Dedicated to Pacthesis, the creator of these beautiful characters
For some reason, Arlo always stuck with me. No matter how many times I played Number Days, I always wondered why he was much more kind to us [Evelyn] than everyone else. Don't get me wrong, he was a completely lovable goofball to everyone, but he was more animated toward the main character. Pac obviously designed him this way, but I wanted to dig deeper. Within my own mind, this is what I pulled out. I know in the main story it's technically a 'new' amusement park, but if it wasn't, this is what it would be like. [Techs, I'm making this Bryce/Evelyn because he's too damn adorbs for his own good.] Enjoy.
The first time he saw her, she was sitting near his tree eating her lunch. Placing his hands against the bark from the inside, he watched her enjoy the sandwich she was biting into with vigor. Cocking his head to the side, the sight made him hungry, and he was just a tree! Well, a tree along with a being in a tree, but it was the same thing right? She looked awfully lonely, just like he was. Reaching out of the bark with a hand, he reached out to try and touch her black ponytail before drawing back. No, he couldn't.
Clenching his hand into a fist, he pulled it back into the tree just as the girl was joined by a woman.
"There you are, Evelyn! And look at you! You started without us!" The elder woman reprimanded the girl before sitting down next to her and placing a kiss on her forehead.
The girl-Evelyn...-giggled and handed an uneaten sandwich to what Arlo assumed to be her mother. "Sorry Mom, but I couldn't wait. I was really hungry after riding the roller coaster. Where's Dad?"
"He went to get us some drinks. Since he forgot to pack them after all." Her mother said, biting into her sandwich with a smile.
Arlo watched the father join them before he reveled in their laughing and carefree nature. Did he have parents? He skittered back from the bark of the tree when the girl stood up and walked over to it. "Mom! Take my picture with this tree! It's so pretty."
Throwing her arms around the tree, Evelyn leaned her cheek against the bark and smiled at her mother. Arlo leaned against the inside of the tree and felt her warmth through it. Closing his eyes, he wondered if this was what it felt like to not be lonely. Finally, when the picture had been taken, the girl drew back away from the tree and helped her parents clean up.
Arlo waved goodbye to the girl as she left Pactheland. She couldn't see him of course, but he could see her. And he would always be on the lookout for the girl who took away his loneliness for just a little while.
Arlo yawned and stretched to himself as another new day dawned within the interesting confines of Pactheland. Blinking lazily, his eyes widened as he took in the form of a girl he knew very well. "Evelyn!" He said to himself, grinning. "How long it's been since I've seen you...I missed you."
The ponytailed girl stopped near the tree and smiled at it gently. "Got some good memories with you, little tree. Mom's gone now, but I still feel her near me like it was yesterday when I'm here. Dad's been sad lately, but I hope coming back here to Pactheland makes him at ease like I am. I never forgot about you, ya know."
She patted the bark of the tree with a hand and sat down next to it. Arlo knelt down in the bark of the tree and tilted his head at her as he listened to her speak.
"Dad's getting the drinks right now, like he did five years ago. It's hard seeing him sad all the time you know, but I have to make him happy. This is the only way I knew how to. If I could give him my happiness, then I would, but that's not possible." She whispered, leaning her head against the bark of the tree. "I feel like I can tell you anything, and yet, you're a tree. A good listener too I must admit."
Evelyn sat up happily when her father returned with the drinks. Arlo could see the lines of sadness marring his face, but he put on a bright smile for his daughter as he sat down on the grass. "Can you feel her here, Dad? Smiling and laughing with us? Taking pictures?"
As if her mother was really there, a gentle wind blew through Evelyn's hair, and a smile graced her face. Closing his eyes, her father breathed in deep. "Amelia." Finally opening his eyes, he gave his daughter a genuine smile. The first Evelyn had seen in a long time. "Thank you, Ev. Now let's go home. I don't think this old man can take any more rides."
Evelyn laughed, a sound that Arlo was liking more and more. "You got it, Dad. You want me to drive us home?"
Both of them took off toward the entrance, Evelyn's father throwing an arm around his daughter and pulling her close. "Not a chance." They both laughed together as Arlo waved goodbye for the second time to a girl who didn't know he existed.
It was another three years before he saw her again. She was more grown up now, something that he always noted whenever she appeared in Pactheland. He could tell her hair was still up in that ponytail as she idly checked her phone. It looked like she was waiting for someone, but he couldn't tell who. Drawing in a breath, he stood tall in his bark home as he used his mind to find others who would be compatible with each other and as his friends.
A boy working in the arcade.
A boy hanging with friends, but looking really bored at the same time.
A rather tall boy alone in the park, marking down notes on something Arlo wasn't sure about.
