In this world there are many oddities which make humans look with bewilderment or astonishment. Whether it would be a colourful new type of bird species or a newly-discovered ancient tomb, richly decorated on the inside with paintings, telling a tale from centuries ago, people can not help but admire and, at the same time, fear the wonders life brings upon them. But what occurs when such a wonder appears before their very eyes, not in the form of an animal or an inanimate object, but as a living human being? Stare with their eyes wide open? Make different types of sounds? Only in very few of the cases do they only have those reactions. Like it or not, society is built in a very specific way. It is designed to keep the herd safe at all costs, thus excluding the extras. In other words, those who aren't at lest 95% like the rest get thrown in the garbage. Funny thing is, garbage can sometimes be warmer than a fluffy new fur coat.
It was nightfall, the time when the streets got consumed into darkness and souls pledged into deep slumber or passionate desire. The sky had not a single star to shine as hope for the ignorant world, due to the dark clouds which had come. Layer upon layer of thick covers, they were like heavy chains on a poor slave, moving slowly and painfully. But these grim visitors bore greater similarity with the cumbersome burdens of the townspeople below. Each had troubles regarding their own personal business. From old to young, from great to small, everyone had a stone that made their everyday lives even harder to carry. This weight was often too heavy for some and lead to their eventual sinking down to the bottom of the sea, as they still clung onto the boulders. Even I, at that very hour, was crumbling away under the torturous load that was placed on my back. The atmosphere had been damp for quite a while, an omen for what was to come only much later in the shape of raindrops. These tears from the heavens atop my head fell. I was crouched motionless on the ground as each hit me like a bullet and then rolled down my face gently, like a mother stroking her child. A boy at only the age of eight was out in this weather at a time so late. One would question the sense of responsibility of its parents if they were to see it in that state, all alone, crouched with its arms around its legs, wearing nothing more than shorts and a shirt while under the rain in that dark alleyway. But no one payed attention to it, for it was hidden in the shadows of the building behind it, as if wrapped in a cocoon of darkness. That was me, a pitiful forlorn kid, who had tried to run away from the cruelty of this world, even if was for a little while.
The reason for my being there, not moving at all even though I was getting soaked, was very simple. The rain was like a shower of relief, washing away the tears my younger version had cried back then, but no matter how much I wished for it, the pain could not be so easily be taken away. It was very stupid of me to have been crying, now that I look at it, but I can not help but remember how my heart ached. No, it is more accurate to say that I felt like I had no heart at all. My thoughts were a mess and were streaming away into the sewer just like the water flowing down the asphalt. This world for that eight-year-old me was as cold and as hard as concrete, it wasn't a place where somebody could live happily like how it said in the fairytales. I, who had been born looking so strange, with a hair so unnaturally red, was marked as one of those oddities to be looked at. Be it on the playground or on my way from school, at the hospital or at the mall with my parents, people would stare and murmur about the boy who was like a fresh apple, but not in his skin. That appearance was what drove people away and what encouraged my classmates to give me the nickname "monster". Indeed, no one in our town had ever had hair as bright red as mine. Not in this area, not in my family. It was the reason why local rumors about my existence were spread like wildfire. About how I was adopted or how my mother had cheated. The one which everyone seemed to believe the most was the one about me being cursed. A child forsaken by fate and given such a foul appearance, with hair of crimson and eyes distinctively bright green, he possessed this palette in order to trick normal citizens into doing misdeeds. My parents always told me to never listen to such foul words, but even I could see that they disliked my appearance. And no wonder. My dad always had a hard time in finding a job, and my mother worked part-time as a shopkeeper. They couldn't do anything about the false stories circulating around our family, but they couldn't leave the town either, due to knowing that at least here it was a safe environment for me, as there were very few cases of robbery and vandalism. However, simply because there were no obvious threats around didn't mean that they did no exist. In fact, they came from the people I was expected to call 'friends'. Entering school at the age of seven was the beginning of my nightmare. As if it weren't enough that stones had been thrown at me during kindergarten, now gum