All Stories, General Fiction

The Suburban Vision Quest by Alex Colvin

To prepare for the trial ahead, the boy must fast for three days.

On the third day, there is a ceremonial feast that begins the quest. It marks the beginning of the boy’s ascent to manhood and it marks the beginning of the Suburban Vision Quest.

In the lands of suburbia, in the whitest and most complacent of Canadian suburbs, the Suburban Vision Quest has arisen to bring isolated families together so that they can celebrate a child’s elevation to adulthood. It also doubles as a harsh lesson that spoiled suburban kids shouldn’t complain that their house is so big that it needs two Wi-Fi routers. The young men and women of the suburbs fulfill this quest to prove their worth and to prove to their overbearing parents that they are ready to move out.

The Suburban Vision Quest is inspired from the legendary Native vision quests. For in native cultures, when a boy was on the cusp of manhood, he would fast and then enter the wilderness to seek a vision. One which would tell him his purpose in life and the role he must fulfill as a man. And no, it’s not cultural appropriation if it’s done respectfully. The Suburban Vision Quest is borrowed with immense respect, and if anyone living in the suburbs actually knew a native person, they would have asked for their permission. But there don’t seem to be many Native families in the suburbs. Oddly enough.

The practitioners of the Suburban Vision Quest do realize that the Native cultures had a lot going for them. Respecting nature and treating it with care is actually a great idea. So is accepting gays in society. Strong family values and traditions are also pretty awesome. It’s taken four-hundred plus years, but white people are slowly beginning to realize that native culture was really on-point with… well, everything. To honor the wisdom of Native culture, the suburban peoples have stolen one last idea from the natives to help raise their own. Really, it’s the last one. We promise. Unless we missed a really good one.

This very night, the ritual is beginning in a nearby suburb. The boy has fasted for three days, and the inaugural feast is about to begin. The suburban elders eat very good takeout food, while the boy may only eat food and drink from the local convenience store. While the elders dine on rotisserie chicken, the boy will feast upon corner store pizza, hot dogs, meat kebabs, taquitos, chicken wings, long john doughnuts, and Squelcher Soft Drinks or off-brand cola. The food is enriched with the air of many days, and the indifferent caress of a lukewarm tumbling machine to give an illusion of freshness. The hot dogs are garnished only with condiments from said corner store. Sauerkraut, pickles, onions, all of an unknown age and origin. The boy does not complain, he is profoundly hungry and the food tastes okay to him. He wolfs down everything he is given.

The meal is not only celebratory; it has a secret purpose. One the boy is not told of during the feast, but he will realize what it is a few hours after the meal. Once the feast has concluded, and the boy can stomach no more food, he is told to rest for three hours before his quest begins. Before the three hours is up, the boy realizes the secondary purpose of the food. As his insides begin to shift and groan, he realizes the corner store food is meant to serve as a powerful cleanse of his body. This is absolutely guaranteed to happen, none have ever managed escaped the cleanse. Try it at home if you doubt the prowess of corner store food. Its effects can only be described as works of witchcraft. The diarrhea that the boy next experiences is truly legendary. It is such a violence upon the boy’s body that he doubts he will survive. There are no moments of respite, and there is no rest. The boy’s entrails are a raging wildfire that ignites frequently and with no warning. It is beyond anything the boy imagines is possible. It continues for untold hours. It continues until it is no longer funny to anyone, especially the boy. Then it continues for another hour.

The boy writhes in agony until the blackest hours of the night, until the corner store food is purged from his system. The pain and the dehydration give the boy the capacity to experience vivid hallucinations, which can enhance his hunt for his spirit animal. For that is the boy’s goal. He must find an animal to give him guidance and show him strength. The boy staggers from the bathroom and meets his parents in the front hall. No one speaks. The boy removes his socks and shoes and removes all his electronics from his pockets. The boy’s mother gives a single nod and arms him with a weapon to defend himself in the suburban wilds. The boy’s father opens the door, and the boy staggers into the street.

Weakened, but determined, the boy is ready to take on the final stage of his test. He examines his weapon. It is a car phone charger. It can be swung to strike a foe, it can garrote and throttle an opponent. The boy knows it will be useful. The boy hobbles down the road, scanning the darkened streets for his spirit animal.

Unable to browse Tumblr or check Imgur, some go mad within the first hour. But madness is not the end. A searcher can use madness to endure the ferocities of the suburban wilderness. The discomfort of concrete on bare feet. The mild stinging of pollen in the air from a nearby park. The smell of lawnmower oil. Madness can help the boy overcome all of these agonizes and press on far longer than he otherwise would.

It is the dead of night and the sky would be blanketed with stars if not for all the poorly designed street lights, bleeding out a decaying sort of light that kills them. After an hour of wandering through the semi-darkness, the boy stumbles upon a cat. But the boy knows this is not his spirit animal, it is merely his neighbor’s cat, Bacon. Bacon is renowned for being violent and insane, even by cat standards. He is a furry ball of senseless carnage and he will unleash his fury on any unsuspecting passer-by. The boy is too exhausted and starved to be wary of Bacon. The boy ventures too close to the cat, and the cat attacks the boy with Spartan ferocity.

