Today’s just a normal day, I suppose. The same people walking down the streets with either very pleased or very blank looks on their faces, the same stray dogs reeking up the alleyways as they try
to find something edible among the garbage and homeless bums; yep, same stupid city with the same stupid routines.
I can feel people staring at me as I weave my way around them. After all, though they are the same everyday, I am not. I barely ever walk through town anymore. I don’t want to see the faces of these worthless, selfish people. I don’t want to see the face of the worthless, selfish world the good Lord let me be born into.
I don’t want to see anything, but they still see me. They watch me like they watch a freak show--that is, staring with curious yet frightened eyes. I can almost hear them wondering what kind of ink blot has intruded on their sunny yet selfish world.
I would stop to answer them, but frankly, I could care less about any of the people in this city. I don’t even care about myself anymore. I’m not much better than the rest of the world. Maybe just a tad bit higher on the pedestal, but not much better overall.
The only reason that I’m better is because I know. I know that I’m horrible, I know that I’m not perfect. The rest of them, they don’t know. They go through their repetitive lives thinking they’re great, that they’re something special. They’re nothing special, not really. Just another small link in the paper chain of life--a link that can easily be torn off and thrown away.
It’s that simple. I’m not self-important, I’m just smart. Smarter than these people. Smarter than the grandma who’s moving too slow down the sidewalk, smarter than the businessman who’s blocking the way to the sanctuary.
The sanctuary’s the only place where I feel safe nowadays. I don’t have to deal with my fellow but clueless humans. I can just lean back, let go, and temporarily forget. That’s why I’m heading there right now--boy, do I need to forget. That’s why I’m running past the grandma and the businessman, past the stray dogs and the bums, straight to the sanctuary.
I carefully climb over the fence, the one that’s on the other side of the Harper Street alley. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but I’d wager that you’ve seen it. It’s the one that’s covered in peeling white paint that surrounds the biggest empty yard in town. Yeah, the one that’s owned by the police chief who doesn’t take the time to repair his own property.
As if to confirm neglect, one of the fence boards nearly breaks in half as I hop over. I lose my balance and fall face first in the grass. It doesn’t hurt as bad as other injuries I’ve had, but my cheeks still sting. I wipe the dirt off my face, but there’s no evidence on my black coat sleeve that I was ever dirty to begin with. Just another thing that hides, I guess. Just one of many things that hide.
The frown on my face almost goes away as I look up. There, sitting nicely in the branches of the old oak tree, sits the sanctuary. My sanctuary. I run across the yard to the tree, almost tripping over my own feet in the process. For a minute I stand underneath the branches of the tree, cooling off in the shade. But only for a minute.
I quickly make my way up the ladder that leads to the sanctuary. I don’t even think about where I put my hands and feet as I climb--there’s no need to. I’ve been here so many times that my body just knows the way up without a second thought. I heave myself up the final rung of the rope ladder and into the tree house.
I really don’t know why this place is so calming. I just feel like no one can reach me here, no one can find me, no one can complain to me about their problems--problems which, honestly, I could care less about.
Why should I care, when people don’t really care themselves? That’s what I thought every time one of my school friends, who weren’t really friends at all, tried talking to me about their issues. I guess it was my mind set that eventually drove all of them away, but that doesn’t bother me. Who needs friends that don’t realize anything?
That’s it, it’s time to stop thinking about things like this. If I keep remembering silly things, I’ll just continue to worry. So I push the more negative thoughts out of my mind as I lean back against the tree house wall.
I put my head gently against the wood, only to feel some kind of paper under my hair. The fact that there’s paper catches me a bit off-guard, but I don’t need to wonder who it’s from. I turn and tear the taped paper off the wall and glance at the sender. Yep, I was right--Elenore’s sent me yet another pointless message about staying out too late.
Ah, that’s rich. She’s even gone and called me Charlie. There’s no one that calls me Charlie, especially not Elenore. I guess she thinks using that nickname will win points with me, but it does nothing. Elenore’s never going to be a real mom to me, and she knows it. Just like I know that I’m never going to be a real son to her. I’m not just being stubborn about this, either. Elenore told me so herself.
I crumple Elenore’s note as I lay on the floor of the sanctuary. I close my eyes as my bangs fall back from my face. I just listen to the sounds of the crickets outside until my mind begins to drift. Right now there’s probably lots of night bugs gathering outside, oblivious to the sanctuary and the fact that I’m in it. They’re just living their lives as lucky creatures with dumbed-down minds.
I can tell that I’m dozing off--my daydreams are getting wackier. I yawn a bit and roll over onto my side as the crickets lull me to sleep. My eyelids feel heavy and I’m beginning to forget, beginning to drift away.
That is, until I’m jerked right back awake. I don’t know what just happened, really; the sanctuary shook because something hit the bottom of it, but that’s all I can tell. Confused and upset at whatever just ruined the beginning of my nap, I down at the ground through a sloppily-carved window in the tree house wall.
Sure enough, there, lying on the ground below, is some kind of animal. At first it looks like the figure’s glowing kind of like a firefly. But there’s no firefly in the world that’s big enough to shake an entire tree house.
I take a closer look at the figure, and I see that I’m right. That’s definitely no firefly.
It’s a human, lying on the ground and not moving an inch.
Oh, great. Oh, great. I quickly climb out of the sanctuary. No matter how hateful I may seem, there’s no way I can ignore someone who probably needs help, even if they are one of the stupid, selfish masses.
I hop to the ground and move toward the stranger as quick as I can.
Oh, my...what have I gotten myself into?
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