was stuck in my textbooks, rubbish was shoved in my locker and water bottles were dropped from the floors above when I was walking outside. Yet I endured it, hoping that in that horrible building, where teachers picked at me like crows at meat and children stung me like bees, I would be able to find someone, anyone, who could not view me as a wild animal. Despite all my prayers, no such person was found. Too many rumors, too many stories. They had entered almost all of the households. No parent, whose child studied in the same school as me, was unaware. But at least I wasn't getting beaten, not until a few kids got transferred due to the adults' concerns. Those brats let out their anger at me, cornering me on a quiet street one sunny day on my way home. Kicking and teasing me, I who was petrified could not do a thing. Because of the little pride in my heart, I couldn't confess where I got the injuries from either. From the place I am now, I can say for sure that it wasn't like my mother and father did not know the circumstances and it wasn't like they didn't try to do something about it either. It was this fear of insecurity that led them to not posting a complaint, since if they did, a chain of events would have surely followed, an electric impulse would have gone through the ties connecting different people, leading to what were probably going to be even darker days for my family. That is why, for the sake of having food on our table, for the sake of having a roof under our heads, for us who were able to pull through the hard times and were living a comfortable life, I kept my mouth shut and endured the one-sided fights others had with me. It was in no way a pleasure of giving an open opportunity to other boys to raise their ranks in the street order, but if doing so would grant the people I treasured safety, then there was no going around this, was there? To defeat the red-haired monster, to become the hero who pinned down evil, the role of the villain was something accepted with open arms by the me who knew that, when I came home, my mother would welcome me with a soft smile and would treat my injuries carefully, while my father would comfort and congratulate my on being as tough as a bull. The happiness I had at that little haven was my only light, the only purpose I had. And yet, why? Why did the pain no go away? Why did it continue to hurt? It wasn't my injuries, nor the beating I received. It was something else I could not understand at that time, something I had unconsciously buried the name of. Rather than thinking about what could have been the cause of this pain, my younger version thought that this was a pain due to egoism. Was it proof that I was a monster? An ungrateful being who didn't know the value of things? I, who had a reason to endure, was still sad. That fact made my depression even greater.
Thus I sat there, under the rain that never stopped. Many thoughts continued to form and fade within my mind.'What am I even doing? I am so shameful. I'm a scorn to people's eyes. My parents are worried, I know they are, but I don't move, not an inch. Is this what it means to truly be a monster? A guy who doesn't care about others and simply does as he pleases? I've never dared to do something that I alone wished for. Is sitting here not even allowed? Or am I just a sissy waiting to be saved? Maybe I should really accept it already. No one will come for me. No one will even look at me. A person born with red hair...I so want to cut it off. But it will grow back. Maybe I should just put an end to it after all. I'm a burden. An unnecessary rock in the pile my parents have to carry. I...do not deserve to be part of that loa-'"Why are you standing there?"
a voice suddenly broke the trance I was in.
Looking upwards so suddenly, with my pupil shrunk to the maximum, my eyes stared in disbelief, as if a ghost was right in front of me. A human. A girl with a blue umbrella was right in front of me. Judging by her appearance, she didn't seem older than myself. Her attire consisted of a big dark brown trench coat, reaching all the way down to below her knees. With the brown fringe of her hair casting a shadow along with the umbrella, only her face was clearly visible to me in the darkness of the alleyway. The street light flickered a few times in its usual disgusting ginger colour in the silence that followed her question."Why is a kid like you getting soaked to the bone out here?"
she asked another after not receiving an answer for a long time."You're a kid, too. Why are you here?"
I replied with a question.
Knowing it was very rude to avoid answering when being asked, I still couldn't help but say those words. The sock from having somebody, who wasn't a relative, so close to me was a new experience. Although this girl was at a reasonable distance, the fact that there was someone near me made my insides uneasy. Still holding my hands around m feet, sitting on the wet ground, my body felt heavy for the first time since I had came. It was odd how I was suddenly pulled back into the cruel reality. 'Bothering me like this...If she's here to mock me as well, I'll just ignore her like the rest...'
