Closer to Home

Chapter 9

Peter heard Michael first; a strange, melancholy moaning as the man approached the locked closet door.

“Peter?” The voice was so low the boy could barely make out the words, “I’m sorry, Peter.”

The child shielded his eyes and stumbled back as the light of the opening door pierced through the gloom of the closet.

Michael stood in the doorway, his hand outstretched and hopeful, “Please forgive me, Peter. I didn’t mean to loose my temper.”

Peter wanted to scowl, but he was feeling so shaken that he couldn’t keep his eyes from tearing or his lip from trembling.

“Please, Michael… I want to go home. Please, let me go home.”

It was a half-hearted plea, sure to fall on deaf ears. And true enough, the look of near astonishment that appeared on the man’s face made Peter want to weep all the more.

“But Peter… you are home.”

Suddenly turning away and wondering back towards the kitchen, Michael began muttering under his breath and Peter’s anxiety didn’t diminish. He had been right; the man was completely insane.

Mustering the courage, the boy crept out of the confined box-room and followed his captor.

“Michael...” Peter hated how weak and pathetic his own voice sounded. He wished he were as brave as he had thought himself to be. He had battled with blood-thirsty pirates, for heaven’s sake! Why was this adult so terrifying? Because he is completely unpredictable, he answered himself.

Seeing now that the man was bustling about the kitchen, and hadn’t noticed the boy, Peter willed himself to speak more assertively, “Michael.” The man turned and peered at him, “I really am very hungry… For real food.”

Michael looked so disappointed; even sad.

“Then I shall make you something.”

He recommenced ransacking the kitchen cabinets, mumbling to himself as he did so. But it soon became clear that his search was in vain.

Peter slumped into a chair, his eyes downcast, the emptiness of his stomach becoming evermore difficult to ignore.

“Tell you what,” Michael tried to sound cheerful in the hope it would lift the boy’s spirits, “I’ll just nip out to the shops and find us something. It won’t take long.”

The child sniffed and looked up at the man, then gave a weak smile.

Michael sprang into action then, hurrying to get his coat and hat from their place by the front door. He seemed in such haste that Peter began to calculate the possibility of escaping while Michael was out. The windows were boarded, but there was still a chance of finding another way.

As if Peter had been thinking too loudly, Michael suddenly stopped and turned to stare at the boy. Marching back into the kitchen, he grabbed up the rope once more and quickly Peter stood.

“Sit, Peter. I can’t leave you alone unless I tie you up.”

The boy began walking backwards, away from the man, shaking his head slowly.

“Peter, if you don’t make a fuss and promise to be quiet I won’t gag you.”

This made Peter pause. Remembering the vile dish rag in his mouth was enough to comply… but if, by chance, someone did come to the house while Michael was out, they would be sure to hear his cries for help.

Reluctantly, Peter sat himself back on the chair and allowed Michael to bind him to it.

“Do you promise you’ll stay quiet?”

“I promise.”

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