An Audio Letter to Small
In the book “Dance For Me” Maelea had a friend. Her friend was a mouse. His name was Small. Even as the author, I’m not quite sure whether Small was ever real or just imaginary. What I do know is that Maelea needed to believe in him. I finished the book back in December, but Maelea has continued to haunt me, which is all kinds of weird. In the book, Maelea’s father sells her to a woman who forces her to sell her body. Maelea is eleven at the time. Soon after she arrives in the brothel, she fights one of her clients and ends up in isolation. Up to this point, Small had been real to her: she’d believed he was searching the complex for a key to the dungeon. Whether he was real or not, the hope he represented to Maelea was real. But sometimes we have on our hearts more than we can take. Sometimes we’re pushed a little too far and a piece of our souls break. Sometimes there are no “happily-ever-afters” and, when that’s the case, hope is in trouble. Anyway, Maelea decided to write Small a letter after a piece of her heart and mind fractured while in isolation. I’ve recorded it below. But, just in case you don’t want to or can’t listen to the audio version of me reading, I’ve copied the letter below.
Writing is my friend. Writing is the only way I know how to find hope. Please do not try to steal the copyrighted work of fiction: not the imaginary characters, their stories or their words.
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I’ve been calling you. I’ve called you every day I’ve been in here. When I finally went to sleep last night, I called your name. You didn’t answer but when I finally cried myself to sleep, I dreamed of you. You rode a white horse. It was a small horse, because you’re small, and also because he had to fit through the door. The door that you’re looking for. You’re looking for the door that gets into this room, aren’t you? This place must have a million rooms in it—a hundred at least! And there are lots of places to hide a key. You’re really brave, going into where the people are. If they see you, they will trap you. They will kill you. But you don’t care, because you are my friend, and you want to set me free. So you go from room to room, trying to be quiet, trying to stay hidden. You must have to wait a long time when you see a desk, because you don’t have fingers to open them. Or, no. Wait. You’re a brave, rodent prince. You’re very smart. You know how to use your claws to jerk open drawers. It’s dangerous, because you have to climb on top of the furniture, and so it’s harder to hide quickly if a door should open.
But you have to.
Sometimes, I bet you get scared. And you think to yourself, “I can’t do this.” And you almost stop. It’s okay that you do, I don’t blame you for being scared. In fact… it makes me feel like I understand you even better, because I’m scared, too. You almost give up the quest. But you don’t. You don’t give up because you know that finding the key means saving your friend’s life. My life. And you love me so much, you risk your own life to find a key. Day after day, night after night, you scurry in and out of little holes in the wall, looking for something shiny, something made to unlock a door.
When you find it, you can rescue me. Last night, in my dream, you really did find it: you found the Master’s key! It was big and gold. It was heavy, it was hard for you to pull up out of the drawer. You didn’t give up, though. You kept trying and trying until… you got it! You grip it between your teeth and scurry down the side of the desk. You must have been very excited. What you had tried so long was almost done! I could see you, in my dream, running from room to room.
You had to find a hole.
I’ve searched for a hole, Small.
I’ve looked and looked. I’ve got down on my knees and combed every last inch of the wall. I can’t find one.
But you’re smarter than me.
Sure enough, in my dream, you found a small, hidden hole that led into this room where I am, and you came riding through it with your furry head held high, your whiskers blowing from how fast you rode.
You are my hero.
And it was a good dream.
You are my friend. Every time I see you race along the edge of the wall, I get excited because you’re my friend. Friends are happy to see each other. I mean, I think they are. I’ve never really had a friend. My sister is my friend, I guess, but she’s so little. I couldn’t tell her about this place. I couldn’t tell her about you. You’re the only one I talk to. You’re the only one I can tell everything to. You’re here in this place too, after all. You see everything, too. I think that’s why I get excited when I see you: I know I can talk to you because I know you understand.
Sometimes I imagine sitting with you. We would be outside, sitting on a frayed blanket. I imagine the grass and the Sun. I almost can’t even remember what the Sun feels like anymore. But, in the picture in my head, my skin is warm and nothing hurts. Not my head, not my arm, not my legs, not my heart. A basket of fish sits between us. Your rodent nose would scrunch up to sniff it. The steam rising from the freshly baked goods would make both of us happy. I’d laugh because my stomach would be growling, the way it does right before it knows it’s going to be given something wonderful. We’d eat and you’d tell me funny stories. I bet you know a lot of funny stories. I’d laugh until my sides hurt because you’re such a good storyteller. And in the stories you’d tell me, there would always be a very scary bad guy, one worse than all the others in all the other stories I’ve ever been told. Because you’ve seen the real monsters, so you’d know what they really look like, what they really act like. The only difference between your stories and real life is that your stories have happy endings.
In real life, there aren’t happy endings, are there, Small?
I know because I’ve been calling you and you haven’t answered. You should be able to hear me; I screamed your name over and over and over last night. I screamed it so loud, it echoed around these walls and rang in my own ears.
But you didn’t answer.
I clawed at the walls until my fingers bled, trying to help you, trying to make you hear me.
But you still didn’t answer.
No one hears me, do they, Small?
Friends want to see each other. I want to see you. I’ve waited for you, I’ve called for you, I’ve dreamed of you and I’ve looked for you. But I haven’t seen you, and I don’t know why. Is it because you don’t want to be my friend? Or is it because you aren’t even real?
I don’t think you’re real.
When I got here, I was a little girl. When I was put in this room, part of me was still a little girl. I thought you rode a white horse. I thought you went from room to room looking for a key because you wanted to rescue me. I thought you wanted to rescue me because you loved me. But if you loved someone, wouldn’t you answer them when they needed you?
It’s easier to believe you aren’t even real than to believe you don’t love me. It’s easier to believe there isn’t a key at all to this door than to believe I won’t ever see it. It’s easier to be alone than to have friends that don’t really care at all. It’s easier to believe hope is dead than to believe it won’t ever become truth.
When I talk to you, when I look for you, when I call for you…. It’s like holding my breath, waiting for a burst of sunlight to shine through the darkness. When the sunlight never comes, it makes the hurt worse. When I talk to you, when I look for you, when I call for you… in those moments, hope is the only thing keeping me alive, Small. When you don’t answer, when I can’t see you, when hope dies, a little piece of me dies too. If I keep believing, if I keep hoping, soon, all of me will be dead.
I don’t know if you’re real or not anymore. If you are, I hope you can understand why, even though it hurts me deep in my heart, I have to say one more thing, I have to let go, I can’t hope anymore. I hope you’ll understand why I have to say… to say… goodbye.