From the author: Janice wants to escape her mother. She wants to leave her prison. Sometimes the only person who loves you is your dog.
Mother says God has a plan for everyone, even people like her. Janis stacks the dominos one by one, watching Mother from the corner of her eye as she sews in her chair under the window. She wonders if Mother ever stares into the mirror with her hands on either side of her face.
Janis puts down a domino and hooks her elbows under her knees, hoisting her feet to her ears. Her long toes wiggle like worms pulling themselves out of the ground. Mother pulls her cane from the chair and hits her across the back. Her limbs collapse, disentangled.
“Stop doing that,” she snaps. “You look more like an animal than Punches.”
She gestures at the sleeping dog at her feet. Punches is a Jack Russell terrier, with a broken coat of white and brownwith floppy brown ears. Though he’s only two, he looks old and tired, and sleeps most of the day away.
Janis places the number two domino next to the number three, holding back tears.
“Only weak babies cry!” Mother says.
Sometimes, Janis would surprise herself and ask for pencils, paper, and even paint. Sometimes she asks to take Punches for a walk. But Mother only let her play with dominos.
“Go over there,” Mother says, gesturing to the wet linoleum floor with her cane.
Head bowed, Janis presses her elbows into the carpet and drags her body over to the corner, wincing as the carpet burns her skin. Mother pokes her with the cane, muttering under her breath.
The corner smells of mould. She stares at the crude drawings on the wall, and the ages accompanying them. 5, 6, 7, 8. Chest heaving, Janis presses her wrist against her nose, stifling the snotty tears. 9, 10, 11, 12....25, 26, 27, 28....
She looks over at Punches. He opens his eyes and yawns sleepily.
“What shall we do now?” She asks him. “What books shall we fashion in our mind? Jack and the Beanstalk? The Boy Who Cried Wolf?”
Mother belches loudly, her round stomach wobbling like jelly.
“What are you doing over there?” she snaps. “Shall I tell you a story myself? The Day The Aliens Killed All The Children And Ate Their Brains? How about The Abnormal Ugly Creature And The Kind, Self-Sacrificing Mother? Do those stories sound good to you, thing?”
The corner is dark and cold. Janis drops her head to her chest, sighing deeply. A line of sweat drips down her forehead, over her nose, and lands on the floor in front of her. She reaches out to grab the chicken bone laying at the feet.
“No moving! What have I told you about disobedience?”
Janice withdraws her hand and folds her arms against her chest, leaning against the wall.
Disobedience, huh! Punches mutters. What good is disobedience in a world where the sole source of information on the outside world rests solely on that woman?
Janis remembers her father’s shoe stomping into her face, boot crushing her jaw, blood and brittle bone splashing on the walls. You are an abomination. Stomp. You are disgusting. Stomp. You should have been drowned at birth. Stomp, stomp, stomp. He had left abruptly many years ago, searching for something beyond the darkened house.
At first, Janis drew the pictures on the walls with her blood. Stick figures with elongated limbs, animals, rivers, meaningless spirals. Now, she draws with blood and dirt and sweat and shit and skin. Fire, stones, ashes, dust. She wonders if she will be a famous painter one day, painting with the rivets of dirt and mud she finds in the corner. Yet, Janis can hardly imagine a future. There is no future outside of slammed doors, muttered curses, and coloured blocks. The days pass slowly, monotonously, and sometimes Janice wonders if her Mother will ever acknowledge her as a woman. She wanted to go to University, to become a veterinarian, but how could she do that without her Mother’s help? She watched the woman closely day in, day out, watched the TV shows she watched, read the magazines when her Mother would toss them at her feet. She knew about many things. But she didn’t know how to leave. Besides, she couldn’t leave without Punches. Janice didn’t want to dwell on what her Mother would do to her if she took Punches.
There is another world, Punches whispers, where you are free to move, free to speak, free to think. Nights are brightened by electricity, the people outside are warm and welcoming. They will clothe you, feed you, nurture you. You can be free of Mother.
Janis wants to believe him, but Mother says her birth brought punishment upon the family. The crime of her existence brought pestilence and famine to the world outside. “They told me to drown you,” she says. “And I almost did. But I am self-reliant. I don’t need them, and neither do you.”
