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magic What Do You Desire (Chapter 1)


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"What do you desire?" the voice asks me.

There is red everywhere. The clouds above me have been painted a sinister crimson, while the soil below me is filled with deep, dark cracks caused by extreme drought. There is no life here in the desert, except of me and the voice. It's coming from above, and so I raise my eyes.

Rather than seeing the sun, I am left to stare at a massive eye parting the sky in two. Its red iris is fixed straight at my body, and it just observes me as if it expects something. The iris of the gargantuan organ is painted a blood red crimson, and I can't help but scream at the sight.

"What do you desire?" the thunderous voice booms all over me. Its so powerful that I can't help but cower in fear. 

"I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE!" I scream at it, and the voice stops assaulting my mind. The eye in the sky doesn't blink, but its gaze is broken.

"Then you shall have it," the voice says, now barely a whisper, before a sudden darkness envelops me and I'm left falling in the void.




I wake up screaming at my small bedroom with so much force that I awkwardly tumble off my bed, bumping my head on the nearby drawer. My brother is startled awake as well on the other side of the room and he instantly gets off his bed to help me.

"Jesus Christ, Dylan! What happened?! Is it the nightmares again?" he asks me, but I'm still in too much shock to answer. Usually my nightmares aren't so strong or vivid. This time, it felt as if I was actually in that desert, unable to do anything but listen to the voice. My head has started to hurt as well, surely the result of falling into the drawer. This will probably leave a bruise.

I take some time to breathe, and I finally feel the anxiety and fear leave from my body. I get up and smile at my younger brother. He's so much more mature than I was in his age, and it shows. "It's fine, Sammy. You know how it is. Just go to bed, alright?" I say as I grab my pills from the drawer and start to go to the kitchen. It's going to be a long day, and we're off to a bad start already.

Twenty minutes later and having made breakfast out of three day old pancakes and jam, I also make sure to get my medicine. These days, I try not to think too much about having to take them. I hear my brother walk over the kitchen too, having gotten ready for school. I take a good look at him and can't help but feel proud. Luckily for him, he managed to inherit our late fathers' tall stature and beefy body, so much that I have to strain my neck to look up to his handsome face. Along with his golden, curly hair and his light brown eyes, and by the many times he has asked me to get out of our apartment because he has company with him, I can tell that he has been taking advantage of his good looks. Along with his workout routine at the near gym, the ladies keep coming for seconds.

In my case, it was as if I was born from another father. With black hair and shiny black eyes, I'm by no means above average in the looks department. I try to eat well and keep my fat percentage low and my body lean but I can't compare to my brothers' physique, who has already developed a beefy six pack at the age of eighteen, along with more than enough muscle in his tall and wide frame. His biceps are big and look even bigger when he flexes them, while his school uniform strains to hold the massive pectorals hidden behind him every day, so much that he's been asking me to buy him the XL version of them.

Alas, we don't exactly have lots of money to do that.

I sip at the black coffee I made earlier. The doctor has said that I should try to avoid taking my meds along with coffee as it can give me nausea, but I'm so tired I feel as if I'll crumble down to dust and evaporate from the globe if I don't fully wake up.

"So... final day of school, eh?" I smile at Sammy as he starts wolfing down pancake after pancake. Thankfully he doesn't make any comment about their quality, as he knows that this is what we can afford now, with mother being out of state and all. "I'm sure you can't wait for summer to start!" I add as I continue drinking my coffee.

"Yeah, I can finally get into this new routine in the gym. I REALLY wanna start getting even bigger, now that I'm officially in the big man territory. 6'3 with my last growth spurt," he winks at me and my stomach rumbles with the incoming nausea, or perhaps something more bitter. Funny thing is that I'm barely 5'9, and I can't even begin to understand what it feels to be six inches taller. I bet it feels amazing, but I know I should count my own blessings and be grateful for what I have. Besides, he's my brother and I feel happy for him.

"I just hope the gym owner can keep giving you the discounted rate. Money is a bit tight, but thankfully you won't have to pay for the bus to go to school now with summer coming up. I ought to take a break as well," I sigh as I put the empty mug in the old wooden table. Despite the pandemic having ended years ago, my university still had the option to operate online, and I just found it easier not having to leave home everyday to run to the other side of town. Combined with my part-time job, we could even start saving up for a weekend trip in Oregon, if the circumstances allowed it.

"He's a good man and he loves seeing me around his gym. Don't worry about that," he flashes me a smile before getting up from the table and coming closer for a hug. He's gotten so big and strong that it's a miracle he doesn't just crush me in his arms. "Okay, well, see you in the afternoon!" he grins and exits the kitchen, before leaving the apartment. I'm left alone to ferment in the silence, and I let out a deep, exhausting sigh.

