The Stranger and the Secretary
rating: +78+x

"Oh my, hello!" exclaimed the secretary, her wide smile unwavering despite her surprise at the rather abrupt appearance of the stranger now standing before her. He looked very out of place here, his dark grey suit and hat clashing poorly with the colorful backdrop of the office, and his serious expression was definitely out of place. Didn't he know where he was? "What can I do for you, sir?"

"I'd like to take a look at your stock, if you don't mind," replied the stranger, his voice as stern and serious as his face. If the secretary didn't know any better, she would have said this odd man did not want to be here. "I understand you are the people to go to if one is looking for… interesting items."

The secretary practically leaped from her desk in excitement and clapped her hands together. It wasn't often they received visitors, and tours happened even less often than that. "Absolutely! I'd be more than happy to show you around! Follow me, please!" She gestured for the stranger to follow her. The stranger nodded and accompanied the secretary down the hall.

"We are very excited that you are interested in Doctor Wondertainment's products. As you are probably aware, Doctor Wondertainment has created many unique and interesting toys, all of which have come to find loving homes with children around the world. From the humble Super Paper to the grand Amaze-O Diving Tank, Doctor Wondertainment's products are guaranteed to put a smile on a child's face, or your money back!" The secretary laughed at her little "joke" as the stranger remained silent, showing no sign of interest or enthusiasm.

The secretary (who was now feeling rather uncomfortable with her guest) cleared her throat loudly, then asked, "So what sort of toy are you looking for? We have a wide variety of products that can create almost any kind of experience you're looking to give a young one close to you. For instance, if you know a little girl who has always wanted to be a princess, she'd absolutely love a Wondertainment Royal Kingdom Playset, where she can be the princess of her very own kingdom! Or, if you're shopping for a boy who loves exploring, give him a thrill with a Wondertainment Safariventu-"

"I'm not looking for an experience," the stranger interrupted, sounding rather annoyed at the secretary's nonstop sales pitch. "I'm looking for ideas, something that provides answers and set m- the one I'm shopping for on the right path. I don't know if you have anything like that, so if you do not please let me know now so we don't waste any more of each other’s time."

Undeterred by the stranger's rude interruption, the secretary smiled as the pair came to an intersection in the hall. "I think we can accommodate your needs." The secretary looked down each of the three halls, paused, then began briskly walking down the left hall, still eager to hopefully unite this odd man with a toy that put a smile on his face. The hall was lined with plain wooden doors, each leading to a small white room, and a window next to each door to see inside.

The secretary paused, then started again on another sales pitch. "Here we have Doctor Wondertainment's newest line of Little Misters. From its outset, Doctor Wondertainment has striven to bring happiness to children, and the Little Misters series is the most ambitious attempt at doing so. Other products are designed as toys, inanimate things that can be picked up and put down on a whim. While Doctor Wondertainment's are the most whimsical toys in this or any other universe, it's a sad fact that they can't truly fulfill a child's needs in the long term. Companionship, trust, love, agency, acceptance… these are what children need to grow, to succeed and to attain lifetime happiness. This is where the Little Misters come in. Each of our Little Misters are designed to be the best friend of the child they accompany, while remaining fun and exciting. Through this, a child has an ally, someone to help find their path."

The secretary stopped next to a window, and the stranger peered inside. Sitting in the middle of the room was a dark mass of gas that was vaguely humanoid shaped, not moving even to breathe. "For example, this is Mister Miasma, who has the ability to possess any organism, living or otherwise, and make it his own. In doing this, Mister Miasma will always be able to be with his child in any situation," said the secretary. With no feedback coming from the stranger, the duo moved to the next window.

In this room was a man, dressed in all black and wearing face paint to look like a mime. The man appeared to be laughing raucously, pacing energetically from one corner of the room to another. "This is Mister Tears, who is able to make others feel sad with every word he says. While it may sound counterintuitive to make children feel bad, this actually teaches children that it is okay to be sad, and that everyone sheds tears, even adults," said the secretary, hoping that her makeshift explanation was enough to justify this Mister's existence to the stranger. Still getting no response, the secretary moved to the next window.

"And this is Mister Nobody."

The stranger snapped to attention, his interest fully piqued as he peered through the window. In this room sat another man, wearing no clothes but having no reproductive organs to cover up. His skin was pure white and he had no hair on his body. Relieved that she had finally found something that caught the strangers’ attention, the secretary knocked on the door. Mister Nobody stood up from his chair and walked over to the window, allowing the stranger to get a good look at his face. The Mister's expressionless face was as white as the rest of his body, and his eyes had no color to them at all.

"Mister Nobody represents the ultimate friend: one without any previous life whatsoever. When children make friends, it's inevitable that somewhere along the line they make rifts between each other, gaps that are born out of each others differences. These rifts can often break friendships and leave children more alone than ever. Mister Nobody is the answer to this problem: he has no biases, no conflicting issues, no previous life whatsoever to speak of! Everything about him is designed to give him no identity whatsoever. This way, children can create their own identity for him, to mold him and create the perfect friend." The secretary smiled and looked at the stranger eagerly. She could tell this one was a winner. "Tell me; what are your thoughts about Mister Nobody, sir?"

The stranger looked at the secretary, paused, and looked back at Mister Nobody. Though his face held no expression whatsoever, the stranger could see sadness behind the blank eyes, an unknown yearning for that most basic right all living beings should possess. The stranger stared into that emptiness for a long time before responding. "I think this would be a horrible existence."

The secretary cocked her head to the side, confused. "I'm sorry?"

The stranger took a deep breath before continuing. "I think that having no identity whatsoever would be a horrible life to have. Can't you even begin to imagine what that's like? Being only given whatever identity that's assigned to you at any given moment, never truly knowing what it's like to be you, all because someone or something else said that you didn't exist? That would be utter hell! You could wander the world, experience many incredible and amazing things that few others could ever hope to see… and you would still be miserable because in the end you would still know that ultimately you are alone."

Taken aback by this sudden display of emotion, the secretary remained quiet for a moment before responding. Her voice shook as she tried to compose herself. "I- I think you may be overthinking Mister Nobody's situation, sir. After all, the point of Mister Nobody isn't that he doesn't have an identity, it's that he finds his identity. The moment he steps out into the world, he begins his quest to find out who he is, and he is helped by those around him. He won't always be this way, sir. Even if it takes him his entire life, Mister Nobody will find an identity of his own."

The stranger looked at the secretary, this time with a strange look on his face. It was as though the idea of finding one's identity was an alien concept to him. His expression softened slightly, and he grasped the secretary's hand, shaking it. "Thank you very much for your time, however I must be on my way." And with that, the stranger bolted down the hall.

The secretary ran after him, worried this man would get into trouble. "Sir! You must be accompanied at all times during the tour!" Eventually she reached the intersection, but there wasn't anyone down any of the halls. Sighing, the secretary walked back to her desk. If the stranger got into any more trouble now, it wasn't her fault.

Meanwhile, enclosed in his small white room, Mister Nobody sat as patiently as always. Though they didn't know it, he was able to hear every part of the conversation, and the strange man in the trench coat was right. It was lonely, being Mister Nobody. But the conversation sparked a new, foreign feeling in his mind, one he hadn't ever felt before. He didn't even have a name for it, but this feeling made him want to smile, and as he smiled he formed his very first independent thought. He repeated it to himself over and over and as he did the new feeling kept growing and growing. Finally, he spoke the words that inspired such strong feelings within him.

"I will not be a nobody forever."

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