“You want to be an adult?”
“That’s right, I want to be an adult.” Her will was unwavering, almost too ironclad for me to take seriously, but, the look in her eyes told no lies. She took a cracker from her bag, and chewed on it.
“You think staying up all night will help you become an adult?”
“If I can stay up all night, I’ll be that much more of an adult than any of the other kids. Besides, my parents always tell me to sleep early but I know that they’re staying up all night. If I can be like them, then I can do whatever I want, and no one will treat me like a kid.” She finished her snack, and got up. Although the church didn’t have any particularly dangerous debris hanging about, her every step did make a particularly loud creak that would have woken the dead if any dead were buried under.
“Because you’d rather be alone?” She didn’t answer, but, I saw her flinch.
“You want to be an adult so you don’t have an excuse to play with other kids? So that you can go off and do your own things on your own time. Because you want to be alone?” It wasn’t that I was an amazing judge of character, but, I figured I knew a little about Lottie at this point. We had been talking forever, it seemed, it would have been hard for me not to notice that she was hiding something, that, there was a reason for why she was at an abandoned home on a weekend.
“Why do you want to be an adult?” I asked. She shook her head.
“So it’s the things I said? You want to be alone?” She shook her head. She began skipping around on the rotting floor boards, but, every step she took was light, and not filled with the usual energy I would expect from a child.
“You want to get away from your parents?” As I said those words, they seemed to linger in the air for much longer, and Lottie stopped in her place.
“No matter what you do,” I continued, “you’ll always be a kid. It’s nothing to do with how much you know, but, you’re still a kid. You haven’t lived long enough to be able to call yourself an adult. I don’t think anything can change that unless you grow up at the blink of an eye,” though as I said this, I wasn’t in any position to lecture a child, nor, in any position to lecture a human. I could only garner what was appropriate, and what was not. Was being an adult not in age? And in age, comes experience and a certain wisdom that comes through living many years. Or, was I also being misguided?
“Even a child can stay up all night, right?” I wasn’t able to see what someone’s dream was through just looking at them or interacting with them. My hobby doesn’t dictate something as important as that. If someone has their dream shattered, I know of it. If someone forms a dream, I know of it. But, if someone already has a dream, and is actively trying to achieve their dream, to make ends meet, I’ll never know until one of two things happen. And, I hadn’t the intention of shattering her dream.
“It’s frustrating,” Lottie suddenly started, her hands curled into fists, “it’s frustrating, it’s frustrating… It’s frustrating– It’s frustrating,” then she stopped. She took a breath, before continuing, “Being treated like a kid all the time, it’s frustrating!” I couldn’t tell where her frustration stemmed, nor whether it was a valid source. She was, in the end, still a child.
“No one takes me seriously, everyone treats me like a child, like I can’t do anything, so that’s why–”
“That’s why you have to do things by yourself?” She nodded.
“You think your parents don’t want you home because you’ll do something to make them look bad in front of their guests?” She didn’t answer.
“Has it always been like that?” She nodded.
“And what about your friends? Are you like this with your friends?” She didn’t answer.
“They make fun of you for always playing alone?” She shook her head.
“You don’t have any friends?” She didn’t answer.
“So they told you to go out today, and, you want to stay up all night to prove you can handle yourself?” She nodded.
“And you’re not worried that you’ll make them panic once they realize you’re staying up all night in abandoned homes and churches?” She didn’t answer.
“How long have you been thinking of staying up all night?” I asked this, but I knew that situations like this, that is to say, my hobby, usually only consisted of case by case scenarios. In other words, she probably hadn’t been thinking of this dream for very long. It was unlikely that I met people who’ve had ten year long dreams or dreams that they’ve cultivated for an extended period. If they’ve shattered, they’d be elsewhere. The ones who create dreams, who’ve made dreams recently, those are the kinds of people who’d be the most active.
“Just today,” she answered meekly. She began pacing about again. It wasn’t that my legs could fall asleep, but I got up and began pacing as well. I paced over to the altar, and looked at the statue of the man that still somehow remained standing. A religious fanatic would have accustomed that to some kind of Christian miracle. I pegged it was due to the material. I turned, and then asked, “But you were thinking of other ways to show your parents that you’re capable, right? I mean, on other weekends.” She nodded.
I went over to pat her on the head. She stopped pacing then, and looked up at me, her eyes watering. Dreams are a human’s fickle emotional currency. I knew that much for a fact. There are dreams that last a lifetime, and, there are dreams that have just been conceived. My hobby consists of the latter, and my duty consists of a range of the two. Was it silly to even call Lottie’s wish to stay up all night a dream? Perhaps so, but, it was her means to meet an end to become an adult. Her dream to become an adult could hardly be something of a dream. It was an inevitability. Therefore, by association, her actual dream was to stay up all night. That was the pragmatic logic she implored. Almost every day, I come across an odd day, this day, in particular, was odd.
“So I guess this was one of the easier ways to show to your parents that you were capable?”
“It was something that I could actually do without much help or attention.”
“Right, but doing so out of the comfort of your own home already attracts attention.”
“That’s why I wanted to ask you.”
“Oh, I see. So, even if your parents found you, you can say that there was nothing to worry about because you had an adult with you?” She nodded.
“It’s not like I can’t stay up all night,” it was just that my room would probably not take it kindly for me to spend the day out and about. The last time I did, didn’t end very well. But, I couldn’t tell her any of that. If the time came, it came.
