despite his voice being quiet and breathless.

"I think I'm going to miss this room."

His mother wiped her face while sniffling before giving a smile, but he could see the held-back tears in her bloodshot eyes.

"This room would be nothing without you, darling; I think it would miss you more than you miss it, haha-"

She gave a weak attempt at a laugh before holding one of his pale white hands between her own hands, lowering her head in mock prayer.

He looked around the room again,

The once white and bare room was anything but now, as posters filled with images of castles and dragons covered the walls. A plethora of books littered the floor beside one of the many bookshelves that were installed in the room; each one of the books made him see the world in a new light

He liked to read them to, even for just a bit, escape from the clutches of the cruel reality into a world where he saw the rolling green meadows and bright blue skies. A world filled with many strange but amazing creatures, a world filled with purpose and adventure every day.

He was quite devoted to escapism.

A vibrant Dungeons and Dragons set was placed on the small table next to his bed. He often played the game with the doctors and nurses when they were on break, loving the feeling of adventuring and in turn getting to know the doctors and nurses alter ego's in the game, imagining them exchanging life stories and drinking happily around a fire filled his heart with joy

Of course, he had continued learning even while he was sick. Many DVDs with documentaries were stacked on the counter in front of the television, many of which were from his favorite subject: ancient history. It was the closest thing that this world had with the stories that went beyond this world. Between the stories of the Knights of Europe, the Samurai of Japan, the ancient tacticians of China, their lives seemed to be their own adventure story.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by his mother, who was still softly gripping his ever-weakening hand, and remembered that none of this was real. He was confined to this hospital bed all his life, it may be unbelievable to some, but he was 21, which is the age that most believe to be the high point of your life.

Knock Knock

A knock at the door revealed the head doctor, a man with a kind heart and extraordinary talent. His name was Byron Stein, and he was also the one who spent the most time with the young man.

His eyes looked just as bloodshot as the young man's mother; his hands were clutching some papers tightly and shaking profusely.

He pushed up his glasses and breathed out shakily; whatever the papers were, they weren't good news.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but his nervous system is shutting down as we speak. He's not going to last much longer. I'm sorry, I...I'm so sorry." His voice cracked on that last word.

She said nothing as the tears before had dried up; it was all just dry sobbing now. She had no more tears to shed. Everybody knew, even the man himself, that they were talking to a dead man walking.

The young man turned to him, "Hey Dr.Stein, what was the story your character was going to tell in dungeons & dragons?"

Dr. Stein smiled sadly.

" He wanted to tell the story of his homeland, the underground city of the dwarves. He wanted to tell them the stories of the epic brawls that his family had and the...happiness they had together. He also wanted to say.... that they were the best friends he could have ever met..."

The young man smiled again. "You're gonna have to play for both of us from now on, alright? Get me a happy ending, please."

Dr.Stein let the papers slip out of his hand, scattering and fluttering to the floor.

"Alright, sport...we'll get him a happy ending."

His mother gripped his hand a bit harder

He turned back to her again

"Would it have been better if I wasn't born? Maybe you wouldn't-"

His mother would have slapped him if he wasn't on his deathbed; she buried her face in the sheets and started sobbing again

through her muffled voice, he could still understand her

"You were the best thing that happened to me, and nothing will change that you hear me!?"

"But didn't father leave because of me?"

At the mention of his father, his mother froze

with a seething voice, she cursed him

"That man is not my husband; he abandoned both of us. He deserves to rot in hell."

The young man shook his head. "Don't wish for that. It makes us just as bad..AGH"

As he was talking to his mother, the heartrate monitor spiked

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

"He's going into cardiac arrest! Dr.Stein!"

The other doctors who were standing by the door to give the family privacy stormed in, snapping Dr.Stein back to reality and what was happening

He started seeing black spots.

"Prep the defibrillators!"

The numbness started to creep up his chest.

"Dr.Stein, what's, what's happening? Am I dying? ACK"

A sharp pain shot down his whole body

"Dr.Stein, ...thanks for being like a father to me."

Dr.Stein twitched at this but continued to try to resuscitate him quickly

The man closed his eyes,

Friends,

Family,

Lover,

Children,

Adventure

He was unlucky, but he still had people who loved him beside him; that was still true.

Beep Beep Beep

He looked at the scrambling doctors and nurses, his crying mother

He reached his arm out towards her one more time

"Thank.....You"

Beep Beep Beep Beeeeeeeeeeeeep

his arm slumped and fell out of his mother's grasp as he flatlined

He woke up to only darkness

There was nothing here, nothing to be seen.

I'm cold

"Oh, sorry about that"

His body was suddenly sucked into a new place; a large conference table sat in the middle of a highly decorated room

The bright light pouring through the windows blinded him temporarily as he had just gotten out of somewhere with no light at all.