Janis thinks of this and imagines a world of grey hallways and black spiralling towers, of weeds pulled from sidewalks, of flowers stomped by heavy boots. She thinks of a house that is warm and light, without draughty, stale, chilly air. Over time, her eyes adjusted to the shadows, and when the pale light of the moon flickered through the closed curtains, she squints her face, feeling the light as painfully as a smouldering sun. She knows if her birth had brought pestilence, that the world had figured out a way to manage it. She knew this because she heard the postman, heard the laughing people outside the house, heard the cries of babies. Whatever had happened to the world – if it had happened at all – had passed. There was no reason to shut her away from the world. They had moved on. Except Mother.
She watches Mother as she sits in the corner and knits, Punches at her feet. She wanted to name the dog something nicer, like Spot, or Pockets, but Mother said his name was Punches, and what Mother said was law. She had the power. Janis wonders if Mother will make it rain and if her divine powers cause her the same pain she is obligated to inflict upon her own child. Janis has felt the retribution of her Heavenly Way, has painted it on the walls with grime and dirt and blood.
Are you stupid, Punches taunts, that you would not see to escape?
“I can’t escape. I can’t get out.”
“What are you saying over there?” Mother shouts. A line of saliva drips from the corner of her mouth and onto her chin. She does not wipe it away. “Did I say you could talk? Did I?”
Janis shakes her head. Punches rolls over onto his back, and Mother rubs his stomach with her shoe.
“I heard you last night. I heard your moans of pleasure,” Mother says. “The Devil licks his lips as he touches himself. God knows when you do the same. God knows your sin.”
Janis feels her cheeks flush. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Mother narrows her eyes. “I know you let the Devil slip inside you. I heard you wash your hands last night. Do you think I don’t know?” She gets up from her chair, stepping over Punches. Her hands pinch Janis’ chin and she pulls the girl to her feet. She spits in Janis’ face. It slides down her nose and stops on her bottom lip.
“Apologise to God.”
Janis grits her teeth. “I don’t want to.”
“Apologise to God!”
“I’m sorry,” Janis repeats, her voice reverberating around the room. She knows God can’t hear her. She knows God doesn’t listen to her prayers. Mother narrows her eyes, as though inspecting her daughter’s sincerity. After a few moments, she nods and sits back at her chair, resting her feet on Punches. The little dog yelps in discomfort. Janis wipes the saliva from her face.
We must leave this place, Punches says. His tongue lolls out of the side of his mouth. Pack your things. We’ll sneak out when she’s asleep. You’re a grown woman. She can’t keep you forever.
Janis looks at the pile of teeth in the corner. Mother told her the Tooth Fairy was a smaller and friendlier subspecies of the larger and more hostile Bone Fairy. She collected Janis’teeth so one day the Bone Fairy could collect them and add them to her throne of teeth. Mother said the Bone Fairy came after children in the form of bone cancer, and that if Janis didn’t obey her the Fairy would strike her down when she least expected it, just like her brother. He’d been four when he died. Janis was seven. A part of her resented her brother for leaving her all alone with Mother. Why couldn’t the Bone Fairy have taken her, too?
She looks over at the sad little dog.
“Where would we go?” She asks. “What would we eat? How would we take care of ourselves?”
I’ll look after you, Punches replies. You can wrap your arms around me when you’re lonely. I’ll keep you warm.
Janis leans her head against the wall and stares at Punches. She wants to know what he thinks about, what his dreams are. She doesn’t have any dreams. Mother says God speaks through dreams and visions, yet Janis doesn’t recall anything prophetic or worthwhile he might have said to her. She can’t recall if he acknowledges her dreams at all.
“What are your dreams?” She asks Punches.
I dream of many things. Or running through fields. Of chasing birds. Of laying in the warm sun with you beside me.
Janis smiles at the sad dog underneath Mother’s feet. She wonders how the weight of her feet feels on his little body.
Mother gathers up Thomas’ beer cans from the loungeroom table, tosses them in a large bin bag, and sits the bag beside the back door.
“I didn’t hear your prayers this morning,” she mother says sharply.
Janice dry swallows the lump in her throat. “I whispered them,” she replies. “And I thought them in my head. I thought it would be more intimate. Like…when I confess my sins to the priest on television on Sundays.”
“Hmm.” Mother purses her lips. “You should say them aloud all the same.”
Janice frowns. “I’m old enough to be able to choose how I pray. It’s personal.”
