By Zana Nassah
Once upon a time there was a little princess, followed by a big monster. Some days she wore dungarees, some days she wore dresses, some days she wore blue, some days she wore green. Some days her hair was in pigtails, and some days it was left down, and through it all, her big monster trod on the backs of her scruffy purple shoes. Every time the monster reached out to close its long, clawed fingers around the little girl, she skipped away, jumping into a puddle or climbing up a tree. Her delighted squeals seemed to ward the monster away, like its very own kryptonite. At night, the monster squeezed its huge figure underneath her bed, but bedtime stories and tender embraces allowed the little girl to sleep content and secure in a little bubble, impenetrable to the monster’s gnashing teeth.
* * *
Not long after the days of treehouses and puddles, but long enough for the little girl to feel herself to be big, she started to visit a castle of learning that led to new people. They didn’t protect her from the monster like others had before. When the little girl tried to skip or sing her way out of the monster’s reach, there seemed to always be someone ahead, blocking her path with purple faces contorted into ugly sniggers. Scared, the little girl retreated into the arms of her monster, its grotesque, matted fur seeming plush to her fearful condition and the big shadow its huge figure cast over her, to her was much like the bubble that had kept her safe before. Yet, the monster’s awful rasping breath created a dark grey mist that was suspended around the little girl’s head like a poisonous opaque cloud, sucking the colour from her life.
* * *
One day, the little woman met a little man. When she was with him her grey cloud lifted, and the world was once more in colour. His bubble extended over her and it was a welcome relief from her monster, but when they were apart, the monster clawed at her heart, the only muscle strong enough to push it away. The monster, sensing the weakness of a little woman with no love left for herself, ceased to obey its bounds and stuck to her now always. Sometimes, the little woman would crawl under the bed and curl up with the memories of a time now felt to be long lost, of puddles and treehouses, and on occasion, often only for a moment, she would feel like a little girl again- if only until the weight of the monster lying above her became too much to bare, and she crawled back out to face life.The little man’s bubble was addictive and when she couldn’t be close enough to him to feel it, a part of her was missing. But that can be a dangerous thing for a little woman to feel and an even more dangerous thing for a little man to know, and when she served him her heart she only noticed the little man’s sharp teeth after he had begun to shred it. Soon, through the purple on her body and the tears in her soul she found out that some monsters are so much worse than others. 6 years this monster branded her with bruises until one day she had to leave for a different palace. Shaky and so very nearly broken, the little woman collected her shattered remains and prepared them for reassembly.
* * *
Dazed by the defensive fog of her monster, the woman began to plod on. She sewed herself back together and tried to fix what had been broken, but her world remained firmly out of colour. Once, her finger slipped while cutting vegetables and she accidentally cut herself. For a moment, the joy at feeling something superseded her pain and just in a flash she thought she saw a glimpse of colour, so she set out to find someone to return her colour vision. She found herself someone to talk to and she started to find comfort again and soon she learnt that she didn’t need her monster to keep her safe from little men anymore. She beat back the monster and it began to shrink and become smaller and smaller. Colour slowly returned to the woman’s life in the order it had left; first purple for the bruises, then blue for the puddles and green for the trees and soon they were flooding back into view, never entirely as bright as they once were, but still beautiful. The monster returned to its previous state, always one step behind her, and although sometimes it caught up with her long enough to puncture her bubble, since it was hers, she knew how to fix the hole.