There were three people sat in front of him

A young woman wearing a violet dress with crimson red hair, a sharp nose, and an indescribable aura of danger around her

A boy with dirty blonde hair who was pouting with the red-haired women and acting, well, just like a child

and in the center, a man with a full business suit, brown hair, and a feeling of authority surrounding him

The man in the center spread his arms as the two beside him stopped their bickering

"Hello and welcome to the realm of the gods!"

The young man looked back and forth between them incredulously, their poker faces not breaking even for a moment.

"This is a joke, right?"

the young boy, if that was what he even was, started pouting again

"Aether, just put him back in with the other souls. This mortal is so rude!"

The man in the center, Aether, in turn hit the young boy on top of the head

"OW OW OW"

He smiled while the boy clutched his head, recovering from the injury he just got

"Sorry about that; let me introduce myself and my colleagues here. I'm Aether, the god of light and judgment, that bipolar girl over there is Aela, goddess of fire and war, and the kid is Lech, god of Mischief, thieves, and trickery."

The woman, Aela, slammed the table

"What'd you say about me, Aether? I swear I will set all of your suits on fire, see how you li-"

Aether cut her off. "I'll treat you to dinner."

"Did I ever tell you how handsome and generous you were? Also, I like French food. It's so exquisite."

....are these really gods?

The man raised his hands.

"Whoa whoa whoa, I heard Lech say to return my soul with the others. I know I'm definitely dead, but what did he mean by that?"

Aether rapped his knuckles on the desk impatiently

"Souls get split into three areas. The do-gooders go to what mortals call heaven, the criminals go to hell, and the normal ones...well, they exist."

he balked at this

"What do you mean they just exist? What the-"

"Alright enough questions, it's time for us to ask the questions. If you had another chance, would you take it?"

The young man tilted his head slightly

"What do you mean?"

Aela rolled her eyes at him. "It means that we're offering you a chance to be reborn but into a different world. How dense can mortals be?"

He stared pointedly at them. "Without my illness?"

Lech looked at him lazily. "Yes, mortal"

Aether clasped his hands together on the desk and continued the conversation/interrogation.

"So, as I was saying, would you do it?"

He felt like this was one of those "You just won the lottery, enter your social security number and credit card here to redeem your prize" type of things; there was definitely a catch (and yes, he used a computer before)

"What's the catch? There's got to be one."

Aether scratched his head

"Well...we're talking about a fantasy world. Like, not with those people gliding on flying swords or nuclear bombs go boom, and everyone goes into a shelter type fantasy. This is high fantasy with humans, elves, demons, dwarves, monsters, and everything else. Also, there's a bunch of wars going on. Now, I know you have your concerns, but-"

"Sign me up right now!"

The gods had to look twice at the man shaking with excitement,

"you sure you don't want to think about this for a bit?"

"Nope"

"But you could regret it!"

"Never"

this time Aela smacked Aether, a bright gold handprint visible on his cheek

Wait, gold? Wha- you know what? Let's just forget about it.

"Aether, the mortal want's to do it, so let him. Stop it with all of these concerns."

Aether breathed a long sigh before nodding

"Alright, one of the gods, probably a minor one, will guide you on your way through this world. Lech, do your thing-No the other thing!"

He had to correct Lech as he had pulled out a confetti cannon to the dismay of the other two gods present.

Lech through the cannon on the ground

"Party poopers. Alright, mortal, see ya."

right before Lech snapped his fingers to probably teleport him off to who knows where Aether stopped him

"Wait, what's your name going to be? You'll look better than you do here, but you're still the same person. no going into another body or getting new parents, just... poof."

The man looked at Aether

"I think I'll leave my old name behind me, but I do have the perfect name for someone who is basically me."

Time of death 11:42 A.M

Cause of Death: Cardiac arrest

Doctor on the scene: Byron Stein

Dr.Stein had tried his best to bring him back, to the point that the other doctors had to drag him off of the young man's body after his 5th attempt to reboot his heart

Now they all sat in front of the old DnD table, with their roleplaying in full swing even when they lost a member for good

Dr.Stein sat in the middle of the group, with two skill sheets in front of him

his assistant doctor, who was the dungeon master, looked at him,

"So who are you right now, Dr.Stein?"

Dr.Stein let out a bitter laugh.

"You know, if that guy lived in ancient times, his fighting tactics could totally make him a legendary king. I think he knew that too."

He took a deep, shaky breath.

"Arthur, my name is Arthur."

"My name is now Arthur, like the legendary king. I'll be honest, that was the only cool guy's name I could remember, so I'm going with that."

Aether nodded

"Alright then, Arthur, good luck, and we'll fill you in once you get to the other side. Now ciao"

with that, Lech snapped his fingers, and the last thing he saw was Aether waving him goodbye before a bright flash of light surrounded him.

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