Chapter 8:

Open Eyes, Scalding Water

Midsummer Crisis

Lucillia Ravenwyrm is an independent Vtuber, a lone talent with no connection to Japan’s ProdoTV or any other such agency. She streams nearly every day and has a fairly decent viewer base of around 40k subs. I have never commented on one of her streams, and I hope I never meet her. Her model- er, she has black hair and green eyes, with a feathery wing on one side of her back and a reptilian, dragon-like one on the other side. Her voice is beautiful- soft, yet fairly deep, and I enjoy- or rather currently am enjoying listening to her sing. This is the first time I have heard to her voice or watched any of her streams at all. It has been [0] days since I last spent a whole day-night cycle indoors. Yesterday was spent doing absolutely nothing. I did not play any games. I did not watch anything. I sat, and slept. I don’t really even remember eating anything or talking to my family. Today will be better. Today, I’ll be able to think again. Today, I’ll listen to Lucillia Ravenwyrm.

My wings reflect away all the light

I’m trapped in the day but all I see is night

An eclipse of my feelings, left becomes right

Nobody, nowhere, helps my lone fight

I have always been so deathly afraid of speaking with women. A lot of men- and really, just people in general- say there’s no such thing as a platonic friendship between a guy and a girl. I don’t believe in that, but the knowledge that people do has always had an effect on me. One day, when I was very little- elementary school, when Mylie was young and mom’s passing was still on our minds- the family was just getting into the motions of cheering each other up and getting a move on with this whole “life” thing we had worked out. We sat around our table, the same we do now, and talked about what was going well for us. My dad was talking about making a business out of fixing things for people. I didn’t believe it would work out for him, at the time- but encouraged him strongly, as the idea seemed to make him very happy. I had brought up how I got a decent score on my last math test. That was also a lie, though that didn’t ever end up mattering. What mattered- at least, to the point that I’m thinking back in it now, was that I tried to talk about Mylie, sitting across from me in her booster seat, but something came out wrong. I tried to say:

“Is Mylie doing okay?” To my father, who, obviously, was the one caring for her at the time, as she was not particularly easy to raise and frequently cried- but, instead, I said:

“Is Kylie doing okay?” The name of one of my classmates, a friend of mine who was helping me a lot in coping with my mother’s death at the time. I quickly corrected myself, but it didn’t matter.

As I look back nothing really makes sense

There was no king and yet we worshipped a prince

As something other than human, he put me on defense

And I’ve been a hybrid outcast ever since

It didn’t take me long to figure out why dad was laughing, but what I didn’t understand then was why I felt so freaking awful about it. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed, persay, I imagine my face looked a lot more scared than bashful. I hated that I made a mistake that forced me to admit something I didn’t want to- a Freudian slip, perhaps.

“Oh, looks like little Ross found himself a girl, huh?”

I don’t want to live this life of cages and choices

Already made for me

I don’t want to hear this song of discordant, evil voices

Calling out, mockingly free

He wasn’t exactly wrong. I did have a crush on her. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But for some reason, I wanted to throw up. And again, I swear it wasn’t just embarrassment- I hated it, don’t get me wrong- but it was something far worse than that. I shouldn’t have been so choked up. It was just a simple accident. Why did those two names have to be so damn similar? That’s where I put my hatred at the time. Fate had casually chosen to bug me. And though I didn’t forget, I definitely stopped thinking that hard about it.

Backwards, forwards, your words

Mean nothing

In the ocean, no chords

You can’t sing

I hung out with that girl a lot, but we eventually grew apart. Whenever my dad brought her up after that, I’d act like I’d forgotten her. She’d left my life. Whatever.

Of course, now I know why I did all that.

Love is gross.

I don’t want to date anyone. The very idea stresses me out, and essentially always has. But when mom died and everything around me started to grow cold, I wanted something- anything- capable of warming me up. And as school advanced and the pressure from peers to find someone grew stronger and stronger, I started to outright hate myself for being such a loner. I mean… after Kylie, I never really talked to girls all that much at all. Because why would I? To love hurt, and so did not loving. I didn’t like thinking about it. So, like everything else in life, I just stopped.

But I’ll rise again

You cannot clip a monster’s grin

You may call my honors sin

But I will still fly in the end

“How was that? Eh? How was that? Good? Ahhh! Thank you! Thank you. So… next we’re doing… ta-da! Night Crawler! Sumire Anata’s from ProdoTV’s debut single! Okay, Ichii, nii, san-“

I unplug my computer and lie my head on my keyboard.

I hate all of this.

Suddenly, I get a knock on my door. But it’s not Mylie this time, or anyone from my family. Well… not my blood family.

“Roscoe? Hey, bro, what’s up?”

