It was a typical British Summer’s day. It was pouring it down with rain and the clouds were a murky grey in colour

My mood matched the weather outside just the same. A boy, fifteen, forced to endure a shopping trip with his mother on a Saturday afternoon no less, when I could be back home, out with friends making the most out of the weekend break from school. She insisted that I go. That I needed some new clothes for the summer, and also for our upcoming vacation to Spain in just three weeks, once school had finished for the year.

I agreed with her, I did need new clothes. I had grown quite a lot so far this year. A couple of inches in height actually and I had also broadened out quite a lot too. My school shirts were now straining to fit around my broadening shoulders and my pants were steadily inching their way up my ankles towards my knees. My mother had to make sure that we always looked presentable.  She’d been pressuring me in to going shopping for new clothes since around mid-April time, now we were on the second week of June, and she’d finally won the war, practically kidnapping me and forcing me in to her car.

“You know Alex, you could make the most of it, you’re here now anyway. So pick your chin up off of the floor. You’re embarrassing us!” my mother hissed.

Typical of my mother, always caring more about what other people thought, people who didn’t even know us, more so than how I or anybody else felt at the time, if she cared about that at all, that is.

We’d already been here for well over an hour. We’d been to the shop that sold school clothing for a mixture of schools in the local area, had the waistline of my new trousers tugged and jiggled around by my mother’s prying hands right in front of one of the store workers. How embarrassing!

Despite school  term ending in just three weeks, my mother spent quite a lot on the new school uniform, one that would most likely be too small to wear once the summer was over, and I would then need yet another one.

We’d also been to most of the casual shops, the ones that sold street clothing, or ‘dossing around’ clothes as I preferred to call them. This was much more important for me. I had to make sure that the clothing we bought there would be clothes that I’d actually be able wear, I insisted on picking out the new clothes. God knows what she’d come away with if I hadn’t been there. Just as well I am here then I guess.

“Well, how much longer then? I have what I need already.”

“You need new shoes, casual footwear and a haircut as well”.

“A haircut?  My hair’s fine, mum. I’m growing it anyway. Let’s just get the shoes and go already, I’m bored!” I sighed.

“We’ll do no such thing, while we’re here, we’re making the most of the trip. God only knows how long it will take to get you here again. And while we are here we’ll have lunch too.”

“God! Was this day ever going to end?”, I muttered.

The shoes we chose were fine in the end. I picked the casual ones, while my mother insisted on picking out the ones that would be worn on more formal occasions. The time spent in the hairdressers seemed to take an eternity. I’m not usually so impatient with these things, it’s just that I really disliked shopping malls, or any other crowded place for that matter.

Finally, my hair had been re-styled, which was cut short on the back and sides and cut to blend in over the top. I wanted to change the style too, but once again, mother had her way treating me like a small child.

While I was having my hair cut, my mother told me that she would be visiting an old friend of hers who worked in the jewellery shop a few stores further along. The haircut itself took less time than it actually felt like and I was back out sooner than my mother or I had anticipated.

Knowing that I had about another ten or fifteen minutes left before my mother would be expecting me, I used some of the change left over to play on a couple of the games in the small arcade they had here.

I found the game that I wanted to play, an older game, but it was one that I had really enjoyed playing on my last trip here, running around shooting up the monsters I found in an old abandoned warehouse. Unfortunately the game was already in use, another kid about my age was using it. He was surprisingly cute. Well the surprise wasn’t that he was cute, but that I had considered him to be.

I’ve never really thought of anyone as ‘cute’ before. Girls or guys. I’ve never really been attracted to anyone. Which was worrying because most of my mates had girlfriends already. Hannah, one of the girls I knew from class asked me if I was gay once. She’d been trying, subtly, to get me to ask her out for a quite a while, but I wasn’t interested in her. When I was honest with her and told her how I felt, she asked me if I was gay. I told her that I wasn’t and that I really didn’t want to date anyone, of either sex. She left it alone at that, and I hadn’t really given it much thought since.

Anyway, this kid in front of me was really cute, or maybe cute wasn’t the right word to describe him. Cute is what I’d use to call my three year old niece, or my dog Ronny when he was still a puppy. This boy was definitely attractive though. Blonde hair, like mine, though a darker shade, which covered his head and down the sides and the back of his neck. He had a nice golden toned tan too, which meant that he must have been somewhere else to get it. You don’t get much of a tan in the north of England, not this year anyway. We’ve hardly seen the sun at all.

I couldn’t see much of his face itself, he was faced away from me, focused on the game in front of him. He was wearing a dark blue pair of jeans and a yellow hooded top.

I shrugged it off and looked for another game to play. The rest were unoccupied fortunately so I decided to have a go on the pin ball machine. It had been years since I had last played on one.

The fifteen minute period flew by quicker than I would have liked, and I thought it would be best if I left to go find my mother. I don’t think she’d be best pleased that I was ‘wasting all my time in the arcade’, as she would say.