“But, you’d better just go home when you get the chance,” I continued, “it’s better to listen to your parents. They’re not doing this because they don’t trust you or that they hate you. They love you, trust me.” From most of my experiences dealing with children and parents, that was almost always true. Parents love their children. They just had horrible methods expressing that love.
“I won’t,” she declared.
“I won’t, because, they don’t want me there,” she stamped her feet on the ground and her hands were shaking.
“What makes you say that?”
“For a while now, the guest that they’ve been bringing over. It’s to take me away.” I’d heard about it before. Only briefly, and never with my own eyes, but, the world was an unlawful place.
“Take you away?”
“My parents, this town. This isn’t where I belong.” It was at this moment that I came to realize that this day wasn’t just odd. It was extremely odd. I had dug into a rabbit hole I wasn’t ready to dive into. Though, despite what I may have been getting myself into, I was still daftly interested. It wasn’t that I could particularly feel joy or curiosity. But, I was interested. Was that strange? I liked interesting things. That was what consisted of my hobby.
“The parents I have now, they bought me.” That shook me, honestly, hearing it from her mouth, it was a chilling sentence.
“I don’t know who my real parents are, but, before them, I was in another town with a bunch of other kids. I never got along with them, but one day, I came here. They didn’t want to talk about it, but I knew from the other kids that I was someone who was bought. I was with fake parents.” I wondered if that was where her strong attitude came from. She had always been alone, and, given the chance to start a new life, adopted a persona that would lead others. Was that how human psychology worked?
“So you’ve been dealing with this for… How long?”
“A year now.”
“You’ve been alone for so long, and you want to go back to that?”
“My parents don’t want to admit it, but, they’re trying to sell me back. I’ve looked at the papers once when I snuck into their rooms.”
“Do you know why?”
“They’re selling me for more than they bought me. So maybe they want the money.” It was possible, I thought. There were all kinds of people in the World of the Living. But, I didn’t know Lottie’s circumstances, nor did I know whether what she was seeing wasn’t something she’s misconstrued. No matter how mature, she’s still a child, a child with a dream to stay up all night. To force a child into such conviction, maybe she was right after all.
“And, if they saw you as someone capable, you think they wouldn’t sell you?” She nodded.
“It almost makes sense,” I started, “but if their intention was to sell you for more later, being capable would only increase your price, don’t you think?” I didn’t know how human trafficking worked, but I figured it was something to that effect.
“Instead of trying to do something as dangerous as going against your parents, shouldn’t you have called the police?” Not all places have a reliable justice system, but, you could almost always count on them.
“I did once. But, my parents said that I was agitated and scared. They believed them right away.” Considering her lineage, perhaps that would come off as believable. An orphan would have trust issues, especially to those feigning kindness. An orphan of her age, for so long, would especially be distrusting. But why me? Why did she open up to me? Because I played with her? Or because she somehow also knew that I wasn’t human? I often thought that the success of my hobby was somehow related to my ability to seem harmless to other humans. Humans sense danger from other humans, and animals. But, I was a strange being. From an evolutionary standpoint, I shouldn’t have set off a human’s danger receptors. Was that how it worked? Either way, it might have also been attributed to my room’s ability to dress me like a sensible person and my voice which is set to sound harmless to most.
“Have your parents done anything bad to you?” She shook her head.
“But your new parents might.”
“What do you mean?”
“You were right about trying to stay up late,” something in me burst. It rarely ever happened, but, to put it simply, it was when my hobby became personal. When my hobby became duty. As much as humans shouldn’t trust a stranger, I couldn’t trust humans. But, I could sense sincerity. It wasn’t that I had some kind of special ability that allowed me to, it was just that I could. It was a feeling, an intuition, and it’s never failed me yet. Color me insane, but when dealing with the fickle emotional currency of dreams, I’ve always found it prudent to put my trust in people. Someday, that’ll be my undoing. I knew it from the bottom of my non-existent heart, but, I trusted Lottie with everything I had. But more than anything, there was something else, something much more primal that gnawed at me. I just wanted change, something to happen in my everyday interminable ennui.
It’s been far too long since something interesting presented itself to me.
“Staying up late led you to want to go to a place that allowed you to do that. A place that’s far from your parents, a place they wouldn’t think to go, right?” She nodded.
“That led you to find me. And, this is going to sound crazy, but, I want you to run away.”
“Do you have anyone in this town that might help you out in this situation? For a year now, right?” She shook her head.
“Right, and, you’re about to be sold. Maybe to someone bad, maybe to someone good. But, do you really want that? You might want to be an adult, but, they’ll never grant you that as long as you keep being exchanged through hands. Of course, I can’t say for sure what’ll happen, but, this offer only lasts now.” To be honest, I didn’t actually have much of a plan to begin with. I just wanted to run away with her, to have this odd scenario play out. And, I also knew that my room would catch up with me if I meddled for too long. That’s why I usually only stuck with people for a day at most. I didn’t want to anger he who resided in my room, and those who would take advantage of my staying in the World of the Living. My life was a lot more complicated than I could ever hope it wouldn’t be. But, this made it somewhat worth it.
“I don’t know,” she answered, “I don’t know what to do.” She held her head down.
“Well, what we can do is think, maybe even think all night. But, you have to do something. Either way, if you decided to run away, you can stay up all night and be an adult. Or, you can stay here, stay up all night, and go back, and wait for whatever will happen. Of course, by that time, I’ll be long gone.” She scrunched her face even more, her hands growing red from the pressure of maintaining a fist.
Was I wrong to exploit Lottie to set up an interesting plot for my life?