“You want to be an adult?”
“That’s right, I want to be an adult.” Her voice was unwavering, and she stared at me without emotion. Her eyes told no lies. She took a cracker from her bag, and began to chew. I knew her feet her back couldn’t have been comfortable with the way she sat, though she didn’t seem to mind.
“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 the, then I can do whatever I want, and no one will treat me like a kid.” She finished her snack, and got up. She nearly tipped as I got up to support her. I smiled as she was in my arms. Although the church didn’t have any particularly dangerous debris hanging about, her every step began to worry me. Though at the same time, I couldn’t quite figure out why I was worried.
“Why do you want to be an adult?” She didn’t answer, but I felt her flinch. She then escaped my arms and began to skip. Her every step sunk as the boards warped in her weight.
“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?” She still didn’t answer. I found some validity in my inquiry as with how much humans I’ve encountered. And at the same time, I figured I at least had an inkling to Lottie’s character. The day wasn’t growing any older, and our conversations couldn’t have gotten any more inane. But, that was how humans were. That was what made them beautiful.
“Why do you want to be an adult?” I asked again. She smiled to herself as she skipped about, ringing the air around us with her indiscretion.
“I can always leave you know.” She stopped and shook her head.
“You want to get away from your parents?” My words seemed to linger in the air for stopping Lottie in her place.
“No matter what you do,” I continued, “You’ll always be a kid. You haven’t lived long enough to be able to call yourself an adult. I don’t think anything can change that. No matter who you are, as long as you’re like this, you’ll always be a kid.” I could only garner what was appropriate, and what was not. Being an adult for me was all in the age. And in age, comes experience and wisdom. Was that not how it went?
“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. I didn’t think I’d ever get to that point. My hobby doesn’t dictate something as important as that. It was just conversation. Though if someone had shattered their dreams, I would glean something entirely different from that person. If someone had their dreams shattered, I would be able to know exactly what it was that availed them. I wanted that from Lottie. Though, I didn’t want to shatter her break of my own volition. That wasn’t my duty.
“It’s frustrating,” Lottie 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!” Her voice boomed back to her. She noticed this, and then simmered. She lowered herself and began picking at the wood with her finger.
“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 chipped away at the floor and 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 nodded.
“Has it always been like that?”
“It has.” She was tracing her finger on the grain of the wood. Upon lifting her hand, a trickle of blood came down. It began to pool on the wood beneath her.
“And what about your friends?” She didn’t answer.
“They make fun of you for always playing alone?” She stared at the wound on her finger without moving an inch. I sighed and walked over to her, grabbing her hand, and pressing onto her wound.
“You don’t have any friends?” I asked as I looked at her averted eyes. As I brought my finger away, I watched as her blood evaporated from the surface of my skin in an instant. I was glad she wasn’t watching.
“So they told you to go out today and you want to stay up all night to prove you can handle yourself?” She shook my hand and then stood. She curled her finger to hold the wound and then 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?” I chuckled.
“How long have you been thinking of staying up all night?” Though she said it was her dream, I had to be wary of a child’s paradigm. Any single moment in her life could have caused her to dream. After all, it was only human to dream, and so I couldn’t blame her. The World of the Living is always filled with such mysticism that erupted in the formation of dreams. I could only hope that they one day shattered.
“Just today,” she answered meekly. She paced about with light steps. I walked 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 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 couldn’t help but to smile. Dreams are a human’s fickle emotional currency. There are dreams that last a lifetime, and there are dreams that have just been conceived. My hobby consisted of the latter, and my duty consists of a range of the two. It may have been inane to call Lottie’s want to be an adult a dream, but if she so wished it, then it was so. That was human inevitability. That was the pragmatic logic she implored. It didn’t surprise me at all though I wondered if that was really what she wanted. An important part of dreams after all was the reason for conception. That was what interested me most.
“So I guess this was one of the easier ways to show to your parents that you were capable?” She nodded with her steps.
“It was something that I could actually do without much help or attention,” she added.
“Right, but doing so out of the comfort of your own home already attracts attention.” She stopped and looked at me with a pout. I laughed. She sighed. I wondered if it was healthy for a child to sigh. Surely, they shouldn’t.
“That’s why I wanted to ask you.”
“I see. Is it something like 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 should 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’re your parents, and they love you.” At least, that was my perception of the human relations. Parents love their children. They just often had horrible methods expressing that love.
“I won’t,” she declared. She held her hands to her hips, her wound pressing onto her sides.
“I won’t, because they don’t want me there,” she stamped her feet on the ground. Her hands were shaking.
“What makes you say that?” She lowered her arms and looked towards the crumbling ceiling of the church.
“The guest that they’ve been bringing over is someone here 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. I perhaps thought she meant trafficking.
“Take you away?”
“This isn’t where I belong.” I had dug into a rabbit hole I wasn’t ready to discover. 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. I couldn’t quite say I was empathic to her cause, but, I wanted to know more about her situation. I wasn’t so sure if I could help.
“The parents I have now aren’t mine. They bought me.” Her voice distilled in the air that surrounded us. It shook the ground, and it stung the walls. It was incredibly clear, and her eyes were barren.
“You’re adopted?” I said out loud as I remembered the word.
“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.” She began to scum off the dust from the floorboards with her foot. She didn’t falter once in her words, nor did she shake or show any signs of being afflicted with any hardships. Her life was just that.
“So you’ve been dealing with this for… How long?”
“A year now.” Her wound had stopped bleeding as she pressed it towards her top.
“You’ve been alone for so long, and here you are trying to be alone again.” She gave a light smile, the winds seeping in through the cracks between the walls, and her hair began to dance. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought the wind was trying to wisp her away.
“My parents don’t want to admit it but they’re trying to sell me back. I looked at the papers 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. There were all kinds of people in the World of the Living. I didn’t know Lottie’s circumstances, nor did I know whether what she was seeing wasn’t something she’d misconstrued. No matter how mature, she’s still a child, a child with a dream to become an adult by staying up all night. To force a child into such conviction was something I found quite inhuman.
“So you think they wouldn’t sell you if you became an adult?” She nodded. I held my breath before continuing.
“It almost makes sense,” I started, “But if their intention was to sell you for more later, being an adult 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?” I understood how the human justice system worked, and although they couldn’t always be trusted, it was a great place to start.
“I did. 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 of her age, for so long, would especially be distrusting. I wondered why she opened up to me. Was it just because I had talked to her, or perhaps there was something more? 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 after all 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, I was glad I could have her open up to me.
“Have your current parents done anything particularly bad to you?” She shook her head. Her feet grew tired as she plopped onto the floor. She made a notion to hide her wound from the rot that surrounded the church.
“But your new parents might,” my words seem to hang in the air.
“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. I didn’t know if I had a right to make things personal, but I couldn’t help myself. When my hobby became duty, it was all I could ever think of. When dealing with the fickle emotional currency of dreams, I’ve always found it prudent to put my trust in people. They often trusted me as well. 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. And so, I sought to give her some kind of way out.
It’s been far too long since something this interesting presented itself to me. I wasn’t about to let that chance flutter.
“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?” I turned to see her shake her head.
“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 flung herself onto the floorboards, her entire body splayed across the church like a sacrifice. She closed her eyes.
“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 to whatever will happen. Of course, by that time, I’ll be long gone.” She scrunched her face, her hands growing red from the pressure of maintaining a fist, though her body was relaxed all the same.