The boy I saw earlier was still playing on the same machine. I felt kind of sad in a way, sad that I’d never get to know him. To make friends and learn all about his life. With some reluctance I left the arcade and made my way towards the jewellery shop.

Something felt odd, not quite right, though I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, as I made my way through the mall. I just felt out of place. ‘Weird’ I thought, but I cleared my mind and focused on finding my mother.

I got to the store only to find it empty, completely deserted. Strange. I called out for my mother and heard no reply. At first I wondered if they were playing some kind of practical joke or something. But that was so unlike my mother. She had absolutely no sense of humour. If she did, she never showed it in front of me anyway.

“Mum?” I called out once more. Then I walked in to the back area to where I assumed the staff would be “Mother, this isn’t funny!” Still no answer. I called out again, one final time, but there was still no answer. “Fine then. I’m going home. Goodbye”. I was only half serious. I was sure by now that there was no one else in there but I was trying anything I could to get an answer. There was nothing.

A jewellery store completely empty, though open and vulnerable to thieves. My mother’s friend will be in so much trouble for that, I thought.

Needless to say I left the store feeling confused, wondering what I should do next. Where else could my mother have wandered off to?

As made my way back towards the hairdressers, to see if she had gone there looking for me, I noticed something else. The mall, or at least this part of the mall, was also completely deserted. Not a single person in sight. What the hell is going on around here? I wondered. Every one of the shops I passed by was completely empty. The mall itself between each store, I found the same way. Not a person in sight, anywhere.

Now I was freaked out, only moments ago the mall was packed. It was a busy Saturday afternoon after all, so where the hell was everyone?

As I arrived back at the hairdressers I was already quite certain of what I would find, and I was right. It was, just like everywhere else, empty.

I tried to think of all the possibilities, of what might have happened. Why all of a sudden was the mall completely empty?

I came to a decision, although I had no idea why everyone had left. I heard no fire drill, but maybe I had missed it somehow. All I knew for certain was that everyone else had gone so I decided that I should leave too.

I made my way quickly towards the mall’s exit. It felt really creepy. The atmosphere of the place felt cold and chilly. As I got to the main doors I found that I was unable to open any of them. They wouldn’t budge an inch. I couldn’t even see through the usual transparent glass doorways. If I hadn’t have known any better I would have believed it to be pitch black outside. But I did know better and according to the time on my phone it was only one-ten in the afternoon.

My phone! I could call someone! The first person I tried to call was my mother, but there was no signal. None at all. Crap! I tried calling my aunt Susan, maybe she could come and pick me up if I could find another way out. Shit, again no signal! Must be the phone. I couldn’t get a signal at all.

Well, first things first I needed a pee, awkward time I know but I needed a pee and it was getting to the point where I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on figuring a way out of there unless I relieved my bladder first.

Just as I had thought, the toilets were empty. No surprises there. In a way it felt even creepier alone down here in the toilets than it felt alone in the main part of the mall. The toilets were situated in I guess what you would call the basement of the building, underground. The underground car park was also close by the toilets, and was part of the building itself. Maybe I could escape through one of the exit down here, I wondered. It was worth a shot. I finished off my business, zipped up, and rinsed my hands before making my way towards the car park exit.

Maybe I should have been expecting it, even slightly used to the sight by now, but seeing the car park completely bare of any signs of life, even of cars, still threw me back a bit. It was just so bizarre. The only signs of life were the echoes coming from my footsteps.

I found the exit down in the car park just as I had the main one upstairs. Locked and apparently no way out at all.

Okay, look I might be fifteen, even slightly tall for my age too but was scared shitless. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to break down and sob somewhere in a corner or run around and scream. Was I losing my mind?

I made my way back up to the main part of the mall, clueless about what to do next. It seemed as though I was completely stuck in here. Will I ever be able to find a way out? Will someone come rescue me when they realised I was missing? Was there another way out that I hadn’t found yet? All  those thoughts were running through my head but I was too frightened to try answer any of them.

I reached the top of the stairs and while holding back the tears I decided on buying a drink from one of the shops. I was sure no one would be there to serve me, but I could leave enough change from what I had left over from earlier.

The closest shop by was Greggs, a place that sold fresh bread, pies and other snacks including soft drinks.

I picked up a large bottle of orange Fanta, left the appropriate change by the till and made my way back out of the store.

Suddenly I heard a loud shout come from right out of nowhere. Sounding quite angry or possibly scared . I glanced towards the direction the voice was coming from, and there was the boy I had seen earlier back in the arcade, running towards me. At first I thought he was coming to attack me for some reason so I backed up a little, and held out both my hands to protect myself.

As he came closer I realised that he was really upset, his eyes wide and it looked as though he might have been crying.