Janice looks at Mother. The woman stands tall and imposing, eyes bulging in intense anger. Janice thinks of her like a brick wall. Nothing but a wrecking ball could knock her down.
“God knows what is best for us, you swine,” Mothersays, “as well as what will lead us to holiness rather than sin. You must obey him. Do you want to be a sinner? Do you want to burn in hell for all eternity?”
Janice bites down on her bottom lip. She shakes her head.
“I didn’t think so.”
Janice looks at Punches. “I don’t believe in God,” she confesses, her voice barely above a whisper. “But you must not tell Mother. I don’t know what she would do. You’re my only friend in the world, Punches. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.”
I will never leave you, Janice.
Janice wonders if other people can communicate with animals as she can. She could remember being four and having a conversation with her neighbour’s cat. He was a tabby, a little on the chubby side, and liked to sit on their kitchen windowsill. Janice had been drawing in the dust with a straw when she’d noticed the cat eying her suspiciously.
“What do you want?” She’d asked contemptuously.
“For my owner to hurry up and die already. I thought scratching her while driving would do the trick, but no, she had to go and live on me. And now whenever she takes me to the vet I must go in the carrier. That bitch let me ride with her for years and now all she cares about is her stupid new dog. A pug, can you believe it? The stupid thing is so hideous. What about me, huh? What about my needs?”
At first, Janice had thought she’d fallen asleep. The midday sun had been unseasonably hot, and she had been feeling tired. But the cat spoke to her once again a week later, this time complaining about its owner’s boyfriend.
“He scratches me too much, you know? I like soft long strokes down my back. He’s a god-damned idiot.”
She wonders if her power was Satanic. She knew if Mother found out it would be deemed that way. And yet Janice wondered why that was so. Adam and Eve weren’t shocked when the serpent spoke to them, neither was the prophet Balaam when he was rebuked by his donkey. So why were people who talked to animals deemed mentally ill? It made no sense. Sometimes, Janice wondered if Mother was cruel to her because she was demonic or had something bad inside her.
“Do you think I have powers?” She asks the dog. Punches is beginning to doze. She nudges him in the side, and he blinks at her sleepily.
“Do you think I have powers?” She repeats.
Maybe. But would your Mother be so hard on you if you didn’t? I think she’s jealous.
Janice shrugs. “I don’t think she knows about everything she says she does. I mean, she says God speaks to her, but I think the voice in her head is her own.”
She is a very lonely woman.
Janice has tried to imagine a life outside Mother, where she might meet people who are more like her, who can talk to animals like she can, but the thought of leaving the house, of leaving Mother, is more daunting than the thought of staying. She was bonded to Mother – the woman had given her life, shelter, and a companion she could share her innermost thoughts with. Yes, she feared the woman, but Mother had told her fear only made one stronger, and Janice could feel that resilience deep inside herself. No matter how scared she was, she couldn’t pretend the idea of feeling the long grass between her toes, of eating something that wasn’t riddled with mould, wasn’t enticing. She couldn’t deny the alluring idea of feeling the sun against her skin. Most of all, she couldn’t push aside the idea of a life where Punches had another, kinder, name, and he spent all day roaming around the bush chasing butterflies and burying bones like dogs were supposed to do. Even if she never left, she wanted him to live out his short years in happiness outside these walls. She would give him the kindness she wished Mother would bestow upon her.
“What are you doing over there?” Mother snaps, setting aside her knitting. “You’re mumbling. Shut up!”
“I was praying,” Janice lies. “About not burning in Hell. Why don’t you pray with me?”
“I thought your prayers were personal,” Mother replies, sneering. “I thought you were too good for the rest of us, too good to share your prayers for the world. Well, what about my prayers, huh? Do you care about those? No, of course, you don’t, you little bitch; all you care about is yourself and that dumb dog!” She stands up from her chair and walks over to Janice, towering over her with her tall legs and large breasts hanging from her dress. She leans over with her face so close to Janice she can see little bits of chicken stuck in between her yellowed teeth. She frowns as her stomach grumbles, tying itself into knots.
“You’re a selfish girl,” Mother says, pointing her greasy finger at her. “You want to know what God’s plan is for you? Huh? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Your father left me because of you. Your brother died because of you. I’m lucky Thomas is still around, but do you know what? He’ll probably leave eventually. And it’ll be because of you. It’s all your fault, Janice! The Bone Fairy should have taken you instead.”
