They call her Loneliness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A dragon who just wants to be left alone is pestered by a visitor.

Submitted: November 16, 2018

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Submitted: November 16, 2018

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They call her Loneliness

 

 

 

There was a Seeker whom very few had ever met, and even fewer had had words with, yet everyone knew who she was. Everyone knew what she was called. Had you walked into the Inn In-between, no matter the time of day, and asked: “Hey guys, do you know Loneliness?” you would surely get a resounding “Yeah!” thrown back at you.

That was what she was called. Loneliness.

That wasn't her true name, of course. The other Seekers knew her true name but seldom spoke it loud. It wasn't a taboo – the Seekers knew no such thing as taboo to begin with – but speaking her name would call upon the feeling all their race feared. It is a dreadful thing to be alone when you have millennia to look forward to.

But Loneliness, she knew different. Better, perhaps.

She knew that every meeting she might have would result in a parting, and every greeting would come with a farewell. She had seen that there was little point in making friends when they would leave you before the end, that there was no such thing as an everlasting.

What should one do when you come face to face with the utter end of it all: you live and die alone.

Connections, many of her once friends had argued, and they had a point, surely. Surely? One could not live in this world, this plane of being, without making at least one or two important connections. Loneliness had seen, learned and experienced this first hand: most of those she had loved, wanted and needed had left her behind before her first century. Surely that would have been enough to scar anyone's soul, yet Loneliness never gave up, not then.

It was millennia later that she finally succumbed to the truth of being alive: life is, and exists, as a singular being. To be alive is to be alone, apart, different. The facts are cruel, and she accepted them as they are.

Oh, she had raged against them, in her mind, yet all her arguments had fallen apart like castles of sand before a cosmic storm. Loneliness was a thing Loneliness knew all too well. At some point, she had come to cherish it.

Now, many those who knew Loneliness but by name would call her a pessimist. They'd be wrong: Loneliness had always been an optimist, oftentimes a realist, but never a pessimist. Just because she knew that she'd be alone in the end did not mean she did not think good things could come of it, no. More than that, being alone gave Loneliness a sharper sight than most. She could tell when someone was alone, truly alone, even when surrounded by their kith and kin, and she could tell, also, when someone, left to their own company, was the least alone.

That was the thing most knew not: Loneliness did not draw her name from being without company. On the contrary, she had many visitors, some seeking advice, some seeking to alleviate their own lonesome days. The rare visitor came simply to offer their company to her, mostly out of spite, often of no true concern, simply thinking, believing, that their effort to pay attention to her was a force of good... Loneliness wanted none of it, so she spoke with the first kind, helped the second run into each other, and sent the third into ends unknown.

There is still a saying that persists to this day: Loneliness is easy to find but hard to know. Some also sing about Loneliness being a bitter draught. They'd be wrong: Loneliness did not drink.

Now, the place Loneliness called home was not a place at all. She dwelled in the space between worlds, the place of starlight and shadow, where there was no substance to shutter your mind from the cold.

She had first come there to cease meeting those fleeting beings of flesh and blood that she was doomed to greet and dismiss, to avoid the constant pain of knowing new things and forgetting them once they said “farewell”.

The dark void of space was no issue to a Seeker, and the void between stars gave her ample room to fashion her palace, her home: she had but one room, wrought out of stardust and ice, as cold as the soul of the world yet as beautiful as the ideal behind it. The void made her home a place of silence, a thing she greatly appreciated. There was no atmosphere unless she conjured one up, and the only colours came with the light of the stars glittering on the transparent ice of her house, darkness and light against the blackness of space and the stars in its many houses. The islet her palace stood on was but an asteroid she had flattened, bare rock with holes and craters on its underside.

Loneliness felt no joy when she beheld her home, yet the pang of loss was there whenever she had to leave behind the crystalline spire that adorned its roof, glittering in the darkness. It was another dilemma, she realized, when your home became a being of its own, another farewell further along the timeline of her life.

Now, the visitors to her palace among the stars were but her own kind, at first. Seekers traverse the void as easily as water or air, after all, but in a surprisingly short time – mere centuries, by their standards – the little people came along too, seeking her so called wisdom.

She never understood these little folk properly, these small things that called themselves human or whatever. They came and they went, often dying in the attempt to reach her and get back home, and she cared little. Loneliness is a poor mistress and a worse teacher, after all.