“Hey you! Where the fuck is everyone?!? Where’s everyone gone? I -“

He held on to me gripping my jacket while sobbing in to my chest. It took me a moment to realise that he too was in the same situation as me. He too had noticed that everyone else had disappeared. Maybe even tried to escape like I had, tried to make a call to someone. Only to realise there was no one. No help. No way out, and no one to call.

He was scared

After a short while he stopped crying and looked up at me. It was then realised that I was probably a year or two older than him. Maybe that’s why I had, although barely, enough resolve left in me not to completely break down like he had. Only just.

I held on to his shoulder, not applying much pressure, and directed him towards one of the benches along the floor of the mall. I offered him a drink from my bottle before taking a sip myself. I was trying to get him to calm down a little so we could both try and figure out what the hell had happened here. Although for the first time since this had all begun I was feeling a little better, relieved that whatever was going on, I wasn’t alone in all this.

I started the conversation. “So um, my name’s Alex, and you’re -?”

“Sam” came his meek reply. He seemed almost completely emotionally drained. A shadow of his former self just a few moments ago in the arcade.

“Hi Sam, I saw you earlier in the arcade, though I don’t think you saw me.” He shook his head affirming my assumption. “When I left to go meet my mother at the jewellery shop I realised that there was no one there -” I filled him in on the rest of my experience. “So when I saw you shouting and then running towards me, I would have wet myself had I not recently been to the toilet, Ha-ha.” He laughed at that. “Even though it’s only been twenty minutes or so it feels like it’s been ages since I‘ve seen anyone else. “So what’s your story? Did you come here with someone or were you here alone?”

Sam cleared his throat and then began to tell me. “So, basically after I ran out of tokens I left the arcade. I’m not here with anyone else. I’ve just moved in with my grandparents. We, well my family, we used to live here, well actually we lived in Manchester then we moved away, but my grandparents live just down the road, and now I live there with them.” I wondered why, but maybe I’ll ask him about that later. “So anyway, I left the arcade and made my way towards the exit, only to find myself locked in. I looked around and realised that there was no one else near. I couldn’t see anyone. It really freaked me out. Like you said, one minute the mall was packed, and you could hear the constant hum of people chatting away in the background, and the suddenly I couldn’t see anyone any more and I was completely alone in here.

“I went back to the arcade, I’m not sure why. It’s just that it was the last place I had been and the last place I remember seeing anyone else. When I got there the place was empty too. The machines were all lit up and working still. I didn’t have any money left to purchase tokens for the machines, not that I felt like playing on anything anyway. It was just so odd. So quiet. I began to panic. Then I heard some tapping. I wasn’t sure what the noise was, just the general direction it was coming from, and it sounded like it was getting closer. So I hid behind one of the stalls and waited for whatever the noise was to appear. I was really frightened at this point. Then you appeared at the top of stairs. Funny thing is I thought that you were a ghost or something at first. I’m not sure why, it’s just that this whole thing has freaked me out”.

“You want something to eat? We might as well make the most out of being stuck in the mall while we figure out what to do now. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better knowing whatever is going on that at least I’m not alone in here.”

“I would but I don’t have any more money with me.” Sam frowned.

“Who says we can’t just grab something to eat while we’re here? We’re gonna be stuck in the mall for who knows how long anyway, and we will need to eat, with or without money. If it comes down to it my mum will pay for whatever we take, so don’t worry about that, okay?” I said with a smile

I tried to reassure him. Knowing that I was older I tried to be strong for the both of us, though I felt anything but brave on the inside.

“Sure, OK then”. He smiled.

“So Sam, what year are you in at school?” I asked.

“Year ten. Though I won’t be starting school here until September, and then it will be year eleven”.

“Oh wow really? Cool! Same here. Which school? Do you know?”

“Ossette High school, I think”.

“Oh wow that’s my school, mate. Awesome!”

I think my excitement may have come off a little strong, Sam seemed to blush when I said that, though he did smile.

“So you’re like really fifteen? I mean –“.

I know, I know.” He laughed. “I am small for my age, and no I’m not quite fifteen yet but I will be before the start of school year in September.

“OK, cool. Well I turned fifteen last December so I do have almost a year on you. How come you’re not going in to year ten next? I mean don’t those who have birthdays during the summer usually start the year below?”

“OK, well this is embarrassing but I skipped a year when I was nine –“

“You shouldn’t be embarrassed about that. I do well enough but not quite enough to skip a whole year, lucky you!” I grinned. “OK so what do you want to eat? Anything you like, and don’t worry about the cost either, okay?” I told him.

He nodded his head, and wandered off to take a look around. I kept my eye on him. I was really worried he might disappear like everyone else had.

I needn’t have worried he returned a couple of minutes later. His arms full of different items. I laughed out loud when I saw what he had in them. “Jesus! Ha-ha. We’re not going on a hike. We’ll just be here in the mall for the time being and won’t need all that.” I said gesturing towards the huge heap of stuff he was carrying. He blushed at that, so I Softened up a little. “Why don’t you leave what you can here, near the entrance and we’ll come back for it later on if we need more?”

