Fiction logo

The Window, The World

Better in here than out there

By Jamie JacksonPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 7 min read
The Window, The World
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room.

She, Mary, had never been outside, not since the day she was born. Her entire life had been spent within the walls of what they called "the compound", a sprawling complex of interconnected buildings that served as her home, her life, her prison.

She had always been curious about what lay beyond the compound, about the great unknown that lay beyond the window. She would often sit for hours, staring out at the endless expanse of blue sky, from that small window above his desk, wondering what it would be like to feel the sun on her skin, to breathe in the fresh, clean air.

But her curiosity was not to be indulged. The rules of the compound were strict, and she was not allowed to even ask about the outside world, let alone leave and walk outside those towering walls. She was told only one thing, and that was the outside world was a dangerous place, filled with hardship and perils that she could not comprehend. They told her she was lucky, that she was chosen to be safe, and she should be grateful for being within the walls, not outside them. Her warden, an ancient-looking, no-nonsense lady, Mrs Y, used to say "Better in here than out there" as a mantra. Something would go wrong, something bad would happen within those walls and "Better in here than out there" would be repeated, as if that was the end of the matter.

But still, she could not shake the feeling that there was more to life than the monotonous routine of her daily existence. Mrs Y didn't seem happy. She seemed to repeat the mantra just to reassure herself the compound was the place to be. But Mary longed for something more, something beyond the sterile walls and the high ceilings.

And then, one day, one ordinary day, something changed. The man who had always been there, watching over her, watching over Mrs Y and everyone else, the man guarding her against all the dangers of the outside world, the man with the window in his office, was gone.

She did not know where he had gone, or why he had left, but she knew that he was not coming back. She could tell it by looking at Mrs Y's face, she could tell it by the whispering murmurs between the other folk, doors she walked past with old ladies hunched over, talking in stressed tones, then becoming silent when she appeared at the doorway.

The man was gone. One minute he was there, cold, detached, but ever present, the next, nothing.

Without him, the compound seemed empty, lifeless. She wandered the cavernous corridors, feeling lost and alone. Why? Mary had never even talked to him, but also, she had never been without him, and the sudden absence of his presence was like a physical blow.

She recalled the time he said something to her, just once. She was folding some washing in the laundry room in the basement and the man came down looking for Mrs Y. Mary looked up and saw him standing in the doorway, silhouetted. She stopped folding and looked up, in silence.

"Don't let me stop you, Mary," he said, then walked off, with a "Mrs Y?" down the corridor.

He had known her name. That mattered. It mattered to her.

As the days passed, she began to realise his absence, though painful, was an opportunity. With him gone, nothing was stopping her from exploring the outside world, from finally discovering the truth about the place she had always called home and the truth about "out there" as Mrs Y put it.

She made her way to the window in his room, the window that had always been her gateway to the outside world. She gazed out at the endless expanse of blue sky, her heart racing with excitement and fear.

She knew that she was taking a risk, that she was breaking the rules of the compound by even considering leaving. But she also knew that she could not spend the rest of her life trapped within its walls, wondering what might have been.

She made her decision. There was no point thinking it through anymore. Emotions were useless. "Be clinical," she thought "And just get on with it!"

She climbed atop the dark oak desk and got a better view of the window. She could see the horizon. For the first time ever, she saw a horizon. She stood for a moment, transfixed at the vista, her brain grappling with the scale and depth of her view. Then, with a deep breath, she pushed the window open and squeezed through the gap and into the unknown.

As she dropped down the red brick wall and landed on the lawn, she felt grass for the first time. It was like the thick wool carpets in the dining area, only alive, a plant. She touched and rubbed her hands on it, her knees indenting the soft earth beneath her. The sun shone on her neck and cheek, and in that moment she was overwhelmed by a sense of freedom, of possibility. She had always known that the outside world was a place of beauty and wonder, but she had never imagined that it could be so vast, so full of life; just one spot, just one patch of grass and her head felt dizzy with sensory overload.

She got up and ran to the edge of the lawn, about 50 feet she reckoned, and then hopped over a small wooden fence and walked through fields of taller grass, the sun warm on her skin, the breeze refreshing and cool. She saw animals that she had never seen before, creatures that she had only ever read about in books; horses in the distance, birds soaring through the sky, flies whizzing past her eyes, a worm half out the earth, a beetle climbing a tall grass blade. The world was alive with life.

She walked for what seemed like hours, her feet taking her wherever they wanted to go. She had no destination in mind, no plan or purpose, but she did not care. She was free, and that was all that mattered.

Within an hour, she found herself at the edge of a small village. She had never seen a village before, and she was fascinated by the sights and sounds of the place. She wandered through the streets, marvelling at the simple beauty of the place. The houses were small and wonky, red-bricked, thatch-roofed, and full of windows. Windows everywhere!

As she walked, she found herself drawn to a small, run-down shop on the outskirts of the village. She had no idea what was inside, but something about the place called to her.

She stepped inside and was greeted by the sight of a man standing in the middle of the room. He looked shocked to see her and she was shocked too. For a moment they both stared at each other, wide-eyed, frozen.

It was the man.

She gasped and turned to run.

"Mary, no", he said sternly. She stopped in her tracks, almost as if under his spell. To her, the man was superhuman, he was her world, he was everything. To disobey his command would be to disobey God. She had no choice but to stop, turn round and look sheepishly at the floor.

The man said, "Why Mary! So you have escaped too?"

"Too?" said Mary. "Who else escaped?"

"I did!" said the man, smiling. "Mrs Y didn't think I could leave, she had told me so many stories of outside, since I was young, and I was terrified to leave. But I left, and it's wonderful. Isn't it wonderful?"

"It is!" exclaimed Mary, "I saw horses!"

"I saw them too, yesterday. I planned to go and see them. They scared me but everything out here is scary.”

"Can we go now?" Mary said. “I’m scared too. We can go together.”

"Why not?" said the man. "Why not!"

Short Story

About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.