She sits there with her back to the door, locking everyone out and herself in. How many times has she made this promise to herself? You never let them in. It is much safer to keep them out. Look from the window, go out and see them, enjoy the space between them and your door but never, never lead them back to you. To where you are safe. Because once they are inside, how do you get them out?

They follow her through the forest and she runs rampant, zigging this way and that. The brave maneuver over the walls and through the maze, but very rarely do they break through to the clearing where she stays. She watches as most turn back, lost and confused in the dense brush.

Sometimes she hears their voice, their footsteps. Sees them standing inside, smiling at her, talking to her. And she forgets that they aren’t real, that they’re gone. In that moment she smiles that smile that is theirs and watches them flicker and fade from her sight. She’s left alone again in that room, the dust uniformly covering that which she cherishes most and protects. She turns down the lantern and lays down closing her eyes, her heart quieting to a slow beat. In her place where she is safe.