The cat’s claws rake the boy’s face and hands, and the cat lets out a banshee screech to tell the neighborhood a battle is underway. The boy screams, dropping his only weapon and writhing on the ground as the furry beast decimates his flesh. The boy kicks and grabs at the cat, but Bacon evades every movement effortlessly, continuing his attack. The cat is so vicious and merciless in his attack that he would make Russian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Berlin feel uneasy. The boy is nearly ready to submit to death, but in a final fit of strength, he flings his arms out to dislodge the cat’s claws and end the struggle.

Bacon is flung from the boy’s arm and lands on the road in a heap. Yet, before Bacon can recover and regain his poise, he is creamed by a passing SUV that did not even notice him.

The boy is stunned. He never meant to harm the cat, as much as he hated it. But Bacon’s owners might not be pleased.  But come to think of it, who lets their cat out at 3AM, anyway? They may have had this particular outcome in mind when they started putting the cat out at night. The boy will have to explain this, but for now, he has more pressing problems.

The boy collapses against a fence and examines his wounds. Scratches, several inches long and perhaps a fraction of an inch deep cover his arms and torso. They are not fatal, but they sting something fierce. The boy has no way to treat his injuries, he simply must press on. The boy moves to get up, but stops. While sitting perfectly still, the boy hears a hissing in the distance. Could it be a hallucination? Could it be a snake? The sound is coming from the park near the suburb. The boy runs towards the sound, thinking his quest could be at its end.

But it is no animal. It is a portly boy in gangster clothes, wielding a can of spray-paint. He is attempting to write, “VALERIE IS A WHORE” on the yard fence belonging to a house he believes is Valerie’s. But it is not her home, she lives two blocks away. He also misspells ‘Valerie’ and ‘whore,’ nullifying the full effect of the insult somewhat. The sight of an outsider attacking his homeland outrages the boy, and the boy attacks. The boy seems to be channeling the wrath of the cat he accidentally murdered; he screams and swings the phone charger down upon the vandal as if it were a morning-star. The charger catches the vandal on the temple, causing mild discomfort.

“Ow! Dude, what the fuck?”

But it is the fury of the boy, which shocks the vandal. If the boy knew anything about combat or had an actual weapon, he could cause some harm to the vandal. Hence, why he is provided with a phone charger, though. I mean, we can’t have these loony dehydrated kids actually killing people.

“Dude, I- Ow! Look, I’m leaving! I just- OW! What is wrong with this neighborhood? I’m gone, dude! Jesus!”

The boy does not listen. He tackles the vandal to the ground, and they tumble into a pool of thick, cold mud. They struggle in the muck for a moment, before the vandal escapes the boy’s grasp. The vandal runs away as fast as his low-hanging baggy pants will let him. The boy rises and lets out a demented howl of victory. The phone charger has been lost in the mud, but it does not matter. The boy will battle any future opponents with his bare hands. He feels invincible now. House-cats and spray-paint artists are no match for him. What else could the suburbs possibly throw at him?

Despite his victories, something is wrong.  It is near dawn, and the boy has not seen his spirit animal. The boy stumbles back towards his house, thinking he may have failed. That he cannot become a man. He weakens until he is crawling on his hands and knees, but still scans the streets for an animal. Any animal.

Filthy, spattered with mud and gore, the boy finally stumbles across his spirit animal. It is beautiful. It is a morbidly obese raccoon who is struggling to open a rodent-proof garbage can. With each tug of his clawed hands upon the lid, the raccoon’s gelatinous body trembles and the raccoon stumbles back, in danger of falling off the trash can all together. The boy sits on a perfectly manicured lawn and watches the animal. He begins to sob. The animal is clearly telling him… something important. The details can be worked out later. Now it is time to return home.

When the boy returns, he is welcomed by the elders and told to speak of his quest. The boy tells all. The stray cat. The hoodlum with the spray-paint. The glorious moment where he saw his raccoon. The elders judge the story, and should they believe it, they welcome the boy into their midst as a man. They confer in secret, and they decide the boy is telling the truth. His ascent to manhood is recognized with the gift of a PS4 and a copy of the latest Star Wars video game. The boy is told to rest and he returns to his room, collapsing on his bed without thinking to check his phone. When he recovers he will brag about his success on every social media platform, #suburbanvisionquest.

For now, the boy slumbers. Now the boy has become a man.

And he’ll never eat corner-store food again. That’s for damn sure.


Alex Colvin

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6 thoughts on “The Suburban Vision Quest by Alex Colvin”

  1. Hi Alex, this made me smile.
    I reckon a quest for our teenagers is a brilliant idea depending on the mortality rate! (Think of a percentage, it is completely up to you whither you go high or low!)
    This was fun and perceptive.
    The ‘Bacon’ line was brilliant.
    I am looking forward to see what else you can come up with.


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