Janice leaps to her feet and clenches her fists, her body shaking. Punches moves to stand beside her, hackles raised.
“There’s no such thing as the Bone Fairy!” She shouts. “Max died of Leukaemia, and you’re too stupid to understand otherwise! There’s no such thing as God, or Heaven, or Hell, or anything else that lives inside your stupid head! You’re the selfish one! You can’t keep me here forever! I’m a grown woman, Mother, and I’m not your prisoner! Punches and I are leaving!”
“You’re not going anywhere with that dog! Do you know what they would do to you if they saw you? Kill you! Hang you in the street! I’m protecting you!”
Janice shakes her head in defiance. “There’s nothing outside that can hurt me more than you. You’re a liar! I’ve seen people in the street, on the footpaths, riding bikes, pushing prams, and they don’t look sick or contaminated to me.”
“You brought a pestilence into this world!” Her mother reiterates determinedly. “You can’t see it, but they’re sick. Their minds, their thoughts - they’re all sick. I’m trying to help you, Janice. I don’t want them to find you. Because if they do, they’ll take you to their lab, tie you to a bed, and stick needles into you all day and all night. Do you want that? Huh? Do you?”
Janice runs her hands through her hair and hangs her head in defeat. Slowly, she reaches out and pulls Punches towards her, holding him in her arms. She scratches his head and presses her face against his fur, closing her eyes as she inhales his comforting scent.
Don’t listen to her, Punches whispers. She’s just trying to scare you. You’re important and she’s not. She’s jealous of you. Tonight, when she’s sleeping, we’ll leave this place, leave her, and never come back.
Janice nods, biting down on her bottom lip. She knows it was the right thing to do, yet still, she was hesitant. Leave Mother? Leave this house? She doesn’t know anyone, doesn’t know where she could seek refuge. All her friends lived inside her head, and she doubted they’d become corporeal just because she wished they would. All the knowledge she had learned about the world was through the television, and the old magazines Mother gave her when she was in a good mood. The only way she would be able to escape was by using her powers, but she didn’t know who she could contact. She bites the inside of her cheek, frowning. What use was the ability to talk to animals if she couldn’t get herself out of the house?
Janice looks up at the window. Though it is only mid-afternoon, the sun sits low above the trees, pale orange against the azure sky. A flock of crows speckle the sky, flying low to perch on the telegraph pole wires. They look like they’re waiting for something to happen, or someone to arrive. When she was younger, Janice would worry about seeing the birds in the wires, fearing they’d be electrocuted. Over time, however, she’d deduced the birds had some sort of force in their legs that stopped the electrical current from moving throughout its body. She didn’t know, however, why they perched there in the first place. Did the lack of foliage make it easier for them to spot meals? What about predators? Surely sitting there out in the open made it easier for larger birds to spot them. Janice had been jealous of the birds for as long as she could remember. She wished she could fly out of the house and perch up onto the power lines, but she couldn’t even go out into the backyard. She couldn’t even open the window. Mother said they were looking for her, and that she couldn’t take any chances.
Just go out there, Punches says, as though reading her mind. Tonight, you will pack a bag, go outside, over the fence, and get as far away as you can. You can fly away, just like those birds. I promise I won’t chase them, although they look tasty.
“I’m going out,” Mother announces, getting up from her chair. “I need to get some meat for dinner.”
Janice nods. “How long will you be?”
“What’s it to you? Just stay here and shut up. No one wants to hear what you have to say.”
She picks up her phone and puts it in her handbag. Janice watches as she puts on her shoes and goes to the door. “If anything happens to that dog, anything at all...”
She draws an invisible line across her neck. Janice nods.
“Goodbye Punches, my love! Be a good boy for Mummy.”
Janice watches as Mother scratches Punches under the chin and leaves the house. As soon as the front door closes, she lets out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding. She pushes herself up from the floor and stands, stretching her arms above her head, wiggling her fingers by one. Slowly, she leans backwards, stretching her back, wincing as it cracks. Her knees and elbows crack just as loudly. She walks around the room, running her hands over the furniture and her mother’s belongings. Punches runs excitedly to her side andfollows her as she moves around the house. She walks down the hallway and stops at the door that leads to her bedroom. She can’t remember the last time she slept in her bed. It must have been three, maybe four years ago. Punches nudges the door.
