Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Hello. I am Sarah. I am eight years old and I live in Wainsbury which is in England. My family is Mummy, Daddy, Josh and Peter. Peter is a rabbit. He is white.
I have a question that I hope you can answer for me.
How do I take off my skin?
Please do not tell me that I am a stupid child like the man in the shop did. I am not a stupid child. I am the top of my class in Maths and Science, and teacher says asking questions is how we learn. I would like to learn. You can give me the adult answer even if it has big words in it because I can spell big words like photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is how plants eat their food which is from the sun because of light.
So I would please like to know how to take off my skin.
Josh says we should ask Mummy and Daddy, but I think that is a bad idea because it is a secret and Mummy wouldn’t want us to know about adult secrets. Josh does not have very good ideas because Josh is only six. He can’t even say photosynthesis.
My friend Emily is in my class at school. We tell each other everything. I asked Emily how to take off your skin and she said you can’t.
Emily is wrong.
I have seen it.
Last week we went to a birthday party at the farm where my Uncle Chris and Auntie Janet live. They have a big house and lots of barns and we got to play with the animals while the adults sat outside and listened to music and had drinks. Then we all had a barbecue and I had three whole hot dogs. Mummy said I should only have two hot dogs but Uncle Chris gave me a third hot dog and told me it was our little secret.
I didn’t tell Mummy. I think it is important not to tell anyone if you have promised to keep something secret.
After that we played some games, and then it was time to go inside because it was dark. Some of the adults stayed outside but all of the children had to go inside in case we got lost. The farm is very big and there are lots of places where you can go missing. You can drop down a well or get swallowed by mud or fall in a silo and your parents might never find you. That’s why Auntie Janet said to stay inside when it’s dark.
After that we all went to bed. The adults stayed up after us and carried on drinking and talking and laughing and I couldn’t get to sleep, even though Josh and all of the other children did.
Then the adults stopped laughing.
At first I thought they had gone to sleep too, but then I heard someone come up the stairs. They came to check if we were asleep, and I pretended to be because I didn’t want to get into trouble. Then they went back downstairs and I heard them talk very quietly and I don’t know what they said. Then they went outside.
I went to the window and looked out and all of the adults were walking towards the trees. They had torches and they weren’t drinking or laughing so I don’t think it was part of the party. I got worried that maybe one of the children had gone missing. Auntie Janet had said that it was easy to get lost, so they might all have gone out to look for one of us.
I checked the rooms where the children were sleeping, but they were all still there. Then I realised they must have missed Josh when they checked on us, because he was all snuggled up under his covers and you couldn’t see his head.
I didn’t know what to do. Mummy and Daddy would be so worried because they thought Josh was lost but he was still in bed!
I decided I had to find the adults to tell them that Josh wasn’t lost.
I put on my wellies and found another torch and ran after them.
It was very dark outside. The trees were waving and making noises and I was a little bit scared, but then I could hear the adults ahead and I wasn’t scared any more because I knew Mummy and Daddy would make sure I was safe and they would be so happy that Josh wasn’t lost. I ran the rest of the way, but then when I was very close to the voices I fell over.
I didn’t hurt myself because it was on soft mud and leaves, and I am eight now so I don’t even cry when I fall down. But my torch went off and rolled away so I was in the dark again. I had tripped on something soft and squishy which was on the floor. I reached down because my foot was caught in it and it felt like clothes, but warmer.
There was light ahead. I could hear the crackle of a fire and the voices. I could hear Mummy and Daddy laughing.
But then I heard other voices. I heard voices I didn’t know, and they didn’t sound like adults.
They sounded like if animals could talk.
Not like in cartoons. They sounded like if a dog growls but if the growl was words.
And they laughed. But not in a happy way.
I walked towards the bushes and I crept inside very quietly. I looked through the other side, and the first thing I saw was the fire. It was very big. It was like bonfire night except it was in a gap in the forest. It crackled and spat and I could feel the warmth on my face.
Then I saw the adults. They were dancing in such a strange way. At first I thought they were hurt or trying to shake off their clothes, but they were laughing so I think they liked it. Mummy and Daddy were there. So was Uncle Chris and the others. I looked around for Auntie Janet, though, and I couldn’t see her.
I thought it was a strange thing to do if they were here to look for Josh. They didn’t seem to be looking for anything at all, unless that was where Auntie Janet had gone. But none of them seemed worried.
That was when I realized that they weren’t checking our bedrooms to see if any of us were lost. They were making sure we were in bed so we didn’t see this.
A secret party for adults.
Now I knew I’d get in trouble if they found me watching them. I started to feel around for my torch so that I could go home. I would get lost going back in the dark, and if I couldn’t find my light then I would have to wait for the adults to finish so that I could follow them home.
