In a cottage on a hill, surrounded by tall trees and colourful flower bushes, lived a being that could almost be called a man, but he wasn’t. He was something else entirely. The almost-man lived alone in his single-storey cottage, seemingly content with the piles of books that filled the space and the bare back room that was his workspace.
This almost-man’s name was Lonely, and he was exactly that.
It was not by choice, of course, it was the nature of his being. He was an emotion, there to spread loneliness to the nearby realm of Earth, a job he had been given when he awoke on a grassy field centuries beforehand. It was a job he had done without argument since the beginning of humanity, as there was no one else to do it.
And so, as he did every other day, he walked into his workspace. It was completely empty bar for one thing, a violin in the corner, clean of the dust that covered the floor and walls. The manner of his work meant that he didn’t need his space to be decorated. All he needed was the violin.
He did his work every morning, getting it out of the way as soon as he could so that he had time for the things he actually enjoyed. Not that he did much outside of reading his books, but even that was still better than what he did for work.
If he had been human and lived on Earth with them, his music would have been praised to the hilltops, but he lived in an entirely different realm as something human’s felt. He would never be accepted as one and if he was being honest, he’d rather stay an emotion than be a human.
At least as an emotion, he felt one thing. Human’s felt many all at once. It was his job to make them feel as lonely as he did. It wasn’t fair on them, most hadn’t done anything wrong, but it was the only way for him to feel some sense of calm, of numbness.
Lonely heaved a sigh and picked up his violin. All the emotions had a certain way of passing on their feelings. Some painted, some gardened, some danced. Lonely played the violin. The instant he pressed bow to string, the familiar streams of blue flowed from his hands, his chest, his entire body.
They swirled around him, dancing like the fairies in his books before coming to a stop before him as they did every other day. They mixed together until they formed colours they couldn’t possibly form, reds and greens and yellows, making the images of unfamiliar faces. Humans, going about their daily lives, thousands of them, all different shapes and sizes and colours. All faces of people he would make as lonely as him.
His music was sad, haunting, the perfect melody for his job. He never had a set tune in mind when he played, just let the music take him where it needed to go. Instead of focusing on what notes he played, he watched the faces of the people before him as they shifted and merged to form others.
Years ago, centuries even, Lonely had favoured the faces of the Japanese and changed his plain, featureless body to look like theirs. He could have changed it whenever he wanted, but even after centuries of the same face staring back at him in the reflection of windows and ponds, he still liked it.
The people of Earth called their time the 1800s and Lonely liked the style of clothing they wore in the country of England. It was fancy and he liked how the fabric felt in his hands. As a result, his wardrobe was filled with the clothing of all the genders, ready for whatever mood he happened to be in. Some of the emotions changed their wardrobes with the styles of certain countries, but Lonely was sure he would be sticking with his clothing for a long time.
He played his violin for over an hour, ending only when he knew all the people he needed to get to that day would feel loneliness at some point in the following twenty-four hours. Sometimes he recognised a face or two, but after centuries of work, they all became a constant blur.
When he was done, his violin went back in its spot and he strode from the room as if it were the last time he would ever be there, but he knew for a fact that he would be back the next day and the next until the time came where humanity was no more.
All he wanted to do was read, lose himself in the lives and feelings of made-up people, written by humans long dead, but as he skimmed his shelves and piles for something to read, nothing stood out to him.
He would have to go into Zajed and buy a new one. His collection was already far too big and at some point in the next few decades, he would have to expand his house to make room for them all. There was nothing wrong with adding more to it, aside from having to go into town.
Zajed wasn’t a far walk, just down the hill, but that wasn’t his issue with it. There were hundreds of emotions who lived in the town and all of them liked to wander around and talk to each other. It made the place cramped and uncomfortable, but the worst part was, none of them would talk to him.
