Tantrum Tower

 

Destiny threw tantrums. Not petulant "I want that now!" tantrums, but full blown, gale force explosions of rage that sent the family's Staffie terrier running for cover.

Her parents had given up trying to calm her down and all the family doctor could suggest was tranquillisers. He knew that there was nothing wrong with the 14-year-old: she was just bad-tempered when unable to get her way.

For someone who didn't know her, it was difficult to believe that this apparently bright, intelligent girl was a capable of behaving like a thwarted honey badger. Even Destiny never quite understood why she did it. When she was younger, a child psychiatrist had tried to encourage her to sit down quietly, clear her mind and control the thoughts that triggered the outbursts. It was like attempting to smooth icing over waffles; the good intentions just got clogged up in the holes and never went anywhere. Destiny's parents couldn't see the harm in giving in to their daughter when she had been five - which hadn't helped - but now her teenage demands for the newest smartphone and designer clothes were way beyond their budget.

Then Destiny met Oriana, a girl the same age yet so, so different. Destiny was pretentious, frilly chic, and slightly absurd for her young years; Oriana was cool, honey-skinned and wore faded T-shirts with jeans, and slim enough to make Destiny consider exercise - or at least the newest diet. To compound this contrast, Oriana was always calm, never raised her voice and, most importantly, sensible enough to roam wherever the inclination took her. Destiny's parents were always worried about what their daughter got up to when out of their sight and elated to learn that their daughter had acquired such an intelligent friend, one who would hopefully show her how a teenager should behave. Although Destiny had not introduced them to this young woman - probably for fear of them blurting out what their daughter was really like - they were happy to allow the friends to go to the funfair by themselves one evening. Oriana sounded as though she could cope if Destiny threw a tantrum on the waltzer or ghost train, though they did feel guilty that she couldn't have known about their daughter's reputation. At least her parents were reasonably sure what would happen if anyone paid unwelcome attention to either of the girls. Destiny would explode in fury, scream until everyone concerned was arrested, and they were faced with a fine for the resulting breakages. It was just as well they weren't aware that this funfair had a hall of mirrors.

It was the 1 a ride evening and after the experiencing the most terrifying, the girls needed to regain their sense of balance. It was the only reason Destiny agreed to go into the hall of mirrors, something she otherwise regarded as infantile.

Initially Destiny was gratified to see a reflection removing pounds from her waistline, only to have the next mirror make it expand like a balloon. Before she could lose her temper she glimpsed something in the corner of her eye. For a split second the teenager thought she had seen a demon; a small, fierce grotesque with spiky hair and petulant grimace. It was so fleeting Destiny was unsure whether to be scared or angry. If somebody was playing a practical joke, it wasn't funny. Backing away to where the entrance should have been, she found herself encircled by a wall of mirrors trapping her like a fly in the facets of a diamond.

"Oriana!" Destiny called out in panic.

There was no response.

Now there would be those expensive breakages her parents dreaded. Destiny lashed out at the distorted images, kicking and punching the walls of glass. But every time her fist or foot made contact, the surfaces of the mirrors dissolved. Terrified, she watched as the mocking reflections of hideous little creatures appeared.

Fury overcame fear.

Destiny's rage exploded in an ear piercing screech.

The bubble of mirrors trapping her burst.

The teenager was still in mid-screech when she realised she was now in a land of bizarre lollipop bushes and tall, frizzy trees that looked as though they were sharing her tantrum. Huge, furious insects dive-bombed Destiny's head, angry dragon flowers snapped at her ankles and spiteful little monsters clawed at her expensive designer shoes, the ones she had invested four mega-tantrums and a five day long sulk to make her parents buy for her.

"Pretty, prissy missy!" squawked one of the obnoxious little devils sprouting feathers like an electrocuted cockerel. "Come and play, come and play!"

Destiny had no intention of playing any game with these terrible aberrations possessing malicious talons and beaks. Taking several kicks at the ones menacing her ankles, she ran off towards a crooked tower looming angularly in the distance. Demented foliage tried to ensnare her with its thorns and large fungi blasted out clouds of magenta spores as she desperately hurtled down a twisting path lined by bickering trees. They were arguing about which one of them could thwack Destiny hardest with its branches. She had no intention of giving them the chance and ran faster, now wishing she had been wearing trainers like Oriana instead of the patent leather heels better suited for showing off at parties.

Destiny reached the drawbridge of the crooked tower expecting to escape the malevolent vegetation and creatures blocking her every, panicking step. Surely she would be safe inside?

She dashed into its courtyard. The drawbridge was immediately raised and slammed shut.

Only then did Destiny realise that this was not sanctuary - it was a trap. Grimacing faces appeared in the tower's crumbling stone walls and snake-like creatures slithered up through drain gratings; all of them just as malicious as the little monsters that had been pursuing her outside.

There was a door at the top of an irregular spiral staircase. No longer worried about scuffing her shoes, Destiny dashed up it. As soon as she reached the top landing the chipped steps below her twisted and crumpled up like badly folded origami. There was nowhere else to go but through the door. It opened into an impossible chamber, far too large to have fitted in the tower's uppermost turret. At the centre of its irregular flagstones was a throne. On it sat a ghostly figure cocooned in a gown of fine filaments as though trapped in a spider's web.

She seemed familiar.

Destiny was horrified. "Oriana!"

All the colour had seeped from her friend's golden skin, which was now virtually transparent.

"What has happened? What are you doing here?"

Oriana was unable to move and her lips could barely open. "I have always been here."

"No! No! You were with me at the fair!"

"I have always been with you."

Destiny was puzzled, then became aware that the vicious little fiends were clustering about her and listening intently. "What are those creatures?"

"They are your demons."

Destiny was predictably outraged. "My demons!?"

"They are your anger. They emanate from every childish tantrum you ever threw."

Destiny didn't want to believe it, but knew Oriana was right.

She burst into tears. "But I don't like them!"

"Then grow up."

Grow up? This was something that had never occurred to a teenager who used every atom of her willpower to appear adult. Only then did Destiny realise that she was becoming one of those insufferable grown-ups who remain immature all their lives. There were so many - and most of them just as annoying as she was.

The thought was terrifying.

"But I don't know what to do?"

"Just let me in," Oriana told her. "Allow me to become the part of you that has always been suffocated by your petulance."

Destiny knew she was right. The teenager brushed away the tears. As she and Oriana became one the little demons blinked out of existence and her better half faded from the cobwebs that had restrained her for so long.

Like waking from a bad dream, Destiny found herself back at the funfair. Facing her was the distorted reflection of a girl in pretentious clothes. It looked ridiculous.

She laughed.

Destiny had grown up.