by Dean Hochman
It’s been four years now, or so, and I haven’t stepped outside of this room since birth. Not even once. The seasons never change and I can’t help but believe that I had these exact same thoughts around this time every year. I don’t mind the weather at all, but the consistency of the same thing over, and over with no end in sight, perhaps, I might be losing my ability to reason. Sometimes I feel like I should just blurt out my problems, that I am not the child I appear to be in this body and so that some sort of progress can be made.
Alice, I wonder what she would say if I unexpectedly told her something inappropriate to who am. Something that would make her believe I was a different person entirely. I sit on my desk chair thinking that. Alice sits next to me.
“Try this one,” said Alice, pointing to a word problem she had written down a moment ago. She’s been teaching me since the beginning of last year nothing but math and language. She would let me draw with paint on a canvas suitable for my size. That’s the only other thing she allows me to do, and it is probably the one activity that has kept me from completely letting escape words that should not reach her ears. I look down at the problem. She reads it out loud, carefully moving her finger from word to word as she pronounces it. It’s in English, so it is by no means difficult for me to read or understand as she speaks it. This problem in particular was about how many apples I had left after picking ten of them from a tree and giving four away, as she explains it. The answer obviously being six.
“Good,” she said. It’s not meaningless to ‘learn’ this all over again. As long as Alice knows that there is an extension to my vocabulary and my cognitive skills, anything really, should prove beneficial for myself in the long run. I have to be careful not to pass the threshold of my understanding within this body. If there is a word I’ve never heard before in this new life, then I am not allowed to use it, at least not yet. Nevertheless, it is boring and I can’t help but place my head against the table, facing a door that is not more than a few dozen feet away.
“Sit straight, just one more,” she reminds me, taping her ruler on my head gently to have me pay her complete attention. After finishing the last problem with not even an once of trouble, even after the hundred we went over in the past few hours, she lets me have a break. We’ve only just begun touching the basics of mathematics, before we got there it was strictly language so there is still a long line of things for me to re-learn. In the meantime, Alice begins reading her book, something about “shortening order alternatives” as the cover implies. It’s one of those very old styled books and doesn’t even have a number on the back. I stare at her, making sure she notices my gaze or feels my eyes looking in her direction until she finally looks to me and away from her book.
“I want to play outside,” I said in a demanding tone, but quickly turned down with a sudden “No.” I ask why.
“Because,” she said, putting her book down and looking straight down to me from the difference in height as she sits. “You need to be patient,” she continued, avoiding the question all together. The only thing I want is to outside of this room in the safety of my own home, is that too much? The door opens just rarely, mostly when Lehvie visits. She’s seven years old now. Aside from her, Nes is eleven. I think. Aside from that, the hallway outside is definitely different from what is inside this room. And every time the door is opened, there is a bright thin line from the crevice of the door. The door itself opens so that the back faces me and then the large frame covers whoever enters. That’s all I have been able to see as far as I can tell from the inside of my room which amounts to almost nothing. Lehvie was four when she first came to visit, clearly, she still moves around from somewhere and into this room, so… why can’t I?
The very small information I’ve gathered of any importance is that the country is called Taliqa. It would be considered in the list countries I don’t personally know and perhaps have fooled myself into thinking it really is a country.
I keep thinking almost daily about what is out there. I once tried having Alice play into my trap. I was to leave the room while she slept. I waited for her while I pretended to have fallen asleep one night. It was that simple of a plan, but this woman. She never sleeps. I have never seen her close her eyes for longer than two seconds, nothing vaguely close to being asleep. I tried making a run for the door not too long ago, but because of my short stubby legs, I could only get so far. The closest I was to making it out was touching the door knob and turning it all the way. It’s also the one piece of steel in this room. I almost crave touching it sometimes. Alice had me in her arms and all I had to do was push just a little bit and everything outside would have been for my eyes to see freely. She’s been cautious ever since while still offering me some sort of ‘freedom.’ She knows very well that I want out.
Alice hands me a cup of water, probably to calm me down. I thank her. I stare at the front door, and the window, too. And just like the walls of this room, the sky that can be seen from my window… there’s really no difference. No rain, no snow, no birds chirping, no crickets or insects buzzing. It’s deafening. It is just something to look at. And then there’s the moon. It was the first time I really looked at it, I mean really, the small details and scars that it has. I could only look at it for a few minutes until it was out of view from where I was on my bed… but I looked at it long enough. I didn’t care enough of for it the first two years and even when I saw it I ignored unconsciously just like I did when I was in my real body. It’s always there, shining its light to us and brightening the night especially on full moons. But like I said, I really looked at it. It was just a few months ago. I stopped looking outside the window after that. It’s probably also why I’ve been more forceful in my behavior.
