There was once a boy here. He lived in the last house on the left, the one with the peeling yellow paint and creaking walls. He lived there with his mother and his beloved sheepdog, Sadie. Growing up, Sadie was there. She was there for him to lean on while he learnt how to walk. She would snuggle up next to him when he cried, even entertaining him for hours during the long days alone at home. She was his oldest friend. 

When he was old enough, the boy would spend his days playing in the woods beyond his home with his dog, and each year on his birthday, they would test their growing strength by venturing deeper into the woods. The child would explore deserts and jungles, fighting off Sadie, who played dragons and monsters in their quest for gold. But it never mattered, because every day without fail, his mother would call him back into the house for supper at 6 o’clock. At the dinner table, the boy would stroke Sadie’s head with his foot and would dream of leaving; going far away with only Sadie and his mother’s purse that always sat on the kitchen counter. 

No one ever leaves this town.

When school started, suddenly there was no time for fun. In the mornings, the boy would pack his lunch box, and when he got back home to his eager companion who was waiting for him on the porch step, his mother insisted he do his maths homework, read his picture book and go straight to bed. The boy and his dog no longer played in the woods anymore. Sadie grew lethargic, preferring to spend her days sleeping on the boy’s unmade bed.

One day, when he returned home from school, Sadie was not there waiting for him on the porch step as she always had been. His mother told him that the dog had moved on to a better place and the boy allowed himself to believe her, ignoring the gaping Sadie-shaped hole growing inside his chest. The boy no longer even wanted to play in the woods – without his dog, there was no point. 

He began work at a local supermarket, monotonously stacking canned tuna from nine to five. But at night he lay in his bed, dreaming of Sadie on a warm summer’s day. 

For sixty years he stayed as a lonely child, missing his best friend.

There is a boy now, who lives in the same house on the left with the same peeling yellow paint and creaking walls, alone. He sits on his rocking chair on the porch step, still dreaming about his beloved sheepdog, filled with regret. But it’s not the boy who fought monsters and dreamed of leaving.

That boy no longer exists.