I grew up in a small, quiet town called Dureyham. Everybody knew each other, and there was a beautiful forest nearby in which I lived, in a wooden cabin. I lived with my father, my mother had died during labour. I had been forever pained with guilt at the fact that the beginning of my existence was the end of hers. Due to the circumstances, my father and I had a very close relationship.
Ever since I could remember, I had never socialised with the children of my town nor did I possess any desires to. I was shunned by the other children of my village. I have learned now that this was undoubtedly due to my familial situation and in that day and age it was bizarre for a child to grow up with a single parent, let alone a single father. This was perhaps the reason that my father and I lived in the forest rather than I the village itself, partially secluded from the small society. I recall one occasion in which I was approached by a boy of my age, who snorted “My mum says to stay away from you. She says your family ain’t right.”
As a six year old, I was perplexed by this statement and rather confused as to why he had said this, and what he meant. I shrugged it off and continued to skim stones across the playground solitarily.
When I was around the age of seven, a classmate of mine, Sarah Potts, went missing. All I can remember of Sarah is that her almost white, blonde hair was always plaited into long pigtails at either side of her head, and adorned with bright, satin ribbons and she had bright blue eyes. She would often glance at me from her desk in class, whispering to her friends and giggling, before her eyes resided on her pencil and paper, though I was overly familiar with being frowned at. This was an extremely strange occurrence for our quaint, sleepy town. Neighbours spoke to each other on a daily basis, any children playing out would be watched over immediately and parents had no reason to worry about their children playing outside. That was until several days following Sarah’s disappearance, when the frantic search parties had died down and the town came to the morbid conclusion that any hopes in finding the girl were futile.
Communication between villagers broke down. Children were forbidden to play outside now, and a child wouldn’t be seen without a parent by their side. Dureyham became a ghost town. I skipped down the darkening streets alone on my way home, triumphant, as any young child would be, at the fact that I now had the entire town to play in without facing the usual torment I succumbed to from the other children.
Creaking open the wooden door, I walked to the kitchen where my father was dishing up the evening meal. I began to salivate with anticipation and hunger. I hadn’t eaten all day again as the village children, as usual, had stolen my lunch.
“Sit down darling,” smiled Father. I jumped onto a wonky wooden chair, licking my lips.
“They didn’t find Sarah,” I slurped through mouthfuls of beef.
“That poor child,” murmured my father, his brow creasing with empathy. He took a bite of his own food and swallowed, before adding, “Were you tormented by those wicked children today, my dear?”
I shook my head, chewing.
“Good. I suppose the town has grown quiet following the disappearance.” He swallowed his glass of water in three small gulps, taking his dish and cutlery to one side before leaving the room.
Sucking at a piece of gristle caught in my tooth unsuccessfully, I used my little fingers to pry it out. I looked at what lay in my small hand before me; a red snippet of ribbon and a strand of long, blonde hair. I smiled, and continued eating.