 

“So-“I started, a little later as I bit in to a chocolate Mars bar. “Where were you living before you moved here?”

“All over the place really, the last place we lived was in a city called Queenstown in New Zealand. My parents and my younger brother still live there.” It seemed like he was still avoiding the reason why he was no longer living with his parents, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on him to tell me why. Maybe he’ll open up to me later.

“Oh cool. That explains the cool tan then. Are you happy to be here? Well not here, here. I mean back in England?”

He remained quiet for a moment, as if giving his answer some serious consideration. “Well I guess so, but I do miss my little brother, Derek. It’s funny, a couple of weeks ago I would have jumped at the chance of getting the away from the little twerp. Now I really miss the guy.”

“Well you’ll get to visit him, or he could come visit you, right?” I asked, trying to raise his spirits.

He didn’t answer back right away and even when he did he sounded less than hopeful about it.

After that, we both remained quiet for some time. Just munching away at our ‘borrowed’ goods. Lost in our own thoughts. It’s weird I don’t think I feel quite as desperate to escape the mall now as I had earlier. I mean sure I’d like to know that I would be able to leave when I wanted to, but given the choice I’d stay right here with Sam for a while.

Now alone in my own thoughts I realised something else was going on. Only this time it was inside my head. I think I was starting to really like Sam, I mean like him in other ways, more than just as a friend.

Maybe I am actually gay.

Though I still had no idea. I mean if I was gay how come I didn’t feel attracted to any other guys?

How come I don’t bone up at the sight of other guys showering after P.E? I don’t get any of the same reactions to girls I have been around or the ones I’ve seen on the net either. Believe me I have tested myself out. Browsed online porn, both straight and gay sites, and nothing happened. No strong feelings of lust, no stirring of my manhood. Nothing. Though I am a normal guy in some ways, I do still jerk off, just not to anything in particular. I just focus on the feelings and nothing else. Sometimes I worry about it, other times I just figure that maybe I’m a late bloomer in that respect.

If it turns out that I am gay, I won’t be worried about it. I think I’ll actually be kind of relieved. I’ll be glad that I can at least identify with something, it would be better than nothing at all. In some ways it’s similar to being stuck in here, stranded in this mall. Completely alone while everyone else can at least identify themselves with something.

I noticed the movement of Sam taking quick peaks at me, through the corner of my eye. I looked at him to see what he was doing. Only to find him looking away. I looked away again to continue piecing together my thoughts, when I caught him glancing my way yet again. I looked back only to find him looking down at the wrapper in his hand this time. So I looked away. Expecting the same thing to happen again, this time I was ready, even quicker to try and catch him out, and this time I succeeded, and I caught him looking. Ha! He blushed and giggled. His laugh was so cute.  I think I’m really starting to fall for him.

Our hunger dealt with for the time being. I wondered about what else we could do. While checking the building for a way out we could make the most of the time here while we have the whole place to ourselves.

“I have an idea, come on.” I said as I threw my arm over his shoulder.

“Where are we going, Alex?” Sam asked as I lead him away from the bench we had sat on which was now cluttered with our empty wrappers.

“Surprise.” Was my only response.

“No offence, but I think we’ve had enough surprises for one day.”

He had a point there. “OK, while we’re here and searching for a way out, we might as well have a little fun along the way. Have you checked any of the stores exists, yet?” Sam shook his head unsure of where I was going with this. “Well usually each store has their own exit in case of an emergency. I figured that we could go browse through the HMV store, we could play some music through their speakers. HMV seem to have the loudest speaker system, and I don’t know about you but I never feel quite as lonely when I’m listening to some music.” There was also a new album out by my favourite heavy rock band that I wouldn’t mind checking out. Sam seemed OK with my idea but still looked a little unsure.

We arrived at the store and as we had expected it was empty inside. As we approached I could already hear the distant thumping sound of the bass to whatever song was being played at the moment. Which would mean that the audio system was already up and running, I just needed to change the track to whatever we wanted to listen to.

“OK go find a CD, any CD you want, and we’ll play it through the system.” Sam grinned, nodded and made his way towards the CD section.

I quickly found what I had been looking for and a few moments later the sounds of Metallica’s latest album was blasting around the store. Perfect! Just what I needed. Whenever I felt really stressed nothing cured me faster than the sounds of screaming guitar solos filling out the air around me.

Sam found me a few minutes later, a huge grin plastered across his face. He gave me the thumbs up gesture. Which I thought meant he shared my taste in music. Well at least until I glanced down at the CD he held in his hand. ‘Best of the 90’s’. Looked like a cheesy pop compilation to me, but I’d survive.

Despite the situation, I found myself acting like a kid, well I guess I am a kid, but we were running up and down the aisles, falling over and bumping in to one and other. In complete hysterics, laughing away until my stomach ached.

