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Chapter 4

Alice Montgomery, 9th February 2001

My den is my haven. With my imagination and material I have created a universe in my room, a tepee of black cotton. Inside mummy has stitched glow in the dark stars. It makes me feel like I am invincible, I am an astronaut. I sleep in here; I live in here, atop my mattress and cushions. The ugly deep pink of the walls stays out; my wonderland stays pure and untouchable. I never have the curtains of my room open; I use a torch as my only light source. I feel the thrill of truly not knowing what is going to happen next in books; I can only read where the light hits. Sometimes I let my little brother explore the world I have built, but he doesn't like the dark. He is a light-lover, like so many people on this planet. Mummy and Daddy worry about me; they say I don't go out enough; they worry about my lack of friends and my contentment at being locked away in the darkness throughout my childhood. They don't understand that the darkness creates a wall, and impenetrable barrier that the real bullies can't breach.

The monsters don't come for me in the night; they wait for me at school, in daylight hours. Instead of those silly children checking under their beds or in their cupboards for demons who don't exist, I peek around corners and into classrooms. My monsters are real; my monsters can tease and hurt me. No anti-beast spray will drive them back - they are always nearby.

I may be odd, independent and shy, but my feelings are just as real as anyone else's. Those vile people at school tease me every day about my fiery curls, about my unnatural eyes which are the colour of soft forest moss, just rained on in the early morning and flecked with golden stardust. They say I'm too clever, too weird, too ugly. When I go up to my wonderland the darkness soothes the ache and the hurt of their sword-sharp words, numbing the feeling of isolation they force upon me, filling the holes they drive through me with peace. Mummy says the lack of sunlight makes my skin even paler than normal, making it milky, making many of my veins visible as they pulse under the surface of my skin. The smattering of freckles dusting my arms are like a delicate trembling dot-to-dot, waiting to be completed to display an intricate pattern. I do not resent my looks, my petite stature, my demure nature. The darkness has to be tamed with patience; a clash of stubborn wild personalities would have the spiritual being roiling like stormy oceans under Poseidon's command to destroy, creating endless amounts of havoc. I have carefully tamed and taught the darkness and in return it has ensured me protection, salvation, solace.

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