Alan’s parents measured his height every week.
Standing against the doorframe he often tried to shrink down and away from the pencil. Despite one of his parents holding his shoulders and pulling him to his full height while the other marked the wood, he still tried his old trick. It had stopped working months ago, when they noticed his lack of progress towards the carved line in the wood.
The line was carved deeply into the wooden frame. Despite being covered in layers of paint, it was still visible when he was marched towards it. It was carved at the exact height of Alan’s parents. The two of them had the exact same height, the same weight, and there were days that Alan could have sworn that features and marks on one parent would be on the other hours later.
Alan’s older siblings had undergone the same measuring process. All he knew about it from what they told him was that when they reached the final marker, they were no longer welcome to live in the house.
He did not want to move out. Alan knew nothing about the outside world and had never even met anyone outside of his household. That did not mean that he was lonely, of course. He was grateful that his parents made certain that he had many siblings to keep him company. When the basement door opened and a new, small face appeared Alan was always one of the first to welcome them to their home.
One of the newer children became upset when drawing yesterday. Tom had drawn a large picture featuring all their new siblings. They even added the right eye-colours, Alan’s being a bright green. But when it came to the two larger stick-figure bodies in the middle, he could not draw their faces. He had started crying and asking what he was supposed to draw there. He ended up scribbling over their necks and another child hid the drawing so their parents would not find it.
When Alan closed his eyes, he could never quite recall the faces of his parents. He could remember bits and pieces, like assembling a puzzle. There were parts that reminded him of his siblings. But children are supposed to look like their parents, aren’t they?
They definitely looked more tired and thin as of late. He had not seen them so worn since the last time one of his siblings had to leave. The morning after Sarah left, they looked so much stronger, more vibrant. Alan was the next biggest child after her, so it had been his turn to be measured next. The first time he stood against the freshly-painted doorframe he could have sworn that one of his parents smiled at him with Sarah’s lips.
Both of his parents smiled the day Alan reached the mark. They embraced him wholly and he would no longer live in the house.
The next week the parents opened the basement door. One peered with bright green eyes at the children, assessing their respective heights. The other called with a familiar voice for the selected child to come upstairs.