Innocence

Summary: A morbid look at what happens when someone loses their creativity.

A/N: My inspiration for this came from the fact that I like to draw. I wondered how I would feel if suddenly, I couldn't create art the way I wanted to anymore. Thus, this story emerged. Enjoy.

oOo

Nathan didn't feel quite like other boys. Shy, reclusive, and awkward, he kept away from the world and lived very much alone. His mother worked here and there, stayed out late, and came home stupidly drunk most nights. She never made sure he had friends or did well in school.

Nathan didn't mind, because he had something to keep him busy. He always had a pen and some paper, and with a million things running through his untamed mind, he could always find something to draw. He thought up the most wonderful things—balloons that floated through the air with animals living inside them somehow; stairways that went up, up, and up and finally bent in on themselves; melting roads, bridges, and people. He never thought twice about anything he drew being foolish or strange. It was wonderful, beautiful, and new. Everything new thing he thought up and drew was fuel for the next thing.

It made Nathan happy to draw. He found comfort in his whimsical people and alien lands. They were his, and that made them special. He saved everything he drew and plastered his art all over his drab room. One day, he pasted a scribble of a gigantic, two-headed snake on his wall, stepped back, and realized he'd covered every wall in his room completely with drawings. His ceiling was also covered with them, and his floor had a huge stack of drawings in the far corner.

One day, Nathan was sitting on his bed drawing when there came a knock at the door. His mother was asleep, so he went to the door. It was a social worker, who'd been hearing reports about Nathan for months. He was tall and very confident. Nathan backed away.

"May I come in?" the social worker asked.

"No!" Nathan cried, and he slammed the door closed.

The next day, the man was back. A squat black woman stood beside him.

They came in without knocking and looked around. Nathan hid in his room where he felt safest. The two social workers checked all over the house. They checked the kitchen, the bathroom, his mother's room, the den, and finally, Nathan's room. They looked around for a moment and came over to talk to Nathan. The man knelt down on the floor so that he was at the boy's level.

"Are you Nathan Conway?" he asked.

Nathan nodded.

"Where's your mother?"

"She's shopping," Nathan lied. "She'll be back soon."

The woman was standing behind the man, her arms crossed. "We gonna wait for your momma to come home, ok, sweetie?" she said.

They waited for hours. The woman filled out a long list of papers. She went around re-inspecting the rooms, making faces of disbelief everywhere she looked. The man sat and talked with Nathan. When his mother finally came home, she screamed.

"Get. Out. Of. My. House!" she cried, spotting the black woman. The man stood up and rushed into the kitchen.

"Who are you?" the mother shrieked, her voice raising an octave. Nathan winced in his room.

The social workers explained. They explained about the house. It was in terrible condition. The mother had left her 11-year-old son home alone all day. She didn't make sure he attended school every day. She never did anything about his bad grades.

The duo left and they gave the mother a week to prepare her son to leave.

A week later, two men came to collect Nathan. His mother stood in the doorway teary-eyed and speechless. Inside, she felt a sense of relief along with her loss. One less thing to worry about.

Nathan was silent the whole car trip up the local children's home. He'd gotten to take a few of his drawing with him, but he couldn't take them all. He wondered what his mother would do with the ones he'd left behind and he started to cry.

oOo

His first month at the children's home proved to be optimistic. He was enrolled in a new school and given a clean slate. A tutor came over every Wednesday to help him and other children with their problem subjects. Nathan felt a bit more confident about school and life. He drew about some of the new things he learned. He drew Napoleon rearing up on a white stallion. He drew a native Indian fishing in a river.

Months passed. Nathan's grades went from Fs to As. He was a good student and a nice boy. The teachers and caretakers liked him very much. Nathan was beginning to feel content and happy in his new home. One day, he sat down after school and found one of his old drawings. It was the two-headed snake one. He smiled and thought of what else he could draw. He hadn't done anything creative since he'd been taken away. As he sat at his desk, pencil in hand, no ideas came to him. He froze in his own mind and wondered how this could be. How could he, the boy with an overflow of creative juices, have nothing exciting to draw?

After a few minutes, an idea came to him. It was a man with crab claws for arms. He had to admit, he'd seen something like that in a movie once, and it wasn't the best idea he'd ever had. He put the drawing away and found something else to do.

He didn't try drawing again for a long time. A year, perhaps. He had more important things to worry about—studying, friends, sports. But one day he was walking home and he passed a huge mural on a building. It was exotic and beautiful, like one of his old drawings. Nathan felt a moment of envy, and he rushed back to the home. Determined to draw something as fabulous as the mural, he sat down and pulled out a piece of paper. He'd learned so much in a year. He had so many new things in his mind. There was new movie he'd seen, books he'd read, plays he'd watched, people he'd met. He wanted to do something fantastic. Something that told him he still had it. He wanted an old part of himself back.

He sat still for a long time, trying to think up something wonderful. Nothing came. Every time he tried to think of something completely original, someone else's artwork or idea would pop into his mind. He searched and searched through his brain, suddenly desperate to find some trace of his old, happy self. He felt himself sinking in his chair. It was gone, he realized after a long moment. Gone forever. He couldn't fabricate any of those old, brilliant monsters and places he'd once been able to. Everything in his brain now was facts and other people's ideas.

Nathan went to school the next day feeling depressed. He'd spent all night trying to draw like he once had. He'd yearned for the creative spark to come back to him. It didn't. He paid very close attention to his teachers, trying to see if they ever said or thought anything creative and original. After his science class, he asked his teacher, "Ma'am, what would happen if there were no oxygen on Earth?"

His teacher stared at him for a second. "Why, we'd die, dear."

Nathan tried again. 'But what if we found a way to live without oxygen? Like we could breathe neon or hydrogen instead? What if we made our own oxygen in our bodies?"

His teacher smiled stupidly. "That's nonsense," she said. "Who would ever think something so ridiculous?"

"So it wouldn't be possible?"

"Of course not. There are plenty of things—that included—which are impossible and never will be," she said. "Does that help?"

Nathan didn't say anything as he walked away. A cold feeling crept up his spine. Was he alone with his crazy desire to create? Was this what school meant: no creativity? Is that how all adults were? Was that what he was becoming?

He tried once more at lunch, asking a fellow student a similar question. The answer was essentially the same. "Are you stupid or what? No duh, we can't do that."

Nathan didn't ask anyone else. He went home, and that night he looked around at his old drawings. He felt distant from them, like they weren't a part of him anymore. They'd been born from a pure mind. He didn't have that kind of a mind anymore.

He stood in the middle of his room for a long time feeling numb and removed. His brain raced. He didn't know what to do. Would he grow up and be like his teachers—unimaginative and boring? Would he always look at the world through facts and knowledge rather than the innocent mindset that anything was possible? He dreaded the thought, and yet it loomed over him. His beautiful, innocent world was slipping away into nothingness and when it did, he would be left empty. He would be like them.

No, he thought. Never. Nathan searched and searched for a way to avoid this inevitable fact. There had to be a way to make sure he never came any closer to being diluted with reality. There is a way, he thought suddenly. A very sure way. It didn't seem like a pleasant option, but it would ensure his mental freedom. Eventually, he concluded, it was the only way.

That night, he put his plan into action.

The next morning, Nathan Conway was found dead in his room, a noose around his neck. He was smiling. In his cold fist was a crumpled sheet of paper—the two-headed snake.

oOo

Ok, so it was a bit morbid, but hopefully everyone liked it. Please review!

-The Ember Raven