I am trapped inside of a box. There are no windows or doors, no furniture, there is nothing inside of this box except sight and smell and sound and touch. I am lonely, in the box. The box is hard to get out of, and no objects can get in. Only sight, sound, smell. Only a bright light, an unusual cough, a wet dog, shaking its fur. Every break in the pattern, a pause in the parade, every small thing that is out of place gets inside of the box. Every honking car, every discolored leaf, is amplified times a thousand, and I can hear things a mile away that no one else can–but I can’t tell if it’s one mile away or right in front of my face. Sights, sounds, smells sometimes blur together until I can’t distinguish one from the next. There is no depth perception, in the box. There is only what happens and what doesn’t.

Stuff doesn’t come out of the box very well either. Words are thick and slur together. It’s hard to form sentences, thoughts. Concentration comes harder, but I have to concentrate on things because otherwise I’d never be able to do anything. The box would stop me, so I. Need. To. Concentrate. It helps me beat the box out of my way. The box will never die, but I am going to get out. I’m only nine, after all. Grown-ups are all normal, so I think that by the time I’ve grown up I’ll be out of the box.

Momma tells me the box has a name. She tells me it makes me worse, that I’m not like everyone else. Momma doesn’t like me. Momma’s never told me she loves me, just because I’m different. She tells my brother and sister all the time that she loves them. I wish she would try to listen to me, but when she does I can never get words out. The box isn’t a part of me. If I can concentrate, hard enough, I can beat the box out of my way and show momma that there is a good side to her little boy, too–not just a boy that’s fighting an invisible enemy. But I can’t tell her. The box stops me. I want to make her proud, but it’s hard when I don’t know anything. I’m not smart or strong. I can’t learn because I have trouble seeing and hearing, and if I did learn, how would I tell anyone? The box stops that from happening. The box is my enemy. But I will defeat it.

Some days the box makes me not able to say what I want and no one ever understands me. On those days I just scream. It doesn’t help. I don’t know if anything helps.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get out. Please help me.



My hands shook from cold. The breath I blew froze as soon as it hit the freezing cold air. I sat, frozen, unmoving, hearing my heart pound inside of my chest. Seconds grew, stretched, passed. I squinted through the trees, trying to make something, anything out, but the glare from the snow seemed to blind me. My stomach growled. How much longer? I wondered. Hopefully not too long. I gripped the long, sharp spear that I had made out of a stick and a rock in one hand, a silvery kitchen knife in the other. There. I saw it. A deer, about twenty yards away. Alone. Head up, listening. I held my breath and slowly began to move my spear. In one fluid motion, I threw the spear and jumped down from the tree I was sitting in. I heard a thunk as the spear hit the deer, and I dropped into the snow and rolled, covering my deerskin coat in white powder. I had hit the deer in the chest. It limped, staggered, and I slit its throat with a knife. We were eating tonight!

When I got back from the hunt, cheers erupted. A group of about twenty boys and girls between the ages of eight and thirty gathered around, staring at my prized possession. I grinned.

“I got one.” I said. The cheers erupted again and I smiled. I handed it off to Sophia, a twelve-year-old who pulled her brown hair back and began to gut and carve the deer. Tai, a boy who couldn’t have been past the age of ten, flicked a lighter and started us a nice fire. Our lone thirty-year-old blew the flames, many helped Sophia hack legs off of the deer, trying to get as much useable meat as we could. Everyone pitched in when I made a kill, everyone except for me. I sat at the edge of the campfire while our crew–no, my crew–talked and chatted and gutted a deer. Not the best of lives, but a happy one. I slowly pulled out a rag and cleaned the blood off of my spear, and then began sharpening the spear head with a knife.