But the world is a being that loves truth and adores irony, and it willed one of these visitors to be the one who would teach her the error of her ways, these little things that were too short lived to ever grasp the essence of what it meant to be truly alone.

 

It had been an uneventful time, until the Mailman turned up for a delivery, popping in without a sound or a warning as was the norm. Loneliness had been sitting on her front porch of ice and dust, gazing up and down towards the void of light and dark that stretched away from her, forever.

The Mailman materialized right behind her, in front of her front door, and immediately turned around to greet her.

“Pardon the intrusion, lady Loneliness,” the Mailman said, voice flat as always. “I've a letter for you.” The Mailman offered a sealed envelope of a material Loneliness had no name for. It did not seem to reflect any of the light that shone upon it.

“Thank you,” she said simply, accepting the offered letter in her claws.

“My pleasure,” the Mailman said with another nod, before turning away, likely about to pop out of existence. “Coincidentally, I saw a ship – I believe they would call it a ship, that is – headed this way as I came, lady Loneliness. Are you expecting company?”

“No. It's probably another small one travelling here for 'advice,'” Loneliness said, focused on the letter in her claws. “That aside, sir... You saw it on your way here? What exactly is the manner in which you cross the third dimension?” Loneliness' eyes narrowed as she asked the question all her kin were dying to hear the answer to. The secrets of the Mailman were legendary.

“I'm afraid I cannot say, lady Loneliness,” the Mailman said with another nod. “If you do not need me for anything else...?”

When Loneliness shook her head, the Mailman nodded one last time, turned to face the door and vanished without a ripple or a sound. Loneliness stared at the spot where the Mailman had stood and sighed, knowing there was no point wondering. Minds sharper than hers had tried to divine the answer to the mystery that was the Mailman, and none had succeeded.

She turned her attention back to the dull envelope in her claws. There was no name, no writing at all, on it. The only marking on the seemingly seamless item was a slightly darker symbol, what seemed to her something akin to a feather in the shape of a question mark. Loneliness stared at it a while longer, then tossed it aside, unopened. She did not care to read any of it. Most likely it was yet another petition for advice or help or, even worse, another request for her to appear at this or that meeting. The letter glided through the vacuum to land atop the pile of unopened letters that grew beside her door.

Why would her kin not leave her be?

That settled, Loneliness turned her focus towards the void around her home, gazing far in order to spot the approaching ship. After a while, she sighed and spoke the words of searching. To her surprise, there seemed to be nothing in the immediate vicinity, and she extended the range, then extended it again, until finally, after a third time, she found the ship.

It was travelling quite slowly, and it was so far away it would take several days – as the humans still called the unit – to arrive. If it ever made it that far, she thought upon closer inspection. The cylindrical ship seemed to be in a fairly awkward condition, two of its five propellants out of commission and a large hole in the port side of its hull.

Loneliness sighed and pushed the thing out of her mind. If the ship arrived, she'd have a visitor to pester her and to alleviate her boredom for a moment. If not...

Well, then not.

 

 

Some time later, most of which Loneliness spent either snoozing or deep in thought, the ship landed by her little islet. Or, as it might be more precise to say, the ship crashed into the side of her islet, decimating itself, scattering pieces of what appeared to be metal but on closer inspection were not, all across it, flinging most out and away into the depths of space.

The pilot – there was only one – appeared not to be human, but one of those humanoid races that had somehow settled most habitable planets of the nearest galaxy. Loneliness was fairly certain most of these races were the result of one of her kin experimenting. They were far too similar to each other to be a mere coincidence.

The pilot crawled out of the wreckage of the ship, apparently unharmed, and slowly approach hulking, scaly form of Loneliness where she lay by her front door. As the little being drew close, it halted and threw itself flat on its face. Loneliness sighed inwardly. She had seen this before.

The little being picked itself up and begun gesturing wildly, their face downcast. Loneliness wondered at that. Had this species learned how to survive a vacuum? It did not look like it should be able to do that: it was thin, bony even, with chitinous skin and scales, large double-lidded eyes and no hair anywhere on its body. It seemed to have wrapped itself in a drape of some sort that covered its torso and bottom half, leaving everything else bare, with no visible protection against the cold void of space.

