The Boy never got sick. Not once in his life. Until he did. Until that spider. Suddenly he was the latest media sensation, the new Boy in the Bubble. Sheltered and studied to understand what decimated his immune system. Inhaling the simplest microbe or dust could start a chain reaction. The common cold would kill him.
At first, he was outfitted with a protective suit. He liked it because it made him look like a NASA astronaut. A big round helmet, pressure relief valves and plastic tubes feeding him pure oxygen. He liked to draw, spirals and circles and squiggly lines. But the gloves for his hands were like over-sized mittens and he could barely grip a crayon.
How long would the doctors keep him here? How long did he have to exist in this sheltered cube? All he wanted to do was run outside and play with his dog.
Dad came to visit today. Good news! He had been misdiagnosed. His immune system was more resilient than they had feared. He was out of immediate danger.
He wouldn’t have to wear the spacesuit anymore. Now he could play inside the cube – his new bedroom! He could draw without the fat gloves and brush his own teeth.
How much longer before he could go home? They weren’t sure. Just a few more tests.
They kept taking his cells, the ones called “stem cells” from his hip bone. He could feel it, even when they put him to sleep. It felt weird. But he healed quickly and now it was an everyday part of his routine.
There’s something special about his stem cells, only he’s not sure in a good way. He thinks maybe instead of helping people – and that’s what dad said he was here to do – it’s killing everything it touches, making other cells sick. Making them implode.
He thinks they’re afraid of him now. The doctors won’t come inside his room. No one comes in to play with him anymore. He hasn’t seen his dad in a long time. Did they forget about him here?
A bright yellow tin cube sat in the middle of the floor. It had a hand crank, like a Jack-in-the-box. Was it a Jack-in-the-box? The Boy approached it, toed it gingerly with his foot. It was so light that it tipped over to another one of its sides.
This side had block letters on it. He was not old enough to really read, but he did know the alphabet and how to write his name. He recited the letters. M-K-C-H-I-C-K-W-I-T. These letters did not spell his name.
He picked it up. Shook it. Nothing rattled inside. It felt empty. Dare he turn the crank? What might pop out? What if it was another big, scary spider?
Curiosity killed the cat. He turned the crank once. Twice. On the third turn, the top popped open and viscous yellow smoke began to fill his own cube. It did not smell like something that he should be breathing in, but what choice did he have? The gas filled his lungs. Irritated his eyes. Irritated him.
He looked inside the tin, nothing there but that yellow stuff, and now its empty.
They thought the gas had no effect on The Boy. He remained healthy. Strong. Doctors were both excited by this, but also afraid. He could tell from the tenor of their voices. They kept telling him that he was perfectly healthy. Maybe even healthier than he had ever been in his life. Invincible. Like Superman!
But they still wouldn’t let him go outside to play. This made him very mad. He began to cry. He threw a fit, a tantrum. No one considered that this might be a side effect of the gas. They sedated him and tucked him in bed.
They told him to use his words. What would make him feel better?
He wanted to destroy things, he told Them.
And so, that’s what They let him do.
An orderly entered but now he was the one dressed in a spacesuit, while the boy lay in bed in pyjamas, sulking. The orderly towed in three large, brightly colored water balloons on stands – RED, BLUE, PURPLE.
The boy was told to focus his rage onto the balloons, resting at the foot of his bed.
And so he did. The balloons reminded him of the Bibble Tiggles. When he used to have friends, they all watched that show before dinner. Now he had no one.
He stared at the blue one first. Water began to sap through the rubber, diluting in a messy puddle onto the floor. The balloon contracted and shriveled, a sad, flaccid version of its original glory.
Next came the purple balloon. As he took a deep breath in so too did the water compress inside the balloon. It burst quickly, violently with a POP!
Doing this from afar was unsatisfying. What he needed was to smash something. His choices were limited to: cameras in the ceiling, his bed, the orderly or the red balloon. He rose from the bed and lifted the balloon off its stand with two hands. He held tight to the water balloon and it phased from liquid to solid. It was now a red ice rock. The orderly backed away against the wall, right where he had intended to throw the balloon.
Why did he want to destroy things? Because they would not let him go outside to play. Why couldn’t he go outside to play? No one had given him a good reason. He wasn’t sick anymore. Not matter what they tried, they couldn’t make him sick. Where were his parents? Where was his dog? Where was everybody? Why couldn’t he leave?!
He had never actually tried. Always done what he was told. He re-directed the red water balloon from the orderly to the windowless cube door. It was always locked. It was made of steel… like Superman. He heaved the balloon as hard as he could, super-strength. It smashed into the door as intended, knocking it off its hinges.
Exit this way.