“Hey,” I heard, next to me. The newest member of our crew, eighteen-year-old Brett, was walking up to me. Though he was new, he had already proved useful. Before he had been forced to join us, he had been quite the thief. “I wanted to say thank you,” he said, running a hand through his hair. Dark brown, like mine. But that was where the similarities ended and the differences began. Like most of the people in my crew, Brett was older than me–by two years. I don’t know how I got picked as the leader, but it happened. Maybe because I was good at hunting, or because I was reasonable, or maybe because I was so young; easy to manipulate. Only sixteen and leading a group of twenty people, I was bound to need some help. “I didn’t have a lot before… you know, I ran away. And at first, it was hard. I mean living on your own… it’s difficult, and dangerous, and I would’ve died if you hadn’t picked me up. So thank you. Thank you for that.” He sat next to me, a deer hoof in his hand, carving it with a knife. I’m not sure what he intended to use the hoof for, but we tried to salvage everything we could out of every animal we killed–even squirrels and chipmunks.

“You’re welcome,” I said. “Do you mind if I ask… what’s your, like, backstory? Where did you come from?” I was always tentative asking this question, but normally it was something that they actually wanted to talk about.

Brett paused a bit before he spoke. “I think… I think I’m like most of the kids here, you know. My parents weren’t abusive, but they’re alcoholics. They used to fight. They’d be gone for weeks without telling me. When child services was going to pick me up…” Brett shook his head, like he was remembering some terrible things. “I’ve known some people who grew up in orphanages and foster homes, and I didn’t want to be like any of them. So I ran, and you guys found me.”

“If you’re eighteen, why did child services come for you? Aren’t you a technical adult?” I asked.

“Well, when I ran away, I was twelve. I was on my own for a few years–I lived with my aunt for three years in Texas, and then I just kind of got a job and lived in a kind of cardboard box thing. Scrounging, you know. Wasn’t fun.”

I smiled. “Well welcome to the group, Brett. I hear you’ll be quite useful.”

He grinned back. “Thanks.” Then he left. His smile had been so real, so genuine, that I had almost told him the truth. That I was not like him, or the others, that I was not on the run from abusive parents or spouses or child services. I was on the run from my friends, sure. But only because every human being that ever knew me wanted to turn me in to the police.


There isn’t really much to the story, so I’m not sure why I’m telling it. But if you want to know how I got where I was, here it is.

It happened on a Tuesday, while I was working out at the gym like the devastatingly handsome young man that I am. I was eighteen, waiting for something interesting to happen in my life, when they approached me. Two men in black suits who at first I had thought were from Men in Black, but quickly discounted the idea on the fact that I assume that Men in Black does not exist, and aside from that they were wearing gray ties.

“Agent Cooper,” the first agent said, holding out a badge for me to see. “And this is our newest trainee, Agent Miller.” Agent Miller started fumbling around at something inside of his suit, then pulled it out and showed me his badge. He then dropped his badge very professionally and had to stoop over to pick it up. Agent Cooper shook his head.

“Are you William Roberts?” He asked.

“It depends,” I answered, “Are you from Men in Black? Because any scenario in which I get to meet Will Smith–”

“Drop the sarcasm,” Agent Cooper interrupted me with.

“Ah, like your very professional agent Miller!” I said. “Glad to know that y’all are protecting Earth from the aliens.” I rolled my eyes.

“Drop. The. Sarcasm.” Agent Cooper enunciated every single word.

I pretended to fumble with something and then caught it. “Awww, I caught it.” I shrugged and rolled my eyes. “That sucks, doesn’t it?”

Agent Cooper went red in the face, which made me smile. “Mr. Roberts, I’m from the FBI. Your failure to comply can lead to spending a night in jail. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

There was a long pause, somewhere in which I uttered something very vulgar that made Agent Miller jump.

“Fine. What do you want?”

“We would like to offer you this pamphlet,” said Agent Cooper, and then he turned and left.

I threw the pamphlet away later that day.

Long story short, they kept coming up to me and asking me. Again and again. Would you like this job, Mr Roberts? And it was always no, AGENT whomever! And then the day of the job interview came… and I thought sure, why not? It’ll give them a laugh, and me, too.

And that’s how I ended up in that room, looking at a paper that asked me why do you want this job, Will?