Insides

Silus sat on the hard floor, the wood battered from years of abuse and cold from the broken radiator. The tiny flat was almost empty, a sagging bed in the corner and a chair with a ripped cover the only furnishings. A suitcase, carefully tied with string, sat by the door.

Silus played with his only toy, a wooden horse on wheels. It had once been brightly painted in red and blue, but the paint had chipped away until only a few patches remained. He rolled the horse back and forth, staring at it intently.

"Am I different, Mother?" he said. He looked up to the young woman standing by the door, watching her son. He looked so solemn, so serious, so very much older than his four years. His dark hair fell over his eyes, shading them. Sometimes when she looked at her son she shivered, not sure if it was from worry that they would find him, or fear of what he was.

Her heart broke when she looked at him now. Those old eyes in the child's face, his dirty and tattered clothes. She felt her throat closing up and tears coming to her eyes.

She sat down next to her son on the cold floor. The toy horse lay forgotten.

"Only on the outside, Silus," she said softly. "Underneath you're like anyone else."

He looked thoughtful. "I understand, Mother. Our insides are just the same."

She held her son close and would not let go.