He was theirs. He was the internet’s first, but now that they had him in their hearts, he was theirs. It was as simple as that.

Amelia’s parents were good parents, kind, loving, protective, but not too much. Too much smoothers the good, kills it. Her large house, with its large yard, sat itself most comfortably in the suburbs, barely even suburbs at that point. Outskirts at best. A rural farmland against a backdrop of sprawl. Amelia had to take a bus to school, or get a ride from her own or her friends’ parents. Technically legal for her to walk on her own, but CPS would show up if she got caught. Three strikes and she’d be an orphan.

Julia’s parents weren’t as good as Amelia’s. Objectively. Quantifiably. Their house was not as big. They did not own their house. They shared one minivan between them, and it was old and ugly, and Julia wondered if it had ever been otherwise. Did they even make minivans that weren’t old or ugly? Amelia’s parents had three cars, all new, all shiny, even the one from before Amelia’s parents had been born was new and shiny, somehow. Julia walked to school everyday, and cursed the kids on the bus, and cursed the kids she saw in cars. Spoiled brats, the lot of ’em, ‘cept Amelia.

They probably would have never even met each other, if it weren’t for alphabetical seating in class. Amelia sat behind Julia in home room, and Amelia was easily bored. From small crumpled balls of paper stuck in her hair, to passed notes, to braiding hair and hushed whispers, they became close friends during class. Outside of class, they rarely saw each other.

At home, they stayed in contact on the internet. They shared interest in several forums, as they had discovered, almost indirectly, through regular whispered conversation. One visiting the forums from a wide silver laptop, no thicker than a picture frame, the other from a sharp-cornered lump of beige plastic that resembled a nicotine-stained oscilloscope.

Together, they had come to understand something about the world. Well, Amelia had, at least, and Julia could not argue with the logic. Nothing was real. Not really real. Amelia had explained it, but Julia could only follow so far. Something about living in a simulation, and it being as likely as any other explanation of the universe. Julia had never really thought about it, as it had little to do with ponies or kittens. It wasn’t until Amelia explained that it had everything to do with ponies, that Julia really began to think about it. In a simulation, the ponies had to have been designed down to the smallest detail. Surely whoever spent that much time on them must have loved them at least as much as Julia did.

Amelia did not care for ponies. Too girly. Kittens, though, everyone loves kittens. Amelia liked horses. Horses were for adults, and she was an adult, as far as she was concerned. And unicorns were horses, not ponies, so they were for adults, too.

They found him on the internet. Well, Amelia found him and introduced Julia to him. They both liked him very much. He made people disappear, maybe to a bad place for the older ones, but it was a good place for the younger ones. Amelia was not an adult under these requirements. For once, she was happy to see herself as a child. He protected children from the world, and from their boring lives, and he took the children that needed taking. Sometimes he needed help, too, and they were eager to show their love of him.

He liked the woods. Trees provided cover and protection, and he looked like a tree, in certain ways, so Amelia was sure she knew the perfect spot. The spot was conveniently located in the woods behind her house. Now they just had to find an offering. A sacrifice. A gift to welcome him into their world.