He never left the mansion grounds, nor did his mother. He was home schooled by a teacher who lived on sight and given piano lessons by one of the maids. He never once questioned his sequestered life. He was content and had no reason not to be. Until one night…
Fourteen year old Selim Bradley awoke to the bone chilling sound of painful screams in the dead of night. It was coming from just down the hall, and panic shot through the teen’s veins.
“MOTHER!!” he cried out. He flung the covers off the bed and sprinted toward his bedroom door and nearly lost his mind when the door, at first, would not open. He pulled and shook the knob, unable to form a rational thought that would tell him to inspect the door and attempt to open it calmly. Eventually though, he realized that it was locked from the inside, something he would never have done before and did not recall doing before going to bed that night.
Finally, Selim opened the door and ran as fast as a clumsy boy in socks on hard wood floor safely could to his mother’s bedroom. He burst through the door to find his mother sitting up in bed against the headboard, seeming to be pressed up against it by some unseen force.
“Mother!” Selim shouted, hurrying to his mother’s side. “What happened? Are you hurt?”
Miriam Bradley was still wide-eyed and heaving desperate breaths. One hand wrapped loosely but defensively around her neck and the other clutched the ruffled fabric of her nightgown over her heart.
“Selim…” she gasped.
“I’m here, Mother,” he assured her, taking her wrist and gently pulling her hand away from her neck. He squeezed her hand tightly, lacing their fingers together. “We’re both safe.”
At these words, the old woman began to calm. Slowly her breathing leveled, though she did not stop trembling.
“What happened?” Selim asked again once he was sure his mother was composed enough to answer.
“There were…” she paused as if unsure how to continue. “Shadows. Living shadows. They wrapped around me and started squeezing me-“ a tumultuous sob interrupted her account.
Selim climbed into the bed and wrapped his arms protectively around his terrified and weeping mother. “Sh, it’s alright, Mother. I’m certain it was only a dream. You’re safe in this mansion. Isn’t that what you’ve always told me? It’s our fortress where no one can harm us, right?”
Miriam suddenly became very still, and slowly she pulled herself out of her son’s arms.
Miriam smiled and cupped Selim’s face in her hands, eliciting an embarrassed smile from him. “You’re probably right, son. It was only a terrible dream. Go back to bed, dear.”
“Do you need a glass of water?” he offered.
“No thank you, Selim,” Miriam shook her head. “I’m just fine.”
Selim nodded reluctantly. “Alright. Well, goodnight then.” He smiled, “Sweet dreams.”
“You too, dear.”
Selim returned to his own bedroom still very worried about his mother. What kind of dream could be so terrible that it made her scream and brace her hand around her neck as though she feared for her life? He made sure to leave to door slightly ajar as to avoid a repeat of the incident minutes before. He wondered with the wisp of a thought why his door would have been locked, but he was too tired to dwell much on trivialities. He crawled back into bed and once tucked underneath his blankets he was fast asleep.
Miriam, however, was wide awake.
Shadows. Living shadows.
She had prayed to every god she had ever heard of for the past fourteen years that this would never happen. She had taken every precaution. She had raised Selim with compassion, humility, generosity, and a good work ethic. She had kept him away from any stimulus that could trigger…
She vigorously shook her head in attempt to rid herself of the dark and dangerous thoughts her mind was threatening to entertain. He son was a good boy who would grow to be a good man.
She believed it.
And so she forced herself to lay back down, close her tear-reddened eyes, and attempt rest. As her exhaustion overpowered her worry, sleep began to call to her.
Little did anyone know of the tendril of absolute black slithering down the hall…
Um…this started out as a one-two line bio on a teenaged Selim to accompany an art piece I’m working on. It exploded into this thing. My head canon has always told me that Selim was kept help up at home just in case he turned out to be dangerous. I think what’s happening here is that the true Pride is beginning to emerge in Selim’s sleep now that he is going through puberty…yeah. Let’s go with that.