I had thought at the time."I'm with my dad. He's in the shop next to this alley. I didn't want to go in, since I don't like shopping. Then I saw you and I came over. You don't have an umbrella."
she explained so simply, as if she was talking to a friend of hers."I don't need one."
I told her quietly.
No other words were uttered as a minute passed. Back then, this felt like the longest minute in my life. This person, whom I could not see clearly. What were they thinking? What was their goal? My body that couldn't move, it was like that of a stray dog. I felt even more pitiful, but just gulped it down and waited for impact. But nothing like that followed. Rather, to my absolute surprise, this strange girl went and sat right next to me on the wed dirty ground. Holding her umbrella firmly above us, the bullets stopped and I felt how streams on water were going down my body. It seems I had grown so accustomed to the rain, it hadn't bothered me before. Now it felt uneasy and I shivered as my skin finally felt the cold. "I guess it is cool when you sit like this."
she laughed."You're strange."
I said without even thinking and the moment those words slipped out my mouth, I felt like slapping myself that very instant. Who was I
to tell someone they were strange?"Hehe, you think so? No wonder."
That smile on her face astonished me. That expression and her tone. None of it was filled with pity, nor with sorrow, nor with mockery. They were sincere. I had never met such a person before in my life so it was normal for me to not find any words. What was I even supposed to say? "Still though, a cool guy like you shouldn't stay in the rain for so long. I mean, I understand you boys love having a reputation, but you might get a fever at this rate."
the girl explained, still holding the umbrella above us. "It's not to make popular or anything. And don't say stupid things." "Stupid things?"
the unknown person tilted her head." 'A cool guy like you' you said. That's a stupid thing to say.""Really? I don't see why."
That answer stunned me in place. It was as if lightning had struck me in place. Was she blind? Couldn't she see the reason was right in front of her? No, according to her story, she saw me in the alley. I hadn't made any sounds at all, so she could have only relied on sight to find me. At that very instant, all those emotions, which had built up as thoughts, built up a huge pressure within me. A similar situation would be the moment before an eruption of a volcano. The tension rapidly rising. Temperatures go up. In the end, what is displayed is an amazing blast of smoke and flames, creating a living hell. "You don't see why, you say. Don't toy around with me! I've had enough of it already! You all, if you're going to tease and taunt me, do it the right way! I don't need words of pity or pretty lies! So just get on with it. Laugh already!"
I shouted without even realizing. My temper had changed so suddenly. My fuse had been lit and exploded. It was so exciting to voice these thoughts out, I lost my breath. Thus, I continued wearily, as if I had just ran in a race "Laugh already....at my hair...laugh at the bloody monster that I am...."
Another moment of silence. I had grown tired of this. My head resting on my knees, in the position I was in, I only looked down at the darkness. Eyes closed, I heard as a certain sound was made. She was getting up. Nothing new. She was going to leave, probably because her eyes had deceived her into thinking I was someone normal. Now that her sigh was set right, things were going to continue as normally. However, again to my surprise, there were no drops coming atop my head. My ears clearly told me it was still raining. Looking upwards, I saw that she had stood up and was looking at me directly. With a smile on her face, her hand was holding the umbrella high above us, allowing the light from the near end of the alley to brighten up her face."I don't think your red hair is strange. I think it's amazing, because it makes you unique."
Imagine my surprise to see her eyes. To see eyes the same colour as my hair. Despite feeling like I should have trembled at the sigh, my body remained calm and a feeling of security wrapped itself around me."Come on, lets get some hot chocolate!"
she laughed as she went and pulled my hand, easily getting me up.
Meeting like that under the rain on that starless night, I, who had been alone for so long, finally found a person who was nor afraid. And underneath that dark black sky, as the rain continued to seep itself on the ignorant city, two pieces of red drank hot chocolate under a blue umbrella.