Lost, alone and afraid, four-year-old Charlie stood at one end of a long and winding hallway. His mother, who he had been safe in the arms of just moments ago, was now nowhere to be seen. He looked around frantically, scanning the area for any signs of her, but there wasn’t a person in sight. Hearing the murmur of voices and the soft tapping of footsteps on concrete from the rooms beyond, Charlie crept down the hall and peeked around the corner. 

 

     Instead of finding his mother staring back at him as he had hoped for, Charlie found himself standing in a labyrinth of strange, wall-less rooms. Some were painted in bright dazzling colours, while others were dark and daunting. One small room, which Charlie spotted across the maze-like expanse, was particularly inviting to him. He weaved through crowds of tall, looming strangers; towards the familiar space. He ducked in and out of peculiar rooms, all of which blurred together in his panicked four-year-old mind, until he found himself standing in what appeared to be his very own bedroom. Confused, Charlie sat down on his bunk bed and looked around. The room had the same orange walls, wooden dresser, and even a stuffed dinosaur identical to the one that sat on his bed at home. Bewildered, Charlie looked up and realized that he was being watched. 

 

     A group of tall men in strange yellow uniforms stood across the room, staring at Charlie. After whispering to each other for a few moments, they started moving towards him in unison. Terrified, Charlie ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. He ran down a flight of stairs, the sound of his running shoes on the concrete alerting several more yellow-suited people on the floor below. Now in a wild goose chase, Charlie ran through several peculiar rooms. He ducked through one with colourful, patterned tapestries lining the walls and another where bright lights blinked at him from all angles. He ran through crowds and up and down stairs, not looking back, in fear of what he might see behind him. Finally, dizzy and out of breath, Charlie found himself back where he had started. Realizing that he had lost the trail of people who had been following him, he yawned and climbed into the bed that so closely resembled his own. He closed his eyes and allowed the quiet echo of faraway music to lull him to sleep. 

 

     “Hey, wake up,” a voice called out towards Charlie. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, confused as to where he was and who all these people were. Starting to remember the events of the day, he jumped up and backed away from the yellow suited people who surrounded his bed. “It’s okay,” one of them said, moving sideways to reveal Charlie’s mother standing a few paces back. She ran towards him and gave him a hug. Still barely awake, Charlie heard his mother say something to him and then turned towards the yellow-suited man who had woken him up. After a few moments, his mother grabbed his hand and led him down the hall. 

 

     Still in a daze, Charlie and his mother walked through the building, which now that he was no longer alone, didn’t seem so scary after all. They made their way, hand in hand, through a huge room with high ceilings and a smaller one with lines of people and red blinking lights. Finally, the two of them exited the building and took in the fresh outdoor air, both him and his mother breathing a sigh of relief. 

 

     With the sun beginning to set in the sky, the two of them climbed into their car. Before turning the radio on, Charlie’s mother told him how worried she had been and how she would never let him out of her sight again. He smiled as they pulled out of the parking lot and began driving towards his real bedroom in his real home. As he began to drift back to sleep, Charlie watched the blue and yellow IKEA sign fade away into the distance. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February 3, 2020

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