Once upon a time there lived a child, and it was happy and carefree, without a worry in the world. The child played outside every day and was eager to learn. It saw every day as a thrilling, fun-filled adventure.

The child woke up one morning to find out that its whole life had changed. Suddenly, the child could no longer be itself. It felt no different than it normally did, but now it was having words thrust in its face like expectations and ambition and achievement. Confused and upset, but feeling too oppressed to express itself, the child obeyed orders from its superiors and always did what it was told. It went to school, it got a job, it began its career, and all the while the child was still forcefully suppressing its thoughts and emotions, for every time the child tried to vocalize them, it was punished and criticized. The child had to pretend to be happy, when all it wanted to do was curl up and cry and run to its mommy, because the child didn't know what was happening or what to do, and all it wanted was to be comforted. The child wanted to go home. It wanted its life to go back to normal and it did not understand why things had changed, or when those changes would cease.

Slowly, the child became drained; its once-bright eyes that had been so gleeful and charming were now dull and sunken, appearing almost lifeless; it had lost its playful and energetic spirit, and it felt the weight of the world on its shoulders as more and more expectations were placed upon it. Instead of being carefree and worriless, the child was now stressed and tired and apathetic, and at the end of every day, the child came home and cried and begged for its life to return to normal. It wanted to go back to Miss Jones' class and see its friends and play outside in the sandbox or in the driveway with its friends until the streetlights came on, when their parents would all gather them back home; it wanted to run away from the daily misery and torment that had unexpectedly taken over its life and go back to spending long, endless summer days coloring with crayons. It wanted to laugh again, because it had forgotten what laughter was like, and it wanted to smile again, because it had forgotten what smiling was.

But no matter how much the child pleaded, its life never went back. And gradually the child stopped thinking of itself as a child because others were calling it an adult, and the adult slowly gave up hope. It stopped pleading and begging and crying. It forgot even the memory of smiles and laughter. It forgot that its life had ever been different at all. It forgot everything from the time it had been a child. The adult spent the rest of its days slaving away, never moving forward or backwards; its life was a broken record, repeating the same moment in time over and over. For the rest of its life, it kept its lips sealed until it became completely assimilated; it forgot why it was even sad, for only the sadness remained, and that, too, faded away.

And then the adult was nothing but an empty shell without any individuality, without a soul. It worked and then it came home, and that was its life every day.

At the end of its life, the adult, now an elder, lay on its deathbed and in its final moments it remembered when it was a child. It remembered how wonderful and intriguing life then had been, and for the first time in years, it began to cry and cry. It now understood. It understood that Reality had come; Reality had slithered toward the child from the shadows and had grabbed it by the ankles and without any warning Reality had taken the child away from its childhood; Reality had turned the child into the adult. And now, on its deathbed, the elder sobbed all of its sorrows and laments, for it realized it had wasted its finite life submitting itself to the life of the adult, never questioning anything, simply following orders because that was what it had been told to do. And it realized that sometimes, nightmares are real and the monsters are real and they will find you and they will tear you apart, and that nothing can be done. The nightmare is life and the monsters are society and you cannot escape them no matter where you run, because they will find you and you must conform.

In its final moment, the elder tried to find peace and acceptance in its pathetic life, but as its final breath left its body, Reality sneaked up behind it and stole that from it, too.