I open the door- carefully- to see Kirk standing behind it.

It’s embarrassing, but I almost cry.

Soon enough me and Kirk are in my room, door closed so we can have absolutely no interruptions. It feels like forever since I’ve talked to Kirk, and I’m sure we both have plenty to say. Sitting on the carpet, we both just kinda look at each other for awhile, not knowing who’s gonna start.

I’m-“ we blurt out in unison, Kirk a bit louder than I. I decide to let him go first.

“You go.” He says before I have the chance to offer. I sigh, realizing I really don’t want to talk at all. But I have to. It’s all I can really do now.

“I’m… I don’t really like Cleo.”

To my suprise, he doesn’t say anything or react at all. Heh. That’s my Kirk. Sometimes I still underestimate the guy. Of course he wouldn’t freak out. He couldn’t be helped to listen to some folks, but when it comes to his friends- he’s more understanding than someone like me ever deserves.

“Go on.”

“Heh… yeah, well… you know, she kinda guessed I had a crush on her. Except… well, I guess I never got a chance to tell you, but she’s aromantic.”

“She’s what?”

“She’s- she doesn’t love people.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Sooo… she said that even though she wouldn’t- er… as she put it, couldn’t- date me, she still offered me a kiss…”


“And… yeah, I kinda… ran away. I… realized I really, really didn’t want that.”

“Oh. Huh, I get it.”

I look up at him. I like that he’s following everything I’m saying, but now I could seriously use some feedback or something. I just keep looking at him, and eventually he speaks up.

“That’s not so strange. I mean… you realized you didn’t like her, for whatever reason. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I mean… okay, listen. Objective position here- the lady is attractive. I may not have any interest in her, but she has a lot going for her. But the fact is… I mean, even for you- she’s a good bit older, she seems to have a lot going on, and… I mean, most of all, all this “doesn’t love people” stuff. Like… yeah. If you don’t like her on top of all the things that would get in your way if you did- maybe that’s a good thing. Life’s gonna be a lot easier not having to worry about all that.”

“But that’s not it.”


“If I don’t love her… then what was all that crap from before? I felt so damn strongly about her… only to… freak out and retreat? Why? I mean… is god just playing tricks on me at this point? My… my Vtuber- my favorite Vtuber- moved into my neighborhood- into the house right next to mine! I mean, do you recognize the- do you understand the impossibility of such an occurrence? That’s, like, three levels of impossible! To think a public figure would move in near me is one thing- but specifically, a Vtuber- one I watched- not only that, but my very favorite out of like- how many do I watch? Let’s see… uh… Mamaki, Kekora, Metalmouse… that’s like one in a hundred even then! It’s- and then to think out of everywhere in the world she could’ve gone. it was the house right next to mine she picked? How many planets had to align for that to happen? All of them? It’s- it’s enough to drive a man mad, Kirk!”

“Roscoe, you’re focusing on the wrong part of this.”


“All this… excitement- it’s.. I think it’s distracting you from the real thing here. Ross, you were saying how you didn’t get why you felt the way you did if you don’t actually love her. Well- man, if this kinda thing happened to me, and I didn’t think I was in love, I’d be pretty surprised. I mean, the way you put it- this chick is like a popstar to you- she’s an idol. A crush is to be expected. You don’t gotta beat yourself up about it.”

Suddenly I feel worse. Before at least I could say I had a lot going on. You know, a lot on my mind? Well, now I’ve realized I’m just freaking stupid.

Of course I had a crush on her. It was nothing more than that. I mean, yeah. That makes sense. Just a schoolboy crush, born from a different need- some other desire. What was that need? Change? Something different, something exciting? Yeah, that might have been it. Just like how I started to want a girlfriend after mom passed… because I was lonely and scared.


Did I ever love Cleo?


Did I…

Ever love anyone?

“-coe? Roscoe!”


I open my eyes. Dad is calling me from the workroom. Kirk left hours ago. I realize he never got to tell me what he had to say. I slide out of bed. I don’t feel alive. I puppet my body down the stairs and into our dining table. My dad is there. I let him talk at me. I don’t care anymore. I need a break.

“Ross, we’ve got a problem.”


“The money’s running out. You need to get a job.”


The room seems to bend around me. I don’t get what dad’s saying. Burt Fletcher is speaking words to me that should be spoken to someone else. Me? A job? Sure, maybe in three- no, five years, but-

“Roscoe, I need you to take this seriously.”

Wait, “running out?” How would the money  be running out? He’s still fixing stuff like always. My help never changed our income much, did it? So why now? Is he lying to me? Is this because I spent a day inside? I don’t get it. I’m scared. Lemme go back to sleep. That’s all I want for now. I try to ask, but my curiosity gets the best of me, and I say something else than I mean, just like I always seem to do around dad.

