We’d just moved into a new house and my bed was broken. Mum tried planting a new one, but it just wouldn’t grow in my room. The soil was too dry. Over several days it only grew as tall as my knee. I hated the room anyway.
So my mum planted one next to hers, and instantly it sprouted. It grew like a magical beanstalk, the vines twisting and turning as the trunk shot up, higher and higher. It blossomed outward toward the top, green leaves popping open like confetti. Within ten minutes I had a brand new tree ready to make my perch.
I climbed the branches of my very own bristlecone pine, blankets and cushions in hand. They were deep reds and golds and purples and made of plush, rich silks. It was like I had created my very own Arabian fortress atop a tree in the middle of a bedroom. The branches were sparse apart enough that I could spread my blankets out flat between them and sleep comfortably. Here I felt safe.
I awoke to find my parents packing up boxes. “What’s happening?” I called down to them. Mum glared up at me.
“We’re leaving,” dad said without looking at me, throwing his belongings into a suitcase.
“But we’ve only been here a few days,” I protested. “My bed’s only just grown.”
“That’s the problem,” mum growled through gritted teeth. “We’re not spending the rest of our time here sharing a bloody bedroom with you. We need our independence.”
So we moved again, only this time into a mansion occupied by several other people. I brought with me only a handful of possessions, including a single branch from my new bed, potted Groot style.
The mansion, as you’d expect, was huge. It was painted strangely in bright purples and greens amongst the dead trees and dying landscape. A white painted face grinned at us from the centre of the building; the Joker.
Dad knocked loudly on the large oak door, and it instantly swung open. Rain pattered heavily on our hoods and we dashed inside with our belongings. The door shut and locked behind us all by itself. From one of the northernmost rooms I heard a distant cackle.
We walked further into the building, my parents seemingly unfazed by the strange happenings. We walked up the grand staircase in the near darkness. I glanced at the portraits lining the walls. Each man and woman depicted within the paint strokes appeared to be a circus performer. As lightning cracked in the windows beside them, I swore their eyes followed me.
We turned right at the top of the stairs and headed down a dimly lit corridor. It turned sharply left and right in a maze of claustrophobia-inducing dizziness. My parents stopped at the door labelled 121.
“This is your room,” they said, and shoved a suitcase into my hand before continuing down the hallway. I opened my door and looked inside.
The room was pretty small and dismal. There was no room for my bed, nor fertile soil to regrow it. I had an old-fashioned single bed in the corner. I lay on it and tried to settle down for the night.
But the storm kept me awake. That and the ever closer laughter. I could hear it constantly, growing louder and louder. Another lightning crack and I shot upright, refusing to stay in the mansion any longer.
I flung the door open, taking only my twig bed with me. In the hallway the cackle was deafening. I ran. I ran as fast as I could, but found myself deeper into the mansion than before. The door numbers meant nothing; they were in no recognisable order that would help me find my way back to the exit. Even if I got there, would I even be able to open the door?
I looked at the nearest window, picked up the nearest candelabra and threw it with all my might. When it made impact with the window, it simply bounced. When it hit the floor, the candelabra was the only thing to shatter.
The laughter picked up a notch. I heard others join in. I was being mocked. I began running again, clutching my twig to my chest, trying to find respite from the hateful voices.
Eventually I found my way back to the entrance foyer. I sighed in relief and sprinted down the staircase. I didn’t see the man in front of the door, grinning broadly, the source of the laughter. I didn’t see the knife gleaming in his hand, nor the shock of bright green hair framing his chalky white face. I didn’t see the rusted sign reading ‘Arkham’ above his head.
A final flash of lightning illuminated these features, just in time for me to see the knife protruding from my chest.