“I shouldn’t go in there,” she says to the dog.
Why not? It’s your room. I want to jump on the bed.
Janice smiles. “Me too. But Mother says I’m not allowed.”
Mother isn’t here. It’s your room.
With a burst of newfound confidence, Janice pushes the door open, and a waft of stale air hits her face. She coughs and covers her nose as she stares at the contents of her room. All her old belongings are gone, replaced with stacks of newspapers and magazines taller than her. Most are yellowed, though some are new, with elastic bands still wrapped around them. A few have been opened, and Janice picks up the one by her right foot and reads the date. October 7th. Two days ago. Curious, she unrolls it and scans the pages. She frowns. The Duchess has had her third baby. A singer was found dead in their apartment. There’s nothing about any kind of contamination. Nobody is sick. Janice picks up the next newspaper and unrolls it. Two teenagers have died in a car accident. A new influenza vaccine is due to hit local GP’s. Nothing about a virus, or contamination, or pestilence. Nothing about officers searching for a girl hidden away in a suburban house. She flicks through the pages. Puzzles, horoscopes, general classifieds. Nothing out of the ordinary that would cause mass panic.
Punches lays in the doorway, paws crossed.
“What is all this?”
I don’t know, Janice. I’m a dog, I can’t read.
Janice smirks. “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could, though? Like Scooby-Doo. We could unmask the bad guy and solve crimes.”
Who is Scooby-Doo?
Janice’s jaw drops in astonishment. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. I’m sure we’ve watched Scooby-Doo together. You probably weren’t paying attention. Watching butterflies or something. That was when we were allowed to watch cartoons. Don’t you remember?”
Punches shakes his head. But I’m sure if you enjoyed it, then I enjoyed it, too.
Janice smiles and stretches her arms over her head. In the corner of the room is a pile of half-opened cardboard boxes with clothes spilling out of them. She pulls out old jumpers and pants, shirts, underwear, socks, and a few dresses. She recognises them as the clothes Mother used to wear when her brother was still alive. They’re colourful, and pretty, unlike the drab clothes the woman wore now. Janice pulls out a long red velvet skirt and holds it to her face, feeling the soft material against her skin. It smells like the perfume she used to wear. She’d almost forgotten the scent. She closes her eyes, and the sound of her Mother’s laugh comes back to her, and she smiles, surprised she can still remember the sound after so long without hearing it. Mother was happy, once. But that seemed like another lifetime, in a world where Janice didn’t exist, and her brother wasn’t dead.
“You know, I don’t think anything happened,” she confesses to Punches. A single tear runs down her cheek. “I think Mother is lying because she’s sad.”
Punches cocks his head. Do people lie when they’re sad?
“People do a lot of things when they’re sad. They think and believe things they wouldn’t otherwise think and believe. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the world. I think Mother just doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore.”
Punches pads over to Janice and softly nudges her leg. She sits down, places the dress over her knees, and Punches sit in her lap, looking up at her.
What are you going to do?
Janice shrugs. “I don’t know. I just want Mother to tell me the truth.”
And what if she doesn’t?
“Then we’re leaving and we’re never coming back.”
That seems like a good plan. We can’t stay here forever.
Janice grabs an assortment of clothes and bundles them together. She pulls the sheet from the bed and puts them inside, assembling a rucksack. Smiling, she slings the bag of clothes over her shoulder and stands up. She thinks of Mother, of her shock and disappointment of coming home to find Janice gone. A single, uncomfortable thought gnaws away at her. She wanted to leave, wanted to get as far away from Mother as she could, but who would care for the woman in her absence? She couldn’t just leave Mother all alone. She had no one else but Janice.
She looks over at Punches, wagging his tail at the door. “She’ll be all alone. I can’t do that to her.”
Punches shakes his head. No! Don’t think of that! You must leave. You want to leave, Janice. Let’s go! Now! Before she returns!
Janice bites down on her lip. The knot in her stomach grows tighter. She imagines herself walking across a stage to receive her degree, of becoming a veterinarian just like the ones she sees on TV when Mother permits. She imagines her own surgery, and her own house, filled with animals who spend all day talking to her and telling her about their lives. It seems like heaven, real heaven. Janice pinches her nose, pacing the room.