After a moment of gesturing the little being stood helplessly, then begun tapping at something on their forearm. Loneliness realized it had probably been trying to talk to her, but no voice had carried over in the vacuum.

She sighed, muttered a few words, and created the standard breathable atmosphere she called upon for her visitors. She added a word for translation as an afterthought, an art she had mastered as visitors came and went without warning, all speaking different tongues.

“Why won't you-” the little being was cursing, forcefully tapping at the thing on its arm. Then it realized its own voice carried to its ears and looked up.

Loneliness cocked her head quizzically, waiting.

“Thank you, Lonesome God,” the little being said, bowing so deep their head very near touched their feet. In a fluid movement, they straightened again. “I've come seeking your counsel, Divine One.”

Loneliness sighed. She had figured this was going to happen. “You've come to the wrong place, traveller. There are no gods, here. Only me.”

Unlike before, this visitor did not freeze at her words. “Of course, your grace. I apologize if I have offended,” the little being said, bowing fluidly once again. “How might I refer to you without causing offence?”

Loneliness chuckled. “I care not. I've many names, what does one more matter?”

“As you say, your grace,” the little being agreed without missing a beat. “I hope I am not intruding.”

“Hardly. I've nothing but time and more time. Ask your questions, little one.”

“Thank you, your grace,” the little being said with one final bow, then propped itself down to a sitting position although it was missing a chair. Loneliness wondered at that for a moment, then figured it had something to do with the chitinous exterior of the visitor. Perhaps it was an exoskeleton.

“I've come to ask you for advice about what I believe is the central matter of life, your grace,” the little being said, gesturing with its hands as it reclined on nothing but air. “I wish to ask for your help in finding what is most important to me.”

Loneliness nodded. This was nothing new, on the contrary. Many a visitor came to ask her for help in locating missing loved ones. All too often, she had to tell them sad news, yet none too many of her visitors chose to believe her when she told them their search was in vain. Such was the nature of these tiny, short lived beings, after all.

This latest visitor was to prove her thinking wrong, or perhaps they were to be the exception to her rule.

“Someone you need to find, then?” Loneliness mused. “Their name, age, species, anything at all to help me find them?”

But the little being shook their hands. “No no no. You misunderstand, your grace. I do not know their name.”

“Love at first sight, then? Never talked to them?” She had been asked for help with this particular issue once or twice before.

“No, no no. I've never met them.”

Loneliness stared, flummoxed. The little being merely blinked and waited confidently, their absurd statement hanging in the air between them, their double lidded eyes shutting and opening once, twice, three times.

“You want me to find the most important person to you, but you've never met them?” Loneliness asked after a while. She'd had visitors come there simply to spite her, to prove wrong the rumours about her before. But this...

This was a first.

“Yes. I wish for guidance, to find that which is important to me,” the little being said warmly, looking up at Loneliness with confidence, as if they had said nothing strange at all.

“Is this some sort of jest?”

“Jest? Of course not, your grace,” the little being said, eyes widening. “Why would anyone joke about such matters.”

Loneliness closed her eyes. She felt a headache coming, the same kind she got when her kin visited her with their absurd ideas and invitations. “Hold on a moment,” she muttered.

“Of course, your grace.”

Loneliness thought for a moment. Everything pointed towards this being another cruel joke, yet nothing in the little being's manner or tone suggested it, nor could she sense anything of the sort coming from their thoughts. As such, there were two likely options: either this visitor was extremely stupid, a possibility which was largely disproved by them making it to her home – stupid ones seldom survived the trip – or they were completely out of their mind.

“Pardon me, little one,” she spoke. “But this... important one, you're looking for... do you have any idea who or where they are?”

“I'm afraid not, your grace,” the little being said, spreading their hands. “Nor do I know for certain if it is a person, or a thing, or a purpose, for that matter. That is why I am here. I would ask for your guidance, your grace. You are famous in my homeland for your wisdom and kindness.”

Loneliness stared. It seemed it was time for her to move, or perhaps start turning visitors away. She felt like rubbing her temples, a gesture she had picked up from one of her visitors long ago, a gesture she found expressed frustration in a subtle yet acceptable manner.

“Let me confirm,” she said, and the little being nodded, leaning forwards.

“You've no name for me to find?”

“No. I mean yes, I do not.”

“You've no idea where this important thing is?”