Finally, a girl with a wide brimmed hat who always kept her head down.
All these people, along with his beloved Evelyn. Yes, they would be great friends forever.
He pulled them all into his world.
He watched them struggle along at first, trying to piece together just what the hell had happened. One boy in particular was always keeping an eye on Evelyn like he was trying to figure something out about her. Arlo's naturally kind nature stopped him from allowing any anger to assault him, but Evelyn was his, wasn't she?
When he finally met her, and she agreed to be friends, Arlo's heart sang. She introduced Arlo to all the members of their 'family', and they welcomed him with open arms. He rode all the rides with them, ate with them, and played games with them. All the while keeping an eye on the overly tall boy. Bryce, he said his name was. One day, he finally broke down.
He knew they would figure it out eventually, but he hoped it wouldn't be so soon. Walking near the entrance to Pactheland, and catching Bryce and Evelyn mid-kiss in the fading sunlight was something that Arlo wasn't able to handle. When they all congregated near Spencer's written on wall, Arlo let the pain in his heart through. The normally happy Pactheland setting turned into an 8-bit horror nightmare.
Evelyn was the one who found him of course, and she demanded the truth. He agreed and told them all about him. How he brought them there because he was lonely and just wanted some people to be with. To his surprise, they didn't hate him at all. His heart filled again with the happiness from his friends, but it was only half full.
Only Evelyn could fill the other half, and she had already given her heart to somebody else. Finally, one by one they expired, until his beloved sweet Evelyn was the last one left. "Congratulations," he said with a sad smile. "You've reached 100 happy points. You deserve each and every one of them, I hope you know that."
"Arlo...I'm going to miss you, you know."
"I'll always see you, Evelyn. Just like you'll always see me. Pactheland will always be waiting." Kneeling down, he kissed his beloved's hand just as she disappeared. Sighing to himself, he covered his face with his hand as he too faded from his Pactheland world.
Reappearing in his tree skin, he watched with a sad smile as Bryce and Evelyn met up again. It was the hardest thing he had ever done, but he had to let her go.
Because he loved her.
"Bryce, what are you doing?" Evelyn asked, feeling around in front of her. "I know we're in Pactheland, but why are we here?"
Chuckling to himself, Bryce kept his hands over Evelyn's eyes. "Because this is where we met. Besides, there's someone I want you to meet."
Leading her in front of the tree, Bryce removed his hands. "Go on and open your eyes now."
Evelyn slowly opened them and there stood her favorite tree in the whole world. "How did you know this tree was special to me, Bryce?"
He blanched. "Wait, you knew already?"
"Knew what?" Evelyn asked, sitting down and resting against the small tree. "I've been visiting this tree since I was twelve. My mother and father were both here with me the first time. When my mother passed away, I convinced my father to come here because it was a place where we all were happy and free. I took away my father's lingering sadness here."
Sitting down next to his girlfriend, Bryce took her hand with a smile. "Do you know what Arlo means?"
"No, what does it mean?" Evelyn asked, straightening up curiously.
"In Spanish, it means 'Barberry tree'."
Arlo tilted his head. "You're too smart for your own good Bryce," he muttered to himself.
"That means that this is..." Evelyn trailed off and smiled at the tree. "Arlo! No wonder you acted like you knew me forever. Because I've been coming here for years and talking to you."
The boy in the tree smiled and placed his hands on the inside bark of the tree. "My powers aren't at full capacity, so I can't talk to you. Nor can you hear me even if I'm just talking to myself. It's great that you know I exist now Evelyn, and I can see how happy you are. I love you, and I've always loved you. I'm glad that you have such a love from Bryce now. I'm glad that I could bring you together."
"We could catch a movie if you want, Evelyn, and be back here to say goodbye to him before the park closes," Bryce said, taking a look at his watch.
"Alright. Take care Arlo."
For the third time, Arlo waved goodbye to the girl who finally knew he existed, and who had stolen his heart.
The next time Evelyn returned to Pactheland, Arlo couldn't believe his eyes. It was certainly her and Bryce, smiling and laughing, but they were followed by two small children. A boy and a girl, both with black and green eyes. He instantly could tell that they were twins.
"Come on Nathan, Amy. Come meet Arlo now."
"Mommy is he gonna come outta the tree?"
"Now now sweetie. Just c'mon and sit down." Approaching someone walking by, Evelyn held up a camera and smiled. "Do you mind taking our picture?"
The stranger took the camera with a grin. "Not at all. Tighten up around that beautiful tree now."
With their six year old children between them, Evelyn and Bryce smiled widely as the flash erupted from the camera. Rising from the ground, Evelyn took the camera back with a nod. "Thank you very much."
