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Ethan's Heart (2) - Mario Tennis Bros
One moment! You may want to read chapter 1 first. :)
Click here to read the very first chapter on ACSutliff's page.
Ethan's Heart is an online story written collaboratively by Kaltopsyd and ACSutliff. Hubs will be published on Thursdays alternating between ACSutliff's hub and Kaltopsyd's hub. To make sure you don't miss the next installment, go follow ACSutliff today! And as always, thank you so much for reading our online stories. Comments are most welcome!
Mario Tennis Bros
A neon yellow tennis ball ricocheted off the ceiling and dropped rapidly back into Ethan’s outstretched hands. The boy’s mouth was securely sealed, his eyes hard, his eyebrows tightly knit. He was lying in bed, ankles crossed, his sneakers still on. He tossed the ball forcefully upwards again and caught it as it dropped from the ceiling. Loud rock music filled the room.
Ethan automatically turned his attention towards the source of the loud music, forgetting about the descending ball. The ball bounced off his forehead, dropped onto the bed and rolled onto the green carpet. “Ouch!” Ethan exclaimed, rubbing his forehead. He sat up quickly and snatched the loudly ringing cell phone from the side table.
The display screen of the cell phone read: Owen. Ethan pressed the END button on his phone, to disconnect the call, placed it back on the side table and leaned over the bed to retrieve the fallen tennis ball. Returning to his previous ritual, Ethan lay back down, ankles crossed, tossing the ball towards the ceiling. Again, rock music filled the air and this time, Ethan ignored the call and continued pelting his ball at the ceiling.
The phone didn’t ring for a while. Ethan grew bored with the game of tossing the ball and decided to hurl it across the room. The ball missed the full-body mirror by a few inches and bounced off the wall instead. Ethan sat up and cradled his head between his hands, his elbows pressing into his knees. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
After a while of remaining in that position, there was a knock on the door. Without opening his eyes, Ethan said, “I don’t want to talk, Aunt Elina.”
“Who?” a male voice loudly asked. “Man, I am not your aunty.”
Ethan sat up straighter, one eyebrow slightly raised. “Owen?” he called.
“The one and only!” Owen responded from behind the door.
Ethan rolled his eyes, but the slightest hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He walked towards the door, unlocked it and then opened it up to the taller boy. Owen held up a red Wii game remote and said, “You didn’t want to come to Mario? So Mario came to you.”
Ethan’s mouth remained sealed though his eyes sparkled. “Okay, but you know Yoshi’s gonna beat Mario’s butt!” he said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. No one likes a show-off, E.T.” Ethan began walking down the hallway, away from Owen. Owen remained standing in Ethan’s doorway, watching as Ethan continued walking away. When Ethan reached the top of the staircase, he looked back at Owen.
“You coming?” he asked.
Owen squinted his eyes at Ethan and then said, “Um, yeah, I’m coming.” Ethan nodded blankly and continued on down the stairs. Owen followed.
Ethan walked in silence, down the stairs and into the living room where Elina was sitting on the couch, her eyes set her HP Pavilion laptop screen on the coffee table in front of her. Elina looked up at Ethan and gave a dull smile. “Am I in the way?” she asked as Ethan aggressively turned the power on his white Wii video game console. He shook his head to respond to Elina’s question and picked up his white Wii remote.
Owen took a small black backpack off his shoulder and reached into it to pull out a small leather case. Elina quietly closed her laptop and tucked it under her arm before standing up. “You boys have fun,” she said, her voice cheerful though her face was relatively earnest.
“Thanks,” Ethan muttered, taking the game disc from Owen’s outstretched hand and injecting it into the game console. Owen looked at Ethan, concern in his eyes, as Ethan roughly swung his white game remote around, aiming it at the console and watching the television for the correct game category.
Once Ethan selected his playing character, the cute little green turtle called Yoshi, he plopped down on the couch and with a sigh, said, “Your go.”
Owen nodded silently and began selecting his character, the short Italian man, the star of the game, Mario. He continuously glanced back at Ethan, sitting on the couch and staring absentmindedly down at the hardwood floor, as he attempted to select Mario. He selected his character but as the game began, he suddenly turned the television off.
Ethan continued staring down at the carpet, not looking up even to the sound of the abrupt silence. Still looking at Ethan, Owen turned the TV on, then back off again. “Okay, E.T.,” he said. “What’s wrong, buddy?” He began walking towards the couch. He sat beside Ethan and looked at him.
Ethan finally looked up at his friend. For a few seconds, he looked away and fiddled with his Wii remote. “Nothing,” he quietly said.
“Oh come on,” said Owen. “I’m not stupid. I can see that something is wrong.”
Ethan sighed and looked at the blank television. “Dr. Miller called today,” he admitted.
Owen’s eyebrows raised and he nervously scratched his forehead. He opened his mouth as if to say something but closed it instead. For a few moments, he also stared at the blank TV, then he asked, “Good news or bad?”
“I dunno,” said Ethan.
“Hey, cheer up, E.T.,” he said, elbowing Ethan in his arm. “It may be good news.”
“I don’t think so,” said Ethan.
“Well…” Owen stood up from the couch and jogged over to the TV. He turned it on again and the Mario Tennis videogame music resumed. “The good news is that, tonight we play Mario Tennis. Bad news is, tonight, I’m going to change my character.” He used the Wii remote to return to the character menu. “Tonight, I’m Donkey Kong so, be afraid! Be very afraid.”
He straightened his posture and pounded on his chest to mimic the gorilla videogame character called Donkey Kong. Ethan gave a small smile and a glint appeared in his eyes. “I’m still gonna beat your butt,” he said, rising from the couch.
“Oh yeah?” Owen loudly challenged. “You’re on, brother!”
