Summary: It's Tom Riddle's seventh birthday, he's bored, and very curious. He knows curiosity can lead you to strange places, but he didn't think it would lead him to this.
Notes: Thanks once again to Sorg, this time for the garden suggestion.
It was Tom Riddle's seventh birthday.
This meant cake, pretending to like the other kids at the orphanage, and them pretending to like him.
They didn't like him, he knew. They thought him too strange, a quiet, thoughtful, child. Being remotely thoughtful was something beyond the other kids. For that matter, it was beyond most adults Tom had encountered.
He knew the entire rest of the world couldn't possibly be this boring, that there had to be some interesting people who did think, now and then. After all, Tom loved books, and those were obviously written by some interesting, thoughtful, people. He wondered if those people felt as alone in the world as he did, and this is how they reached others, finding kindred spirits.
Tom would sometimes lose himself completely in books. He was especially drawn to stories of heroes going on great quests to magical faraway lands. His favorite was about a girl around his age who was utterly bored by her mundane surroundings and found adventure by following a rabbit with a watch, a girl after his own heart. Now, THAT'S what he needed, he thought. Unfortunately, one wasn't likely to have a talking rabbit with a watch turn up to make your day interesting. Still, though, he'd imagine himself accompanying the girl on her adventures. He thought he'd found a genuine friend in the girl in the book.
It was then that he heard a strange voice in his head.
"What would it be like to really lose yourself in a book?" the voice asked. "Could you picture it, actually being in a book?"
Right. He needed to get away from the orphanage, right now, if it was making him hear voices in his head. Despite what he was certain some thought, he wasn't mad.
"Are you sure about that?" the voice asked.
"Very sure," he thought back.
"You're hearing voices in your head, and answering them."
"Only because this place leaves me with only myself for good company."
"You should get out, take a stroll, then."
"I'm about to do just that."
"Following the advice of the voice in your head? And you're not mad?"
"No, I was going to do that, anyway."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes!" And, he was sure. He often wandered when he was bored. And, he was often bored. "I just have to figure out where I want to go. Then, I will"
"Where do you want to go?"
"Anywhere but here."
"Then, it doesn't really matter where you go."
Infuriating. But, there was something familiar about what the voice had told him that he couldn't quite place. That just made it even more infuriating. Nevertheless, he couldn't deny that it was good advice. Of course, this voice in his head had to be some sort of inner monologue, so of course he'd give himself good advice.
"You give yourself good advice, but how often do you follow it?" the voice asked.
Tom sighed, and was certain some fresh air would clear his head.
One wouldn't think there would be interesting places to explore in the part of London the orphanage was in, that is if one didn't allow himself to see things others didn't notice. Tom always saw things others didn't notice. Most would just not really look at what was around them, just walking through their mundane lives, thinking mundane thoughts, as if they wanted their world to be boring. This part of London had little to offer in the exotic, so Tom simply made do. He couldn't get any of the other children to share his fascinations. They just refused to see the possibilities.
For example, some of the older houses in the area. There were some he was certain were somewhat alive, feeling different than others. Tom couldn't understand how most failed to notice this. He never had to be told, beforehand, that some of the older houses were said to be haunted. He could always tell exactly which ones were. He wanted to know the stories these places had to tell.
Some gained his curiosity for a different reason. Some homes had large, locked, gardens. He'd read about these, and wanted to see one, up close. He stood outside the gates of one, really wanting to see what was on the other side.
"Why don't you look and see?" The voice was back.
"It's locked, and forbidden."
"But, you're curious."
"What would Alice do?"
Tom sighed, again, and replied, "Alice would find a way into the garden, and explore. She rarely listened to the good advice she gave herself."
"Oh yes, good advice. Stay with what's familiar, what you know. Don't go exploring strange places. You never know what you might find."
"She just... had to go do it, though, didn't she? But then, we can't all have that sort of spirit. Most resist the call to adventure. It keeps them out of trouble."
"What sort of adventure could I find in a garden, anyway?"
"Who knows?" the voice asked with amusement. "That's what makes it an adventure."
Tom noticed that a mist had risen. This gave him a very strange feeling, and he wondered why.
He looked through the locked gates. He could see part of the garden, but only a small part of it. He then noticed the strangest thing. There seemed to be small lights dancing. He felt like he should know what that meant, but he couldn't think clearly and logically, at the moment. This frightened him.
"Now, there's something you don't see every day," the voice said.
"Maybe I should go back..."
"Yes, maybe you should. Back to where things are safe and oh so boring..."
"This could be dangerous."
"Well, not everyone can hear the call."
"No, but I CAN."
"So, what are you going to do about it?"
He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to do exactly as Alice would. The gate was locked, sure, but it would be a simple matter to climb it and learn the garden's secrets. He wondered why no one ever did that.
"Most wouldn't think of it," the voice said. "Most simply walk by, every day, and THEY don't catch their eye. Most cannot see. Those who can feel pressure not to. It's understandable if you choose to pretend not to see. You'd fit in with normal people, better."
"Yes, they are. But... I understand why you'd want to be like them."
"I do NOT want to be like them."
"They don't have to think about anything other than what's right in front of them. Of course, look at what's right in front of you... But, I suppose you can just pretend you don't see it. You can choose a normal, boring, mundane existence."
Fine, Tom thought. He knew he shouldn't, but... He could never deny what he was seeing. He could to others, but never to himself. He'd always wonder...
What did those normal, boring people matter, anyway?
"Now, THAT'S the spirit," the voice said.
His decision made, he climbed over the gate. It was surprisingly easy.
It was a beautiful garden.
It was also much larger than he thought it could be. There simply didn't seem to be this much room from the outside. It was impossible, yet here it was.
He followed the dancing lights, that seemed to be drawing him to... somewhere. As he drew closer, they became more clear. They looked like... fairies?
But, that was impossible. Fairies only existed in stories.
"Yet, there they are," the voice told him.
As he followed the fairy dance deeper into the garden, he noticed the flowers were much larger than they should be. They also seemed to be... watching him?
"Happy birthday, Tom," the voice said. Tom suddenly realized the voice was coming from outside his head, now. He spun around, to see a cat grinning at him, before it... vanished.
"Oh, bugger..." was all Tom could think to say.