|Things Were Better Then|
|Written:||February 22, 2015|
|Released:||February 22, 2015|
|Theme song:||My Name is Jonas|
|Things Were Better Then track listing|
"Glory" • "Burning Man"
This story's theme is My Name is Jonas.
The sun was high in the cloudless azure sky, a lonely beacon shining its warmth down on all the Earth. Where the day was brightest, two monkeys knelt on a tree branch overlooking a ravine, gnawing at fruit and whooping loudly. Below them, a boy slept where the rocks met the river, oblivious to the rushing water lapping at his jet black hair. The monkeys did not seem to notice him; they played together and sang together and enjoyed the warm day until one decided to steal the fruit of the other.
Gleefully, the trickster monkey took a bite out of the flesh of the peach, juice running down his wrinkled face. He whooped and bared his teeth at the other, perhaps gloating, perhaps in jest. Either way, that riled up the other monkey, causing him reach up to a nearby vine and pluck another perfectly ripe peach. Then did he throw at the other monkey, who, expecting as much, dove forward and wrapped his tail around the branch to prevent himself from falling. There he hung, like an aweless ornament for his companion to gawk at.
Meanwhile, the fruit sailed through the air unwatched and unaccounted for. It was by luck then that the soft little thing squashed against the sleeping boy’s cheek, splattering its pink-orange flesh across his blank face. He awoke with a startled gasp and sat up, feeling the sticky substance on his skin. Frowning, he looked up to the nearby tree where he saw the two monkeys engaged in their game.
“Hey! Which one of you threw this?” The boy asked, holding up the broken skin of what had once been something edible.
The monkeys stopped what they were doing and perched themselves on a branch to stare at the young boy. Silent and foreboding were their eyes, and they dared not move a muscle. They had been found out and they would risk no more while in the company of an Other. The boy shook his head, annoyed and impatient, and stood up to leave. That was when he noticed he was naked. His tail twisted in confusion.
“Huh? What happened to my clothes?” the boy asked no one in particular. He looked around him and found himself to be in the heart of a jungle, no signs of society in sight. Ahead was a large waterfall, gushing from a hundred foot cliff covered in moss and vines. The water that streamed down flowed fast and white, and the boy decided wiped his peach-covered face off in it. “I wonder how I got out here,” the boy spoke again once he was done. He had no recollection of how or why he had gotten there and it didn’t seem like the monkeys were going to tell him.
After wiping his face, the boy patted his belly and felt it growl in protest. “Boy, I’m hungry…” he began, “Hey! Wanna throw me another fruit, eh? Please?!” he asked the monkeys. One of them whooped expressionlessly, but did not move. “Have it your way,” the boy shrugged, unconcerned.
The boy dropped into a half-squat and then sprang forward with tremendous speed and height to the tree. He sailed past his two onlookers to a higher part of the tree, where the fruit was riper and more numerous. There, he found the perfect looking peach and took a bite.
Wrapping his tail around a high branch, the boy mimicked the monkeys and spun down to greet them upside down. “Heheheh! Look, what I found!” he laughed, showing them his prize. The boy took another bite, closing his eyes and savoring the sweetness of the fruit before laughing boyishly again.
He dropped down from upper branch and sat next to the nearest monkey. The boy continued to eat his fruit as he sat in the shade of that great tree watching endless amounts water careen over a broken log at the top of the waterfall. He sighed in contentment and then held out a hand to the two monkeys sitting next to him and said, “Hi, my name is Goku. Nice to meet you.”
The monkey nearest Goku, a white-furred ancient thing, put his hands over his eyes upon hearing the boy’s name, and the younger, brown-furred one put his hands over his ears. There was a horror, indescribable and unavoidable, that came to them when they heard that name, and they knew it had spoiled that beautiful, serene day like an overripe peach in the mouth of a king.
A dead leaf was falling from a half-destroyed tree when Goku returned home. The sun was not so high in the sky anymore, and the day was not so warm. The boy with the monkey tail stood aghast at what he beheld. What he had once called home was now a wreck - trees were ruined, uprooted and cracked to pieces; the soil was thrown about and deep craters pocketed the ground like the scars on the face of a teenage boy. Ahead of Goku was the house he had grown up in - only, it was no longer a house. The once-noble establishment had been reduced to a pile of rubble, its roof caved in and its walls broken and fallen, as if it had become a timeworn ruin.
