Chapter XXI: The Nightmare Man (3/13)Mature

Before he could fathom his situation further, he heard a voice echo from downstairs, up the staircase leading to the attic. He recognised it as Wilhelmina's voice.

'You can't take Willow away - I won't let you do it!' she cried, Will felt the fear in her voice, and he curiously stepped onto the threshold and listened at the top of the stairs.

Wilhelmina was not alone.

'If you think I'll let you steal him away easily, you're wrong!' 

Will slowly stepped down the steep and narrow staircase, holding tightly onto the rickety handrail. This was the strangest of the memories, he felt in control, like he could walk around and feel things as if they were real. Before, he had been like a spectator, forced to watch a past version of himself suffer and struggle. The staircase had a curve to it, halfway down to his left was a doorway leading to a room that Will had always called the tower. It was Wilhelmina's bedroom, a cramped and uncomfortable circular room that had originally been meant for him, yet in the end he'd been given an entire attic, and she'd squeezed herself up the even narrower staircase through a doorway so low that even she with her hunched height had to duck to get through. Will tried to pass this doorway, rounding the stair's curve, but suddenly something threw him back, like an invisible force refusing to allow him past.

He puzzled for a moment before cottoning on, taking that step would allow him to see into the downstairs room, where he might see who Wilhelmina was talking to. But this was a memory, he could only see now what he'd seen then, and Will hadn't seen downstairs. A stair creaked behind Will, he spun around and marvelled at what he saw, it was a younger version of himself again.

He was still relatively small - not yet hitting his growth spurt - with a multitude of freckles swarming around his eyes, cheeks and nose. He was wearing a hand-me-down pair of pyjamas, the shirt hanging off of him, the trouser legs rolled up to his knees and the waistband threaded with tight cord. This younger Will froze when the step squeaked, fearful that he'd been heard, but when it seemed he was safe, he seated himself on the same step that his older self stood on.

'There are two important things that you must understand...' the other in the room was male, his voice thick with anger, deep with superiority. 'The first is that that boy is a danger to us all. Taking him away would be merciful. Second - even if we chose to take him, there is nothing you could do to stop us.' His voice had relaxed, now he sounded calm and confident. 'You're a...a troll, what would you know of politics, or even of integrity? You have no idea how much of a privilege it is that I have journeyed here so earnestly, but I have come to stop this incident from becoming worse than it need to become. You understand that they will try to find him - compared to them, I am an ally, and as an ally I am telling you that trying to save and protect him will do no good. Next time, he may try and kill you.'

'What do you - what are you talking about?'

He chuckled derisively, 'did you think we didn't know? We control Vincula now, our eyes and ears are everywhere, not just in the form of wardens. Prisoners have been paid a small fortune to...keep an eye on you both. We know what goes on within these boundaries. My guess is that your "adopted son" became bored and decided to become a murderer, but out of twisted loyalty, dare I say it, love, you covered it up for him...'

Will's eyes widened and he gasped with realisation - he didn't mean the troll boys, did he?

The End

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