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Damien was several hours down a YouTube rabbit hole, skipping from one nonsensical recommendation to the next, his pale blue eyes glazed and barely registering what was in front of him. Truthfully, he just wanted some background noise. It was winter, and as the night came quicker with every passing day, it became harder to ignore his solitude. He would tell himself sometimes that he enjoyed his own company, but he found the constant buzzing of unfamiliar voices from his laptop comforting.

Damien had never found it easy to connect. He lived alone. He ate alone. He worked alone, and most nights, he drank alone, to help him sleep, after an adventure through YouTube’s algorithm, to see if he could find anyone or anything to break up his routine.

That night was different. The autoplay must have read his mind, as it beckoned him into a world he would be lost in for the rest of his life. He had finally found Wonderland. He had found Querida.

She stared out from the screen, a stray curl from her tight ponytail draped across her eyebrow, as she toyed coyly with her bottom lip. As she pulled her finger from her mouth, it was coated in her lip stick, and Damien’s eyes followed it, suddenly awakened by the sight before him.

“I’m on set for my perfume ad!” She was attempting to whisper, but her excitement got the better of her voice. “I can’t wait for you to see the whole thing.” Damien couldn’t wait either.

He stayed awake all night, not noticing the hours snake by as he watched Querida’s life unfold in front of him. His eyes were glued to every second of each make up tutorial, photoshoot and slice of life vlog he could find on her channel. As the sun rose, he blinked back the light peeking through his curtains and made a mental note to call in sick at work. As he wandered to the kitchen, to find something for breakfast, he decided that he wasn’t going to spend the day at work, alone, as always, he was taking the day off, to spend it with Querida.

She flashed in front of his eyes all day, in a variety of ever more adorable poses, as he consumed every second of footage he could find, barely noticing as the sun slipped from the sky back down to be replaced by the moon. He had never felt such joy, such passion or such desperate yearning. His soul ached for a woman he had only just set his eyes upon, and his days soon began to revolve entirely around her.

He awoke at five sharp, several hours before he began work, so that he had time to wait with baited breath for her first tweet every morning. He had to be the first to reply, hoping that she’d notice him. It had worked a few times, he had received many likes, and even the odd reply. Each time, it felt like she was smiling back at him, through the screen of his phone, feeling the same elation he did. He had changed his route to work, favouring the bus over the underground. It took longer, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make, for the sake of being above ground and able to get signal, just in case Querida logged onto social media. It also gave him time to think and fantasise about the way he felt, and how if he could just get the opportunity, he was sure he would find she felt the same.

Damien enjoyed his new routine, even enjoying the mind numbing hours he spent at work, spurred on by the thought of an evening with his beloved, scrolling through photographs, reading articles and interviews, and working on his fan fiction. He enjoyed crafting Querida’s adventures, giving her a slice of the normal life, being loved and adored by him, to take her mind off her hectic celebrity lifestyle, and it was during a lunch break at work, as he was sat in the park, hunched over his notebook that Damien’s life changed forever, and the dreams he scribbled onto paper became closer to being his reality.

“Hello Damien.” His pen slipped as he jumped at the sudden interruption, peering up from his pages, he saw the new intern, Andre. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Damien fumbled with the notebook, desperately trying to stash it into his bag as Andre took a seat on the bench next to him.

“I didn’t know you were a writer.” Damien stared daggers into the ground, but couldn’t help a small smile joining them, still angry at the intrusion, but pleased that someone thought of him that way. “You know, they say there’s power in that.”

“Power?” Damien’s curious eyes met Andre’s, and he edged closer. “What do you mean?” Andre shook his head, running his fingers through his messy brown hair as he leaned back against the planks of the bench. “Come on, tell me!” Andre smiled as Damien grew more desperate, almost nose to nose with him at this point, his curious eyes were now wild and wide.

“It tells her what you want.” Andre whispered, motioning to the open bag. Damien’s eyes followed the indication to the notebook that was still visible. “If you tell her, and you want it bad enough, she’ll give it to you.”

“Who?” Damien was breathless. He didn’t understand entirely, but he understood enough to know what Andre was suggesting, and he knew he had to find out more. “Who is she?”

“Come to my place after work and I’ll show you.” Andre rose as he spoke, lingering for a moment, he looked down at Damien, smiling in a way that unsettled him but made him wonder even more about what it all meant, and if Andre really could help him to grant his greatest wish. “She wants you to be happy, Damien.” Damien couldn’t help but notice that every time Andre spoke, it was as if he was answering the questions in his head. “She sent Querida for you, you just have to ask.” Damien tried to respond but was so muddled in an ocean of confusion and excitement that all he could do was nod and watch Andre walk away.

Don't Be Afraid. Be Free.

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