I changed the CD, and put on Sam’s choice. The first thing that came blasting out of the speakers was the Cotton Eyed Joe song by Rednex. Now that really did have us laughing away and acting wild. We even danced together, swinging each other around and around until we fell apart and on to the floor while laughing so much I found it hard to breathe. If my friends could only see my now. They’d tease me mercilessly!

Eventually we had exhausted ourselves out with all the dancing around, and found that I needed another pee and maybe a drink too.

Before we left the store we checked the exit and surprise surprise the doors were locked tight.

Sam followed me in to the toilets and I had to fight with myself from checking out his ‘equipment’. He was only one step to the side of me pissing in the next urinal. I thought I caught him glancing in my direction. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part. Or he could well be just curious. I read online a while back, while I was researching about various sexualities of what teens go through, that many guys go through a curious phase but that didn’t necessarily mean that they were gay.

We made our way back to the bench we had sat on earlier after a brief stop back off at the shop close by to pick up more snacks to munch on.

I guess all the messing around and the dancing away had calmed us both down somewhat and left us both in a more reflective mood.

We were no closer to finding our way out of this prison. The whole thing just made absolutely no sense. How could a couple of hundred Saturday afternoon shoppers completely vanish so suddenly without Sam or I noticing anything at all? How every exit, so it seemed, was locked from the outside and why all of the windows were blocked out so much that we wouldn’t see a thing on the other side. Yet the machines in the arcade, the music system in HMV and probably most other electronic appliances seemed to be switched on and working.

Once again I caught Sam watching me with interest, only this time he didn’t even try to look away. He just blushed, giggled a little, and then looked away and carried on eating his sandwich. Was it possible that he felt the same way about me as I did about him? I hoped so. I also hoped that if we did ever find our way out of this place, we could remain friends. Going to the same school after the summer ended gave me some reassurance.

“I have an idea!” Sam told me. I listened as he explained to me that there should be a security office somewhere inside the mall and hopefully some working CCTV cameras that might show us what had happened earlier.

“That’s a brilliant Idea! Sam you’re a genius!” I almost shouted. Sam blushed at my compliment. We began searching for a staff door entrance anything that would hopefully lead us to a security office somewhere.

“I think it will most likely be in a place central to the mall and close by the shops with the more expensive items.”

“No wonder you skipped ahead a year in school dude. Come on” I said as ruffled his hair, raised my arm over his shoulders, and made our way towards the centre of the mall.

A short while later we found ourselves roughly in the centre of the mall. There was a nice car on display with all kinds of flashy signs covering it. I think it was the winning prize for a raffle ticket competition or something.

It was there I saw the giant movie screen which often played recent DVD releases on it. “Hey maybe later if we’re still here we could settle down and watch a movie. Bring lots of snacks and maybe some bedding from one furniture stores too, and then settle down for the night?” I offered.

“I don’t intend for one minute to give up on trying to find a way out of this place, but I’m almost exhausted to the point of falling asleep while I’m walking.” The day had taken a hell of a lot out of me, and I needed a clear head before we continued our plan on finding a way to escape.

Sam seemed to think that it was a good idea and was about to confirm so when I spotted a door on my right which has a sign that read ‘security’. It was small door and only partially visible behind a tall trolley covered with what I figured to be ‘return’ items from one of the stores. “Hey, Sam over here!” I called.

Sam had the right idea about where we would find the security office. We entered and I looked around. Two half empty coffee mugs sat cold on the side next to some filing cabinets. The monitors were switched on and apparently still running, recording the various activity around the mall. On one particular  screen we could see inside HMV store, where less than an hour ago we were dancing around like lunatics to Cotton Eyed Joe. Both Sam and I noticed that at the same time, I heard him laugh a little, probably remembering our crazy antics back in there.

“How do we rewind the tapes? See if we can find the exact moment that everyone disappeared.”

Sam fiddled around with the buttons on the desk in front, turning one of the knobs on the section that read ‘cam 4’, and the tape tuned to the monitor in front began to rewind. “Do you remember what time it happened? We can use that to match the time-stamp on the monitor.”

“Erm – Oh I remember trying to call my mother and then my aunt at about one-ten this afternoon, so I’d say about fifteen minutes before that. Twelve-fifty five should be good enough.”

Sam found the relevant part and immediately on the screen we could see the store full of shoppers, just as it was before everything had changed. We could see mothers holding on to their young children. Young couples holding hands, wandering down the aisles aimlessly. Even small groups of teens looking like they were up to no good.

The scene carried on for another few minutes, and just as I was wondering why everything appeared so completely normal even though time on the screen was rapidly approaching the point I remembered everything changing, everyone vanished! I mean literally vanished in to thin air! Sam gasped out loud, he turned to look at me and I’ll never forget the horrified look on his face. I won’t because I could almost guarantee I wore the same expression on my own.