“Yes.”

it is you wish to find?”

“Only that it is important to me, your grace.”

The urge to rub her temples increased. “I see.”

“Can you help me?” the little being asked, eager.

Loneliness sighed. “I will try.”

The little being jumped to its feet. “Oh, thank you, your grace! Thank you!”

“First,” Loneliness spoke over it. “Your name.”

“El'As,” the little being said with another bow. “Pardon my manners, your grace. I should have-”

“Now,” Loneliness ignored it. “Can you give me any sort of idea of what it is that you want to find?”

“Only that it is important to me,” the little being said seriously. “I suppose you could say I want to find my purpose.”

“Your purpose...” Loneliness muttered, before focusing on the little being in front of her, speaking the words of searching, followed by the words for and She could feel nothing explicable. Normally, the thing she was searching for called to her from a particular direction that she could home in on.

Now, she could feel the call everywhere. Straining her mind, she picked up the faintest increase coming towards the little being from the direction behind her, much too general for her to isolate.

“I'm afraid I cannot tell for certain, little one.” She opened her eyes. “I can give you an approximate direction, but without something clear to search for...”

“I understand, your grace,” the little being bowed, hands clasped in front of their chest in a gesture Loneliness interpreted as gratitude or supplication. “Thank you for listening to my unreasonable request.”

“I shall fix your ship for you, little one. I wish you luck in your search,” she said, not quite certain if she meant a word.

“I am forever in your debt, your grace,” the little being stammered, overwhelmed. “How may I ever-”

“It matters not,” Loneliness said gruffly, speaking the words that would make the wreckage on her little islet whole again. “Just leave me be.”

 

It was another long time spent alone before a visitor again graced the shores of Loneliness' palace. She had never gotten further towards relocating than a thought, a thought which turned less and less savoury with each moment passed alone. Being alone soothed her mind, and helped her forget it all.

She was gazing below her palace from her backyard, her neck hanging across the edge, towards eternity. She was trying to catch a glimpse of a dying star, an event the Mailman had told her was about to take place when he had popped in to hand her a package.

The package sat atop the dark letter beside her front door, atop the pile of unopened correspondence.

The death of a star was an event that was both extremely rare and insufferably common. Within the infinite confines of space, stars died and were born so often it should not have mattered to her one whit, yet to be able to see the very moment one of them, beings of such long and singular lifespans, reached their end with her own eyes... Well, it would be a first.

As such, it should be understandable that the first thing she felt when she sensed something approach her home was not curiosity, or even her usual indifference, but irritation.

The same cylindrical ship that had visited her earlier, years ago by the traveller's reckoning, homed in on her little islet, slowing down as it approached and circled her home before landing neatly upon the edge opposite her front door. The little being extracted itself from a latch and floated down to the islet, looking around, its mouth opening without sound.

Loneliness sighed, spoke the words for atmosphere and translation, and called out, never taking her eyes off the cold void below.

“Over here, little one.”

The little being scurried around her house, clearly unused to being weightless as it very nearly collided with the wall ahead in its haste. Once beside her left flank, it bowed, its hands in that strange sign of supplication, and spoke reverently.

“I have returned, your grace.”

“So I see,” Loneliness said dryly, eyes peeled downwards. “How fares your search?”

“Poorly, I'm afraid, your grace. I travelled as far as I could, beyond the rim of the galaxy, before turning back, visiting every inhabited world on the way, yet found nothing that called out to me.” The little being shrugged, then sat down upon nothing as it had last time.

“Why stop at the edge of the galaxy?”

“I've not the means for such a long trip, I'm afraid, your grace.”

“I see. You're here to ask for my guidance, again?”

“As it please you,” the little being nodded. “I hope I am not disturbing you, your grace?”

“Yes and no. My eyes are busy, my ears vacant. Tell me, have you learned anything which might aid my search?”

“Anything, your grace?” The little being leaned forward.

“A name, race, place? Anything at all?”

“I'm afraid not, your grace.”

“You still do not know who or what you're looking for?” Loneliness asked, incredulous.

“Yes, but isn't that true for all of us?” the little being said with confidence. “Aren't we all looking for that something, that someone, to make our lives worth living?”

