Awake or asleep, I cannot tell. I rise from my bed and get away from the window as stealthily as I can, tripping on the frayed hem of my pyjama bottoms. The black square seems bigger somehow, floor to ceiling, missing its drapes. The window is transformed, by night, into a strange looking-glass. I see the reflection of myself, the interior of my room, but hidden by the familiar is a dark world, waiting for me, on the other side. I am only protected by a thin pane of glass.
Anyone outside can see in, while I can’t see out. I wonder if there’s someone out there, a stranger, looking through the glass. The invisible man waits for me to make my move, before he makes his. We poise, motionless. We are pawns on the black and white squares of a chessboard. I can’t win this game. I’m the only player. I drop to the floor.
Head lower than the window sill, I crawl to the door. I plunge through the darkness, in search of a hiding place, chased by windows. The door betrays me to its counterpart, out of sight of the first black glass square, I am seen by another. The hallway is not as safe as it seemed, but I curl myself up in a corner, as hidden from sight as I can possibly be.
I hear the clang of a metal dustbin lid hit the concrete outside, the murderous screams of a fox lost and afraid, somewhere in the darkness. This is the dangerous lullaby of a latch-key kid, the familiar sounds of the unfamiliar that feed my imagination.
I drift in and out of nightmares, trying to decide which I prefer, sleep or wake, sleep or wake. I know the dark corners of my mind like I know the hiding places of these rooms, but they are so very dark, so filled with fear, that visiting them doesn’t comfort me. I hug my knees to my chest, reach for my bear. I make a wish. I wish that, for once, mum would come home early.