Ethan chuckled and began pushing the coffee table closer to the couch, leaving more room for him to stand. Owen took his place beside Ethan, getting into a dramatic stance, almost as though he was ready for a martial arts match.
Ethan laughed at him and said, “I’m confused. Are we playing Mario Tennis or Mario Kung Fu?”
“Oops!” said Owen, looking confused. “This is Tennis? I left my racket home. Why didn’t you warn me?”
Ethan laughed louder. “You’re stupid, you know that,” he said, in between near-hysterical laughter.
Owen returned a big smile.
Ethan sat up in bed. The room was dark, tinted with blue from the street lamps outside a curtained window. Cricket chirps disturbed the silence of the night. Ethan pulled back the blankets to see that he was wearing a hospital gown. Then his eyes shot up and went wide. “Mom?” Ethan called across the deserted room to the door that was left ajar. No one answered.
Ethan slipped out of the hospital bed and padded barefoot across the floor to the open door. Shadows crept across the dark hallway. Before Ethan could be sure of what he saw, the shadows disappeared around a corner. He took off down the hallway. “Aunt Elina? Wait!”
Ethan reached the corner only to find that the shadows had evaded him again. He pressed on, and his bare feet pounded the floor. Ethan reached the end of a long corridor in time to see a door click shut. He stepped forward and yanked the door open. It led to a stairwell.
Ethan froze at the door and cocked his head, then resumed his chase down three dark flights of stairs to the basement. He burst through the door and into a dimly lit room with metal drawers along all the walls. The room was empty.
Ethan stumbled forward and put his hands on his knees. His breath came in sharp pants. “Hello?” he called out in a small voice between gasps for air. “Anyone?”
Then a distinct click broke the silence. Ethan straightened up, and his eyes opened wide as one of the metal drawers opened by itself to reveal a pair of pallid feet. Then another drawer door swung open and the tray came out as if invisible hands pulled on it. At the same time, the body began to emerge from the drawer, slowly revealing legs, torso and finally, the shoulders and head of a beautiful, fair woman.
Ethan jumped so much he nearly lifted off the floor. He backed up into the closed drawers behind him with a dull thud.
“Come come, now Ethan.” A pale man appeared out of nowhere and took Ethan by the shoulders. “This one’s yours.”
“Dad?” Ethan’s face went stark white. “What are you doing? Why’s Mom in that drawer?”
“You know very well why,” the man said. His eyes glinted bright blue in his colorless face. “Now in you go. There’s a good boy.” The man easily lifted Ethan up to the steel tray drawer. “Watch your head now. Don’t get your arms caught.”
Ethan calmly lay back against the hard steel tray. The strange man pushed the tray back into the wall. Then the door clicked shut and everything went pitch dark inside the drawer. Ethan immediately tried to sit up and hit his head. He shimmied around inside the tight space, but he didn’t have enough room to turn around. He kicked at the drawer with his bare feet and shouted in the dark. His voice rose to a shrill cry of panic, but on the other side of the drawer, all was quiet in the morgue.
Ethan sat up in bed with an audible yelp. He fumbled around for a few moments, and then finally went still. He held his breath and listened hard to the silence of his house. When nothing happened, he sighed and collapsed back into his pillows. The clock on his side table read 2:41 A.M.
Ethan rolled over and reached out for the cell phone on his side table. The pale light from the phone illuminated his face, which was shiny with sweat. Ethan opened up a text message to Owen and typed: Can u talk?
At the last second, Ethan cancelled the message and set his phone back on the side table. He rolled over, stared out the window into the night, and put his hand on his heart.
Down the hallway, another late-night dreamer suddenly woke from a fitful slumber. Elina opened her eyes with a sharp intake of air. She groaned, sat up with an exaggerated sigh, and checked the clock on her night stand. It was nearly three in the morning. She tipped over onto the bed and stared up at the shadows on her ceiling.
After a few minutes, Elina rolled over out of bed, found her slippers, and shuffled out of her room into the hallway. A nightlight illuminated her route to the upstairs bathroom where she opened the medicine cabinet without turning on the light. She felt around for the bottle of sleeping pills that she kept in the back behind the vitamins.
Elina popped the cap on the pill bottle and shook out a single pill. Without a glass for water, she put the pill in her mouth, turned on the faucet, and cupped her hands together to catch the water. She drank deeply, turned off the water, shook her hands, and left the bathroom.
On her way back to bed, Elina took a detour to Ethan’s bedroom. She hesitated at the open door, but finally, she crept up to Ethan’s bed.
“Can’t sleep either, huh?”
Elina jumped in the dark. She slipped onto the bed and said, “Not you, too?”
Ethan took his aunt’s hand and held on silently for a long while. When he finally took a breath to speak, he sounded shaky. “Aunt Elina, can I stay home tomorrow?”
Elina shifted on the bed to lie down beside Ethan. “No school tomorrow. And… no work tomorrow, either. How about we go out for lunch somewhere special—”
“I got an idea!” Ethan sat up, suddenly animated. “Let’s go to Space Coast!”
Elina chuckled, a warm chesty laugh. “Space Coast, huh?”
“My, my, we have some lofty plans, don’t we?”
“Please?” Ethan clapped his hands together in a prayer.
“Anything for you, Eath.” Elina smiled.
“Yes! You’re the best, Aunty El!”
Elina laughed again. “You realize you’ve got yourself so riled up, you’ll never get to sleep.”
“I guess that means we need to watch a movie.” Ethan rolled out of bed. “Your pick, come on.” He was out the door and down the hallway in seconds flat.
“Walk, Ethan!” Elina pushed herself up and followed her nephew downstairs to the living room. Heavy lines of fatigue covered her face, but she still had a smile on her face as she put in a movie and snuggled up under a blanket with Ethan beside her.