WARNING: This poem includes some very disturbing content, and is something I would classify as a horror story. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It contains child abuse, entrapment, soul violence, loss of artistic ability, which does not come back, grief, and other challenges. Years ago I wrote another story about loss of musical inspiration, shared it around, and accidentally broke a friend of mine for about a week. :( So artists and other creative people may wish to be particularly cautious. If these are sensitive areas for you, please consider your taste and headspace before deciding when you want to read it.
"The Thief of Tomorrowmorrow"
Timmy tiptoed into the principal's office.
Mr. Brown was on the phone, and
Timmy was trying to be quiet,
so as not to get into any more trouble
than he was already in.
When Mr. Brown pointed,
Timmy sat in a chair.
He was only in first grade,
so his feet did not reach the floor.
He kicked his heels against
the chair leg -- tap, tap, tap.
The principal frowned.
He pressed the phone to his shoulder
and said, "Since you can't be good,
I am going outside. Wait for me here.
Do not touch the box."
Mr. Brown locked the door
behind himself with a loud click.
Alone in the office,
Timmy thought about
what he had done.
Was it really so bad to draw
on the desk? he wondered.
The pencil marks came right off.
He hadn't had any paper,
and the class was boring.
On the principal's desk sat the box.
Everyone knew about the box,
of course, but this was the first time
that Timmy had gotten to see it.
It was bigger than Timmy's lunch box,
but it was made of dark swirly wood.
On the lid of the box was a round pattern
of curling gold outlined in black.
There were pearly dots that looked
pink or blue or white, changing colors
when Timmy moved his head.
The gold and the pearl were so shiny,
like his grandmother's ring!
Timmy wanted to touch the box.
His fingers crept toward it.
He sat on his hands to keep
them out of trouble.
There was a plant on Mr. Brown's desk.
Timmy stared at it the way he
looked at things out the window.
(That got him in trouble too.)
It was a good plant for drawing.
It had thick fleshy leaves that were
green with pink on the tips.
He could see the spaces between them
that made them curl like little toes.
Timmy wanted to grab a pencil.
He could black out the spaces
to make the plant appear.
It was like magic.
He knew that drawing
on the principal's desk
would be really bad, though.
So he looked at the box again.
It sparkled in the light.
Surely it couldn't hurt to touch it
just a little, Timmy thought.
Nobody would even know.
He wouldn't open it.
He didn't dare, even though
he was curious.
Sam said it held candy.
Annalee said it held worms.
Jason said it held money.
Nicole said it held cut-off ears
of kids who didn't listen.
Timmy felt pretty sure
that Nicole was lying.
Those weren't even
the strangest ideas he'd heard
about Mr. Brown's box.
Timmy reached out to touch
the round gold pattern.
A spark zapped him.
It felt like turning a doorknob
in a thunderstorm.
Timmy jerked his hand back.
He looked at the plant some more.
It wasn't as interesting now, though.
He didn't feel like drawing it.
Mr. Brown came back into the office.
He scolded Timmy for drawing on the desk.
Timmy had to stay after school. His mother
was mad when she picked him up.
She made him do all his homework first.
He wrote his spelling words.
He did his math worksheet.
Then it was too dark to play outside.
Timmy ate supper without saying a word.
He was supposed to draw a chair for art.
He still couldn't see the spaces, though.
Will they ever come back? he wondered.
That night Timmy had a strange dream.
He saw a black horse with stars in her coat.
A cloud of lights followed her everywhere,
pink and blue and yellow and green.
"I am the nightmare," she said. "I have
come to ask for your help. You must
stop the Thief of Tomorrowmorrow.
He steals the future from children."
"I don't know any thief," Timmy said.
"You know the man who keeps
the Box of Stolen Dreams," she said.
Timmy remembered how shiny
Mr. Brown's box had been.
"I've seen a fancy box," he said.
"That box is very dangerous,"
the nightmare said. "It can
snuff the talent right out of a child.
I see that you have already been snuffed."
"What does 'snuffed' mean?"
"It is like when you blow out a candle,"
the nightmare explained. "The candle
is still there, but it no longer gives light."
"What can I do?" Timmy asked.
"Break the Box of Stolen Dreams,"
she told him. "Even a tiny piece
out of place will stop it from working."
So the next day in class,
Timmy drew on his desk again.
He still couldn't see the spaces.
He just made scribbles.
Mrs. Keefer sent him to
the principal's office again.
This time Mr. Brown went out
for a cup of coffee.
The box was still beautiful.
Timmy hated the thought
of breaking something so pretty.
He tried to open the box.
It was locked.
Timmy looked around the room.
He peeked into Mr. Brown's desk.
There in the top drawer lay a key
on a tassel of golden thread.
He used the key to open the box.
Inside were white chips and
dice and other bits of games.
There were also little golden hinges.
Timmy used a paper clip
to take out one of the screws.
He hid it in his pocket.
Then he closed the box.
The pearly parts winked in the sun.
He remembered the scariest story
about what was inside the box.
Jo-Rae said it was full of awesome things
that kids used to be able to do.
Timmy wondered what the box
had snuffed out of Jo-Rae.
When Mr. Brown came back,
Timmy tried to be good.
He nodded in all the right places.
He said sorry even though he wasn't.
Mr. Brown made him skip recess.
Timmy wrote his spelling words
in first recess and then did
a reading quiz in second recess.
The spaces hadn't come back, though.
That night Timmy dreamed
of the nightmare again.
"I took this from the box," he said.
In his dream he still had the screw.
"You did well," she said. "Now
the Thief of Tomorrowmorrow
can't hurt anyone else."
"I still can't draw like I could,"
"That is what happens when
you get snuffed," said the nightmare.
"The spark you had is gone.
You will not get it back. That light
has returned to the world.
At least the thief can't use it
for evil, or snuff another child."
Timmy leaned against the nightmare
and cried into her starry coat.
He missed being able to draw so well.
Still, he had stopped the thief.
That made him feel a little better.
"You are very brave," said the nightmare.
She pushed her soft nose into his hair.
"I think you have the heart of a hero.
Will you dare to become a
Guardian of Tomorrowmorrow?
I may need your help again."
"I will," Timmy promised.
When he woke the next morning,
he did not stare out the window
looking for things to draw.
He looked for people to help.
* * *
Child abusers frequently seek jobs that give them access to children, and they take steps to make the abuse seem like the child's fault.
(The first link goes to the auction page and you'll have to scroll down past the "sold" header to find the pictures.)
See the Box of Stolen Dreams, outside and inside. This is the key.
Houseplants include succulents such as Echeveria.
Positive and negative space are part of art. Negative space lets you reveal basic three-dimensional forms and more complex still-life drawings. Here are some exercises for drawing with negative space.
The Nightmare looks something like this.