Chapter 0: Brad Has a Hard Life

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If I had to name the catalyst which lead to my transformation from mere mortal to indestructible, ghost-busting GOD, it would have to be my darlingest horse Betsy. Before Betsy, I was just another schmuck like you, though far more rich, humble, and handsome. They called me Brad back then. Brad Wu. My human name.

There’s this town in northern British Columbia whose existence didn’t amount to much of anything other than being the birthplace of yours truly. The town was called Fort Pants, and like many in the area, it served more as retreat for hippies and drug-chasing spirituals than ambitious youth like myself. A place for the newlyweds and nearly-deads. My parents, Frank and Evgenia Wu, moved to the area after a lysergic evening spent with a small pig and too much dimethyl-tryptamine. Their parents disapproved of course, but what were the opinions of Russian oligarchs to that of The Smiling God Who Moves in All of Us? So, they moved, and on October 13th, 1997, I was born.

Frank and Evgenia Wu were people of grand ideas. What distinguished them was that they also had the money to fund these grand ideas. My parents decided that since I was the Son of The Smiling God, birthed from Mom’s own mortal womb, I must be afforded only the best that life could offer. I will live my life free of any pain, sorrow, or negative energy. They threw their sizable fortune into building organic and GMO free electrified, barbed-wire fences around their estate, and hired an army of private security to keep the undesirables out and the desirables in. Only the most spiritual and aura-positive help were allowed to change my free-range diapers. Only the best vegan, pesticide-free breast milk was allowed past my lips.

When I grew old enough for school, I was afforded the best, state-of-the-art education, right from the private library of mom and dad. They taught me every important thing there was to know, from English to history to mathemagics to alchemy to crystal healing to everything in between. Life fucking sucked.

To quote Harry Potter, “I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world is a dream that our primitive cerebrums keep trying to wake up from.” My life was too perfect, too awesome. I was the victim of a shitty situation. But I’m both brave and strong. Like the protagonists of those underdog feminist minority dystopian novels my parents keep reading me, but way braver. The world outside those gates, it called for me. I needed to show them what I could achieve, to dazzle the world with my raw intellect and potential. So, for my eighteenth birthday, I asked for the one gift my parents have never given me.

“Mom, Dad, it’s my birthday in two weeks. I want to visit Calgary.” Of all the outside world, Calgary appealed to me most. Imagine an entire city, filled with cows.

I saw a familiar panicked expression fill Mom’s face before she could wrestle her emotions back down into its dark closet in the back of her mind.

“Oh, wow, uh, that’s some pretty long ways off, honey. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“I always know what I want. Take me to Calgary!”

Dad tried to utter a rebuttal, but couldn’t, since his vocal chords had burned out years ago. He settled for a guttural scream.

“Oh honey, you know Dad and I would never say no to you. But going across the country is a lot harder than you’d think! Wouldn’t it be easier to stay here instead?”

“Of course. But I’ve never taken the easy road in life. It’s true that we can only find ourselves through struggle and pain. That’s why I can’t back down. That’s what makes me so strong.”

“Oh honey, you’re so brave. Okay, you can visit Calgary.” I smiled, content in my victory. “OR, we could buy you a horse!”

“What? Why would I want a horse?”

“Well, you know what they say about horses! Free as the wind! If you ride a horse, you’ll be freer than anybody out there. AND, you’ll get the bonus strength and experience from taming the thing! What do you say?”

Dad screeched encouragingly.

“Are you serious? You’re actually making me choose between my freedom and some dumb animal? Of course I’ll take the horse. She’ll be named Betsy.” And that’s the moment my life changed.

Betsy was a beautiful horse of probably prestigious pedigree. Her handler told me before begrudgingly handing her over, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy imagining how Betsy and I were going to change the world. First, I’ll tame her with my amazing strength and bravery, then we’ll leap those barbed gates and show the world how free we were. Our destinies were written in the stars.

On an unrelated note, did you know that horses are rubbish animals? They don’t even do anything, just stand there, eat oats, and shit metric pounds. They can’t even vomit properly. You know that? If a horse vomited, they would also be dead, because their stomach would’ve ruptured from the effort of forcing food up their esophagus. Plus, their legs are so thin and shitty that they’re pretty much guaranteed arthritis from just existing. I swear, if cars existed back in 3500 BCE, horses would’ve died out ages ago. Overrated pricks.

We kept Betsy in the basement. We tried keeping her in the backyard, but the amount of shit that beast churned out really soured up the view. Personally, I didn’t find it that bad- such is the price for freedom, after all. It was Mom who made us keep her in the house. First time she met Betsy, Mom made a sound halfway between a squeak and the sound of a hydraulic press crushing a live rabbit. Then she projectile vomited her breakfast all over the horse, which probably made Betsy jealous. Turns out Mom had an undiscovered and extreme phobia of horses, which was only realized after meeting a horse in the flesh. So, we had to keep her out of sight.

Our lives only got worse after locking Betsy in the basement. Not only did the thing eat a prodigious amount of oats, it was also haunted. Ever since Betsy entered the basement, the house would stink something awful, almost like rotting corpses or horse manure. And then, every evening around seven, the house would shake dreadfully. Like some horrible beast was among us, beating itself to death against the walls. Don’t even get me started on the whinnying screams that would echo through the halls at night. All trademarks of a potent poltergeist. But we recognized these events for what they really were: a test for our strength and resilience as a family. We will persevere through these trials and show this poltergeist we won’t be shaken or stirred. Then it’d have no other choice but to leave us in peace.

Weeks went by without change. Still the dreadful stinks, shakes, and screams. But over time, we had learned to accept these events. We had adapted. The smell became a wallpaper to our daily lives, the shaking would rock us to sleep. And, well, we wouldn’t even recognize the screaming anymore. It simply blended into the background noise of life. The help though, they weren’t nearly as strong or adaptable. Within the first week, they’d all packed up and left. Said they couldn’t stand for this wanton display of animal cruelty, but we knew they were simply too spooked by the supernatural influence that had nested itself in our proud establishment.

And then one day, everything changed. See, I never gave up on my dreams of freedom. Day after day I would fantasize over the outside world. The praise that would be heaped at my feet, the followers and fans I’d collect. I’d never wanted anything more. Luckily, The Smiling God listened to my prayers. I was sitting outside on that fateful day when our mansion’s basement wall exploded. Our mansion was situated on a hill, such that anything trapped in the basement desperate enough to ram itself over and over into the southern brick wall might break into the open. Like a dark, horse-shaped angel, Betsy charged into the open world, shit streaming from her emaciated asshole and foam frothing from her mouth. The moment touched me greatly. But her horsey eyes, having degenerated after so many weeks in the dark, weren’t ready for the pain that was natural sunlight. Blind and pain-furious, Betsy did the only thing left to her by her animal instincts and ran. Like a horse finally freed from the chains of captivity, she fled into the barbed wire fence and blew a giant horse-shaped hole in the chains. True freedom.

Mom wanted the best for me. The best food, the best care, the best electrified fence system. Enough energy coursed through our gates to power a small Nepalese village, and it regularly stank from the corpse of any bird or squirrel who’d wandered within three feet of the thing. It racked up quite the electrical bill, but it was worth it in Mom’s eyes. I made my decision in seconds. Sure, familial love and trust was nice, but it was nothing in the face of true freedom. I took a few minutes to gather up what I could of Betsy’s ashes into my knapsack. I always carried a pack of survival supplies in case an opportunity to escape presented itself, and Betsy deserved to be properly buried for her brave sacrifice. Then I stepped (carefully) through the hole and was gone.

Next chapter?

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