Weirdo, they called him. Well, among other things anyway. They had a lot of names for him - none of them terribly pleasant. He wondered where they came from, all these names. They jumped out of nowhere and flung themselves at him, squeaking and yowling and demanding attention. He must have had something they liked. Or, perhaps, something they didn't.
See, there was one now, whizzing through the air and crashing into his face like a gnat on a car windscreen. He stopped and looked around, arching one pale eyebrow as the owner of the voice approaches him.
"You ignoring me, loser?"
Loser? That was a new one. He hadn't had that name before, although he'd heard it often enough. Perhaps it had got bored and come over to join all the other names that followed him around, so it could have some company. He sighed and turned around so he faced the speaker, keeping his face impassive.
"What's the matter? Can't you hear me with those huge pointy ears of yours, elfie?"
Soft laughter rises from somewhere nearby. Oh, so it brought others? Funny how they never really turned up on their own, these name-bringers. Maybe they needed more of them to bring more names? He always seemed to get more of them when the crowd was bigger.
"Can I help you?" he asked placidly.
The voice laughed. "Can I help you?" it mimicked, warping his words and sending them back to him coated in thick, syrupy sarcasm. "Listen to you, you sound even freakier than you look!"
"Do I?" He arched one snow-white eyebrow in surprise. He hadn't been aware of that before. He only knew that he sounded like himself, not that it was any different to anyone else.
"You're all wrong." says the voice. "You talk wrong, you look wrong, you dress wrong. You're just ... wrong."
Hurt. Hurt flew out and smacked him in the face and raked at his cheeks with its sharp claws. This word wasn't like the others. This one didn't just join the others, harmless as water running off his face. This one dug itself into him, tore at him, hurt him. Wrong? How could he be wrong? He wasn't any different from them ... was he?
More words follow, a huge rushing torrent of them, but they all brush past him, unnoticed. In the end the voices give up their taunting and he walks off shakily, his mind in pieces. That one word chases him around and around inside his head. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. What did they mean? He wasn't wrong, he was just like them! He just looked a little different. Just because he didn't wear thick leather jackets or saggy beanie hats, or pull his boxers up so they stuck out above his trousers or wear a cheap gold dollar sign around his neck on a gold chain. Just because he didn't shave his head and dye the tortured stumps white with burning peroxide, or ride around the neighbourhood on Saturday nights and throw bottles through the windows of local shops.
A small whimper slips between his lips as he reaches the base of a tall tree. The leaves whisper and rustle to him, offering comfort in their small, soft voices. But today not even they can help him. He finds the knotty nook just above his head and feels the touch of cold steel beneath his fingers. He draws the knife down and looks into its mirror-smooth surface. The word falls silent at a hiss from the cold steel, as if it knows what's coming. The hurt retreats into the back of his head like a rat back to its hole. He smiles slightly as he strokes the blade, its cruel curved blade lending him a sort of icy comfort.
The hurt makes him different from the rest of them. But he doesn't want to be different. So he'll make them hurt too.
Then he won't be a weirdo any more.