"Hngg... Who is it?"
I woke up from my nap to the sound of the doorbell ringing.
I tried to rack my brain as hard as I could, but I couldn't remember any appointments I had made at this hour, nor could I think of anyone who would come here unannounced on their own.
My friends would have at least sent a text message beforehand...
So I couldn't help but wonder.
I slowly made my way down to the front door, doing my best to not fall down the stairs in my half-asleep state.
It didn't even cross my mind that I probably wasn't projecting a very nice image to whoever was waiting. I probably looked like absolute crap. But oh well, thinking about it in retrospect, it would have been a good tactic to drive off unwanted visitors.
I doubt any salesperson would seriously attempt to get a sale with a half-asleep minor who looked like he hadn't left the basement in a month.
Regardless, that's something I can only say in retrospect. To be perfectly honest, all I wanted right then and there was to get this annoyance over with and go back to sleep.
And so I opened the door, praying that whoever it was would just go away without much resistance.
Then I saw her.
"Yahho, friend of friends. How're you doing today? I see you're not in your highest hours now are you. Would you prefer I leave and come back later, after you've had your nap? Oh, but we can't do that, we really can't. I'm sorry, friend, but I can't just leave you alone, I hope you understand!"
"Hm? What is it? Something the matter, friend? Something you wish to say?"
"... Can you please shut up and go away?"
"Whaaaaaa? But I just said I can't, didn't I? This is an urgent matter friend! Cone on, just stop complaining and agree to do as I say before I have to waste energy punching you until you agree!"
... She was the exact same as always.
I would probably have been freaked out of my mind by her mere presence before. But for some reason, it seemed like I wasn't even fully registering her presence.
It really did feel like that.
Like I just-
Didn't really care anymore.
I really did just want to go back to sleep.
I was done with all the fighting against this girl for the 'truths' and the 'lies' and the 'natural' or 'supernatural'.
If the only way of getting that dumb and excruciating battle over was by surrendering, then sure, she could have it her way for all I cared.
"No, no, and no, friend of friends. You simply don't get it, sheesh... I'm not fighting against you out of pleasure or because I want you to say 'hey, good job, you've won!'. I need you to understand. To understand the reason I care about it by yourself. Or to put it just a bit more bluntly, I won't shut up and leave you alone until your dumbass useless half brain can fully accept my truth as the only one. Get it? So for God's sake, fix that shitty bed face of yours, get dressed and come back here."
And so it finally dawned on me.
I couldn't refuse.
No matter what, I had to play along with her game.
I had lost at my own game, so this was my punishment.
So unless I wanted to go bad to sleep and never wake up -
No, even so, she wouldn't let me.
She didn't want an eternal stalemate or a shallow, incomplete victory.
She didn't want any of that.
In fact, she would only be happy when- she had completely and utterly destroyed me.
And so, with no other choice, I resolved myself.
I slammed my door shut on Ellie's face.
But she didn't look mad.
Rather, she was smiling.
“Oh, that was slow, man. You really like to keep ladies waiting that much? I’ve gotta do something about that massive ego of yours one of these days.”
So she said.
I had gotten changed as fast as I had been able to, and I had come back down with a speed I thought myself unable to ever achieve.
And even then she was dissatisfied.
Though I guess being permanently dissatisfied might as well be part of her DNA. Or maybe it’s just her personal hatred of all things me.
I didn’t care enough to ask. In fact, I didn’t as much as utter a single word as Ellie quickly and thoroughly scanned my whole being the moment I opened the front door for the second time.
“Hmm. Though I guess for now it’s the least of your issues. Anyway, now that you’re finally here, care to come for a walk with me?”
That was the intention since the very beginning. Not that you would ever have let me refuse, of course.
It was a lively winter evening.
Christmas decorations were already all over the town, the festive ambient omnipresent thanks to the people happily laughing and celebrating the approaching end for the year in advance.
Kids, especially, were all a bundle of energy bringing life to the place completely by themselves - some laughed and rejoiced at being free from school for a few days, and some cried and tried to make up excuses for their bad marks before a pair of parents in varying degrees of rage and disappointment.
I couldn't help but smile.
It truly was a wonderful, heartwarming sight - though I couldn't help but wonder why Ellie would want to show me this.
Still, whatever her reason, and I was certain it wouldn't be a pleasant one, I had to genuinely thank her.
For this moment of pure, unadultered joy she let me experience.
I closed my eyes.
While I continued walking, I closed my eyes - to better soak up in this atmosphere. The sound, the smells, the mood...
And just at my side, I could hear another pair of footsteps.
Of course, they were Ellie's.
Her rhythmic steps reminded me of her presence, while also comforting me in a sense. As long as she was there with me, I could be sure - none of what I was seeing, hearing smelling..
None of what I was feeling was a dream.
It was reality. A reality we both shared, and that nobody else could deny.
With no warning, she simply stopped walking.
She stood still.
So I, too, stopped walking.
And I once again opened my eyes, my mind still absorbed in the town's ambient.
"What... What is this?"
"Hm? Is there a problem, friend? Anything on your mind?"
"Where... Is everyone?"
I said, unable to comprehend.
I didn't get it, I couldn't believe my senses.
Because from the moment I had opened my eyes...
The town was completely and absolutely empty.