It was almost as if he were an obstacle for them to go around. He knew as he pulled on a grey waistcoat, that it was because he was meant to be alone. That was the best way to feel the way he should, the best way to pass on his emotion. But it still hurt and there was no stopping it. That was how things were run ever since the first of them, Sadness, awoke centuries ago.
He locked his door when he left, even though there was no one to break in. No one else lived outside of Zajed, just him and his books. All the others lived in the town, even people like Anxiety. They may freak out at everything, but they weren’t Lonely, they weren’t the embodiment of loneliness.
No animals lived in their realm except for the pets the others occasionally took from Earth. Having pets was pointless when they’d been alive for millennia and the animals died in the blink of an eye. He’d once had a cat taken from Egypt at the height of their power and it had died what felt like days later. In reality, it had lived for almost two decades. He’d never been able to take another pet after that.
Twenty minutes after he set out from his home, Lonely stood on the outskirts of Zajed. Compared to a lot of the places on Earth, it was a small place, but a mismatch of different times. Each emotion could control what their home looked like and much like their fashion, it changed with the times. Some lived in small castles, others in buildings styled after the ancient empires of the Greeks and Romans or the temples of both west and east Asia. Zajed, while a strange place, showed the beauty of each era of Earth.
In the centre of the mess of buildings was a small marketplace. It was a place where the other emotion could show off what they made or collected. Some sold pottery, others sold paintings, but there was only one place Lonely ever went.
Wisdom’s bookstall stood in the middle of the marketplace and as per usual, it was piled high with books. Not many others stood around it and the ones that did didn’t look all that interested. One, a tall blonde man, was in a conversation with Wisdom, meaning Lonely could look at the books in peace.
Buying anything in the marketplace meant trading and Lonely had the one thing Wisdom was always interested in, money from Earth. Sometimes, when an emotion passed on their feelings, they could take something from the visions they were shown. At first, Lonely hadn’t taken anything, but when he found out that Wisdom would give him quite a few books for one or two measly coins, he took them when he could.
Few books stood out to him and he knew it would be one of the days where he wanted to read, but couldn’t find the energy to do so. He grabbed what seemed interesting and patiently waited for Wisdom to finish his conversation.
The blonde man didn’t appear to be leaving any time soon, but he caught Lonely’s gaze and pointed over at him. With wide eyes, Lonely glanced away, giving Wisdom a weak smile when he came over. He fished the coins from his pocket, paid with a quiet mumble of thanks, and turned to leave.
A broad chest stopped his path and when he looked up, the blonde man stood before, a kind smile on his face. Lonely had never seen him before, but there were plenty of emotions he had never met.
“Hey, I don’t think we’ve met before,” the man said in a deep voice. “I’m Confidence.” Looking at him, it made sense. He’d taken the appearance of a lithe man, dusty blonde, with ocean blue eyes. There wasn’t a single flaw in his face. Of course there wasn’t, he was Confidence.
Lonely’s voice got stuck in his throat and Confidence looked down at him with an expression he could only read as confusion, which quickly morphed into something akin to boredom. He opened and closed his mouth, trying to force something, anything, out, but nothing came. In a last-ditch attempt to save himself more embarrassment, he pushed past Confidence and stalked down the main road of the marketplace.
It wasn’t until he was about to turn the corner that he looked back. Confidence was still watching him, despite the people that walked between them. Lonely didn’t know what that meant but before he got a chance to question it, someone else caught Confidence’s attention and he looked away.
Lonely sighed and ran a hand down his face. No one talked to him, not really. Wisdom did only to get money off of him, but that was all. It had been a long time since he had spoken to someone properly and he’d messed it up. What else could be expected though? He was Lonely, loneliness personified, he wasn’t allowed friends.
And so, arms laden with books, he walked back to his cottage on the hill and spent the day staring at the words on the pages, but never took them in. His mind was focused only on his mistakes and the botched conversation with Confidence. He’d never get another chance to introduce himself and once again, he damned himself to a friendless existence.