You are a child in a room of locked doors with a key that opens none of them.
In the room there are many things, you know one of them can hurt you, you cannot know which. You stand still. Hoping if you scrunch your eyes, count to ten, you’ll wake up somewhere safe, in your mother’s arms as she whispers, ‘It was a dream, only a dream.’ You do this. But the room is the same and you are running out of time.
Ok then, if he wants you to play, you will. So, you must choose, choose and hope you find the way out. You run to the bookshelf, feel rather than see him move behind you, move closer. You take a book, hold it out in trembling hands. This won’t hurt you. But it won’t save you either. You’ve always been bright for your age, bookish, wise, but you are still a child and nothing you have learnt could have prepared you for this.
Something else then; you stumble to the bed. It seems impossibly far away. Your heart flutters, a moth failing to take flight. He is getting closer. You reach for your teddy, the one you have had since you were born. You press it against your chest. It turns to dust and vanishes. No comfort can be found in this.
You move on.
You know where to find the knife, you have had it hidden for weeks, for this exact moment. You point it at him.
You notice how much your hand is trembling. The room should crumble now, you think, but it doesn’t. You let the knife go. Nothing he can do will ever make you stoop that low; after all, you are the child and he is the monster. It was never any other way.
You’ve lost hope now. You know there is no way you’re leaving this place without being scarred, but then you remember something. You reach into the pocket of your jeans for the chocolate bar you earned at school. You break it in half and offer part to the monster. He takes it and you both eat, looking at each other. Then he tosses the wrapper and reaches for you.
As you shrink in his shadow you realise the truth. It was your kindness that hurt you. Your kindness after all. And as you close your eyes and wait for it to end, you pull your kindness closer. He will not take that from you.
Mia Lofthouse is a 21-year-old writer. She writes both short stories and novels and is currently studying for a Masters degree in Creative Writing. In 2017, she was a finalist in the Wicked Young Writer award and more recently her story, ‘The Road Home’, was published in Personal Bests Journal.