“I've no words. I can only presume someone who has accomplished naught in their life could speak such careless words.” Loneliness squinted. Had she seen a flash, somewhere in the distance. She stared, focused, but saw nothing. She sighed. “Tell me, little one, how old are you, by your people's reckoning? Surely you are young to be so whimsical.”

The little being laughed merrily. “On the contrary, I'm afraid, your grace. By our reckoning, I am well past my prime and into my chipping years, as we say. I am here because I am not needed.”

“A vagabond, a wanderer, then?”

“Yes and no. I would not speak of it, as it please you, your grace,” the little being said, suddenly somber.

“Speak,” Loneliness said, homing in on a hunch. “It might be what I need to help you in your search.”

“Ah,” the little being said and sighed. “Well, if you insist, your grace. I hate talking of it. It seems like I am boasting, no matter how I speak it.”

“Then speak it however you wish.”

The little being blinked, double eyelids flicking. Then it laughed, merrily. “Indeed, your grace. I am a hero and a traitor to my people. I cast out and destroyed the old world order of ours, resulting in the deaths of millions, and I lifted my kin from the prison that was our planet as I learned how to traverse the stars. With the help of one of your kin, your grace.”

“Oh? Who?”

"Words-That-Appear-And-Depart-On-The-Wind, your grace. He spoke highly of you.”

Loneliness muttered under her breath. Of course, it sounded just like her brother to tell such a race about her, to spur them onwards in their search among the stars, in what Wind always referred to as “progress”. “I see.”

“His last words to me, your grace, were words of prophecy. He told me I was not yet spent, my purpose unfulfilled. That there was something I still have to do. Those were his words, as we parted.”

“Cruel of him, to place such a curse as a parting gift.” Loneliness felt a tinge of sympathy towards this little being. To be cursed by one of her kin, her own brother... Truly, the little one could not be blamed for its unreasonable request.

“A curse, your grace?” The little being stammered. “To me, it is nothing less than a blessing.”

“You don't say,” Loneliness muttered, finally pulling her eyes from the darkness below her house. “Let me ask you again. You have no name nor idea of what it is you are supposed to find?”

“No, your grace. Only that I have not found it nor fulfilled whatever it is, yet.”

purpose, reason, existence, Immediately, she felt a tug towards the little being from her right, in the same general direction as last time but more precise.

“I've good news, little one. I've still no exact place I can name, but I can give you a direction that is much more specific.”

“Thank you, your grace. Truly,” the little being babbled as it jumped to its feet. Loneliness had to tell it to go three times before it finally understood and skittered back to its ship and set off.

When she turned her head downwards again, she immediately spotted the supernova, radiating outwards from its point of origin, halfway across the galaxy.

Loneliness sighed, disappointed. How long would she have to wait for such a chance to come by again?

“And with each blessing, a curse,” she muttered, and closed her eyes to sleep.

 

 

An uneventful time passed.

Loneliness spent days, maybe years or more, staring at the supernova radiating outwards, studying the bright display as it sprung itself throughout the galaxy, decimating anything misfortunate enough to be in its path.

No visitors landed upon her islet, and the thought of leaving or relocating faded from her mind even while the supernova seemed to grow brighter every day it spent growing, towards its ultimate goal of becoming another nebula to paint colour across the dark that was the scenery of Loneliness' home.

When she finally decided it was time to stargaze towards another system and got to her feet to circle her home, her palace, she almost stepped on the pile of letters which included the latest the Mailman had delivered, too. She stepped over them but then hesitated. She still had no idea about the package, but the letter... She could guess who it was from, now.

 

 

Greetings, sister!

 

I've sent some people your way, to keep you company or whatnot.

 

Try not to bite them.

 

Your Unreasonably Loving Brother,

Wind

 

 

Loneliness sighed, crumbling the letter. Since when had Wind bothered writing?

Her eyes drifted towards the package on the pile. Who was that from?

The cover was of an organic matter that resembled the paper Wind's letter had been wrapped in, but with much thicker fibres, and it had a metallic sheen to it. Tearing it aside, Loneliness found a flat metal object the colour of rust. She could not guess at its weight without creating a gravitational field and she could not be bothered. Instead, she flicked it to the ground where it landed with a clack.

There was a whirr, and a recording sprung to life. A hologram of the little being that had visited her twice before bowed in a greeting from within a beam of light the small item had conjured up.

