"Sebastian? What are you doing out this early in the morning?"

Good lord, that voice. How a sound can manage to be that hollow, that haunting, but so warm at the same time—as if my own mother died and came back to lecture me, I swear. I didn't know how to answer her. Knowing her, she would've just wormed her way into my head and figured it out anyway.

"I couldn't sleep," I mumbled back.

I got a fairly good glance at her by the time I thought to look away—she hovered in midair with her knees pulled up to her chest, her orbs scattered among the grass around me and down the other side of the hill. The Guardian seemed fainter than she did in the dream that night—what for, I'm not sure. Something something mind over matter, I guess.

She drifted to my side, copying my blank stare out over town and over all the blackened windows and old, ornate porch lamps littering the view. My eyes were fixed on Cat's house, or at least, what I thought she said was her house. She was probably long asleep by now, her and all the other loonies in this town. Can't say I wasn't jealous.

"Is something the matter?"

"...Why do you care?"

She turned to me and gave a slight, "reassuring" smile. "I care about your well-being too, Sebastian. I merely do what I have to in order to maintain peace."

"You tell yourself that."

The smile faded. "Oh, come now. What good would bullying you alone even do?"

"Oh, you seemed so...sure of it at the time." Every time I glared off to the side, I found the giant eyes gazing back at me shifting in color—deep purple edged blue from acid green, never with pupils. Six billion hapless souls on this godforsaken planet, and the righteous space alien chose me over them all. "I'm here for two months, and that's my housewarming gift, that's how much you care about me. I have a panic attack in my sleep, and then you force me to humiliate myself in front of a little kid. That's how much you care about me. Leave me alone."

Whatever she was after, she didn't spare much compassion in the process. "...You've really learned nothing, haven't you? Do you think I do that to everyone? Do you not understand why I manipulated your dream in the first place?"

I rubbed at my arms and sniffled. "Yes, I heard you the first time. Be nicer to people. "Don't berate them, have some patience, have some empathy." I get it, I'm a lowly sinner. You don't think you went a little overboard? How I might feel...a little persecuted?"

"Maybe so. ...For what it's worth," she continued, her demeanor softening, "you've been far better about it lately. Especially to that Catherine girl."

"Oh, thank you. What do you know about her?"

The Guardian leaned back in her invisible cushion, unfurling slightly. "Quiet, lonely girl. Peaceful. Likes cocoa."

"And you're gonna use her in your little game too, right?"

The Guardian only shook her head. "I have no need to. You're already good friends."

"Yeah, I don't know about that."

"...Well, aren't you good friends with her?"

I should've taken the slow glow back to green eyes as a sign that she could tell something was wrong. I don't know, were we friends? Was she not just being nice to me? Would she not have rambled about her documentaries and postcards to anyone else?

I slumped into my lap, looking away again. "She probably has other friends—online or something, and we've only talked, like, twice, and I'm sure she was just being polite because she's—well, polite."

"...I think she's fond of you, Sebastian."

Gah. Somehow, her encouragement stabbed more than her nagging. Every time I imagined it, the thought stressed me out. Why me?

"...How old are you anyway?"

"Ooh, gosh." The Guardian looked out among the stars, deep in thought. "...4,500 years? I suppose it depends on the calendar system too..."

"How do you do it?" My mind started to go blank—I wasn't sure what I was asking. I mean, I kinda was, but I regretted asking it the moment I opened my mouth. "You've seen how many people in that time, and they're all gone. And I bet some of them never liked you in the first place. Why do it? Why not just get jaded?"

"I wouldn't say they're all gone," she explained, quiet reflection dampening her tone. "The children carry on their parents' legacy through their fond memories and their morals, and they pass that onto their children. Homes can stay in a family for five, six generations."

"I'm talking about you. You stay here for millennia and watch person after person die, leave, vanish. It should all be a waste of time to you. Why do you bother?"

The Guardian stopped and shifted, reaching for another explanation. "Mortals always get caught up on the end...you see the weight of connection, Sebastian. You see the joy it brings. I see you crave it. So why is your reaction to avoid it rather than to embrace it?"

I chose to ignore it. I was too busy nursing a tinfoil ball in my stomach.

"Why does the pain matter more to you than the happiness?"

"I don't know."

I left without saying much else that morning. Sunrise wasn't far off. I could see it in the sky, the stars growing clouded and fading in the sunlight. I'd stayed up the whole damn night and I didn't even notice.

I think, even in my conscious mind, I knew the answer, but I didn't like it. She likes me. She wants to be friends. I don't know why. I'm not charming or personable or friendly or attractive or social or—anything. I'm not built for this. I just scream and burn out and hide all the time. Is it because we're both armadillos? Is it the computers? Do I look smart or something? Responsible? Does she want something from me?

Overthinking it again. Scared.

I like her too.