Little Kingdom

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. Margot lay on her bed, as always, and gazed out to the world of trees that leaned and pitched crooked and forlorn, often without leaves. She couldn’t remember life before Frank’s care, and when he took her in she was otherwise unwanted, as he put it. Only little snippets of Margot’s origin came from him, and only when he was ready to share. Whether the truth was too painful for his own heart, or that he didn’t want to overwhelm her with details, she didn’t know. When Margot was young she’d beg for tales of her childhood, but even her pleading eyes were met with resistance.

“No matter,” Frank would say. “Come on now.” He would scoop her up under his armpits on his lap and read her fairy tales instead. “The outside can’t hurt us.”

One morning, much older now, they sat together and ate in silence. Margot was almost finished when a loud crash hit the window. She was startled and ran to the noise.

“Margot, don’t!” Frank followed.

By the time Margot made it to the window, a spot of blood on the glass was all that remained. Another crash and she saw it this time, a winged creature, grotesque with sharp features and talons tried to penetrate their fortress. Margot screamed and jumped back at the sight of these beings, willing to die at the slight chance of killing her. She looked to the tree and saw that dozens more waited out in gnarled branches. Margot stared in horror, unaware of Frank’s presence.

“Don’t worry,” Frank said. He put a reassuring hand on the small of her back. “They can’t come in. I’ll protect you, just like I promised.”

Margot never thought she’d be so lucky to be saved by someone as powerful as Frank in these seemingly end-times. The fear of the deformed flying creatures, clearly affected by the gasses outside, exhausted her. She left her plate of food, unable to consume the rest, and retreated to the darkness of the study. The smell of old books and heavy velvet curtains provided just the right amount of security from the cruel and unforgiving world that birthed her. Never knowing her mother — never experiencing what could have been — depressed Margot greatly. At least we have each other, she thought to herself. Surrounded by books of fantasy and heroes, she slowly drifted into a deep sleep on the high-back chair.

It took several weeks before Margot felt brave enough to gaze out into the world again. Frank couldn’t coax her to look at the trees, or the grass, even with the promise that the mutants left.

“They went into hiding,” he said. “Come on, you can leave your room.” Margot shook her head in a resounding no. She wasn’t powerful like him.

“Ugh,” he sighed. “This is all my fault… I should have socialized you better. I should have socialized…me better.” Frank sighed deeply and left Margot to her room. She never saw him give up so easily. For years, Margot watched Frank solve lengthy problems with numbers and letters on a giant board in the study. He was so powerful and well-respected that servants would brave the outside to deliver his food to his front door. Frank was a sorcerer! He made little machines and protected Margot from the monsters outside. Suddenly, a wave of guilt poured over her. She chased after him.

Meow, meow-meow, meooooow! Margot trotted out to find Frank. He was in a chair in front of his window. Frank turned to the desperate cries of his little cat. Margot let him pick her up by his armpits, just like he did when she was small.

“I haven’t heard you talk this much since the day I found you!” Frank made room for them and pushed aside a book, Overcoming Your Agoraphobia.