“Alice,” I call to her attention.
“Yes?” She answers, keeping her eyes glued to her book. It seems a bit rude for her to not even look at me, but from the constant ‘bothers’ I’ve done to her lately, she might just become agitated.
“Can I go outside?”
“No,” she said immediately. I take a good long sip of water from my cup.
“Can I got out tomorrow?”
“Hmng,” she said. “No.”
“Alice,” I call to her once more. She moves hers stare from the book to me.
“Hmm? What is it?”
“Will I be here forever?” I ask with a halfhearted smile and she closes her book. After a long pause she answers.
“I’ll be with you, to protect you for as long as I live,” she replies. I drop my cup and she proceeds to pick it up. It was empty now since there wasn’t much in it in the first place.
“Do you want me to call for Levi?” She asks, knowing that I don’t intend to give up
“Perhaps your mother?” I understand why she kept avoiding the question. I even understand that what reflects in her eyes is just a little kid to her. It’s irritating, yes, but I don’t understand why I need to be kept inside every minute of the day here. Asking won’t help. So many of my questions can be answered if just step outside this room, and even better if I get outside and let my toes touch the ground instead of the stone that’s hard to the touch. It’s not as if there is something out there so dangerous that I’ll certainly die. I wait a while before continuing.
“I’m thirsty,” I tell her, and instead of water I ask for juice. Se obliges. She will take roughly twenty seconds to do the task. The container lays close to the door, so it would be meaningless if I had to run past Alice. I’d just get caught for the hundredth time. Thankfully the window is open. I wasn’t tall enough before that I always needed Alice to help me sit down on the tall chair but I’m certain I can climb it. From the table and out the window. It’s a good spot for the table since the light brights it nicely. When Alice heads to bring me what I asked for I begin.
I’m close by the chair and wait for her to pick up the container. Without taking my eyes away from her I climb. Next is to move on top of the table. Easy enough with the chair acting as a stair to the table. The window now right behind me. All I have to do is look back, but I have to be careful. Whatever floor we are on, even from the second, and with this body, I might just die from a little slip before I get the chance to enjoy whatever is out there and below me. Since the window never lets me see the horizon, it really is just nothing but the sky. I slide my feet backwards to the open window. Now standing on the narrow ledge that leads outside. My heart beats quicker with both excitement and uneasiness. I turn my head slowly and can almost see from the very corners of my eyes lush greenery. Suddenly, I hear a cup and container falling to the ground and footsteps right after running toward me.
“Stop!” I yelled,” Stop or I jump.” It was the first my words really made a difference to her. I can’t blame her for not taking me too seriously all the time. She might have if I were just a little older. And again, she finally listens. No, that would be wrong. She is moving, slowly enough that it wouldn’t be noticed easily. I answered her by putting my leg out the window. She stops completely this time and she is now only a good few feet away from me. Now all I need to do is look back. I make sure to do so for fractions of a second, immediately looking back to Alice. At least, that was the plan. I can’t help but move my eyes and look at everything that isn’t the sky. My heartbeat rose higher, faster and faster. My breathing became heavier and I started sweating despite the nice breeze that was flowing inside the room.
What I saw… I might have known all along. There is a castle appropriately sized for whatever monarch rules the lands. Small villages surround it, distantly, and a river cuts through the middle of the land. My house was a castle, too. Smaller, and I can tell that I would surely die if I were to slip. It’s maybe twenty of fifteen stories high. I chose to believe that the view from this high must be we are on top of a mountain. I always thought that the clouds above us moved faster than normal, but that wasn’t the case. We are simply moving ourselves. The whole castle through the clouds. It is unlike their stillness that we always believe them to be from moving slow miles away up in the sky. We would have to stare at it to really see the clouds moving. Still, I’m glad that I amble to confirm it for myself. I can hear Alice dragging her foot faintly, making her way to me.
Since I was reborn into this world, what’s stopping me from being reborn elsewhere? Maybe I can be reborn back in my world? After all, being here means that I won’t return to the only family I have. If I jump, I’ll certainly hit the ground fast enough that it will be painless. I can feel Alice’s presence creeping in from behind. It only lasted a second to look at her and decide for myself.
So I jumped.
I felt her hand grabbing the cloth of my shirt and it slips through her fingers as I fall. Her screaming out my name was barely audible. Too loud was the wind being made during my fall for me to hear it. The name she called for, the one given to me by my mother, what was it again?
…Oh… that’s right, it’s Liel.