DOWNSTAIRS was banned. Full stop.
The rule which Oliver had to follow since he was young was this: Downstairs was banned. His parents had been clear about that. Homework done on time, a curfew and technology use could take a back seat. First rule: Downstairs was banned. This probably seemed odd to certain parents, who would stress other rules before barring their kid from a basement. But don’t worry! Oliver’s parents still ran a tight ship in all the other rules. Play with the other kids? Nope. Stay in the town area after school? Forget it. Do any sport? Don’t even think about it.

Oliver and his parents, William and Emily, stayed apart from the folks of this small town.

Their house was quite extravagant. How this rich family were living in a town like this was anyone’s guess. The standard of living for the other members of the town was quite low by comparison. There was only one inn-type place in the town, old Danny Mckenzie’s, The Green Gate. The Green Gate served as the needs for the entire town. After a long day working in their fields, people enjoyed nothing more than to have a hot meal or perhaps a refreshing drink at the Green Gate. Almost everyone was found there during the evenings. Almost.

The British couple wanted nothing to do with the common folk since Emily had married and moved to the ancestral home. When Oliver had grown up, after Rule No. 1 had been solidified, there came Rule No. 2: The town was banned. And so, Oliver’s fate with his schoolmates had been sealed. Before he had even a chance, friends his own age were taken away from him.

Oliver grew up staying in his room, stuck with his books as his only company. It wasn’t knowledge he desired. He wanted to escape this world, escape reality, into fiction. He wanted to see the world. And see the world he did. Right from his small room in a small rural town. He travelled to the future with Suzanne Collins and he travelled to the past with William Shakespeare. He travelled to Britain with J.k Rowling, to India with Rudyard kipling and to the high seas with Herman Melville. But throughout his travels, he always looked longingly out the window to the town, his thoughts coming back to reality.

When kids become teenagers, they begin to extinguish past rules. Perhaps new ones are created, perhaps. But most parents begin to relax a little bit, trusting their kids more and more. When Oliver reached high school, it was the opposite. They introduced new rules, oh yes, but they didn’t relinquish the old ones. In fact, they seemed to think that Oliver may become more rebellious and enforced his previous restrictions harder.

They cut his free time by more than before. Tuitions, revision, tests, homework. What small time he had for reading, was cut even shorter. While this may seem unfair and undeserved, William and Emily had been partially correct. His age had definitely made him more rebellious. But the reinforcement only confirmed the fact that Oliver had began resisting an endless surge of rules.

It was unclear when Oliver decided enough was enough. But he did. The first step he took was a subtle passive resistance. No longer did Oliver do his homework days in advance. No longer was the extra credit completed on any of his assignments.

Next came the lies, he simply told his parents that everything was completed as usual. While his parents were tough and unmoving, they didn’t actually require

evidence that Oliver had done everything. Before, he had known the expectations his parents had for him and that they expected them to be met. But now he simply provided the illusion of completion. Oliver was hesitant to do this in the first place, as he wasn’t naturally mendacious. Only after a few failed attempts did Oliver fib. To lie after spending years abiding by his parent’s rules, it was difficult for Oliver to gather the courage to do this. It was like a trying to extract a caterpillar out of a cocoon, before its metamorphosis. But lie he did.

The expected feeling of guilt never came. Instead, Oliver felt as if a small load on his chest had been taken off.

After a few months he became more bold. Sneaking out during tuition times and classes. Instead of spending lunchtimes bunched up in the library he spent them on the ovals, under a tree, reading. His marks were never affected, so William and Emily didn’t become suspicious in the slightest.

After almost a year of this charade, the weight on his chest had reduced. But his rebellion hadn’t been expelled. There was one thing he still had to do. Downstairs. And so that day, he waited. He waited and waited. He waited for his parents to stop interrogating him about school. He waited for dinner to be over then he waited for William and Emily to fall asleep.

Then finally, the moment came. As the moon and the stars arrived in the night sky, Oliver pulled off his blanket and wiped the sweat from his arms as he made his way to the back staircase that began on the middle floor and led downstairs. Oliver had only observed this staircase his entire life but had never actually used it. Careful not to make noise, Oliver tip-toed towards the staircase, and descended.

Behind the door, he found an office. A simple office. Oliver’s eyes darted around the room, but it was only a simple office. A desk. A chair. Some files. Papers. Pens. An all-round big mess. After years and years of wonder and curiosity, this is what he had found. A plain office.

Oliver stepped forward and placed his hands on the desk, continuing to view the office, looking for any sign of something unusual. But nothing. Suddenly, a huge thump filled the room and Oliver saw, his eyes widening, a large textbook Oliver had accidentally knocked off.

He needed no indication. Oliver simply ran. All pretext of keeping quiet had gone out the window as Oliver sprinted to his room. He could hear his parents and the light turning on in their room. Taking a right, he sped into his room and pulled the covers over his face.

It was a few minutes before Oliver took a breath. Then it hit him. He hadn’t been caught. And as the lovely thought filled him, he laughed. And once he started it, he couldn’t stop. The invisible load had left. He was free.