20. PYROMANIA

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The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1511
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Asher Alexander was living in a fever dream. And not the good kind, because such a thing did exist, believe it or not—just ask the mythical and elusive creature known as the Etonian stoner. They weren't rare.

Anyways, going back to the topic Asher's forever fever dream, his sense of reality had grown so foggy he couldn't tell the difference between what was happening when he was conscious and when he was unconscious. For example, the disappearance of his dear friend Isaac Harley was something he still hasn't come to terms with, something he refused to accept as true and as a result spent every night gazing out his window with hopes of seeing the delinquent sneaking back in like an unskilled ninja after a night of frivolous encounters.

He always kept that window unlocked.

To make matters worse, it didn't help that no one else besides him acknowledged the lack of his best friend's presence. Teachers treated it like ignorance induced bliss. They didn't mention it because then it would end.

Scratch that. There was, in fact, one other person who acknowledged his missing state. Except, Asher was too scared to confront him, for he's been hearing rumors that the said person has been unusually sporadic as of late. They were rumors so wild about the prefect that they only worsened his ability to distinguish what was real and what wasn't.

Because of his recent loneliness, Asher found himself spending a lot of quality time with Charlie Franz, another boy who felt equally abandoned, but in his case due to the volatility of Josiah.

     "I don't know what's gotten into him," his new friend stated when Asher asked about the prefect, "I beat him in mathematics. And I never beat him in mathematics."

     "Has he...said anything? About Isaac's leave, that is," he pried. "My gut tells me he has something to do with it."

"That's the thing! He hasn't spoken with me at all for the past month. And when he did, he only asked for classwork because he skipped. Lately he's been spending all his time with bloody Archie and his bloody friends smoking weed in the woods and setting shit on fire. Damn pyromaniacs."

Asher threw his hands in the air. "That explains why I heard firecrackers in the middle of the night. I swear I thought I was going crazy..."

     "Well I hope Josiah's eyebrows catch on fire and they burn off!" Charlie shouted dramatically as he flung himself onto Isaac's old bed, bouncing with the mattress springs. Then he mumbled bitterly under his breath. "...bastard would probably still be gorgeous."

Asher laughed at first, but the act quickly made his stomach ache. Josiah Beckett was suffering, even the blind could see that. Maybe this was how he coped. Setting fire to trees because he wanted to see destruction in places other than his own heart.

"Have you ever considered that he's...I don't know..." he dragged on, wise with his lack of word choice.

"Imperfect? Flawed? Surrounded by endless walls of facade in an attempt to never let anyone in? I know, Alexander, there was a point in my life in which he was my whole world."

Asher watched as his friend's already faint smile softened and eyes glistened, lost in a daze in which he still spent nights with Josiah. A fantasy where he took him to Italy instead, because when he saw the pictures from his trip, it broke his heart to see that Josiah had on display one of Dahlia and Isaac together, like they were the two most important people in his life, and it ruined him to see he wasn't one of them. Asher placed a hand on Charlie's back.

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