I bet you think you’re smart don’t you? Didn’t I banish you to a corner? Didn’t I open the windows and rise up to feel the sunlight on my face? Didn’t I convince myself that you would never be able to slip out of your cage? Didn’t I invite others to look into the room and see how much I had changed?
And I never stopped to wonder why you were silent. Why your shoulders were never hunched, why your face was never downturned, why you never let your cloak fall to the floor in defeat. I didn’t want to question it. You being locked away was enough for me and that’s all I ever cared about.
That is, until one day I took a deep breath and decided to step outside of the room. You never protested, never called me back. Were you so self-assured that you knew I would come back anyways?
When I stepped out, I smiled as I thought about how proud everyone would be. This was progress!
As my eyes adjusted to the light and I glanced down the hall, I grew confused as I saw it deserted. The dust had coated the walls, and the only sign that anyone had ever been there at all was the fading footsteps that were leading away.
The artificial light was shining bright, but it illuminated nothing. I swallowed hard and took a step forward, calling out softly.
Hoping foolishly that someone would appear, but my voice only echoed back to me. How much time has passed since I had been in that room? How long had I allowed myself to be locked away?
I grew frantic and ran down the hallway, desperately hoping to catch somebody. Anybody.
But there was nobody.
The pale yellow of the walls looked sickly, the hardwood floors scratched through. One hallway led to another, and then another, and I finally skidded to a stop when I found myself in a large area.
My heart lifted as I saw all those I loved standing around. I called their names, and grew confused when none of them turned around. Reaching out, I went to touch my friend’s shoulder but my hand passed right through her.
I pulled my hand back shocked and looked down at it. No, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Walking around so I was standing beside her, I watched as a scene played out in front of us. She had been struggling with the window in her room, and her panicked eyes darted around as she started to feel suffocated. She rushed out of the room and into mine- pleading with me to come help her. I had been sitting on the floor, staring at the cage- trying to solve the puzzle. I paid her no mind and after a few minutes she left, defeat bearing down on her shoulders.
I stepped back horrified as the scene faded. She turned to face me and her eyes were blank, she reached out a hand to me and as I leaned forward to help her, she started to fade. My motions grew frantic as I tried to stop her from leaving, but she ducked her head down and vanished.
Walking among the shadows, I stopped as I saw similar scenes play out with my family, my teachers, even people I had only met briefly. I tried to convince them that I had changed, that I wasn’t that girl anymore. But they all looked right through me. One by one they all faded away until I was left standing in a dusty room.
My head snapped up as I thought about you and I stormed back to my room in a rage. You had vanished the cage and were waiting for me near the window. I screamed at you, I blamed you for all of them leaving but all you did was stand there and smirk at me.
And I finally figured it out.
I thought that by banishing you to the corner I had finally gotten rid of you. That when I locked you in, I was assured that you would never get out. But darkness exists everywhere. You let me believe that I had won because you knew that once I felt assured you couldn’t harm me, I would want to understand why you had chosen me.
You let me analyze you and taunt you and you never reacted because you knew that I was creating the damage myself. That I would become so absorbed that everything else would be secondary.
You knew that I would ruin everything myself, you just had to sit back and watch.
The realization brought me to my knees and I stared at the floor.
You didn’t have to say anything, but I knew your work here was done.
As just as quietly as you came, you left.
And when I lifted my head up again, the lights were on, the door was open, the breeze was blowing…
…And the sun was rising.