"I hate everything," I say at nobody in particular, and then I start doing work in my laptop. I have to catch up to six lectures and two assignments, and the thoughts of a holiday occupy my mind. As I open the laptop, I stare at the family photo in front of me. Me, my brother and my parents, all smiling. Except me. I was always the moody one, the 'nobody understands me' kind of kid with all the angst that came along with being a teenager. My brother on the other side was always the bright, optimistic and athletic kid that all parents secretly wish to have, always trying to make me compete with him at any kind of sport. Behind us was our father, whose wispy blonde, unruly hair seemed to have a life of their own, sitting down next to our mother who appeared to be smiling brightly for the camera. Our dad was so much bigger than all of us, a 6'4 hunk of a man with old but still very strong muscles everywhere in his body, the result of working in a construction company for decades. Sammy used to call him 'Papa Bear' and rightfully so. In the picture, our mother is trying to console me after losing to a basketball game from my brother. Nobody really knew however what hid behind that brilliant smile, until it was too late.

I still shiver at the memory of the dark words she said one night to our father. Dark like her hair, dark like her eyes. So evil they were that he literally drunk two entire bottles of vodka to remove them from his memory, and the rest... well the rest is history. After that, our mom literally abandoned us and moved in with her family, only sending us a tiny sum of money every month to pay the rent and so we wouldn't starve. Sometimes, I can't help but think that since my brother took after our father, whether that means that I'm more like my mother.

That thought sometimes keeps me up at night. I try to remove the fear from my mind, and I delve into the copious coursework I have to complete this week. I can't wait for summer either.




The hours pass fast, and the sound of the main door opening breaks my concentration. It's Sammy, and I forgot to make lunch. Oops.

"DYLAN! OH MY GOD YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED IN SCHOOL!" he runs at me like a wild rhinoceros and I casually step out of the way before he splatters me on the ground. "OH MY GOD!" he says again, holding an envelope in his arms.

"Let me guess, your crush finally agreed to go out with you?" I say, looking at the envelope in Sammy's big hands. It's decorated with gold sprinkles everywhere, along with a 'CONGRATULATIONS!' written in red in the middle of the letter. For some reason, just looking at it brings me shivers.

"NO! She asked me out ages ago anyways," he huffs before extending his long arm to show me the letter. "I WON! I WON THE SCHOOL LOTTERY!" he beams with joy, jumping up and down like he used to do when he was a kid. Nowadays he looked so much older than his age, but I can still see the innocent kid inside that wonderful body.

"Wow! What did you win, buddy?" I laugh.

"An entire summer experience in Camp Apollo, located in Oregon! It's one of the biggest, most organised camps in the entire country and admissions usually cost tens of thousands for the summer! And guess what, I won TWO admissions to bring anyone I want with me!" he continues to jump up and down, unable to contain his excitement.

"Nice! Who's that lucky person, then?" I ask as I move to the fridge to see if there are any leftovers.

"YOU, silly!" he starts laughing before grabbing me from behind and lifting me in the air as if I weighed a feather. "We're going together, whether you want it or not!" he cheers, and I struggle to release myself from the iron-like arms surrounding my body, but to no avail.

"LET ME DOWN!" I shout at him, and he eventually does, not even looking particularly tired.

"Come on, Dylan. You and I both know that you need this, bro. Have you looked yourself in the mirror lately? I can see bags under your eyes, and even white wisps of hair between your black hair. Don't turn salt and pepper yet, bro. Your anxiety is making you so tired, you NEED this vacation," he says and by the tone of his voice, I know he's being serious. "Besides, the camp offers so many physical programs and options, and you need to put some muscle in that lean physique of yours. Sure, you're faster than me, but once I catch you there's no going back," he snickers and he fake-bumps my arm. It still hurts, even though he's not using any real strength. "And so many good-looking guys will be there too..." he adds, while winking at me.

"Shut up. Just shut up for a second," I spit out as I start thinking. I look around the tiny apartment, and I suddenly feel claustrophobic. There is unwashed dishes everywhere, and the fridge keeps making these weird sounds, and it's so hot that my entire body is covered in a fine layer of sweat.

Sammy is right. I need to get out of here.

"Fine. I'll go with you, since you want it so much. But please don't try to be my wingman again, all the guys start wanting you rather than me," I chuckle as I grab the gold letter. It feels heavy, and inside there are instructions of how to sign up online and receive our admission wristbands by mail. The entire prize is worth around 15000$ and suddenly I realize that this might not be too bad after all.

I peek at the final paragraph of the instructions.

'Finally, please don't forget to bring a swimsuit with you. If you do not currently possess one, then we will happily supply one for you. From the hearts of everyone working at Camp Apollo, we hope to see you soon. And remember our motto! If you ask for it, then you shall have it!'

The final sentence brings me a certain sense of deja-vu, but I'm starting to get excited for the summer too. Something tells me that it's going to be very, very interesting. "Right! So, when are we leaving?" I smile as my brother reaches in for a high five.

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