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  • II.

    Even without a clock in the room, the boy knew hours had passed, and judging by the way his stomach churned, it was near lunchtime. Over the growl of his stomach, the boy heard the roar of an engine. He stood up and hurried for his bed. A crack followed the impact of his knees on the mattress as he propped himself up to stare out of the window.

    A SUV backed along the driveway below and headed down the forested path. In the front seats, his parents looked up only once at his bedroom before they resisted eye contact. His sister, however, pressed her face against the side window and gaze up at the boy’s face with swollen eyes until the SUV was out of sight.

    The boy kept watching even though his family was gone. In the same manner some people waited next to their mailboxes, the boy kept observing the driveway, hoping his family would return.

    After another hour or so, he sunk down on his bed and placed his head back between his knees. As silence began to sweep over the room, there came a faint tintinnabulation from the door. Like a phantom, the butler snuck into the room as though he’d walked right through the wall. By the light peeking in from outside, the boy distinguished a silver platter in the butler’s hands. It was bedazzling, the platter, with detailed silver flowers carved around the edges. Atop of the mirror center was a sandwich and a glass of water.

    The butler placed the platter on top of the dresser and pivoted for the door. On his way out, the boy asked him, “When are they coming back?”

    With crystalline tears frozen at the corner of his eyes, the butler wrinkled his lips but said nothing. As the darkness of early nightfall devoured the world outside one large bite at a time, and as it pocketed the dim lighting of the bedroom, the butler turned away and locked the door shut behind him.

    The boy quivered but did not cry. Instead, he stumbled towards the dresser and ate this meal on the floor, across from the bed. At the last bite of his sandwich, the boy gulped down the water until he saw a smudge at the halfway point. Upon closer examination, he realized it wasn't a smudge at all. No, there was something protruding from the frame of the bed.

    He crawled away from the crumb-covered platter and reached for a loose spring underneath the bed. As it broke away, the edge of the spring sliced his fingertip. While he sucked the blood away from the cut, the boy toyed with the spring until it was straight. With the straightened spring in hand, he headed for the door.

    On his side of the doorknob was a small hole. He remembered how his parents replaced all the locks with this type in case they ever needed to break in. Before Joan was born, the boy had thrown a conniption and locked himself inside the bedroom, or so the story went. His father found a way in by using a Q-tip with a broken off cotton swab. Likewise, the boy slid the straightened spring into the small hole and felt for the lock. A scrape of metal against metal sent chills through the boy’s arms like the aluminum tip of a pencil with a worn eraser. He dropped the spring and shook off the shivers. But he knew all he had to do now was press in the lock.

    He placed the edge of the spring back into the lock and felt around. The metal connected! The boy jumped to his feet and pressed in, when the spring snapped and fell inside the doorknob. Confusion consumed his face as he stared at the lock in disbelief. Even if he discovered another loose piece of metal, the lock was jammed.

    The boy ambled through the darkened room and flicked on a lamp near his bed. His eyes darted over to his small library. At the very least, he could’ve passed the time until his family returned home. Soon enough they’re realize they’d forgotten him, wouldn't they?

    III.

    His lunch arrived early the next day.

    Halfway through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, the boy placed the book to the side and sprinted towards the door in an attempt to sneak out of the room before the butler locked it shut. The plan failed.

    The boy walked over to the platter and snatched his lunch. Today it was macaroni and cheese. There were times when he felt the butler was just emptying out the pantry. He ate his meal one slow bite at a time. Eating became quite a chore after his meals became quick cooks, such as the sandwiches and pasta variations. They always came around the same times too – save this particular meal – and he only ate at lunch and dinnertime. Breakfast must’ve required too much preparation from the butler, or his parents forgot to shop before they took off. When he finished forcing down his meal, the boy left the plate on the floor and returned to his bed, where he continued gazing out of the window on a sinking hope for his family’s return.

    A van pulled into the drive. It certainly wasn’t the SUV his folks left in, but he drew excited nonetheless. Soon enough, he heard footsteps thumping in the foyer two stories below. While his family all had hard steps, he could never hear them from the third floor in such clarity. Maybe it was his folks; maybe it wasn’t. Either way, someone could help him out of the room.

    As he rushed to the door, it slammed open, the hard wood frame slapping him across the feet. No sooner than he regained his balance, the butler bent down and taped a piece of cloth across his mouth. Hesitant at first, the butler grabbed the silver platter and smacked the boy across the head, rendering him unconscious.

    When he awoke, the boy heard the van’s engine start. He tried to scream as the visitors backed down the driveway, but the cloth was sealed tight around his lips. As he pulled the tape and cloth off with one hand, the boy pounded against the window with the other, but the van was gone by then. He sat down and stared at the cloth and the dented silver platter. An idea struck. He brought the plate near the window and angled it until a concentrated beam of light bounced onto the floor. It was something he read. He scooted the cloth in front of the beam’s end and waited until it began to burn. The boy discovered fire. He already knew much of flames, but he created these on his own, without a lighter. With a free foot, he stomped out the cloth and grinned. Fire was ubiquitous, but creating his own was something truly satisfying.
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