Before he left, Damien grew up in a big house.
The house had ten bedrooms; one each for Damien, his two brothers, his two sisters, his mother and father, his mother’s parents and his father’s parents. The tenth bedroom was the family’s shrine to the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
On each wall of the house hung at least one portrait of the Invisible Pink Unicorn; praise was offered to It every night as thanks for a good meal (or a bad one, it depended on how sober Damien’s mother was) prayers were offered to It before sleep and, no matter what corner of the house Damien played in, he could always hear his grandparents muttering to themselves about It.
Damien was never allowed to leave the house.
“Why would he want to?” his parents asked.
“This house is huge,” his grandparents said, “and everything he needs is inside.”
And it was true; the house was huge, and full. There were toys (though nothing of an equine variety) and books, and music both to listen to and play. His family were his friends and always had time for him.
But Damien felt squished. The Invisible Pink Unicorn took up so much room!
One day, Damien’s mother found him staring at a portrait of It, his eyebrows scrunched together and his hands balled into fists at his sides.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I try and I try,” he said, tears rolling fat down his cheeks, “but I can’t see It. All I see is the field.”
Damien’s mother frowned and squinted at the picture. It was a lovely painting of a grassy green field with a small hill in the foreground.
“But that’s how you know It’s invisible,” his mother said, sounding vexed. “The proof of Its power is that It’s both invisible and pink. That’s very tricky, you know.”
“I know,” Damien said, “you’ve said that before. But if It’s invisible, how do you know that It’s really there?”
“Let’s ask you father,” she said with a smile.
So Damien and his mother walked up a long flight of stairs, and down a long hall and the walk was so long that Damien started to doubt his own doubt; surely a house so large could only have been made by the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Finally though, they came to the room of his father and they stepped inside.
“What’s wrong?” Damien’s father asked, seeing the dismayed looks on the faces of his wife and child.
“I can’t see It,” Damien announced, pointing at another picture of a field that hung on his father’s wall. “All I see is the field.”
“Hmmm,” said his father. “Well, you’ve never seen a field; how do you know that that’s what it is?”
“I’ve seen them in books,” Damien replied.
“Well,” said his father, “you’ve also read about It in books, haven’t you?”
“Then you have to believe in It, just as much as you believe in the field,” Damien’s father said triumphantly, the matter closed.
“But,” Damien pointed out calmly, “I can see the field. I’ve never seen even a picture of It.”
Damien’s father looked at Damien’s mother and shrugged.
“Let’s ask my parents,” she said with a smile.
So Damien and his mother and his father walked up a long flight of stairs and down a long hall and the walk was so long that Damien began to doubt his own doubt; surely his parent’s patience and kindness could only come from the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Finally though, they came to the room of his mother’s parents and they stepped inside.
“What’s wrong?” Damien’s grandparent’s asked in unison.
Damien started to point but his father spoke first. “He won’t see It,” he said, a plaintive tone in his voice.
Damien’s grandfather turned away with a grunt, but his grandmother knelt towards him with a smile.
“It made your eyes, you know,” she said to him kindly, “your heart as well. It’s only invisible because It wants you to see It with your heart. And you do,” she said confidently, “whenever you do something good, it’s because It’s moving your heart. You know that,” she chided.
“But how do you know?” he insisted.
His parent’s and grandparents smiled at each other sadly.
The five of them walked up a long flight of stairs and down a long hall and Damien began to doubt his family. But maybe, he thought, my other grandparents will know. And finally they came to the room of his father’s parents, and they stepped inside.
“He won’t see,” said his parents.
“He can’t feel,” said his mother’s parents.
Damien stood in silence as his father’s parents looked at him grimly.
“To the shrine,” they said in unison, “and then he will know.”
So, the seven of them walked up a long flight of stairs and down a long hall and Damien began to fear his family. What if he didn’t find his answer in the shrine? Would they let him out again? Finally they came to the room of his family’s god and, outside it, boys on one side and girls on the other, were his siblings.
“The Unicorn loves you,” his brothers said calmly.
“The Unicorn forgives you,” his sisters said calmly.
“But how do you know?” Damien cried.
His siblings pointed behind him and said, “Because they told us so.”
And then Damien was ushered into the room at the top of the House of Huge; the door latched behind him not thick enough to block out the sound of their muttering.
In that room there was dust, and dirt and pictures of fields. And Damien despaired that he would never be let out. And then he saw the cross on the wall.
It was the same as all the other crosses in the house; simple and with clear glass on all four sides. All his life he’d been told to keep his distance from the crosses; they were evil, he’d been told. They were reminders of beliefs best forgotten and held confusing pictures of the Outside, pictures he wasn’t old enough to understand yet. But here, in the room at the top of the House of Huge, there was no one to keep him from seeing up close.
So Damien walked towards the cross and when he came near, he saw a latch that could be opened and, through one of the panes, a real field!
Before he left, Damien lived in a big house. But in the field behind the cross there was no one to tell him to look for the Invisible.