(fiction) there was once a physically male agender kid called alex. alex only ever ate, slept, walked, blushed, cried, frowned and smiled. they never spoke. they could, they just never did. alex’s bed was brimming with blankets & plush. they often slept cuddling the plushies. alex was quite smart, but in their emotional instability, alex relinquished intellectual pursuits because they hurt them too much. alex was around 15, but looked a fair bit younger. they always held a plushie wherever they went, to erase any doubts that they were as young as they looked. in a rare verbal moment, they were crying heavily over having to eat fattening fast food when the following slipped: “why do i have to grow up? it hurts so much i’ve stopped speaking because I don’t sound young anymore… learning new stuff got dry so i dropped out of school… i’ve forgotten how to read… i have to eat twice as much as i used to to keep my body fat index right… and I can’t at least have salads and real steak? little kid Alex wasn’t this hungry in their life… I don’t like having a big, low voice… i don’t like feeling all these weird tingles… I know what they are, I just don’t want to say their names… I want my little innocent kid body and high voice back… somebody save me…” The whole food court shut up from hearing this. “Are you okay Alex?” one concerned lady asks. “No, ma'am… I can’t handle all this stuff… People say I’m smart, and that I can work through this… I can’t… I just want to snuggle plushies….” Alex replies. The lady stares blankly. “Have your parents ever hurt you?” “N-no, madam… It’s just… I don’t have it in me to grow up… I guess if you count my parents letting me cuddle plushies instead of important stuff as them hurting me, you could say that… But I’m just not ready for this. I want happy, innocent, stable Alex back.” Everyone gasped. “Why you all looking at me?”… And then Alex left the building with their mum and was driven home. She asked them, “I know it’s hard, little one… And I know how weak you are. Why else would I have stocked your room with plushies?” “Nothing a person can do is enough.” the shaken child softly explains, with a reedy whisper and a deep tremble. “I’m broken. I need a nap now. Goodnight.” “Night night… don’t let the mosquitoes bite” Alex just rolls their eyes and goes to bed.