“All you need to do is walk out that door,” she says, thinking aloud. “You’ve had so many chances in the past. Why haven’t you done it? What’s stopping you now?” She ran her hands through her hair. “I don’t know. I’m scared. I don’t want to be alone. You won’t be alone. Are you sure? I’m positive.”
Janice drops to pick up Punches and cradles the little dog in her arms. She swings the rucksack over her shoulder and marches out of the room, runs down the hallway, skidding to a halt in the lounge room. Mother is standing at the front door. She drops the bags of groceries and eyes Janice with suspicion.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Janice clutches Punches so tightly he yowls and leaps from her arms. The loss of his weight against her is crushing, and Janice wraps her arms around her waist, determined not to cry as intense feelings of emptiness fill her and spread throughout her body, digging its claws in all her organs, tugging on her stomach so forcefully, so coldly, she feared she would vomit up everything inside her. Not just her food, but everything; her thoughts, her fears, her worries, her loves, everything, leaving her nothing but an empty husk, and a hunger that would gnaw at the smallest scraps of hope she could find for nourishment, never satiated.
“Mother,” she announces, voice wobbling, “Mother, I’m leaving.”
She raises a brow, showing the slightest sign of amusement. “Oh, you are, are you?”
“Yes. I am. Now move aside.”
Mother narrows her eyes. “You know what’s out there? Death and decay. They’ll come for you. Go to your room!”
Janice clenches her fists, digging her nails painfully into her palms. “I’m leaving. I’m going to be a vet.”
Mother scoffed. “You have no talent! No power! What are you going to do? Break diamonds with your hands? I’m embarrassed for you.”
“Just stop it, Mother! You wall me in, stone by stone. Well, I’m not standing for it anymore. I’m leaving. We’re leaving.”
Mother stands with her hands on her hips, brow burrowed. “Stop this nonsense this instant! You’re being ridiculous. Do you really want to go out there? They’ll slaughter you.”
“Stop lying to me! It’s my fault you think the world abandoned you! Now, move aside!”
Mother leans against the screen door, arms crossed. “Oh, so the world abandoned me, did it? What do you know of the world?”
“Just let me go!”
“Over my dead body!”
Janice moves to push Mother aside and the woman shoves Janice to the ground, stomping on her stomach, sending all the air out of her with an almost-blinding pain. Janice doubles over, coughing as she struggles to breathe, tears streaming down her eyes. She cries out as Punches lunges at Mother, screaming as his little body transforms into a stupendous, tenebrous, monolithic form, so colossal and ugly, letting out a sound so loud Janice can feel it reverberate within her bones. The monstrous figure, though faceless, covers Mother entirely and swallows her whole until there is nothing left of her but a coldness, a dampness, that was not there before.
In her haste to run, Janice stumbles backwards and trips over her rucksack, head slamming onto the floor. She stares at the hideous figure looms over her, then subsides, and becomes once again her loyal Punches. The little dog licks at her face, nibbling her ear, then hurries over to the fallen bag to sniffs at the meat inside. Janice stares up at the ceiling, heart pounding against her chest so furiously she fears it would burst through her body at any moment. She rolls onto her side. Mother lays on the floor across from her, eyes closed, the hip belt of Janice’s rucksack wrapped around her neck.
Janice looks at her hands. Though they are clean, she knows they are stained.
The little dog looks up from his meal. A strip of meat hangs from his mouth.
“Is this real? Can you really talk? Or is it just all imaginary?”
Of course, it’s imaginary. But that doesn’t make it any less real. Your mother is dead, is she not?
Does it matter how she died?
“I guess not. What do we do now?”
Punches wags his tail eagerly and runs over to the door. Let’s go for a walk!
“Are you sure there’s nothing out there that wants to hurt me?” Janice asks timidly.
Of course, there is, Punches replies matter-of-factly. The world is a scary place, but it’s OK to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really brave, really momentous, and that’s a good thing, Janice. That’s always a good thing.
Janice nods and sits up, pushing herself up from the floor. She swings her rucksack over her shoulder and walks over to the front door. She could wait with Mother and call the ambulance. She could stay here by herself and build a new life. But the weight of the rucksack makes it impossible not to leave. It urges her forward, carries her out of the house like a great tide, and she clicks her fingers, calling Punches to her side.