“Imagine that your standing in the middle of a field,” I tell the children that curl their tiny bodies around me and each other. “The sun is shining on the wheat stalks that wave in the cool breeze, and the hum of crickets sound in your ears. Your dog is walking ahead of you, her whole body swaying as her tail wags, and she is panting loudly in the warm evening. You are heading towards the pond, when all of a sudden…”
I pause, and the kids turn to me, their eyes wide. They were right there with me, walking through the field, away from the terrifying things that were happening in the next room. I continue.
“a huge bang rips through the air! You fall back as a huge shock wave flattens the wheat around you, but before you hit the ground you feel yourself flying forward towards the shimmering circle that has appeared at the center of the wave! You dig your heels into the ground, desperate to get away, but it pulls you harder and faster than you would have thought possible! It sucks you in before you have a chance to break free, and SUDDENLY…everything becomes still in the field. The wheat lies flat on the ground, forming a perfect circle around the spot where you disappeared. After a few moments, the crickets start up their songs again, and the wind blows it cool breeze over the pond.”
I have them now. Their minds are far from the cramped room, the stiff breeze that invades our circle from the broken window, and the shuffling movements of the rats as they ran through the walls. I can hear our parents in the other room. Their voices have quieted, and I cannot make out what they are saying, but the threatening undertones carry easily through the thin walls.
“You find yourself in a dark, stinky hallway. Its walls are made of cut stone, and snakes slither across your feet.”
“Ewwww!!” they all whisper in unison, and tuck themselves even closer into our nest in the twin bed.
“Your dog, Violet, bounds in front of you. You HAVE to stay with her! You run down the hallway, barely able to see where you are going. You run for a LONG time. You are getting so tired, and you want nothing more than to stop, but Violet is almost out of sight. Suddenly, she stops, and you almost run into her! Your breath burns your lungs! You’re tired and scared. Why are you here? What has happened? Violet sniffs the ground, and turns down another hallway. After a few moments, you notice that there is better lighting, and you see steps before you. Violet begins to climb them, and you follow, glad to be leaving the creepy hallway. You climb and climb and climb. Your legs are burning from exhaustion, and your arms feel really heavy. After a long time, you see that there is a curtain before you. Violet ducks under it, and after a moment of hesitation, you follow. You enter a small room with a big fireplace. A fire crackles, and lights up the pale green walls. A pile of soft pillows in front of the fireplace looks so soft and comfortable. You lay down on it, and Violet curls up against you.”
I lower my voice, making it as soothing as possible. As I tell them about the warmth of the room, I see my breath hanging in the air before me. Snoring from the other side of the wall assures me that the kids would be able to get at few hours of sleep before the parents start up their fighting. I hoped that we would be able to get through the night without being drug out into the kitchen to be yelled at and beaten as the parents resume their drunken rage. My story has led the kids to a place far from our miserable existence, and they are on the edge of sleep.
“You pull a fleecy blanket across Violet and your own shoulders, and listen to the fire and Violet’s steady breathing. You yawn, and your eyelids become heavy.”
The youngest kid yawns as I tell this part of the story, and somehow manages to fall asleep mid yawn. By the time Violet has fallen asleep in the story, all of the kids have dozed off. Their faces are smooth, their dreams placing them in a warm room with a beloved pet and a soft blanket. I try not to move under the weight of their small bodies, sharing body warmth, and watching their little faces in the moonlight.