“Greetings, Lonesome God, lady Loneliness. I'm sorry I cannot greet you myself. If this message ever reaches you, I'm afraid I've left behind time and am now traversing through eternity. I'm bothering you this third and final time to tell you how grateful I am for all your help, even though I know I was a bother to you. I am sorry to tell you that, despite your utmost efforts, I never found what I longed for. My purpose never chose to greet me.”

The hologram hummed as it turned its gaze upwards. Loneliness began to turn away when it spoke again, louder.

“But the search was enough for me.” The hologram flickered as it turned to face forwards again. “I wish you all the best, lady Loneliness. You have my eternal gratitude, as little as that must mean to you. Know that you made my journey less lonesome, fruitless as though it was. I hope the skies above you stay forever clear, wherever it is that you roam, my lady,” the hologram said, smiling from one chitinous ear to the other as it took its final bow.

Then it hummed one last time and died, leaving Loneliness alone again.

She stared, confused. The little being was dead, obviously. But...

Hadn't the Mailman delivered the message before the second time the little being had visited?

Intrigued, she tapped the disk again and listened through the message.

Yes, there was no mistaking it, the message mentioned it being the third instance. The question, then, was how in the had the message been delivered before the second visit? A hoax, a joke?

Unlikely, Loneliness thought. The little being had seemed incapable of such deceit, and, even though she was loath to admit it, her brother had a good sense for the nature of these little beings he found so fascinating. He would not have wasted her time by sending over someone that only wished to deceive her.

No, this had nothing to do with the little being and her brother, but the Mailman. Loneliness felt her hackles rise. The Mailman.

the Mailman?

They had been around since the day she was born, and long before that by all accounts, always travelling throughout the galaxies by means only known to the Mailman themselves. The Seekers could travel fast enough that it seemed irrelevant to them that someone had their own way of going about, not so much better as different, but...

Loneliness had always been under the impression that the Mailman was one of her kin. Her brow furrowed. Why had she thought that? The Mailman did not look like...

did the Mailman look like?

No matter how hard she focused on it, calling forth the image of the Mailman standing in front of her door, delivering that package, she could not say. The Mailman's voice had become distorted within her memory as well, as if it was played back on a broken record through a lot of static. A faded voice from a blurred image, the package the only clear object within the scene inside her mind. She realized, as she tried on focusing on the past instances of the Mailman dropping by with letters, that her mind tried its hardest not to, as if she was not in control of her own memories. She gritted her fangs and focused on the first time she had seen the Mailman... and nothing came up. Nothing.

It was infuriating! When something finally piqued her interest, it refused to let her think on it, to mull over the details in order to understand it better, to see its true nature.

Loneliness stood still for a long time, pondering, pondering. She had to re-think her original question, it seemed.

what was the Mailman?

The things she knew for certain were that she knew nothing about the Mailman, what it looked like or sounded like. Only that it was capable of something akin to or very close to teleportation, and, as disturbing as it seemed, was able to either ignore the law of causality or traverse through time.

Loneliness sat down in front of her door, thinking, thinking.

 

 

The next person to arrive at Loneliness' palace between worlds found no host to help them, no oracle to answer the questions they had brought with them. They waited for as long as they could, but sooner or later, they ran short on supplies and had to depart, carrying with them word that Loneliness was not home, that the house of Loneliness stood empty and dark between stars.

That word soon started circulating, spreading throughout the nearby settled planets and galaxies, dashing many a hopeful traveller looking for someone to press their questions and worries upon. The word circulated among the short-lived races, until at last it arrived at the Inn In-between: Loneliness has disappeared!

Had Loneliness finally matured, many of the patrons joked within the inn, amongst themselves, no harm intended. The Seekers among the patrons did not laugh, but smiled, glad that the one so fabled among their kin was finally on the move. And the questions Loneliness asked of those she chanced upon! The Inn was abuzz with excitement: Loneliness was about, Loneliness was looking for the Mailman.

The innkeeper merely had a laugh. He knew well enough that Loneliness would never go away, that she was here to stay. That Loneliness could always be found when one was not trying to find her, that Loneliness might always arrive even when you were not waiting for her. Loneliness was as much a part of this world as she tried to avoid it.

The only difference was, now you could never know where to expect her.


© Copyright 2019 Fer Ryan. All rights reserved.

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