Charlie Slimecicle hides in holes. Since the kid arrived on his island, there have been a lot more holes to choose from.
Every day, the man in the mask digs another pit. The land is damp and wet and rainy, which is best for Charlie. But he dislikes the biting scent of gunpowder, and the sharp metal scraps that are left strewn along the muddy bottoms.
He wonders why these two make so many holes. They certainly aren’t living in them.
The man takes out his shovel and digs down three meters. “Put your stuff in the hole.”
“No,” says the boy, voice shaking. He clutches a torn, water-damaged photograph in his fist. “I won’t do that.”
“How about you get in the hole, Tommy?”
Sitting in holes is very nice. But the kid isn’t interested. He pulls at his hair and whimpers. His face leaks. Charlie chews on a worm.
It rains again. Charlie turns his face skyward and enjoys the moist weather on his goopy skin. Tommy slingshots into the air with a toss of his trident and hovers there for a moment. “I’m alone,” he stutters, before crashing back to earth. He doesn’t realize that he’s being watched.
Soon the boy digs his own hole, nice and neat, with dry cobblestone flooring. “This is my stuff,” he whispers to himself, sweaty and delirious. “This is mine.” Charlie is proud of him for adapting.
He has never been invited to a party before, and this time is no exception. He waits for hours, until Tommy gives up on his cake and kicks it aside into the sand. Charlie happily absorbs it into his gullet. He wonders why this kid seems so sad and limp. He is Charlie-from-Logstedshire: the sign says, Population One, because he is only a slime-pretending-to-be-a-person, so he doesn’t count.
A zombie attacks him, and Tommy just lets it.
He eats very little. He sleeps very little. He gets up in the middle of the night, dazed, and wanders into the sea.
The man in the mask returns one day. Yells. Breaks things. Makes Tommy sob and beg and plead. He leaves behind the largest hole yet. Tommy mutters something about not needing the nether as he gathers up armloads of rubble. He begins to build a tower. It’s the opposite-of-a-hole, and Charlie is confused. He gathers his courage, and oozes out of hiding.
Tommy freezes, stops climbing. “What the fuck are you?”
“I’m a human man,” offers the disguised slime, “A guy. A dude.”
“Why’re you here?”
“Normal reasons,” he says with slight panic. “What are you making?”
“I--” he sucks in air through his teeth, “I am pillaring up real high, and then I’ll jump off.”
Charlie asks, “why?”
“I’m alone.” He builds a little higher. “Even Dream left, a-and nobody can visit. Not that anyone even wants to visit. Th-they all hate me, and it’s my fault, and I’m so lonely, and I can’t do it anymore.”
“You’ll split in half,” Charlie guesses, “And then there will be two of you.”
“No-o-o.” He gives a wet and shaky laugh. “There will be none of me.”
“Oh,” says the slime softly, “Well.”
“He’s gone,” Tommy slurs, “my only friend.”
Charlie bounces around the base of the tower. “What is a friend?”
“It’s anyone who is around. Who’ll say they care about you. A-anyone who talks to you, and spends time with you, not-out-of-pity, and comes to your parties, and does stuff with you, and steals your shit, and tells you the truth, and doesn’t leave.”
“I could do that,” Charlie realizes. He lights up like a glowstick has cracked inside of him. “I could be a friend.”
Tommy’s face twists into a sad sneer. “You’re not a real person.”
“Yes I am,” he protests, “I have bones.”
“I don’t understand.” He gives a little cough. “Do you feel bad for me or something?”
“Why would I?” It’s very nice here, dank and moist.
Tommy stares down at him, hugging himself tightly. His shirt is torn and dirty. There are leaves matted in his overgrown hair. He looks very young, especially compared to Charlie, who has been adapting to his environment for thousands of years. He knows how people are supposed to speak. He mimics, “how are you?”
Tommy lets out a raucous laugh. “Oh, I’m fucking fantastic.”
“That’s great,” he smiles, hoping he’s showing the right amount of teeth. “Can you get down from there, now, please?”
“Mm.” He dangles his feet over the ledge.
“You said friends don’t leave. Is Dream your friend?”
“Well, he has to be,” Tommy forces out, “or else I’ve got no one.”
“You could have me.” He brings his hands together. They squish. “Please? I’ve never been a friend before. I think I’d like to try.”
“I’m,” the boy swallows, “I guess I’m hard to love.” Still, he gets up, grabs his shovel, starts his slow descent.
“Can I tell you a secret?” says Charlie, leaning in close. “I’m not made of meat like you.”
“That is--” Tommy wheezes, “horrible phrasing.”
“Sorry.” His eyes are wide-adoring-dutiful. “I will try to get better at phrases.” That’s just one of those things, that slimes-who-decide-to-be-people have to take the time to learn.
Tommy nearly reaches the ground and jumps the last few feet, his knees popping on impact. “D’you want my shit? I-I don’t have any armor to give you. I don’t have anything, it’s all gone, but I’ve got a lot of dirt, and one shoe.” He looks meek. “If you want, I could give you that, and, and you could blow it up.”
Charlie frowns, puzzled. “Is that what friends do?”
“...no,” says Tommy, and a funny expression comes over his face, “No, I guess it really isn’t.” He slumps on his palms and twists his fingers into the grass. “Was Dream my friend?”
“He left,” echoes the slime, “he took your things. So, no?”
“Then why was he fucking here all the time?”
“Maybe,” says Charlie, “he just likes to dig holes.”