His friend sat on his bed with him, even though he wasn’t asleep.
He made sure the door was locked, because his friend was only supposed to play with him. Even Charles and Chelsea couldn’t come in. Matt hadn’t seen Chelsea in a long time. He always asked where she went, and where mom and dad went, and his aunt had tried to sit him down and talk to him and tell him that they weren’t coming back. She always started crying during their talks, and Matt would give her a hug and told her he was sure they’d be back soon.
Afterward he would ask his friend if he knew where they were, and he said that they were just out getting new toys for him to play with.
Matt thought that was nice.
He didn’t need them anyway. His aunt fed him all of his meals, and he was having lots of fun playing with his friend. He had even told Matt that Chelsea would play with them both when she got back, and that she missed him very much. He got to talk to her on the phone a few times, but when he asked her if she’d like to talk to Charles, she always said no. Only to Matt. Matt was her favorite. That made him very proud, but it was sad for Charles. But they both loved their sister very much. Whenever Matt mentioned her around Charles he got very quiet and always left the room. Matt thought that maybe he had found out that Matt was Chelsea’s favorite. He was sure she’d be back soon.
Sometimes she’d join them while he was asleep, and she was as good at playing tag as he remembered. But not as good as his friend. He always knew where they were hiding.
Zig was there that night, not really doing anything but waiting around. He walked over to Matt and ruffled his hair. Matt didn’t like that very much.
He heard the light switch click and the fan turn on in his aunt’s room. She was going to bed. He turned to his puzzle and started searching for the corner pieces.
“Hey Matt,” his friend said. He saw Zig grin and wondered what was funny. “Do you want to play superheroes with Zig and me?”
Matt grinned and nodded. “Can I be Iron Man?” he asked.
“Sure. I’ll be Captain America, and Zig can be Spider-Man.”
Matt blinked. That was all three of them. “Who can be the bad guys?”
His friend sat down next to him and started helping with Matt’s puzzle, sorting the pieces into piles. “We can find new people to be the bad guys,” he said.
Oh. Of course. His friend always knew what to do. Except …
“My aunt says I have to stay in here, though. It’s stupid.”
His friend nodded sagely. “Your aunt is a very smart lady, you know. You should respect her.”
Matt knew this. Always respect your elders, even if they weren’t your parents.
“If she says I can’t take you anywhere,” his friend said, “then why don’t we bring people here to play with? Do you think that’s okay?”
His aunt hadn’t said anything about that. “Okay,” Matt said.
His friend plucked one of the hundreds of strings stretched from wall to wall. The closet opened. Inside it was daytime, and in the daytime was a path leading to a house. He could tell that it was a very big house, with a living room and a kitchen and two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a doghouse in the back. Next to the door it said “431”. He could see the whole house from the door to the closet. He, his friend, and Zig all walked through together.
“Matt,” he said, “the people that live in this house are very bad. They tried to hurt my friends.”
Matt’s eyes widened. Nobody was supposed to hurt anybody’s friends. He was very quiet. Sometimes his friend got very mad when anybody hurt the people he cared about.
“We have to go punish them, Matt. For being so bad. Right? Do you remember your mom telling you that if you were bad you wouldn’t be able to get any new toys?”
“This is just like that, Matt. We have to go punish them for being so bad.”
“Are they bad guys?” Matt asked.
“Yes they are.”
You had to beat up the bad guys.
His friend unlocked the front door to the house, and Matt heard a very loud BANG. There was a monster in front of him, holding a weapon. It looked like a raygun. The monster was black and covered in feathers, snarling from many mouths. Another sat hunched at its feet, curled up like a cat, but huge. It was jagged looking, like it was made of crunched glass. Neither of them moved from their spot. The feathery one just pointed its weapon.
He was brave – they were superheroes, and superheroes were brave. He followed his friend as he walked in. The monsters backed away and stared at him.
Matt watched his friend walk up to them and whisper something in their ears that he couldn’t quite hear. They had stopped moving. Zig handed Matt a red marker.
“This is your magic sword, kid. It’s like a lightsaber. The man’s gonna fight them, but he needs your help. Go get ’em.”
Matt smiled. He liked to color things. They played that sometimes in the room.
Matt drew and drew, and soon there was red everywhere. Zig and his friend watched. Every once in a while, Zig snapped a picture with the camera the man had brought in the box.