Up in the cracks of the basement ceiling, I can make out the distant noises of the clock counting our stolen childhood away.
There is crying in the dark coming from Tootles, our youngest boy. All nine of us kids are anxious, terrified upon who Smee is going to drag upstairs next. Although it is dark, damp and depressing down here in the basement of Duke Killian’s home, it is much better than what awaits us upstairs.
“It’s ok Tootles, I’m right here.” I whisper with as much forced calmness as I can, my voice barely louder than a mouse. None of us bold enough to speak any louder, wishing not to draw attention from those upstairs.
Wrapping him up in my arms, I say into his greasy dark hair,” That mean Ol’ Captain isn’t going to choose you today.”
“How can you know for sure, Wen?” he asks, with a waiver is his tiny, six-year-old voice. I pet his limp hair out of his face, hoping the action itself with take all his fear away.
“Because it is not your turn yet.”
There are no turns, no set schedule of when those nasty pirates are going to take us upstairs for all sorts of “fun”. Depending on the kid, we all have different experiences going up stairs. Tubby says he is forced to fight rabid animals for sport, we think it is because he is the biggest out of all of us even though he is only eight; he has the body of a thirteen-year-old already.
Slightly and Nibs are the skinniest and smallest of us. They are the most popular with the ladies. Older noble women are the ones that spend most of their money on those two.
The twins and tootles have it the easiest out of all of us. Tootles being the youngest and the twins, Marm and Binky, are used as servers and the frequent punching bag to bored guests.
I glance around the basement, trying to find more support with comforting Tootles. The twins and Cubby are laying in the far-right corner of the room on their makeshift beds of moldy straw, nursing wounds from their last trips upstairs. Slightly is bantering back and forth with Nibs about which of their patrons is the ugliest. I try to spot where either Peter or Shade went, when one of them plops down next to us.
“Hey guys, did any of you spot a fairy in here?” Peter asks excitedly. The oldest out of all of us, he acts as our leader and always knows how to cheer even a grown adult up.
“You know what, I think I have. I believe I saw it flying around Slighty’s and Nibs legs.” I answer back, tapping my chin to come across as if I am in deep thought.
“There’s no such thing as fairies.” Tootles mumbles, clutching himself tighter around my waist.
“No, don’t say that! You must believe or she’ll die!” he gasps in horror.
Eyes widening, Tootles clambers off me and scrambles towards the fairy mumbling apologies frantically. The little fairy slowly starts to calm down, its yellow and green wings pulling into its feathery body. Sitting on top of the post up top, the fairy cocks its head questionably to the side, staring down at the small boy below watching it in return; his face filled with awe.
“Peter, how did you find the fairy?” I stare at him in wonder. I have never seen anything like it in my nine years. I have not seen much of anything really; I couldn’t really remember a life before the basement.
“I felt something fall on my face when I was sleeping last night. I looked up and saw that thing staring me down from the beams up top.”
“Thank you for cheering Tootles up. I’m running out of excuses to be positive.”
Face darkening, “ We shouldn’t be here in the first place,” he looks up the stairs towards the rusted metal door that leads to all of our nightmares, “ I’m going to bust us out of here one day.”
I shake my head, knowing he is going to try to bring this topic up again.
“I’m serious Wen, I am going to break all of us out one day, I’m going to give us good childhoods and I am going to make you a happy wife.”