This is a work of fiction, a short story of 980 words.
Emily couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been scared. Her earliest memory was of being scared to go to sleep at night, terrified of what might happen. Unable to sleep without a light on, and constantly listening to those creaks and clicks coming from a house resting for the night. Dad would come in when she screamed, and patiently explain it was just water moving through pipes, or heating radiators cooling down. But she never believed him.
Going outside was even scarier than staying in though. People walked past with dogs that might bite her, and crossing the street was a waking nightmare, trying to get through the gaps in the traffic. Emily could imagine herself under one of those cars or buses, run down without hesitation. Even playing in the garden was scary. Things buzzed around, things that could bite you, or sting you. Plants could hurt you too, if you weren’t careful. Best to not touch any of them, better still to stay inside.
Once school started, she became hysterical. Unable to stop thinking of what might happen, Being hit by other children, falling off ropes or slides in the play ground, or having to use the same disgusting toilets as so many others. It was loud and noisy too, and at break time, everyone would rush around, bumping into you. Best not to be there, Emily decided. So she screamed and screamed until they sent for her parents. They couldn’t calm her down, and she was taken home. The next day, she refused to get ready to go, and screamed and screamed until mum started crying, and dad left for work with a worried look on his face.
They took her to see a doctor, and that doctor arranged for her to see a different one. That one sent her into a hospital for tests, and to talk to a woman in a room full of toys. When they told Emily she had to stay in the hospital, she screamed and screamed until mum gave in, and took her home. That night, she refused to go to bed until mum gave in again, and said she could sleep with her. Dad slept on the sofa, but he kept looking at her strangely. After that, mum tried to teach her at home. She bought books and paper, telling Emily about the alphabet, numbers, and animals. As long as she was inside, and sleeping with mum, Emily was calm. She knew dad wasn’t happy, but so what.
Mum cut her hair, and sent off for clothes that arrived in the post. Most of the time, Emily stayed in her pyjamas, and when mum said she needed a bath, she insisted it was done in shallow water. You could slip in a bath, she knew that. Might even drown. Dad stopped reading to her at night, or talking to both of them much at all. He ate his dinner when he got home from work, and stared at the TV until they went to bed, before making up his own bed on the sofa. He looked tired and grumpy, but Emily would cling to mum, and he left her alone. One day, he was gone. Mum cried a lot, but just said he wouldn’t be back. Emily felt sad for mum, but pleased that he would no longer be staring at her.
People came to the house, to talk to mum. Emily refused to go to another room, but she didn’t really understand what they wanted. They gave off funny sweet smells, and talked loudly. Stuff about school, doctors, and money. Mum said they had enough money, because grandpa had died and left them a lot. All the voices got louder, so Emily screamed and screamed, until mum told them to leave.
When mum started to feel ill, a different doctor came to the house. Mum said that she would have to go away for a while, and some nice people would look after her instead. Emily screamed and screamed, but this time, it didn’t work. Two women took her out to a car, and then drove her to a place with lots of rooms, a place where many other children lived. Emily told them she wasn’t staying there, and wanted to go home. But when she screamed and screamed, they took no notice, and she was shut in a room. A nasty woman told her that she was old enough to know better, and that she should have learned how to behave by now. They gave her grown-up clothes to wear, and big hard shoes too. When she wouldn’t put them on, they dressed her in them instead, ignoring the struggles and screams.
Emily looked out through the closed window. Never opened, in case something or someone came through it. She had been there a long time now, but no idea just how long. They let her eat in the room, and had long ago stopped insisting that she sit with the others in recreation. She had made sure to just scream and scream whenever they did that. She thought about mum and dad sometimes, but couldn’t remember what they looked like. None of the women there bothered her anymore. As long as she ate something, used the shower, and took her medicine, they left her alone. She ran her ragged fingernails through her hair, which was now long enough for her to sit on. She wasn’t about to let anyone near her with scissors, as they couldn’t be trusted.
The sun was setting, and it would soon be dark. Emily walked across to the switch near the door, and flicked it on, flooding the room with light from the twin tubes on the ceiling. She would sit up as long as possible, until tiredness won.
Just a quick check under the bed, then time to rest.