There's a tiny crack in the stone wall of the basement, a hole where the concrete is chipping and falling away. Ryan sits with his back against the wall, next to the wall with the crack in it. If he looks up, he sees a thin line of sunlight filtering in through the hole in the deep, dark stone, the ray of bright, warm light shooting like a dart through the darkness and pointing to a spot on the hard, rough, granite floor.
Ryan raises his fingers and lets them fall into the beam of white-gold light. It changes the color of his skin a little, brightens up the pale spots, and, for a moment, Ryan feels warm. There are no windows down here, but with this little bit of light, Ryan feels like he might know what outside feels like. Through the crack in the gray stone, he can smell fresh air, warm and clean and not at all stale and stuffy.
He watches the beam of light for a long, long time. There are little pieces of dust that dance above him, beautiful and dirty all at the same time. Ryan rests his head against his shoulder and sits against the wall. If he stays still, eventually the beam falls on his knees, glowing spots against the dingy fabric. He traces the spots and pretends that he's warm all over, that he's outside, lying on soft, green grass, staring at a sky that's blue and not just the dark, wooden boards that make up his ceiling.
Ryan's never been outside. He reads books from a time long before he was born and closes his eyes and imagines he's one of the characters, someone who can run through a field, can swim in an ocean, can just stand outside and breathe the air. But outside became something that ceased to be by the time Ryan was born. He's not sure what the dangers that lurk outside are. He just knows the rule: don't go outside or you're sure to be dead within minutes.
Ryan wasn't always alone in this house. He used to live with his mother and father. His mother hated the world they lived in and often complained about the warnings, the invisible "big brothers" who told them 'no,' who forbade them from going out and living. One day, when Ryan was thirteen, his mother had been in the kitchen, quiet, and, suddenly, she was gone. Ryan looked out the front window and saw his mother taking tentative steps out into the green, green grass of their front yard.
Ryan's throat closed, but he still ran to the den, to his father, and told him what his mother was doing. His father, wide-eyed and breathing fast, ran to the front of the house, peering out the same window Ryan had and, without a second thought, threw open the front door. He had screamed Ryan's mother's name and she had stopped – out in the street, now – turning back to look at her husband.
His father hesitated for just a second, then he told Ryan to close the door and to not follow as he ran outside, as well. Ryan saw his father catch his mother around the waist and try to lead her back to the house, but she fought him – she wanted to get away. Ryan watched out the window, his breath fogging up the glass. He didn't know what was outside, but, suddenly, things got dark and Ryan couldn't see, couldn't hear.
He woke up on the floor of his kitchen and, when he stumbled back to the window and looked for his parents, his eyes scanning the green, green grass, he found them, dead upon the lawn.
Since that day, Ryan's lived in the house alone. He reads and travels around the house, sometimes, but never his parents' room, never the front room. He's too afraid to look out the window, to see the skeletons of his parents or worse – if the skeletons are gone, that means someone or something had been out in his front yard. It's things he'd rather not know.
Ryan spends most of his time in the basement, crowded in corners and reading with the dim glow from the light in the room. The crack – Ryan watches the small crack, the tiny, chipping hole. It's the spot of light in the dark of his life, of his home. Ryan sometimes sits so that the light hits his face. He'll sit that way till the beam of light dies away. Sometimes, Ryan isn't sure if it's the darkness of night or if it's the same kind of darkness that killed his parents, but he closes his eyes tighter against the dark, knees to his chest.
Ryan takes solace in the fact that, even though it's dark right now, the light will always return.