"It was my pleasure. Y'all have a nice day now."
"Mommy do I look like how Daddy was dressed when you met?"
Smiling at her son, she knelt down and brushed some hair from his forehead. "Exactly like him. I really can't believe you bought him a sweater vest Bryce."
"They're comfy and it was on sale!"
For the rest of the day, the family rode the rides, but always made sure to come back and visit Arlo. It was like he was a member of their family. With Amy, Evelyn, and Bryce tucked around the tree as people started leaving, Evelyn lifted up Bryce's hand to look at his watch.
"Nathan should be out of the bathroom by now right?"
"OW! Mommy this robot ran over my foot!"
"Tally ho mofos!"
Bryce and Evelyn looked at each other while Amy tugged on her father's arm.
"What's a mofo?"
Evelyn sighed, but inside the tree, Arlo was having a riot fest. "I knew it was a good idea to bring Cashy into my world," he said, slapping his knee. "Man I love that robot."
Standing up and ready to leave, the family stood in front of the tree one more time. Mustering all his strength, Arlo appeared out of his tree and smiled at them.
"Woah, Mommy! That was cool!" Amy exclaimed.
"You don't look like you've aged much," Evelyn said with a smile.
"Well when you're a tree..." Arlo knocked on the wood. "Things like aging don't affect you as much as it would if you were human.
"We've all missed you, ya know," Bryce commented. "Thane comes by every weekend as I'm sure you've seen, and Spencer brings his twin little sisters here almost every week. Lena, well, she's a daredevil when it comes to this place. You know how it was."
"Yeah I remember that. Scariest part of the roller coaster, but man it was a blast!"
"We'll see you later, Arlo. We should probably be getting Nathan and Amy home. Go ahead and say goodbye, kids."
"Bye Mr. Arlo."
"See ya Arlo!"
As the family headed toward the entrance, Arlo waved a fourth, and final time to the girl who he had fallen in love with over the years, and who would always hold his heart.
Your time here will end when your number reaches zero
Arlo wasn't sure how much time had passed this time, but he thought he recognized a girl walking up to his tree. He thought it was Evelyn, until he saw her green as leaves eyes. Gathering his power, he appeared outside of his tree with a smile. "Amy, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I was six when I last saw you Arlo, but mom and dad's story have kept you alive within me and Nathan. It's been twenty years since then, and I'm getting ready to start a family of my own."
"How is your father? Bryce was always interesting to me when we were hanging out in my world." Arlo asked.
"Older now, nearly fifty-five, but he's still got that strange 'crawl under a rock' sense of humor. You might see me and Nathan hanging around with our families, but dad's too old to take the trip out here. And mom..."
Arlo closed his eyes, not wanting to hear whatever the girl had to say. He couldn't imagine Evelyn, his dear sweet Evelyn...
"She's got cancer. They say she has a month left, if that. So most of us are spending all our time at home and trying to make the best of it. I would love to bring her here to Pactheland, to you, one last time, but I don't think she'll survive the journey."
Arlo leaned his head against the bark of the tree, trying to keep his tears at bay. It was to no avail though, for they poured down his face like a waterfall.
"You love her, don't you?"
Arlo's head whipped up, flinging drops of salty water on the ground. "What?"
"I'm a Psychologist, like my dad. He could tell it as well. The way my mother told us how she had been talking to you since she was twelve years old, how you always looked to her instead of anyone else when things were being talked about. You were kinder to her, she always noted, but never pieced it together. In some way, she loved you too."
"You kept her company throughout the years she came here, and you finally revealed yourself to her. But you let her go to be with my father because she had found happiness elsewhere. Giving up your own happiness for another...that is true love. Thank you for bringing my parents together, Arlo."
He smiled at Amy and wiped his tears away. "I'll miss them. I miss seeing all my friends. Thane, Evelyn, Brice, Lena, and even Spencer."
"You'll see their children around you know," Amy said with a smile. "I wouldn't be surprised if you have random people come up to you and ask you if you're Arlo. If that hasn't already happened. Anyway, I have to get back. I'll come visit again sometime."
Heading toward the entrance to the amusement park with her black hair in a ponytail, she turned to look at Arlo once last time. Closing her eyes and smiling at him, Arlo raised his hand in a wave to the girl who looked so much like her mother.
And for a split second, he could see Evelyn in the face of her daughter. With a gentle smile on his face, he slowly faded from view. A month later, on the night of Evelyn's death, a strange lightning storm rocked Pactheland. A bolt of lightning cracked across the sky, hitting the beautiful barberry tree.
As Arlo faded from existence, he could see Evelyn holding out a hand to him.
And he took it. "I'm home."