Once upon a time, there was a boy born with a rare heart disorder. It caused him to hallucinate when at it's worst, which was always horribly frightening for the boy. Oftentimes during these episodes he would see shapes, or numbers floating around in the air as he lay in his bed, trying to fall asleep. Other times, it would be something terrible like a witch or a ghost. The hallucinations were so real that the boy often had a hard time coming back to reality, unsure as he was where the boundaries between his thoughts and the real world were set.
Life was easy for the boy though, despite his dreams, until sometime around his tenth birthday, when his mother and father began to fight. Soon, they fought all the time, in screams at one another, and it made distinguishing between imagined nightmares and bleak reality even harder.
One night, after a particularly bad fight between the boy's parents, he began to have another vision. He could tell something was off when his bedroom began to swirl and change colors. This time, though, there were no witches or numbers: instead, what the boy saw was a beautiful woman in white, with flowing blonde hair, appear at the foot of his bed in a brilliant wash of radiance. He couldn't speak, though he tried hard to force words from his gaping mouth. He was pacified though, by the voice emanating from the vision, not from the white woman's mouth, but rather the air, the glow around her. Over and over again, she repeated the words "Everything will be okay," softer and gentler each time, reaching further into the boy's mind every time. And then the vision dissipated, leaving the boy alone and comforted. And that was to be the last vision he ever had.
Some short while later, the boy accidentally walked in on his mother and father arguing violently. They must not have noticed him, or didn't care, as they continued their tirades against one another. The boy learned through their argument that his mother was hideously scarred beneath her clothes, and that his father hated the responsibilities he had to his wife and children. Their fighting escalated, until the boy saw his father raise a hand and bring it down onto the boy's mother. She fell to the floor, and the boy's father reeled from what he had done. Wordlessly, he staggered out of the house, never to return.
The boy's mother, at having her shame exposed, could not bear it. She lost her mind, and began ranting and raving and abusing her children, the boy and his brother and sister, the only tie she still had to her husband. The mother called on a multitude of spiders, ordering them to construct a web far too intricate for her children to escape from. Every day, the boy and his siblings would watch as new spiders arrived to continue the bidding of their insane mother. Soon, the house was so covered in arachnids that the very walls seemed to be moving. The oldest brother was swift, though, and brave, and he was able to escape, using his wisdom to outwit and overcome his mother's web. He promised to return and help the boy and his sister, but he never did.
Toiling miserably in the awful gray house, suffering the abuses of his mother, so far from her maternal instincts, the boy would dream of things ending, of house fires. He would pray every night that his whole world would ignite, and burn, and be disintegrated forever, but his prayers always went unanswered.
Then, one day, somehow, the fates must have heard his pleas. While scrubbing the entryway to the web-wrapped house for the third time that day, Slate mistakenly knocked a candle onto the floor, which made the huge masses and knots of spider-web immediately burst into flame. As the smoke from the conflagration grew thicker and thicker, the boy heard his mother calling to him from somewhere deep in the house, commanding him to open her bedroom door, to free her from the blaze. When he did open the door to free his poor mother, the air rushed in through the jamb and met the hungry fire in an explosion, one that knocked the boy clear through the wall of his house and out into the waiting storm. He wasted no time in scrambling up off the ground and running as fast as he could, far away from the smoldering mess of his life.
To be continued...