I’m an orphan. At least, that’s what I’m told. I don’t remember anything before ending up at the orphanage, and I probably don’t want to.
It wasn’t exactly a good orphanage either. I had no name, so they didn’t bother giving me one. To them I was just a ghost. A shadow in the halls that needed to eat and sleep like everyone else.
But what would be the point in complaining? I settled for living that existence. That was until Mr. Jameson came to the orphanage. He was the kindest man I ever met.
He put on a bit of a show when he first came to the orphanage. ‘I love children,’ he would say. ‘I have dedicated my life to helping children.’ With a guy like that at the orphanage, I didn’t want to be the shadow any more. I wanted to be someone.
Mr. Jameson seemed like he could give me that. So I talked to him. I befriended him. I mean, everyone else did too, but I felt closer to him. And he cared about me.
I still didn’t get a name, though. But I didn’t care. I was noticed.
He was such a good guy that eventually he became the administrator of the orphanage. We were all so happy at that point. But then, after a couple of months, he changed.
He came to wake us up one morning, as he usually did, and ripped off all our covers. Usually he would gently wake us up, give us a few small chores and then leave us to it. That day, though…
He wasn’t himself, that was for sure. He stuck around whilst we got up, and then gave every one of us a long list of jobs for the day. So many jobs it seemed it would take a week to finish them.
And he wouldn’t take his eyes off us. All day, every day, for weeks. We were like goddamn slaves. I didn’t want to be noticed anymore. I wanted to be the ghost. I wanted to be nobody.
So one night I sneaked out of the dormitory.
I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I just wanted to feel like my old self again. Just a shadow in the halls. A shadow that was moving towards Mr. Jameson’s office.
I don’t know why I went there. I could have gone anywhere else in the orphanage, but I went straight for the slave-driver. I don’t know why. I really don’t.
But I’m glad I did.
When I reached his office, he had the light on. It amazed me that he was there, but then again, I’d never seen him leave the orphanage except when he went out to buy food, and even that he was doing less. However…
It was midnight.
From what I understood, no one in the orphanage was meant to be awake at midnight, and that included the administrator. Yet there he was, in his office, wide awake. I could hear him talking to someone. At first I thought he was on the phone, but then I decided to look inside.
He was not alone.
Mr. Jameson was a skinny man, and short, but the man I saw in the office was tall and stocky. This mystery man was standing over Mr. Jameson’s desk, staring down at the skinny administrator.
‘We put you here for a reason, Mr. Jameson. That reason was looking after children that could be vulnerable to attack. And now we hear reports that you have been exploiting them!’ The tall man put a hand to his head and paced for a moment. ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d say that one of them has replaced you.’
Mr. Jameson chuckled, his eyes following the tall man. ‘I may not be as accomplished as the rest of you, but I am pretty much immune to replacement. Trust me. All that I do here strengthens the children.’
‘Strengthens them?’ the tall man cried. ‘One of them died!’
I dropped away from the frosted window in shock and had to try very hard to avoid gasping. One of us had died? I had thought that Matthew, the boy they were likely talking about, had simply been adopted. But…dead?
Fighting hard to calm my nerves, I crawled away from the office. I could still hear the two men arguing, but…I’d rather not remember what they said.
When I returned to the dormitory I slipped into bed and shivered. It wasn’t a particularly cold night, but the argument between the two men, or at least the bits of it I heard, had chilled me to my core.
One of us…had died.