On soft white sheets in a cream-colored room, a boy lay stretched out in the sunlight. His thin, fragile body almost weightless on the fluffy down of his bed. His brilliantly blue eyes glance up at the circular analog clock mounted high on a blank wall. In the silence of the chamber, the second hand of the clock faintly ticked away each fleeting moment. He knew he could not lay there for much longer. Eventually, Justin would need to move on, but for now, he would content himself to stray here just a bit longer. His body seemed distant, his mind alive and lightning fast. The intervals between the clock's muted ticks and tocks seemed to slow and stretch longer like cascading water on an upward grade. He wondered to himself if it might reach its apex and fall back in on itself. Time rolling backward, taking him along with it. He understood things like that never happen in the real world, yet he held on to his fantasy the same way he refused to stop believing in Santa despite catching his parents stuffing the area under the tree with presents. His mind was primed for dreams, even hopeless ones, especially hopeless ones The beauty of the most minute things overwhelmed his imagination. A momentary flash of sunlight on his bedpost. A shadow cutting the air at a particular angle. The texture of his slippers. It all felt so important. So mind-absorbingly crucial.
A deep, all-encompassing calm descended upon him. Justin withdrew further into his mind. He was vaguely aware of a growing chilliness about his toes and fingers, but he was far far away now. As his room faded, his bed sheets became a vast stretch of tundra. Fine snow specked the air. Justin inhaled deeply. As the clear, icy air filled his lungs, Justin felt supremely powerful. There were no limits for him now. He strolled comfortably through chilly uninterrupted space. There was not a single trace of human life to be seen. He drank in the perfect solitude, like a life-restoring elixir. When his thirst was quenched, he found himself tumbling through an immense garden of flowers. Freedom and lighthearted joy filled his heart. So much so, that he began to float off the ground. He rose higher and higher as love and happiness crescendoed within his little body. When he felt he could bear no more, like his tiny heart would burst from it all, he took off shooting through the air like a bullet. Over verdant rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, deep red cliffs, roaring ocean waves. He soared high above the world finally coming to rest atop a gentle rainbow. He reclined leisurely for a moment, then became slightly aware of the pain branching out within his physical body. Embracing his fantasy ever more tightly, he fell backward into a raindrop that tenderly drifted down to land where it finally came to rest on a sunflower.
He knew it would have to end. As all dreams inevitably do. Just not yet, not this moment, please. He could face what was coming if he had but a few seconds more...
Someone was calling his name. It came through muffled and fuzzy. His dreamworld was fading. The voices became clearer. They sounded urgent. He heard mechanical noises, electronic beeps. White blurs of people swerved around his body, but he was too tired to think. Consciousness came and went sporadically. Then Justin opened his eyes. It was night. He found himself on a white bed that wasn't his, surrounded by white walls he didn't recognize. Near the foot of his bed, faint light glowed in the window of a door. He could hear voices whispering on the other side.
"We were able to stop the bleeding just in time. If we got him any later I don't know what would have happened." whispered the first voice.
"Such a shame." replied the second. "What could make a child do that to himself?"
The first voice, a bit quieter now, "The next-door neighbor found him lying on his bed with the knife still in his hand. He was mowing the lawn when he noticed the child through a window. Child protective services are looking into it, along with the police."
"Do you think it was the parents?" asked the second voice.
"I hope not." said the first voice. "God, I don't what the world is coming to."
After a pause, Justin hears the second voice once more, "How old was he again?"
The first voice barely gets the words out, "He was only 9 years old."