For thirty-one days you’ve been trapped inside this house, searching for an exit. There is a part of you that craves this idea of freedom more than anything, but you can feel that part slowly suffocating on the stale, dusty air of this quiet place. The other parts of you, the animal parts that speak in the wordless languages of fear and self-preservation, they are taking over. And it’s because of them that you do the strange things you do these days. It’s because of them that you spend your mornings standing in a dark corner of a room in a dark corner of the house. There you watch bricks of buttery light slanting across the floor, schools of tiny motes shuddering in the yellow glow. These things are comforting to you. They let you know, in a safe way, that there is still an entire world outside these walls, and that you are still a discrete thing that has not yet disappeared from that world, not completely.

Despite this comfort, you are afraid of the light. You are afraid of the obliterating brightness, the destructive heat, the power it has to scatter your body to a puddle of flickering particles. You only need to look to the empty space at the end of your left wrist to remember what the light can do to you.

And then there are the things that hide in the light, the things you see if you look directly into it: spidery figures climbing spike-topped mountains, intrepid adventurers exploring lush green forests, skilled musicians stuffing dark rooms with sound. Living outside the house, drenched in the light, these people seem to exist on a different plane of being from you. Even if you could find an exit, you don’t see how you’d ever be able to move fast enough to survive in that world.

So you stay in the dark. It’s safer there anyway. You walk the shadowed hallways slowly and feel the cool floorboards bending beneath your feet. Sometimes, when you get too tired to keep searching for an exit, or when the light cuts off your passage, you sprawl on the floor and stare up at the white slab of the ceiling. From here you listen to the creaking of the old wood, the crackling of the dimpled plaster, the hissing silence in your ears, and in this way the minutes pass. You feel them sweeping over your body, flying low, gently grazing your lips, and for a few short seconds you are happy. The frightened animal parts of you finally calm down. The speed and heat and white-flash brightness of the light is far away. Now you close your eyes and listen as the animal parts tell you that this is right, that this is what you should be doing, that this is what you would be dreaming of doing if you ever did find a way out of the house. The minute you step out there, they say, you’d be wishing you were back here, where things are cool and calm and quiet. It’s not a crime that this is how you like things to be. There’s nothing wrong with wanting different things than everyone else.

As you listen to them saying this, it starts to feel true, if only partly. There is still that small slice of you that knows this place is a prison, but that part is very weak and the voice it speaks in is very quiet and the only time you can hear it whispering to you is in the silences between breaths. And so, instead of searching for an exit in the light-drenched living room at the end of the hallway, you take the advice of the louder, more persistent voice, and spend the rest of your thirty-first day in the house laying on the floor in the hallway.

When you wake up the next morning, you see that the house has changed around you. The hallway is narrower. The ceiling is lower and veined with long, branching, hair-thin cracks. The light-drenched living room at the end of the hallway is now a tiny half-bathroom with a marble sink. Clambering to hand and knees, you feel the cold floorboards pressing against your one remaining palm. Soon a rumbling vibration climbs up your arm. Now you look around and see that the ceiling is sliding downward and will soon crush you to death. From here the animal voices in your head scream at you to get back to the room at the corner of the house. They tell you to haul your ass under the bed inside that room if you want to survive this, but as you scrabble down the hallway, knees and elbows banging against the hard floorboards, you discover a small square window that was not there yesterday. A sharp-edged block of light shines through the window and in this light you see a wide, rolling field of soft green grass and lemon-yellow wildflowers. You stop in the hallway and look from this window to the doorway of the room and then down to the stump of your left wrist. You know what the light can do to you. You’re looking at the carnage with your own eyes. But for some reason, you now have a strong feeling that this injury is an illusion of some kind, a distortion caused by the animal parts of you that are too afraid to leave the house.

Now you have a decision to make. I can’t make it for you. I only hope that you can do what I could not, and you can find a way to overcome the parts of yourself that keep us forever trapped inside this house.