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t find the right words to form what I was thinking. Not that I was really thinking much of anything at all. My mind was completely frozen. What I saw on that screen was impossible, and yet there we were witnessing it for ourselves.

It was like something out of a movie. Like everyone on the screen had been mysteriously abducted by aliens or something. There were no screams, no panic, no running around. No flames or smoke. Nothing. One second they were there, right there in the shop, and the next, gone… Just gone.

When my mind had started to function properly again. I was left with a few questions. Who or what had taken them? Why hadn’t they taken us? Why couldn’t we leave the mall? And were they, whoever they were, planning on returning for us?

None of them could be answered, not by us anyway, but they were questions I had anyway.

“What the fuck happened, Alex? This can’t be real. Can it?” Sam was visibly shaking and I wasn’t coping any better.

“I – I have no idea.” I just- I dunno. One second they’re there and –“

“This can’t be happening.” Sam rewound the video again, the monitor showed the exact same thing. “I just, I don’t understand this. How can this be possible, Alex? Please tell me. How could this happen?”

I sighed. “I haven’t a clue, Sam. I really don’t know.”

The walk back to the bench was a long and silent one. Both consumed in our own thoughts. Sam was the first to take a seat. I remained stood. Frozen. Not sure whether I wanted to sit down or remain standing. I guess you could say I was in shock. Not quite believing what I had just seen. The whole day had been strange to say the least, but seeing what I just seen on that monitor had left me utterly speechless.

Sam broke me out of my temporary trance. He was crying. “We’re never going to get out of here are we? What if the whole world has vanished and not just those that were in here earlier?” I didn’t know what to say. I knew nothing more than he did. “What if, what if that’s why we can’t see anything outside?” He asked.

I sat down beside him and brought him close to me, wrapping my arms around him, I sighed. What he said made some sense, but at the same time it didn’t make any at all. It would explain why we couldn’t see anything outside or leave through one of the exits. Though the whole world vanishing was impossible though. Wasn’t it? Then again, we had just witnessed about five hundred shoppers instantly vanishing in to thin air. I wasn’t sure of anything any more.

“I’m never gonna see my mum and dad, or my little brother again, am I? And it’s all my fault!”

“Sam, it’s not your fault. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault but-“

“No, it is. It’s my fault they sent me away. I could have been there, back home with them right now. Instead I’m here and it’s all my fault. Maybe this is hell, and this my punishment.”

I didn’t tell him that I didn’t believe in a god or in a  hell either,  for that matter, or that if his theory was right then his family in New Zealand just like everyone else on Earth would have vanished as well. I didn’t want to upset him even more.

“Look Sam, I’m here if you want to talk about it. I’m sure whatever happened between you and your parents wasn’t your fault, mate. In the short time I’ve known you, it’s easy to tell that you’re a nice guy.”

Sam let out a long sigh. “I want to tell you, I do, but you might end up hating me if I did.”

“Ha-ha I couldn’t hate you Sam.” He didn’t look so sure.

“OK then –“ I ran off a list of bad things that I could think of off of the top of my head.

“Did you kill someone?”

He shook his head ‘no’.

“Seriously hurt someone?”

“No”

“Did you, erm, did you burn your house down deliberately?”

“Ha-ha, no. Nothing like that.”

“Well then, I can’t think of anything else that would make me hurt you.”

“I was-“ Sam looked down at his hands as told me, almost too quietly for me to hear his words. “I was caught doing something stupid. Something that goes against our religion. Well my parents’ religion anyway. I’ve never been sure, but-“ He cleared his throat. “I was caught having sex with my best friend.”

“Is your best friend another guy or a girl?” I asked.

“A guy.” He told me.

“And that’s it?” I asked?

“Yeah,”  Sam didn’t say anything else for a moment, I was surprised I guess, but not shocked. I mean I’ve picked up some signals, little signs, which I hadn’t really put together until now. But now I know, I guess I knew all along. “My parents freaked out big style as you can imagine. I mean they’re not blatantly homophobic or anything, just really religious. In fact I’ve never even heard them discuss homosexuals before, but they freaked out anyway. Telling me that I was dirty, sinful and that I couldn’t be trusted around my little brother any more. My grandparents agreed to take me in, fortunately they’re liberal on most stuff. Besides giving me a lecture on being safe during sex whether it was with a guy or with a girl.

“Wait -“ I said. “You’ve had sex? I mean all the way kind of sex?”

“Yeah.” Sam told me, blushing, still looking rather intently at his hands.

“Cool.” I said. “What was it like?” I shifted in my seat “I mean you don’t have to answer that, Ha-ha.”

He giggled. “So you don’t hate me?”

“Hate you? Hell no! “Jealous maybe.” I didn’t tell him that it was his friend that I was jealous of.