Goku dropped a half-eaten peach and ran. “Grandpa! Grandpa!” he shouted, terror in his throat.
The boy made his way through the splintered forest to the house. There was no sign of his grandfather, and the more he shouted, the more Goku grew scared. His grandfather was never far from the house - never did he go off without telling Goku or taking him along. There was something wrong, the boy knew, something very wrong.
He reached the house and ran inside, past the broken door into the small enclosure where they had lived once, so happily and without a care in the world. There, Goku found his grandfather Gohan.
The sun was peeking through the caved-in roof and shining its light on the fallen man, whose body was crushed along with the home. It was a grisly sight - his body and mustache were coated in blood, bones poked out from his skin like rocks in the sand, and his face was thrown back, a look of horror and sadness etched on his snow-toned skin. His eyes were wide and white - they saw everything and nothing.
When Goku caught but a glimpse of him, the boy let out a scream and fell to his knees, burying his eyes in his palms. His chest heaved as he hyperventilated, tears flowing down his cheeks like waterfalls. “No, no!” he cried, his voice high and afraid. “Grandpa! What do I do? Tell me what to do! Aaaah!!” He looked up and absorbed the wretched scene in its entirety and froze. Seeing his grandfather’s corpse so broken and bloody sent Goku into a state of shock that prevented him from crying out again. His lip trembled, his eyes blinked a thousand times a second. He could not unsee it. But he was too horrified to scream.
Then, the life returned to Goku, and he tried to run out of there - but in his haste, the boy tripped over a broken piece of the floor and fell against the nearest wall. The house that was no longer a house shook as if there was an earthquake, and the roof caved in further. As Goku looked up again, dread in his tear-filled eyes, he saw the glint of something rolling in his grandfather’s lap. He stood up and walked forward, cautiously and almost unwillingly to see what it was. He held his hands over his eyes so that he would not see his grandfather as he was. When he reached the corpse, Goku gulped and saw that it was none other than Grandpa Gohan’s prized memento - a little orange ball with four stars on it. Without looking at the body, the boy grabbed the small orange ball and ran out of the house. Once outside, he fell to the ground and promptly vomited.
The sun was setting. The light was fading from the day when Goku sat up again. He pressed the cold ball to his forehead and slammed his eyes closed, trying to remember what his grandfather looked like, but instead seeing only the hideous corpse. For a moment, Goku sat there, quiet and still, and then the tears came hot and fresh and he was bawling again. He fell to the ground sobbing.
“Grandpa!” he screamed into the dirt. “Grandpa!” He rolled over to his back and hugged the ball close to his chest as he stared up into the sky. “I-it was the monster… the one that comes out during a full moon,” Goku sniffled. “G-grandpa warned me about it… Why did it have to attack him?!”
He stared into the little orange ball once again and sniffled. At once, a memory from many years prior came to Goku like a bolt of lightning. He closed his eyes to remember it more clearly. We were eating dinner. I asked Grandpa what that ball was. He laughed and pointed to it, saying he found it years ago. I asked him what he kept it for. He was quiet for a long time. Then, he said it was a memento - where his spirit would live on after he died. I laughed and asked him if he had one for me. But Grandpa told me to stop asking so many questions and eat my dinner before it got cold.
A laugh escaped Goku’s mouth involuntarily. A smile crept onto his face that he couldn’t remove. “Grandpa was funny like that.” Goku looked down at the ball again. “Grandpa? Is your spirit in there?” He shook the ball lightly. “Huh? I guess… I guess you can’t talk if you’re a ball.”
He sighed and looked back at the sky. It was darkening quickly as the sun continued to fade from sight. A few stars were barely visible on the edge of sight. Goku saw a single wispy cloud drift by overhead in the otherwise empty sky. He held the ball up to the air and stared at it intently.
“Yknow Grandpa,” Goku spoke after a while, “this isn’t so bad. You haven’t gone anywhere. You’re still here. And now the monster won’t be able to get you ever again.”
The boy smiled half-heartedly and hugged the ball tightly. He stayed there as the day became night, trying to remember his grandfather as he had been, not as he now was. Behind Goku, though the boy could not see them, the two monkeys sat silently on the branches of a trampled tree, watching and eating peaches, the sweet juices running down their chins without end.