Before I found the torch, I heard that animal voice again.
It said, “FREEDOM.” The adults cheered. I couldn’t see who was saying it because they were on the other side of the fire.
The voice said, “IN THE WOMB OF THE NIGHT, BE BORN AGAIN.” It was so loud I could feel it in my tummy. My ears rang. My fingers tingled. I didn’t like it at all.
Then I saw Daddy reach inside his mouth. He held his top lip and his bottom lip.
And he pulled.
He pulled and he pulled, and I thought his head would split in half. I nearly screamed. But instead of breaking in half, his skin peeled away like an old banana. As his mouth stretched wider and wider, Daddy’s underself started to climb out.
I had never seen an underself before. I didn’t know we had them.
I hope mine is prettier.
I don’t like how they look so wet. I don’t like the yellow splodges like an old toilet bowl. I don’t like the bits of hair. How they come out all over the body and how they look sharp and hard and they drip. I think hair should stay on top. Like our normal skin has.
Daddy seemed to like it though. He stepped out of his skin and he stretched his arms wide and he yelled at the moon.
It didn’t sound like Daddy. It hurt my tummy again.
Uncle Chris went next, and once he had taken off his skin he threw it away. The other adults cheered. Then they all took theirs off, and they started to dance again, like they were angry at the fire and the trees. And most of all like they were angry at their skins which were dropped around at their feet and trampled into the mud.
Only Mummy hadn’t taken off her skin. I started to think that she couldn’t, like me. But then Daddy walked over to her. He raised his hand to her face and I saw that his fingers were sharp now like a claw. But Mummy didn’t pull away. She closed her eyes and whispered to him. Then he reached into her mouth and he pulled her face away.
Mummy’s underself looked just like Daddy’s. They ran their claws along each other. They looked into each other’s eyes.
Then they howled.
All of them howled.
I couldn’t stand that noise. It was too loud and it shook inside my head and it made my chest feel so small so that I couldn’t breathe.
I knew I would get lost if I left the bush, but I couldn’t stay hidden with all that horrible sound.
I ran and I ran and I ran and I don’t know how long I was running. I just knew I needed to run away from their howls and their screams and their laughter.
Somehow I got back to the farmhouse. I went back inside and I went to bed and I pretended to go to sleep.
But I couldn’t.
I kept thinking about how the adults took off their skin.
I didn’t know we could do that.
Early the next morning, they came home. I think I was the only child who heard them get back. I thought all of the adults might still be their underselves. But a little time later Uncle Chris knocked on the door and he put his head in the room.
It had his skin on.
“Rise and shine, sleepy heads” he said.
I thought about asking him about the adult party, but I was scared I’d get into trouble because I don’t think I should have seen it. Instead I went downstairs. Everyone was having breakfast, and the adults seemed very cheerful and awake even though I knew they hadn’t been to sleep. They were looking at each other and smiling.
“Did you have a nice night?” asked Auntie Janet.
The other children said yes and got their cereal and toast. I sat at the table with my bowl but I hadn’t got anything in it. I wasn’t hungry.
I think Mummy knew something was wrong, because she looked at me funny.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked me.
I know it’s wrong to lie.
But I did.
I said I had slept very well and I had dreamt of unicorns and I rode one and his name was Peter like our rabbit.
I don’t think Mummy believed me. She didn’t say so, but she kept watching me until I had a slice of toast to make her think I was alright. Soon Josh distracted her by spilling his drink all over the floor, and after that the morning was a bit more normal.
All of that was a week ago. Since then I have not slept very well at all. When I am in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I practice taking off my skin, but it doesn’t work. I don’t know how they did it.
Then every night I dream about the underselves, and how everyone else takes off their skin but I can’t, and I am hiding in that bush and they are calling for me to come out in their animal voices.
But I’m scared to come out.
In my dream it feels like the underselves want to hurt me. They sound so hungry with their growl voices. And I know that if I can’t take off my skin, they will take it off for me.
I wake up crying sometimes. Mummy has asked me a lot of questions about why I am upset. She asks me if something happened at the farm and I tell her no. She asks me if I have told anyone about that day and I tell her no.
I do not want to tell her about what I saw. I would like it to stay a secret. If she found out that I snuck out she would be very mad, and if everyone knew I couldn’t take off my skin I would be so embarrassed. I am eight now. I should be ready to do adult things. I am especially nervous because Mummy has said that Uncle Chris wants us back at the farm soon.
Not the other children. Not even Josh. Just Mummy, Daddy and me.
I think they might have another party.
Please tell me how to take off my skin.
I would really like to impress them.