We both laughed at that. “Come here.” I told him. I pulled him towards me and hugged him close. I decided to be honest with him. “I don’t have a problem with gay people, in fact I’ve been wondering if I was gay too.” Though I didn’t tell him why. I kissed his forehead and felt my heart rate quicken as I did. It might sound a little selfish, but some of my first thoughts were, ‘does this mean I might have a chance to do some stuff with him?’ ‘He’s gay and I’m not sure if I am, but I do know that I liked him a lot’.

But what if I’m not gay and I end up hurting him? I really didn’t want that to happen either.

“You have? What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ve never really been in to guys or girls before. Well that was before I saw this one guy who I thought was really hot. So I’m not sure. I’ve never done anything with anyone before, so how do I know that if I did do something with this guy I liked, that it’s what I’d want? I don’t want to hurt his feelings if it doesn’t work out”

Sam turned to look at me, a wry grin covering his face. “Well you could always try with me first” He giggled.

I laughed back. “Shut up you flirt”. I told him, punching his arm playfully. “What if nothing happens or, I dunno….” I shrugged.

“It’s only a kiss, Alex” Sam smiled. “Besides it’ll be fun and I’ve been wanting to kiss you all day.” He told me, blushing.

“Really?” I asked, quite surprised. He nodded. “Well I’m not sure, what i-“ Where the last words out of my mouth before Sam dived in and kissed me.

At first I was kind of frozen, I wasn’t sure what to do but I pressed my lips back against his. Sam placed one hand on the collar of my jacket to hold me close while his other hand was rubbing against the inside of my thigh. I raised my own hand and cupped back of his head stroking his hair. Then we parted. I was feeling light headed and my heart was pounding like crazy.

I leaned back in, this time taking the lead, feeling horny and eager to taste him again, but instead our noses bumped as we made contact, and we broke apart, we laughed it off and he told me that it was OK, so we tried again.

This time I kissed him back instantly, then I felt his tongue licking against my teeth, I was feeling a little nervous at first but I opened up further, allowing him inside, and it felt oh-so good. Our tongues danced together, teasing one and other,  I was completely lost in our kiss.

After I came to my senses, I realised we had broken apart and Sam was looking at me half in lust, half, well I guess it was adoration. I felt the same way about him. I think I was in love with him at that very moment.

“Wow.” Was all I could think of to say. I was left speechless. I found that my manhood was unbelievable hard almost to the point of bursting through my jeans. I felt this indescribable feeling inside, I wanted nothing more than to kiss him again, and again.

“That was your fist kiss?” Sam looked really surprised when I nodded. “That was, wow that was hot. You’re a natural!” I giggled, and I think I might have even blushed too.

“That guy -” I cleared my throat, which felt extremely tight as I tried to speak. “That hot guy I was telling you about,” Sam looked at me curiously. “That was you.” I laughed.

At first, Sam looked quite shocked, then he smiled, blushed and then looked away for a moment, but when he turned back towards me, he was still smiling. “You mean I’m the first person you thought was,… well, that you liked?” He asked.

I nodded. “Yeah. At first I was confused, and then when we met properly later I didn’t know what it meant or how to react. Then as I got to know you I really started to like you a lot, but wasn’t sure how you’d react. Then when you told me about what happened to you in New Zealand, I was confused again, not sure about what to do, whether you’d would like me back, and what would happen if we tried to do something and found that I didn’t feel the same way. But I really do, Sam. I really like you, and that kiss was, wow, I can’t describe it. It blew me away!”

I grasped his hand in mine and leaned in for another kiss. To taste him. To experience that magic once again. He complied and we kissed. Once again I found myself lost in this wonderful new feeling. It was like a drug and I was addicted to his kiss. If this was how kissing felt, I wondered how I’d feel about everything else that would come later.

We spent another half hour or so talking, well a lot of kissing, and some talking. That was until I heard Sam’s tummy growl and we both laughed. “You can’t still be hungry? You’ve eaten about ten chocolate bars, ha-ha.”

“Well I’m used to eating the decent sized meals my gran cooks for us, these snacks are just quick fixes.” He told me. For a little guy he can sure pack away some food.

“Well how about we head to the MacDonald’s restaurant, warm up some burgers and chips?”

Sam nodded in agreement. “OK, but how about we set everything up for the movie in front of the big screen, first? Then stop by MacDonald’s once we have everything else ready?”

“Good idea.” I agreed. We’ll drop by the furniture store first, find some mattresses, covers and pillows etc. Then set up the film projector.” We agreed on that. Found the furniture shop, gathered all the sleeping gear I was sure we’d need, and made our way towards the theatre.

While I set up the beds, Sam decided to set up the projector and pick a film for us to watch. We both finished our own tasks around the same time, as Sam made his way over to me while I was just finishing off. “Why don’t we pull the mattresses together?” He asked. They were separated at that point, but not by much.

“If you’re sure.” He nodded as I grabbed one of the mattresses and pulled it closer towards the other. I was happy that he wanted us to sleep close together.