“What money? How’s- our money running out? What, are we being boycotted?”

“No, no.” He rubs his entire face with his large, dusty hand. “Ross… look… did you think… we were really living off the odd job I did every week?”

“I…” I stutter. “I guess… yeah, I assumed so…”

“Listen. I never wanted to be the one to tell you this. Not till you got through college- or… till you found something else to do with your life, you know, after high school. But… the way things are going, we have to have this talk. And it has to happen now.”

“So what’s… happening, dad?”

“While I’ve done my best to help… we’ve been surviving almost entirely off of your mother’s inheritance for around seven years now.”

A hundred and two thoughts rush through me.


What’s he saying?

That can’t be true.

That doesn’t make any sense at all!

How did she have that much?

Is this a trick?

He lied to me either way.

Why does everything have to be so complicated?

I hate all of this!

But all I give outward is one syllable:


Muttered so quietly he probably had to read my lips to understand me.

“Ross, your mother had it a lot better than she would’ve liked other people to know. She came from a pretty wealthy upbringing, at least, as wealthy as you can really get as some random middle-class family down south. But… still, wealthy. Wealthy enough to have plans. Plans for if something happened. Something horrible. And… as fate would have it, it did. “If something can go wrong…” you get the gist. And she made those plans for us, Roscoe- but that doesn’t mean she wanted us to know about her status.” He says, leaning into the table, resting his round, hairy arms atop it. “To tell the truth, I think she felt guilty about it all, you know? Nobody really wants to be seen as the lucky one- not in this country, at least. And before she had you, the one thing she always told me was that you could never know about where she came from. Because she didn’t want you to grow up like that. She didn’t want you to grow up how she did- always worrying about the people below her, never feeling like she could really relate to anyone- she wanted to do you have a chance at a normal life. More normal than she had, ar least. And regardless of whether or not I agree with what she did, I can’t say I’m going to argue with her. Are you?”

“…No, sir.”

“Good. She left us behind a lot in that will… leftover money from other ancestors, plenty of it… even has college funds for you and Mylie. I thought it’d last us a good long while- tried making something out of my passion, repairing things…”

“I thought… dad… wasn’t your real passion… well… baseball? You told me you loved it as a kid.”

“And I did. But that was a dream, not a passion. It’s okay to have dreams, son. But really, I don’t wanna be a baseball player. Just liked the idea of the whole thing- the fantasy, that’s all. No, if I could do one thing everyday for the rest of my life- rest assured, it’d be fixin’ things.”

“So you…”

“Yeah, I tried making it work. Fat chance. I had a lot of fun, but you see how it ended up. I added maybe a year or so to our survival. Not to say it’s all out. You’ve still got a while to find a real job, and… I guess, so do I. It’s been a good run, but I’ve accepted now that I just can’t keep doing this the way I am. It can stay a hobby, but… until I’m really good, I gotta support this family the right way. And… I’m sorry to say, but so will you, kid.”

“I can… you can use my college funds. You know that I never planned to go anyway.”

“You don’t now. But who’s to say what might happen a few years from now. Tell me, Roscoe, if you went back and told yourself a year ago what’s happening to you right now, would you believe it?”

I shake my head. That’s a resounding no.

“No matter what we might think best, Denise said that was for college. So that’s what it will stay for, like it or not. Until we’re begging on the streets, that money goes towards your education.”

“Okay… so… what am I supposed to do?”

“I thought you didn’t want us telling you that.”

Shit. He’s right. I guess I didn’t, and I don’t. I have to figure this out for myself this time, and now… I’ve got a deadline.

“When do I need a job by?” I ask firmly.

“I hate to do this to you… but by the end of the summer.”

“…Okay. I promise I’ll do it. For you, dad.”

“I really am sorry, kid. Maybe if I hadn’t have been so stupid, you would’ve gotten a chance to. But now… I guess we’re both stuck playing it smart.”

I smile, and we hug.

I got a text on my phone later that day. It was from Kirk. He sent me:

Convinced dad to let me get out tomorrow. We gotta talk

That’s no problem. It’ll be my motivation for getting to the next day of this wild break… and getting a job. I grow more and more terrified as I connect more to this world, as I’m forced to participate in it… spending time stargazing at ideas I’d never considered and meeting people so different to me they seem like aliens. But… at this point, all I can really do is go further into the chaos. I really have no idea what I’ll do to get a job, where I’d even wanna work, or if I even could. I have no idea what Kirk will say to me tomorrow, or how to feel about what his dad said to me. I have no idea how I’m supposed to process everything I learned about mom today, and dad too for that matter. I don’t even know if I ever loved Cleo- or if I ever loved period.

In any case, my midsummer crisis seems to be in full swing.