Chapter 9:

The Dream and the Flashback


I had a dream that night about Dinah.

More than a dream, it was a memory from the past—from when we were kids.

I was in a playground building a sandcastle, and then a loud thud made me turn towards the swings. It was this kid who was always bullying everyone. He had fallen off the swing because he tried to go fast on it while standing up. This kid was so big and so round, when he fell he made a strange, funny noise.

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. Hard.

Obviously, he didn’t like it. He stood up, all dirty and fuming and made his way to the sandbox where I was.

“What are you laughing at, boogerhead!?”

…is what he said.

I was a kid, so I thought that was the worst insult I’ve ever heard. I stood up to face him immediately, even though he was clearly much taller than me. I was mad as hell.

“What did you call me!? Say it to my face, meatball!”

Ooh, he didn’t like that one bit.

He growled, took a step back, then swung his leg into my sandcastle with every drop of hatred in his round little body.

My creation was destroyed instantly.

I gasped and started seeing red.

I lunged at him with a battlecry and started thumping on him with my fists as hard and fast as I could. In my mind, I was decimating him, but in reality I was so weak and so small, it was like I was playing the bongos on his chest.

Of course, he didn’t like this one bit, either.

He shoved me with both his hands and I fell on the sand. I barely had time to react before I saw the sole of his shoe hovering over my face.

I was scared shitless. This big bully was about to step on my face and kick me until he was satisfied, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.

But even though I couldn’t do anything but turn my head away, there was someone that immediately sprung to action in my stead: a tall boy that ran over from who knows where and used all the momentum from his speed to dropkick the bully onto his side.


The bully toppled over, not knowing what hit him.

He rolled a few feet back and lifted up a big cloud of sand in the process. After a few seconds, he gathered himself up enough to sit through wails and exaggerated sounds of agony.

He raised his knee, saw that it was scrapped and bleeding, and he let out a yelp like a kicked dog. He quickly raised himself onto his feet and started calling out for his mom, limping all the way there like his leg had been cut off, as kids do.

I raised my upper body slowly, watching him get away, then slowly turned to look at my saviour, blinking in disbelief.


Dinah, my friend and neighbor since forever, had an angry, menacing look on his face as he stared in the direction of the bully. But the moment he heard me call his name, he turned to me with an incredibly gentle smile, offering me his hand.

“You okay, Allen? Here, lemme help ya.”

I was so shocked I almost did.

Then, for some reason, I was overcome by shame.

I couldn’t believe it. I had to be rescued like some sort of princess. I couldn’t even move away or run. I was paralyzed like an idiot as I was about to be stomped on.

I turned my face away from him and scowled, ignoring the hand he had so sincerely offered me.

“...I’m fine. You don’t need to save me all the time, you know.”

Dinah looked at me for a moment, and eventually pulled his hand back. He wasn’t upset or anything—in fact, he laughed a little sheepishly at my reply, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Ahaha, sorry, sorry. I just saw him about to beat you up again and I just couldn’t stand by and look! What kind of friend would I be if I did, huh?”


“...But you know, Allen… you should try to be a little nicer to people sometimes, yeah? You always say the first thing that comes to your mind, and some people don’t like that.”

I stood up, dusting myself from the sand that got all over me.

“Hah!? Because I called him a meatball!? He called me boogerhead first! He had it coming!”

Dinah shook his head.

“Because you laughed at him when he fell.”

His reply took me by surprise.

“When people fall down, it’s embarrassing for them, you know?”


“So they don’t want to be seen. But if they are seen, they expect the other person to help them out, not laugh at them.”

This is the part of Dinah I hated the most.

He was just a brat, yet he talked like he was some wise old man from a book. I hated it because he was usually right, and I had nothing to say to him to retaliate. You don’t argue against the giant rat that trained the turtles.

It was at this point that my memory ended and skipped forward. It turned into a memory of my classroom in between classes, with Dinah sitting backwards on his chair to face me.

He sighed and shook his head at me, his reddish-brown hair still in the same style he’s had since he was a kid.

“...You know… you’re not a bad guy, Allen. But no one can see that because you only ever have bad things to say about everyone and everything.”

“What? That’s not true.”

“It is, though. You only ever talk about how much you hate this and that. When you watch a new TV show, you talk about all the parts you hated about it. When you eat food, you only talk about what you didn’t like about it. Your clothes are too ugly. Your classmates are too shallow. When you talk about your sister—”

“Hey, hey! Knock it off! And for the record, my sister is the worst!”

Dinah laughed a little.

“Is she? She’s a normal, regular girl. She has friends and likes pink and fashion and is very into horoscopes. Literally her biggest crime is being your sister, and that’s it.”

“Ugh! Not you, too! You say that because you don’t live with her. No one understands.”

“The one that doesn’t understand is you, Allen.”

Suddenly, the lively classroom we were in was empty, except for him and me…and the echo of his voice spewing out the most uncomfortable truths for my ears.

“Alice isn’t a perfect girl, but that’s just because she’s human. If you keep pushing her away, you’ll end up losing her, and only then you’ll realize what you’ve done.”

My heart suddenly wrenched onto itself.

Dinah gave me a hopeless look, then reached out to put his hand on my head with a wry smile, as if apologizing for making me panic.

“Just, try to be nice, yeah?”

…That again.

That was his favorite phrase to say to me.

Be nice. Be kind.

What the hell even is that?

I don’t have to be nice to anyone. I don’t owe anyone shit. If they can’t deal with me as I am, then tough. I’m not here to please anybody.


Besides, he’s wrong.

I have nice things to say about stuff.

For example, the new Super Slash Brawlers game is pretty cool. Ah, but I don’t like that they added those new stages, though. Who even plays in them? The original ones were much better.

And DLC characters? Literally why. What happened to just unlocking them all through playing the game? Ugh, and what’s the point of purchasing characters, huh? They’re all from franchises no one’s ever even heard of, and ultimately it’s the same as using any other character with their same weapons.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, either. Might as well release it for an older platform at this point. Waste of memory space. The controllers for the new platform aren’t even good for this kind of fighting game, either.

Not to mention—



I slowly opened my eyes, looking at the ceiling. The clocks ticking all around me at different tempos filled the air with their noise.



I sighed, shrinking onto myself in shame as I groggily came out of my negative spiral.

“...Damn you, Dinah.”