Once we had arrived back from MacDonald’s, both of us carrying a brown paper bag full of burgers and chips, Sam wandered off again to set the movie in motion.

“Oh cool, Super 8!” I yelled out once I saw the name appear on the opening credits. I’d been wanting to see this one for a while, and was happy with Sam’s choice of film.

We both shifted to get more comfortable, while we ate our takeaway.

The movie was brilliant! I was really impressed by it. Soon after we’d finished eating, Sam shifted again, this time into a closer position resting his head on my chest, while I wrapped my arm over his side and rested it against the top of his thigh. One scene, where the big creature dragged away one of the military guys from the prison bus, made Sam almost jump out from our embrace. We both chuckled at that.

It wasn’t long after that, that the movie finished. Sam offered to set up another film, but I could tell that he was tired and trying hard to stay awake. To be honest I was feeling pretty much the same way.

We decided to get some rest, he remained in the position he was in but turned his head to kiss me once again. The feelings I got from the kisses earlier still remained, but somehow this kiss seemed deeper, more loving and less lustful than those before. I realised that I was falling very much in love with Sam. He was the most important thing in the world to me right then. No matter what happens to us, I know we’ll get through it together.

“I love you, Alex.” I knew he meant every word of it.

I brought him closer, kissed his lips once again, and whispered in to his ear that I loved him too.

 

 

 

 

“Wake up, Alex we’re here.” The car door slammed shut, waking me from my sleep.

“Mum?” I rubbed my eyes, and shook my head from its sleepy state, trying to work out where I was. “Where are we?”

“At the mall of course, where else?”

“What the… Where’s Sam?” I demanded to know, sitting up and looking around at my surroundings. “Where is he?” I asked once again.

“Sam who, Alex? If this is one of your games, I’m not in the mood. We’re here now, so you might as well get used to it.”

“I, I don’t understand. What happened?” I asked myself. Completely confused at my surroundings. Sam was with me just a moment ago. Where was he?

It couldn’t have all been just a dream could it? No it was too real. I won’t allow it. I want Sam back. I loved him! Where was he?

I would have cried if my mother hadn’t opened the car door insisting that I got out already, before throwing me a funny look.

It couldn’t have been just a dream. It couldn’t have. Could it?

I tried my hardest to hold back my tears, and when the tears weren’t threatening to fall. I found myself back in a state of shock. The whole thing was so surreal. I found myself drifting through the mall, making my way through the mass crowd of shoppers surrounding me, while I was still trying make sense of what had just happened.

I started to come to the conclusion that it was indeed only a dream, a very powerful one. I just didn’t want it to be the case. I wanted it to be real. It FELT real to me. If it was Just a dream that means – Sam was just another part of it. That thought alone made me almost physically sick. I wanted to break down and cry right there.

The rest of the morning dragged by and I spent the whole of it in a complete haze, trying to sort through my emotions. Coming to terms with the fact that Sam wasn’t even a real person.

“I want to go home mum. I don’t feel so good.”

My mother turned to look at me. About to tell me to give it a rest already, but she seemed to change her mind before she spoke. “Actually you don’t look so well, dear.” She held up the back of her hand to my forehead, checking for a temperature. She looked thoughtful for a moment before suggesting that if we stopped by one more store to pick up a new uniform for me, and that if I promised, we could come back next week for the haircut and new shoes. Though I never wanted to step foot in the mall ever again after this morning, I promised her I would, and we made our way towards the last store.

I was still feeling sick and my head was spinning, I just wanted to hurry up and get out of the store as quickly as possible. My mother did the usual wiggle and tuck on the waistline of my new school trousers. Some things never change. I didn’t care though, I just wanted to leave. That was until I overheard a conversation taking place by the checkout.

“Yes he’ll be starting his new school in September. Sam’s just moved back here from New Zealand.”

I saw the elderly lady who was speaking. I saw the cashier, a young slim lady with dark brown curly hair, trying to seem interested in what the older lady was telling her. I didn’t see Sam though. He was nowhere to be seen.

All sorts of thoughts were rushing through my mind. Was this my Sam she was talking about?  Did this mean that it was all real after all? Was Sam a real person? Sam’s story and her story seemed so alike from what she had just said. But there was no Sam around to be sure. Was he here in this store? In the mall somewhere? Had he decided not to go shopping with his gran?

Then I saw him. The blonde angel I called Sam. Just as beautiful as ever. Walking over towards his gran. His hands full of the bags from his visit to the various shops around the mall.

I couldn’t resist calling out to him. “Sam!” My voice mixed with the sound of astonishment and love.

He turned towards me, to seek out the person who’d just called out his name. He saw me stood there, looking confused, before the biggest grin I’ve ever seen appeared across his face.

 

School is definitely going to be a whole lot of fun this year!

 

 

Published October 30, 2015

Comments:

  1. i have always liked this story. It took me until the end to figure out that i have read it before. and i still like it… Great job by the way.

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